I've been doing lots of childbirth reading and thinking these days. Right now, I'm perusing Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn, by Penny Simkin et al. I'm really honing in on the types of relaxation and coping techniques that I'd like to employ. Basic stuff like changing positions, focusing your mind on a visual other than the pain, music. I'm compiling a "birth" playlist as I type.
Tangent: It got me to thinking about the time *after* childbirth and how totally innocuous items take on crucial new meaning in your life as you recover. Those of you who have delivered a baby will immediately know of what I am speaking. For instance, take the following list:
Personal clothing items made of mesh
See what I mean? To this day, I shudder even thinking about that little squirt bottle. /Tangent
At any rate, I like to think that this time, I'm *more* prepared, although nothing totally prepares one for this experience. I'm preparing for an unmedicated birth, and this time, barring unforeseen circumstances, I think I have a better shot at achieving that since I'm doing my homework ahead of time. I won't be devastated if it doesn't work out that way, but I'm very goal-oriented, and so I have a goal. To work toward this, I will do the following:
(1) Stay and labor at home as long as possible before traveling to the hospital. You are apt to feel much more comfortable in your own space, allowing your body to secrete its needed hormones at the necessary intervals. If you're anxious and feeling like your privacy is being invaded, your labor will slow down.
(2) Eat and drink prior to leaving for the hospital. This time, I know that labor is a marathon, not a sprint. Even if you're one of those women blessed with shorter than average labors, labor is still INCREDIBLY hard work. You need your physical strength to be up for the challenge.
(3) Be upright as much as possible. Lying in bed flat on your back never helped anyone give birth. Have you watched The Tudors? *shudder of horror* Good gracious. Their version of pain relief was stringing up an old bed sheet between the posts for her to grab onto. Getting out of bed was seen as the ravings of a crazy woman in need of immediate intervention. Although maybe not as "ladylike", squatting, standing/walking, and on hands and knees are much more efficacious positions to labor and deliver in.
(4) Bring some focus distractions. My iPod, some rosary beads, maybe some pictures of Hank.
(5) Inquire about the hospital policy on maximizing mobility with regard to IV fluids and external fetal monitoring. Last time, I felt tethered to my hospital bed, which certainly didn't aid my cause.
(6) Use any tool that the hospital provides, such as a tub, birthing ball and squatting bar.
(7) Realize that the pain in labor has a *good* purpose, and that it means that the baby is closer to being born. I've also read up on how long each stage of labor is, to help me mentally cope with them. For instance, transition is typically only between 4 and 20 contractions long. That is what I consider empowering information.
(8) Bring more modest coverings so that I won't feel so exposed and anxious. By this, I mean essentially my old tattered bathrobe. I have no problem with wearing hospital gowns (don't exactly want to expose my cute gowns to the various fluids involved in childbirth) but the "revealment of the backside" issue is plumb ridiculous. I'm asking for two, one for the front and one for the back, with the bathrobe to cover when I want to be on my hands and knees. If I feel exposed, I'm tense. And tense = stalled labor.
(9) Avoid Pitocin. This time, I'm going to trust myself and my body, unless there appears to be a problem I did not anticipate beforehand. Last time, I gave in to the Pitocin right away because I was scared and had no idea what having it would feel like.
I'm going to continue to work on these things over the next 3.5 months. I wouldn't ever take an important exam without studying, or climb a mountain without training, and I'm trying to see childbirth the same way. I'm going to put myself in as best a position as possible to succeed.
Many women tell me that they don't remember the pain of childbirth. That's how, well, they went on to have more than one child. :) But me, I have to admit, I HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN. The edge has been taken off of it a bit, since it's been over 5 years, but I have NOT forgotten the physical sensations that led me to get the epidural, nor the helplessness I felt after it wore off and I realized that I had no recourse but to curl in a fetal position clinging desperately to the rails of my bed to deal with the pain. And it went on for what felt like BLOODY EVER. I had a short time in transition and then a nearly 3 hour pushing stage without any pain medication.
It felt like...an 18-wheeler was driving through my abdomen at 90 second intervals. It sounds dramatic, but I remember actually closing my eyes and wishing that I was dead. It was bad.
Does that mean it'll be like that for you? Of course not. Every woman's body is different, and I've had several women tell me that labor was merely uncomfortable for them, not painful. Prepare, prepare, prepare. And try to go without that Pitocin. I really feel hopeful that this time, it'll be different.
I think one of the toughest things about childbirth (whether vaginal or cesarean section) is that no matter how supportive your partner is, no matter how great your doctor is... you have to ultimately go it alone. You have people supporting you, but no one can do it for you. Somehow, you have to step up to the plate and hit that ball on your own. But we do have prayer, and the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding. Certainly, on the day of battle, that will help. :)