I love listening to new parents planning the whole future with their children. Some say, “I will have many drugs at my birth and be happy with it, I will formula feed, will never co sleep, I will keep a set schedule, and I will do exactly what the doctor says when the doctor says it”. While others say “I will have an all natural birth in my living room, exclusively breast feed and never ever give my baby non human milk ever, baby wear, co sleep, not vaccinate, not circumcise, and take mommy and me yoga classes.”
I, being the natural living advocate I am, obviously lean to the latter extreme BUT the more I read the more I need to speak up about a few things.
You can not predict where life will take you, from the beginning of your labor, into your parenting adventure, you have very little control over what life throws at you. Accept that now and your life will be much easier. I am not saying do not be prepared. PLEASE by all means read as much as you can, learn what you can, educate your self to the point where your brains feel like they will explode from your head with knowledge and POWER! But I have to say, when that labor starts, when that baby is born, when you are so sleep deprived and exhausted because you have not had a full night sleep in 11 months, you might change your mind. You might feel lost. You might feel like a failure. I assure you you are not a failure as a parent no matter what happens, because you my friend tried. There are people who don’t even do that.
As an example of what I am talking about: I had planned an all natural labor with my daughter using Hypnobirthing. We took the classes, did the exercises, and were convinced we would not have an epidural. I read many many books on child birth, not just hypnobirthing, and was convinced that I could do this with no medical intervention. I had constant braxton hicks contractions for about three weeks before going into labor, strong labor like contractions (call it what you like) for about a week before going into real labor, and then was in “real labor” for over 42 hours!
I know my body was gearing up, but am pretty sure my body needed some time to rest between all the practice and the actual long ass labor. I lost my mucous plug on Sunday and, this being my first time, went into the hospital because I thought my water broke. I was not prepared for the extremely large amount of goo that comes out of you when you loose your mucous plug. Its pretty gross. They said I was still about 1cm and sent me home, Monday I went to the doc for my normal appointment and was still not super dialated so we went home, that night I did not sleep well because the contractions were JUST strong enough that I could not sleep.
All day Tuesday I had contractions but not picking up in strength or consistency so I went to an acupuncturist to help pick things up. The Acupuncturist said that this would send me instantly into full labor and to be ready to go into the hospital. It picked things up a bit but my body still had to gear up, slowly, all day. That night I was still having contractions, they were getting stronger but not closer and I was TIRED. I needed SLEEP so I had Mike take me to labor and delivery to get some ambien so I could sleep. The doc insisted on checking me before giving me drugs (did I mention all I wanted was sleep?) and I was at 6 cm! Without much pain at all, just early labor I was at 6 cm! I was so excited I could have peed. He asked if I wanted an epidural and I said no. They respected that.
We went into the labor room and I hopped in the bath. Laboring in the bath was great. I was talking to my doula and we were laughing and joking when I was not breathing/moaning through the labor. I want to point out failure #1 I did not have a silent labor. In the hypnobirthing videos none of the woman made noise. Let me tell you moaning and making noise through the contractions helped a lot. So did talking and laughing. Failure #2 we did not do the hypnobirthing exercises. It wasn’t right for me at the time. Having a good time and laughing was much more effective for me. I labored in the tub, moaned, had cool washcloths coming on to my brow constantly (thanks to my wonderful doula) and only had to get out of the tub occasionally to get monitored. Getting out of the tub sucked and was very painful. I wish they would have allowed intermittent monitoring in the tub in the hospital. We figured that since I was at 6 cm I would be transitioning and done soon. I labored for hours and hours and was checked at least twice on the monitors and never progressed past 8 cm. It was terrible. I decided to get past the transition (that never came) I would try IV pain killers. They helped for about 15 minutes and then the pain was worse. I knew that might happen, the books told me so, but I needed something to take the edge off. My body was TRYING to transition but it was just too tired! We even snuck food during labor to try to help get me the energy I needed. We broke my bag of waters to try to get the contractions stronger, and all that did was make things hurt more. Remind me not to do that again.
My doc suggested pitocin and I hesitated because I really wanted a natural birth and damn it if I had gotten this far the baby HAD to come out eventually right? We discussed options and decided to do an internal contraction monitor to see if my contractions were strong enough to be effective. Long story short although they felt very strong, they were not strong enough, and I needed pitocin. At this point I decided to get the epidural. I was not pushed into it, I just knew I needed a brake. My body was exhausted and my mind was frazzled and the room was stressful and not the peaceful place I wanted my child born into. Pitocin and the epidural were failures #4 and 5.
After I got the epi we discussed starting on a very low dose of pitocin and not upping the dose unless I was not progressing and she asked me first. I still had control of my labor, and the doctor respected my decision. I did not get a nap even after the epi. They told me to try but I was just too excited for my baby to be coming soon. It still took hours before I was ready to push, but my doula and husband both got to eat and nap during that time so that was good. I talked to a very nice nursing student during that time who was watching me labor naturally because it was such an odd thing to see. I felt like I failed her too but she was sweet and stayed with me until the end of her shift. Apparently she had never seen anyone even go that far into labor without drugs so I am glad I could at least give her that.
