Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Thoughts on Childbirth

My background with childbirth is a little bit complicated.

Back in high school, I did a biology project on the miracle of human birth. I even showed my classmate a video of live births. Not your typical high school homework. To give me credit, my classmates quickly got over any initial squeamishness and were fascinated.

In college, I decided to do an internship with a local "lay" midwife in Maine (where I went to school). I was able to make it a part of my thesis paper for Women's Studies Senior Seminar. I did loads of research, learning about medical versus midwifery views of childbirth. 

I won't bore you with the results. Needless to say, I was very pro-midwife, anti medical establishment. For a while, I even wondered if I might become a midwife myself. But I soon realized that once the baby was born, I lost all interest in the mother. So instead, I find myself in pediatrics. Sadly enough, in a job without warm, cuddly babies. But teenagers are proverbially cuddly too, in their own spiky ways. 

After doing even more research during my pregnancy (mostly from the work of Ina Mae Gaskin and Michel Odent... no traditional pregnancy books for me, thank you!)... I truly believe that I can experience childbirth with limited or no pain.

For those of you laughing at me, please do keep it to yourselves. (Asked in the nicest way possible.)

Yes, I certainly believe it can be horribly, terrifyingly painful, too. I know it is for the vast majority of American women. But I don't think it has to be that way. 

I believe I can train my brain to work through the contractions, and more importantly, learn to interpret the contractions ("pressure waves") as hard, challenging work. The more I read, the more I believe that the pain women experience in labor stems from one's body fighting the contractions, naturally enough, out of a fear of their intensity. Which makes total sense. But literature that says that if you can learn to not resist the intensity... you can have intense, strong, powerful labors... without excruciating pain. 

I have experimented with convincing my body that it wasn't in pain before. For example, the time I tore my foot open (eventually requiring stitches), and quickly got back on my bike and kept riding, telling myself, "it doesn't hurt, it doesn't hurt" because I knew that if I looked down at my foot, if I focused on the pain, that I would pass out... and passing out on a deserted dirt road just wouldn't do. Likewise, the time I ran 26.2 miles... on three then-undiagnosed stress fractures. 

Trust me, I know these don't compare to labor. I get it. But I didn't have any training in this with those experiences, just a belief that I could do it. And I did.

And now I'm planning to do a home-study of Hypnobabies. The CD's and guidebook arrived today. I have to do 30-40 minutes of practice every single day, for a minimum of 5-6 weeks. I'm planning to start at around 32 weeks. 

Here's the other thing (and maybe this will placate you naysayers out there): I don't actually have an agenda. Only this: that I am excited to birth my baby. Thrilled. I can't wait. I think it will be the best experience of my life thus far. 

And also... If I need an epidural, if I need a C-section, or any other intervention... that will be fine. I'm not planning on them... but I'm not fighting them, either. I trust that my body and my midwife will guide me through this. I don't have my ego wrapped up in this. I'm merely curious to see how attitude can affect experience. If we aren't told every minute of our lives that labor is the worst thing ever... maybe it won't be? 

My job is to listen. The important thing for me is that I enjoy the experience, however it turns out. And I believe that I will. But truly, the only critical thing is that my precious little girl (!!!) and I survive the experience, and come out healthy at the other end.  

... Here's a beautiful clip of a Hypnobabies home birth, complete with a sibling present. (Please note, I am planning on a hospital birth... mainly because I don't want to be responsible for cleaning up from a birth, and without a romantic partner, I know that's it would ultimately land on me. But if, for some reason, my baby was "accidentally" born at home... well, I wouldn't hate that. At all.) 

(Why am I nervous to share this with all of you? I'm worried you gentle readers will feel compelled to tell me all the reasons I'm wrong, or that I'm somehow attacking your birth experience. Please don't feel this way. I'm just excited and curious to try a different way.


  1. Interesting post, Abby.

    I think that women who have painfree births exist, but they're few and far between. But, like you said, the big difference is accepting the pain and going with it, instead of fighting it. As one of my friends told me, she could handle the pain of childbirth because she knew there was a fabulous end result waiting for her if she allowed the contractions to do their work and didn't fight them. This woman is the first to ask for pain meds for a slight headache, yet did natural childbirth 6 times after her first delivery - a c-section.

    We're conditioned to believe that labor is a horrible, painful experience. And yes, it is painful - but horrible? After witnessing lots of births, I don't think it's horrible at all.

    Like you, I'm planning on a natural delivery with no epidural. But if a c-section becomes necessary, or labor drags on and I need an epidural because I'm exhausted, I'll do it. Because it means that in the end I'll have a healthy baby!

  2. Thanks, Shannon, I absolutely agree!

    And ps, love the gorgeous, sexy, beautiful photos of you and your belly!!!

    (though I hope you will post one of your belly as it gets even bigger!)

  3. I am fascinated by this Hypnobabies concept. Can't wait to hear your experiences with it!