Thursday, January 29, 2015

Looking Back: Expectations vs Reality of Natural Birth in a Hospital

Looking back at my Natural Birth and Birth Plan, I'm very happy over all with everything and the outcome. When Susan, our Doula, met with me at 2 weeks postpartum she asked if I'd do a natural birth again? Without hesitation I replied "yes!".

Honestly, the day Baby Girl was born I was ready to do it again! Not in that moment, mind you. I was certainly still recovering but the effort was absolutely worth it and having a sweet baby in your arms at the end is the best prize in the world!  (Fair warning - if you're squeemish, this post probably isn't for you.)

Several things about the whole process of birth surprised me. In all honesty I was pretty delusional about what I would be like and what I would want in my labor/birth. Some of the things I packed for my Labor & Delivery bag for the hospital not only went unused, they were downright ridiculous when it came down to it. If I hadn't started the process at 4 cm dilated and had spent those first hours laboring 1-4 cm they may have been useful then, but by the time you're making it to 5-7 cm things like a head massager, gum, sleep eye mask, neck pillow, music & headphones to name a few were totally useless. I was glad however that I had packed multiple bags, I had a bag for L&D, a bag for postpartum that included clothes for John and a separate bag for Cora's things. This cut down on how much junk had to be drug into the hospital in the middle of labor and how much unnecessary stuff had to be in the postpartum hospital room.

I always imagined that we'd have these cute snap shots of us parking and walking into the hospital to deliver our daughter... umm no. The idea of stopping to take a picture on our way in the door of the hospital was idiotic (mind you I was at 7 cm)! My goal was to not have a contraction between the door of the van & making it to L&D. Surprisingly enough I made it! After my last contraction in the parking lot my next one was in front of the nurses asking idiotic questions at the L&D desk.

Speaking of idiotic questions, I have no clue why I had to fill out so much paperwork in pre-registration for the hospital because they ask SO many redundant questions that they should have on file. Annoying yes, but when they're asking questions and looking at you for responses when all your thought process can contain is how to breathe through the contraction and embrace the intensity it officially becomes idiotic! I highly recommend you have your husband in the room for these idiotic questions, despite all the paperwork I filled out they had me down as being RH negative (I'm not, they had the wrong blood type on file!). In the middle of contractions I was trying to tell them that yes I am "positive that my blood type is AB+", I even had John dig my Red Cross blood donation card out of my wallet and show it to them with my blood type. That was the only big mistake in all of that, everything else was small - they thought John's name was Mark or some other wrong name and their file showed that this was my 2nd child.

I'm such a vocal person. Sitting in a room and to not participate in an ongoing conversation is just not me at all. When I was in labor, I would hear the whispers between Susan and John or one of them and my nurse, Jessica. Several times I had some quip or comment that was just ready to come bubbling out of my mouth but each and every time I did speak it took such effort to leave my "quiet place" inside my mind I found myself resisting the instinct to speak more often than not. I was amazed at how unimportant the things outside my quiet place became to me. I was able to let go and simply exist from contraction to contraction. 

When we watched videos of labors I was mortified by the groans & moans I was hearing. I could not imagine sitting there and listening to myself moan through contractions for hours upon hours. I created this fantastic playlist with songs I knew well, uplifting Spiritual songs that I grew up with. I imagined myself thinking through the lyrics so I wouldn't focus on hearing myself moan. Reality - moaning wasn't really a reaction to pain, it was a way to work through the contraction. To emotionally work with my body as it labored. When I was in labor the quiet allowed me to completely concentrate on what was going on and to rest between contractions. Susan suggested music, remembering that I had expressed this concern in one of our prenatal visits, I declined the offer and recessed back into my own little quiet world.

I'm usually a pretty modest person. Everyone told me that by the time I'm about to deliver that I wouldn't care about my modesty anymore. I didn't really believe them and the very small part of me that really considered what they were saying to be true thought that while I may not care about my dignity and modesty at that moment, I would regret it later on and wish I had insisted on it in labor. I was wrong about this too.
I have a story about that...

When I was 34 weeks pregnant I made a trip to L&D for what I thought was preterm labor with Braxton Hicks and broken waters. Turns out I just peed my pants... but I was horribly mortified at the lack of modesty forced on me by the on call doctor which shaped most of my expectations for labor. Making a long story short, nurse came in told me I was good to get dressed again. I changed clothes back into my jeans, OB on call comes in and wants to do a cervical exam just to be sure no dilation etc, I pull my pants off under the covers on the bed assuming she'll just pull them up creating a little tent of sorts protecting my modesty (I mean after all, I went to all that effort to take my pants off under the covers!). Nope, OB yanks the covers off, I'm sitting there stark naked from the waist down with a nurse, head nurse, a random someone I have no clue who she was that wandered into my room during this experience and a sono tech all watching and chatting away during my exam. I was really ticked off and marched myself into my Midwifes office at my next appointment insisting that I would wear my own clothes to labor/deliver & that was that. So now that you have some back story, back to what reality looked like in L&D...

When I arrived at the hospital in labor & the nurse (who hadn't yet read my birth plan) asked me to change into the hospital gown, I considered refusing but then the idea of possibly having to change later (when I was about to push per hospital policy) was so daunting I just agreed. Sure enough, hospital gowns are awful for modesty. My tooshy was showing to the entire world and I couldn't give a darn! My sweet nurse tried to keep it covered for me, but generally (in my mind, never verbalized) I'd rather her leave my toosh exposed because she was distracting me as she'd cover it. I delivered with my toosh hanging out facing the direction of the oh, roughly 20 people that flooded my room to watch "the lady that's doing it without meds" and nursery staff and I just didn't give a darn (and still don't today). In fact, my modesty was gone through that whole hospital stay, I am woefully lacking in pictures that I'm comfortable publishing here on the blog from the hospital stay because in most of them I'm topless! I couldn't figure out how to move my shirt out of the way to breastfeed and I had all these nurses and LC's helping, so shirtless was just easiest when it came time to feed.

Poop. It seems like every pregnant momma worries about pooping in delivery. While pregnant I really didn't give it much thought. On the occasion that it came up I just figured there's nothing you can do about it so why worry, I'd just deal with it if it happened. Well it did! In my quiet mental place I slightly cared, but not all that much. It started as I squatted bedside working to shift Cora's head to fix a lip of cervix that hadn't moved out of the way after they broke my waters. I used the energy to mention that "I feel like I'm going to poop", my nurse was very sweet about it and said that it's baby's head moving down that I was feeling but didn't confirm that yes indeed I was pooping on the floor. From John's account by the time I said this, I had already started (and pooped on his foot as he squatted behind me) and not two minutes later her head crowned & I experienced the ring of fire (about the only time I screamed out in labor, not as much from pain {though it burned like a not-so-nice word!} but from surprise!). (Details of that whole episode are in my Birth Story Part 3) If you're worried about this too, check out this article! They discuss how poop is normal & a good sign in labor - it's item #1 on the list!

Being a first time parent is like walking off a ledge into a pit of darkness... Okay so that's probably a bit dramatic, but you really don't know what to expect. Even though I'd planned out what I thought to be every single detail of my natural hospital birth and what I did and didn't want in newborn procedures etc, we were still completely blind-sided when Cora developed respiratory problems after birth. You never can be 100% prepared for everything. Now that I've done this once there are still things I'm unsure about for our second time around! For our second child we're planning to deliver at a Birth Center and I wonder how the different location will change my experiences in labor. Although we can't predict the future, I hope that this post will help you if you're planning an unmediated birth in a hospital! Please feel free to ask any questions!

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