Yesterday in my Maternal and Child Nutrition class, we watched a video called Life’s Greatest Miracle. I was excited, because the professor had warned us that this video would include live birth, which is, as you all know, one of my favorite things in the world. But, she explained to us, she didn’t care for the birth as it happens in this film. She complained that the mother spends most of her time laboring in bed on her back, that she pushes on her back and that they take the baby away after birth instead of placing it on the mother’s abdomen (I like this professor). After telling us this, she proceeded to try to figure out how to play the video on the complicated projector system in the classroom.
While she was doing this, a woman a few seats away from me said “Well, my daughter’s birth went a little different than that, but she was born, and that’s what’s important.” I could tell by the tone of her voice that she was mocking the idea of a birth in which a woman can move freely, push in any position, and then have a baby place directly on her abdomen. This comment was quickly followed by the very dramatic claim that she had labored for 36 hours – 36 HOURS!!! – only to end up with a c-section.
Oh here we go, I thought, we’re about to hear an overly dramatic birth story which will probably have all sorts of preventable issues in it and it will probably make birth sound like the most horrible experience ever. Boy, was I ever right. And I hate to say it, but almost every last thing she complained about in the birth story was a problem caused by her own ignorance. I mean, from the sounds of it, she probably had a pretty good hospital staff, but because she had no idea what was going on she didn’t know that.
I tried not to interject much. I could tell that she would not have liked hearing opposing views on birth, but she was telling this story to a bunch of young girls that didn’t know one birth from another, and sitting next to her (but not participating in the conversation, thank god) was a pregnant woman! Why do people think it’s going to be a good idea to share a horrible birth story with women who have no concept of what birth is like, but are probably anticipating going through it in the future? Do they have no idea how horrible that is? Obviously not.
And, this is really judgemental, I know, but listening to this story, I couldn’t help but think, you’re an idiot and you’re a pussy, and it’s no wonder you had a lousy birth experience. To give you an idea of this story (which was mostly wild complaints with absolutely no grounds), it starts with her thinking her water broke and having some contractions, so she goes into the hospital. The doctor on staff examines her and asks her “Are you sure you didn’t pee your pants?” At this point in her story, she is making wild exclamations “Yes I’m sure I didn’t pee my pants! I can tell when I pee, thank you! I mean, who does that? Who pees their pants and doesn’t know it?”
And that was where I couldn’t help myself, I jumped in. “It’s actually pretty common late in pregnancy. The weight on the pelvic floor can reduce sensitivity and control in some women, and if the baby moves just right, it can cause urine to pass without the mother really being able to feel where the liquid came from.”
She blinked at me. “Well, yeah, but I didn’t pee my pants.”
I nodded “It was insensitive for your doctor to ask you like that. There’s a test they can run to determine if the liquid is urine or amniotic fluid.” I didn’t add that I assumed the doctor had already ran the test and found that it was not amniotic fluid, and that’s why he asked her. I let her continue on, vowing not to say anything else.
She went on to talk about how the doctor examined her cervix and determined that she was about as big as the tip of her pinky. “What does that even mean?” she laughed. It means you were less than a centimeter dilated and had no business being in the hospital yet, I thought. She then said she was sent home, with a shot in her leg to help with the pain. She returned to the hospital and was sent home again three times before they finally admitted her.
Really? I mean, seriously? To put this into perspective, people, I labored at home for TWO DAYS before I went into the hospital the first (and only) time. The morning my early labor started, I had a doctor’s appointment, which I went to as scheduled and I was a centimeter dilated. My contractions at a centimeter dilated were nothing. I could talk through them, I could walk through them, I could eat through them. I mean, I know everyone’s labor is different, but to be in so much pain at less than a centimeter dilated that you have to go into the hospital and get a demerol shot? I just can’t imagine that, I really can’t. Maybe I’m being too judgemental, but in my experience, running into the hospital like that is something only drama queens do when deep down inside they’re hoping for a complication so they can have a dramatic story to tell.
She then spent several minutes talking about how she wanted an epidural, but they wouldn’t give her one until she was 5 cm dilated. I wanted to explain to her why this was (because getting an epidural before 5 cm tends to slow down and complicate labor, but after 5 cm it doesn’t seem to have too much effect), but I decided against it. Then she spent a good deal of time complaining about the father of her child, her now ex, and his behavior during the experience. Then she complained that she was so hungry because she hadn’t eaten since ‘her water broke’ (seriously?!?! I ate Thanksgiving dinner in labor!), and they wouldn’t let her eat after the c-section. I also wanted to explain to her that it was because they needed to make sure they didn’t injure anything in her abdomen during the surgery, but I didn’t. She didn’t know anything about birth and she didn’t care to know.
She finished her story by saying it was the worst experience of her life, and the poor girls listening looked horrified, and laughingly said “It’s going to be a long time before I do that.”
Doesn’t she realize what kind of damage she just did to anyone unfamiliar with birth who was listening to her? She just filled a bunch of girls heads with unnecessary fear of birth, which will probably have a very real effect on their birth experiences one day.
As soon as I can, I’m going to find an excuse to tell my birth story to those girls.
I labored at home for 48 hours before my contractions became regular and close enough together to go into the hospital. It probably took so long because my baby was posterior, causing me to have back labor, but my doula helped me through some exercises that got the baby turned, and after that things sped up and the contractions were much less painful. When I got to the hospital I was 4 cm dilated, I probably went a little too early. I spent most of my labor in the bathtub. The contractions were not too bad, I’d be lying if I said they didn’t hurt, but I also had a rush of other very pleasant feelings, very similar to a drug high. After about 11 hours of labor in the hospital, I was 9 cm dilated. The doctor ruptured my membranes with my permission, and then things became more intense. After 50 more minutes, I was ready to push. I pushed for 40 minutes, and my son was born. He weighed 9 lbs, 4.5 oz, and I only had a slight tear. The only medication I received was a local anesthetic for stitching up the tear. No pain meds during or after the birth. I left the hospital the next day and felt great. I was a little sore the second day after he was born, like I had run a very long distance, but nothing too bad.
I loved my birth experience and can’t wait to have another unmedicated birth. Next time, I plan to have a home birth.