Last night, I attended my hospital's "Childbirth Refresher" class, and naturally, I'm here to provide all the details. We didn't have a babysitter, so Mike had to stay home with Hank. I was sad, but I gave him the blow-by-blow when I got home, so he didn't miss a moment, really. :)
Anyway, when I arrived, I turned in my pre-registration form (did this with Hank too, and it means you don't have to stop at Admissions when you're in labor), got some decaf, and headed down to the conference room. There was a lot of people there, and all had at least one other child at home. Most had delivered at this hospital. The instructor gave a good overview of the birthing process, some breathing and relaxation techniques, and the ins and outs of pain relief medication. What she advised was all of the things I've been reading about natural childbirth: change positions frequently (and she gave us a slew of different ones we could try), relaxation breathing (in through nose, out through mouth) and stay at home as long as possible.
Last time, like most first time mothers, I got to the hospital too early. At least, that's my opinion. My doctor felt I had progressed enough to admit me, but I was only 3 centimeters dilated, and thus I was not yet in active labor. I was having regular contractions, but they were not that intense and I could still easily talk through them. I resisted getting into positions in which the contractions hurt more because I was afraid of the pain. Hence, the introduction of Pitocin, and hence the introduction of the epidural, and hence it taking me nearly 3 hours to push Hank out because I could not feel the urge to bear down and push effectively.
This time, I'm very glad to have at least that one experience under my belt. I feel like I'm in a better position now to have the type of birth I'd like. Of course, the unexpected can always happen, but I'm feeling more confident.
Even during the birthing room tour, I didn't feel panicky like I did last time, when I realized that the next time I was there, I'd be in excruciating pain with people looking at me half undressed, neither of which puts me in any kind of comfort zone. I just felt better, and that makes me feel good.
Our instructor was also very positive about the birthing experience and how women have so many choices now in childbirth, even in a hospital environment. She said that the decision on inserting an IV line and electronic fetal monitoring were all up to our doctors, which I didn't know. I assumed it was hospital policy that dictated those things. The hospital does have walking monitors, and birthing balls and showers in every birthing suite, all of which made me happy. She also said that they emphasize mom/baby togetherness even more now than ever before, and have some new policies to reflect this. Following delivery, babies will remain with Mommy for a full hour. You can have skin-to-skin contact and breastfeed. After that, baby will go to the nursery to lay under the infant warmer for 2 hours, while the nurses assist the mom in getting a shower, stabilized, and transferred to the Mother/Baby Unit. Following that interval, baby will meet up with you and can be with you 24 hours hours a day, in what they call their "rooming-in" emphasis. This is totally different from when I had Hank.
I remember resenting the shower bullying right after I delivered Hank, but I now know that this is for a very legitimate medical reason. The time following childbirth (not during labor) is actually the most dangerous time of the process for the woman. They worry about postpartum hemorrhage at this juncture, and thus the nurses want to assure that your uterus is contracting back down properly, and that you're able to get up out of bed and walk around on your own, especially if you have had an epidural (which 80% of all women delivering in hospitals nationwide do). They also want you to be able to pass urine. The shower is kind of a nicey-nice way of them assuring that this is all happening as it should. Let's just say that peeing (or the other) after childbirth is nothing short of a terrifying prospect, and the warm running water can be a bit of a relaxing impetus, if you will.
I actually had no problem with any of the scenarios that were presented, aside from the continual fetal monitoring. In a low-risk pregnancy and delivery, that simply isn't necessary, and intermittant monitoring would be more than sufficient. But I can live with it, and the book she gave us showed some photos of women manuevering into different labor and birth positions all while strapped up to the monitor, so that made me feel better.
It was all very thought-provoking. The final thing that elicited a lot of response was the epidural video that we watched. I've had an epidural, and without a doubt worship the EPIDURAL GOD because I know what my labor felt like and what the subsequent epidural relief felt like. But even knowing all that, watching the video would make the most hardened epidural fan want to pass. :) It is a scary sounding procedure, and watching it is no walk in the park either.
I guess the key is: you just never know what your birth is going to be like. We all have a set of expectations, and it's easy to feel disappointed if this enormous life event doesn't go exactly as those expectations specified. I didn't want an epidural last time either; but given how my labor unfolded, I got one, and I don't regret it one bit. Is my anesthesiologist slated for canonization? If he's not, he should be.
Even thinking about those contractions now makes me break out in a cold sweat. Oh Mack truck, how nice of you to visit me again, so soon after your last departure. What was that? 60 seconds ago? I see that once again you're headed right for my abdomen...
I just remember the thought that went through my head. Because, in early labor, you'll think "oh, I can totally handle this." And you can, we all can. But once I was in active labor and that Pitocin was kicked on?
"THIS is what it feels like? For the love of GOD call the anesthesiologist!"
This is why I'm avoiding the Pitocin this time. Now I will grant, late active labor and transition contractions are going to be powerhouses even without the Pitocin, so I may be visiting with the friendly on-call anesthesiologist again 8 weeks from now. We'll see. But this time, I think I have more tools in my arsenal such that I have a better chance of staving it off. But if I feel that I need it, I'll get it. God bless modern medicine.
The one thing I'm not interested in is narcotics. Has anyone heard a single good thing about these? "Oh, they'll make you and the baby sleepy, but they won't take the pain of the contractions away?" Really? Then what good are they? For me, it's either nothing, or the epidural. No in between.
So, we'll see. Naturally, you will all know about my birth experience with a full minute-by-minute breakdown shortly following the big event. :) We'll see what the future holds, but I'm honestly excited to find out this time.