Finally after who knows how long (time really ceases to exist when you are in labor) I felt pressure to push. I was 10 cm but she had not descended yet. She wasn’t budging and I felt like pushing so I did. I pushed and pushed. I also pooped on the table. Yes ladies and gents, that happens, get over it. I pushed for about an hour and a half and the doc came in and said she was not coming down the birth canal and I might need a C-Section. I asked if the baby was under any distress and she said no so I decided to push some more, and push I did! I do want to note that I do not think I was ineffectively pushing because of the epi. I could feel what was going on because I let the drugs ware down a bit before the pushing, and as it continued to go on a long time my supportive husband did not let me hit the pain button again when I wanted. I could feel plenty when she was born. When I finally stubborned her into the birth canal after 2 1/2 hours she shot out! The doc was not ready to catch her so the nurse held her head in with two fingers, told me not to push, so the doc could gown up. I yelled many obscenities in that minute or two that it took the doc to get gowned and ready. Ellie came out two pushes later with the cord around her neck and they whisked her away to the table to suction her lungs because she had muconium. Failure #6. I very much wanted to hold her right away but was bleeding a lot and they had to take care of her. Mike was with her and they were fine. He was crying because he was so happy and I remember thinking I was broken for not crying. I was just happy she was fine. I was apparently bleeding profusely and they had to give me the rest of the pitocin to slow it.
It turns out a 9lb 6oz baby needs a little extra encouragement to leave the uterus some times. My beautiful daughter came out angry at her eviction and her first picture looks like she is about to punch out the nurse. I love her.
Mommy’s little heavy weight champion… Thankfully the swelling went down quickly.
Notice how the new born hat does not fit that huge head.
Finally, once I was stitched and not in immediate danger of dying of blood loss they let me hold her and encouraged me to have skin to skin contact and try to nurse her. Breast feeding, although it is natural and is what my body is made to do, is not easy to start doing, especially when you have never done it before. She rooted right away but we struggled with latch and I was terrified that my huge boobs would suffocate and kill her. Seriously terrified. The cradle hold was not working for us at all. Failure #7
The point I am trying to get across is that although we may have the most detailed and strict plans things change, and we may not be able to get that birth we always dreamed of but damn it, the baby was born. She was born happy and healthy and we figured out nursing pretty quickly once I finally stopped trying to nurse her like an A or B cup, and learned to nurse her like the E cup I am. Foot ball hold, I might add, is amazing.
I felt guilty for failing at my birth plan. I failed to have the natural labor I wanted. My child was not brought into the world naturally and peacefully like I wanted and I felt so horrible. I am pretty sure this contributed to my postpartum depression.
After looking back on it 18 months later, on the brink of having #2 I have to say the birth went exactly as it should have. It would have gone much differently had I not gotten the medical intervention. I was educated enough and well informed enough to make the right decisions for the birth and I probably would not change anything about it. I could have chosen not to go with an OB and gone with a midwife instead, but with the health issues I had during my pregnancy I don’t think that would have gone well either.
This time I am handling things differently. I know I can still get into they hypnobirthing mindset like I did last time without the exercises. I am practicing my breathing, and listening to the positive birthing affirmations I got from the class last time. I have a midwife group that I love and am very excited to work with. They respect my decisions to use herbs and essential oils as a part of my labor and delivery to help manage issues that might arise like they did last time. I even made up a word document for them and Mike to refer to if any problems should arise. I plan on having this baby naturally, without any medication, but accept the fact that if I need it it is there and if I need it it is not the worst thing I can do.
I know now that although I have everything planed and prepared things may not, and probably will not, go as planed so I mentally have no plans. Just outlines of what I would like to happen. This is helping me be much more calm and mentally prepared for this birth than the last.
I am ready, mentally, for this baby. I know that labor will go the way it needs to. I hope you know that as well. I hope you are well informed and able to make good decisions in the moment. I hope you have a practitioner who supports your decisions and needs.
And all those failures during labor, did that make me a bad parent? No. They were just missed expectations percieved as failures. Some of my other parenting failures were some of the best decisions we have ever made.
We said we would not bed share. We never really even considered it an option. Ellie was going to sleep in her basinette for a few months and then her crib in her nursery. It turns out Ellie would not sleep anywhere but near mommy for the first few months of life and mommy was so exhausted that we decided to bed share. I am pretty sure I got more sleep than the average breast feeding mamma who’s child does not sleep in bed with them. Boob, sleep, roll over, boob, sleep. It was amazing. Co-sleeping is not right for everyone and be sure to do it SAFELY but I have to say that was a big failure turned into a win. This time we have an arms reach co-sleeper ready for #2 but if that doesn’t work, we will get the little co-sleeping snuggle nest thing for baby to be sure he is safe again.
Parenting is an ongoing learning experience. I think we all have the best intentions but as we go along this journey we see we may have been wrong about decision A, or may reconsider something we may not have though possible before.
So, dear new parent, please educate your self as much as you can, but if your plan does not work out do not feel bad, or feel guilt, or think you are a failure. You are doing your best and we have no control of the outside circumstances of life. What you can control is how you react to them. I am here to support and encourage as much as I can!
What is your advice for new or soon to be parents?
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