Monday, January 4, 2010

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

As I come into my last months of this (my 4th) pregnancy I have learned that while some things you learn about your body you can count on happening again, but in general, every pregnancy and every childbirth is so different. Years ago my sister recommended that I read Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. I was pregnant with my 2nd at the time I think. I thought, "Oh that's great. I've done this natural birth thing once before (in the hospital) and I have a great midwife that I love. I'm good." I dismissed it without another thought. My 1st birth had been a water labor with an amazing nurse who, along side my husband had coddled and protected and supported me through a beautiful experience- marred only by my cold doctor breezing in last second to give me an unwanted, unneeded episiotomy and leave me to a painful and shocking recovery period. My 2nd birth ended up being a pitocin inducement in the hospital (after 2 weeks of exhausting and unprogressing early labor), and while I didn't have an epidural, my birth experience was not exactly what I wanted it to be. 3 years later and pregnant with my 3rd child, I studied Hypnobirthing hoping I could improve on what I'd experienced the last time. I still had my same CNM (whom I loved) and was planning on birthing in the same hospital. My personal awareness and philosophies about birth were slowly changing and my situation (without me fully realizing it) was not ideal for my wants and needs. I started labor naturally 2 weeks early (just like my first). I labored at home for a good 9 hours before heading to the hospital. I wasn't sent home, but was at the mercy of the Dr. on call and was not admitted until I could "prove" that this labor would progress (which ended up not happening until 5 the next morning- 8 hours later). I spent that time in horrible fear of being sent home, resentment that my terribly sick husband was sleeping in the corner and not supporting me every second, up in arms that every nurse that came through was cold, indifferent and had not read my birth plan and trying amid the loneliness to practice my hypnobirthing exercises while desperately willing my contractions to keep going. I finally demanded to see my midwife and at the sight of someone trusted and supportive labor began to progress in earnest. I had done everything on my own to try to have the birth I wanted, and despite my best efforts I ended up with a miserable, unfulfilling 18 hours, followed by 6 hours of the birth I'd wanted in the first place (except it included a hep-lock that equaled much pain for no reason at all thanks to that awful doctor on call). I had my sweet daughter- drug-free and with minimal pushing (just like my others), but I vowed that if there was a next time, it would be what I wanted of it. I had learned that no- I can't control exactly what happenes with my body, but I can give myself the environment, the knowledge, the support and the best chance of getting what I want.
When I was surprised with the news of my 4th pregnancy, I immediately called my sweet friend who had gushed about her amazing home birth and got the information of her midwife. I began to plan my birth- to give myself the chance at the birth I wanted so badly. I took my stresser (the hospital) out of the equation. I began to hungrily read all I could find about home water birth. I found I adored my new midwife Heather and her philosphies. I trust her immensely. I feel bold, respected, trusted and cared for. In my ravenous inhalation of information, I came across Ina May's Guide to Childbirth once again. As I read, I found myself exclaiming out loud, "Yes! Why didn't I know that before?!" I was touting the book to others before I could even finish it. So much vital information- statistics, instructions, suggestions, answers, knowledge, science, spirit! I devoured it. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I feel that my feeling of trust and boldness are now accompanied by knowledge and pure confidence. I recommend it not only to the pregnant woman in preparation, but to the woman who's birth was good but who wanted more, the man who wants to support fully, the mother who wants more for her daughters, the friend who would act as doula, the person who just needs to understand. If you have skeptical questions or doubts and you want numbers and statistics on safety and the sanity of natural birth/ home birth- this book is for you. If you are natural minded and wanting affirmation and reassurance and education- this book is for you as well! If you are somewhere in between and trying to make up your mind for the most fulfilling experience for yourself- READ IT!
I could go on forever. I could analyze my own past births and lay out every specific that I felt would have improved with the knowledge Ina May provided. I will spare the everyday blog reader those details, but I beg of you for your own sakes- arm yourselves with the education to give yourself the birth experience you deserve.

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