Wednesday, August 10, 2011

{laboring at home}

This isn't my birth story. It's a post about my ambivalence toward writing a birth story (which I always intended to write), but in order to discuss it, it includes an abbreviated birth story.

I pretty much always planned on having a homebirth, before marriage or kids or anything else was even in the foreseeable future.

That's not exactly right. I wasn't planning a homebirth any more than you plan on graduating high school, or perhaps one day marrying the person you intend to spend your life with. It's just kind of what you do. Homebirth, to me (and for me), is a normal thing that I always figured I would do if/when I had a baby.After I became pregnant and we began doing a little research, the choice to have a homebirth became intensely important to both Ben and me. Spoiler alert (for those of you that don't know); Henry was born at the hospital. Not because he was in danger. Or me. But because I wanted an epidural.

I can't be sure of course, but I think I experienced an intensely painful labor. I know. They are all painful. The problem really was lack of respite. I could manage the contractions. Fine. I was also having back labor. Ok, I was dealing. But in between contractions my back continued to spasm with pain. There was no rest. A contraction would end, but instead of having a brief break to prepare for the next, the pain would continue. After 24 hours I was about 5 centimeters dilated, my contractions were about a minute apart (and had been for most of those 24 hours), and the back pain was growing in intensity. And then the ligament pain started. It was overwhelming. Every part of my body seemed to hurt during and in between the contractions. I threw up everything in my stomach, then got back in the birth tub and sobbed my way through the agonizing decision to go to the hospital.

Our experience at the hospital wasn't awful, but it wasn't fantastic. Due to policy we left with an episiotomy and a vacuum assisted delivery under our belts, and narrowly avoided a C section. (Like, within a few pushes. And if we would have been honest (ahem) about when my water broke, I don't think they would have even allowed me to continue laboring from the moment I got there.) (Oh there was also that take home cathater, yay!) But hey. I was, in the end, able to deliver him vaginally (without the vacuum, thankyouverymuch). I was physically fine, and he was amazing- this is what matters, of course.

The days after my birth were spent in the hospital wondering what I could have done differently, and I was coming up at a loss (funny how the light and dark always go together, the pure joy and bliss of our sweet new son was the only anecdote to the rough physical and mental recovery I was experiencing).

As time distanced me from the vivid memory of the pain, and allowed clarity of thought (and that 20/20 hindsight), I have thought of a million things that I could have done differently.

More than anything I wish I could go back to that moment of decision, and do it over again.

The painful part of it for me is that I had the choice, we did not go to the hospital because it was needed. I haven’t been able to resolve this, the decision that I made. This is kind of where the ambivalence to writing the birth story comes in. I don't know the point of my story. I don't know what it has to offer of value to other mothers or mothers to be. I am not looking for answers from you all, just sharing where I am at with it. And some of you have asked about the birth, so now you know at least this much.

{perfect little guy!}


  1. I will be direct and it is because this is what helped me the most after I asked for the epidural: move on (as my doula nicely told me)! The past is the past and you can't change it. Yes, your hospital looks pretty strange to me (why they forced you to do that if both of you were not in danger?) but you now have a beautiful kid. If you have another one, you can do things differently. You are, I'm sure, a wonderful mama so focus on the present and the future with your awesome family. Take care xox

  2. Gosh, we beat ourselves up too much about small things. Not saying that your feelings aren't valid, they are, but birth is hard and there are no right or wrong choices when the end result is a healthy momma and baby.

    I had an epidural (heck, I had 2!) and though it might have been "magical and lovely" to be at home, the epidural allowed me to focus on what was happening rather than the intense and astounding pain. Go easy on yourself, let it're a mom now! Good job.

  3. oh Jamie... I feel you on so many levels. I was ashamed to admit to the blogging world that after all this time of preaching natural childbirth and no drugs during labor that I succumbed to the epidural. I keep wondering if I'd gone back to that moment and thought to myself, does this really hurt THAT bad? but in my opinion it's what helped my labor progress and I'm sure it helped me avoid a c-section.

    our bodies are built to give birth, one way or another. perhaps your decision to go to the hospital and have the epidural was your body's way of pushing through. you knew it, no matter if you want to admit it or not, that you would be better off pain free. take it easy lady and think about the bright side. look at the result you have from it!! H is AMAZING and you know that! you ARE super woman, even if you didn't bite the bullet and keep going through with the pain. hugs to you my friend. xo

  4. i used to think i would want a homebirth. but i went to the hospital. i ended up with iv drugs (back labor just like you with contractions that toppled on top of each other) and two epidurals. i finally had to have an emergency c-section because i was in danger as was the baby. i never progressed past 7 cm, ended up with a 104 fever and my blood pressure was over 180. (oh, and the epidurals didn't take so i felt the whole surgery.) after all was said and done, i never would have delivered her naturally. she was completely stuck in my pelvis and had i opted for a home birth..i might have been a statistic, depending on how stubborn i was. i have no doubt that the c-section saved both me and my baby.
    it wasn't the birth i wanted. not at all. but the goal is a healthy baby, yes? that's it. the story is secondary.
    it took me a long time to let go of the idea that i couldn't deliver "like a real woman" (as someone actually said to me once. i know, i know.) i felt inferior because i couldn't do it naturally but then i look at my daughter and thank my lucky stars that the team of people in that hospital made damn sure we both made it out safely.
    sometimes the story that wants to be told isn't the story we want to tell. but that doesn't mean it's not worth telling.
    be kind to your heart. and let go. and then go kiss that beautiful baby of yours.

  5. this is beautiful. and the processing is so healthy + good. the purpose of writing the birth story? because it's his. the story of how you got your babe. and it is magic - however he got here. you are brave + strong + did what was right for you then.
    this sounds much like the story of my own first. i've since had two home water births and i'm still processing my first and our transition to the hospital. we need to be gentle on ourselves.
    love, lindsay

  6. Oh, hon. Be kind to yourself, first and foremost. You did what you needed to do at that time. It didn't hurt anyone. I know it's hard to just banish regrets, but that's what I'd recommend. It happened the way it happened and the end result (baby!) is perfection.

  7. Honestly, I didn't have an epidural, and I still experienced the tremendous and emotional duality of the light and dark after birth. I had so much healing to do. Just because you might avoid the epidural, it doesn't necessarily make for a magical birth. It is such a traumatic experience no matter how you do it, I think that's why women feel the NEED to do it again -- how could we even understand it unless confronted with it again? it is so immense.

    I like the new emphasis on natural parenting, but I don't like the guilt that we often feel as parents who strive toward what's supposed to be perfection. Life is messy and full of adventure.

  8. I agree with the above: I really admire natural childbirth, and home birthing, but the guilt attached to those who don't follow suit, is unfortunate. I've had all my babies in hospitals, with epidurals and they were completely beautiful & joyous experiences I would not change for the world. And in the end, like everybody's said, a healthy baby is all that matters. Any story of birth, be in natural, hospital, home, manger - is a blessing in itself. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  9. One of my friends wears a necklace that says, "The right regrets." And isn't this the right kind of regret? You made a decision that allowed you to deliver Henry (and you) safely to the other side. There is no perfect, and there is no re-doing the past, only now.

  10. I think this *is* your story, if you know what I mean? It felt like an honour to read it. I hope that before too long you come to reframe it as something like "I was suffering excruciating back labour - thank fuck for hospitals and epidurals, despite the shit that so often comes with them."

    I'm sorry that it didn't go how you wanted it to go.