2.01.2011

Attachment Parenting Chronicles: Why I chose a midwife

When I found out I was pregnant I was pretty certain I wanted to use a midwife. I wanted that connection to my body & my baby that I felt may be lacking if I sought care from an OB. The reason I felt that this connection would be lost is that the field of obstetrics is scientific, clinical, and above all else, surgical. Obstetricians are surgeons.

I prefer to not use surgeons for my non-surgical needs. Mine was a low-risk pregnancy with no complications developing throughout, so I had a choice in seeking care.

I didn’t want to experience my pregnancy and birth with rote procedure, sterility of experience, and surgical precision. Pregnancy and birth are messy, haphazard, imprecise, and natural. Surgery is none of these.

I also wanted to avoid a Cesarean, and with an overwhelming number of deliveries happening by C-section, I really wanted to do what I could to prepare for a more natural birth and to deliver with minimal interventions. By seeing midwives and taking a birthing class taught by a doula, I was able to learn the things that I could do that would have an impact on my outcomes.

Although I wanted to attempt a more natural birth, I was unwilling to take risks with my health and the health of my baby. I was not willing to attempt a home delivery, which in some ways surprised me about myself. I try to live in a more natural way, and I always think about how people have lived without modern medicine and conveniences for over 2.5 million years. There was nothing but home birth – and in many places still is nothing but home birth – in most of human history. But I was unwilling to accept risks associated with being far from medical treatment. I chose a hospital that had a family birth center – a less clinical version of a delivery ward, with the benefits of being within a normal hospital care facility.

Why is using a midwife a component of attachment parenting? Or is it?

To me, it was about trusting my body – that it could do what it was built to do, and to deliver what it had made.

It was about trusting myself – that I could handle what came – the pain, the unknown, the unexpected, the fear.

It was about deciding to employ a minimum of interventions – to have the most normal birth experience possible, Because birth is a normal life function and bodily process.

It was about my health and the health of my baby, nurturing rather than examining and analyzing the life inside, and wholeness – my baby and my self were one entity.

I don’t know if that makes it a part of attachment parenting, but for me it was the beginning of my parenting style, with allowing the struggles to be felt and overcome rather than avoided – together, with my baby.

There were some things I missed out on, having chosen a midwife. I had only two ultrasounds, one of which was ordered after fibroids were found low in my uterus. Had those fibroids not been there, I would have only had the one. I felt a little left out when friends had 3 and 4 rounds of ultrasound photos to share. There was a lot of anxiety over the unknown, because minimal testing was done. I think that a lot of reassurance comes from the standard schedule of testing and ultrasounds and medical check-ins. I missed out on some of that.

The uncertainty was sometimes scary. I often wondered if I got the “good sperm”, and how I would know if I did, and was the mountain man sure that he did it right?

Then came labor.

I labored in the tub, with high-powered jets focused on my back while the mountain man counted me through my contractions and took photos.DSC_0001 Wow, thanks for that ultra-flattering shot, honey.

I labored on a birthing ball, rocking while leaning over the end of the bed and covered in warm blankets. DSC_0005

I walked and squatted and bounced and rocked. I panicked when my mountain man didn’t count through a contraction for me, because I knew that by the time he got to 3 (he counted my breaths), I was more than halfway done. But other than that, I think I was pretty calm, because of how I had prepared myself and how I had been cared for. The care I had chosen.

Ultimately I didn’t “succeed” at having a natural birth. After 6 hours of pushing I needed an epidural so that I could rest before going at it again. I don’t know what I would have done if I were at home, or in a field somewhere, or in a country without anesthesiologists. I have a high tolerance for pain, but I had met and passed my threshold.

Although I had an epidural, I don’t think I failed at having a natural birth. I experienced the struggle of labor & delivery, and fought through it for a really long time. My goal was not to deliver without medication, but to go as far as I could without unnecessary medical intervention. I did that.

When it was time, I was thrilled to have medical experts at my disposal. A skilled anesthesiologist got me about 60% blocked within a matter of minutes. I slept for a couple hours, and then began pushing again. When the Pie’s giant head wasn’t coming, an OB arrived with a vacuum extractor and added some pull to my push. Finally, two pushes and she was here.

In my best-case scenario I wouldn’t have needed either of those interventions, but I did. And I was happy to have them.

And really, in my best-case scenario, I would have delivered a healthy baby, which I did. DSC_0030

I don’t avoid modern medicine, because it is medicine that has allowed us to live the healthy, productive lives that we have. It is medicine that has eradicated or suppressed diseases that used to wipe out populations. It is medicine that cures and heals and helps. It is medicine that has caused the maternal and infant death rate to plummet. Had I been seeing an OB, I would have probably been in the OR, delivering a baby the night before my Pie actually showed up. Because I chose a midwife, I was more in control.

In some circles of “crunchy” moms or natural parenting groups, or talking with moms who’ve had home births, I’ve felt somehow less worthy as a mother. Or guilty that I “couldn’t do it” or ashamed of my use of doctors and medicines, or disappointed in myself for not trying harder. But moving past those negative vibes, I think it’s more disappointing that women can’t be accepting of each other’s choices and experiences. Home births are becoming popular as we move away from cookie-cutter medical care and toward a more natural lifestyle, and unfortunately with that new popularity comes a new kind of mommy competition.

I chose to try for a natural birth, but was unwilling to take risks with my health or my child’s wellbeing. I chose a midwife to be cared for holistically, and a hospital birthing center for insurance. I worked as hard as I could and then accepted interventions to ensure a safe and relatively easy delivery. I am no less a mother than one who delivered at home, and I am no more a mother than one who had a cesarean. I worked just as hard as any other mom to deliver her baby, and I made the choices that were my best approximation of “perfect” for my child.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post Megan! I still haven't written about Oscar's birth, because, more than anything, it feels like I failed myself and ultimately him. Especially looking back, it also seems to represent the total failure of my marriage, the unraveling at the worst possible time.
    xo

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  2. Isn't it amazing how we feel like it was a failure if it didn't turn out how we envisioned our birth experiences? Why is that? And why does someone who gave birth naturally have "bragging rights" whereas someone who fought through the recovery of a cesarean has to try to convince herself that it was OK?

    I also feel like I failed myself and my Pie by accepting/needing medication - but my situation was only getting worse and I did what I had to do to stay off the operating table, even though an epidural was not in my plans at all.

    you should write about it. i think you will give incredible voice to your own experience and the shared experience of all mamas whose births weren't what they had hoped or planned for.
    thanks for reading - i'm so glad we've reconnected! i think we have more in common now than we did then!

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