Please don’t hate me.
Wherever women with small children gather, be it playgroup or drop in centre or at the park, invariable the conversation will eventually find its way to birth stories. Mothers love to share their birth stories, and often these descend into a horror show contest – I laboured for 42 hours! My 10 lb baby ripped me open! I had an emergency C-section! I gave birth in the car! And invariably some jerk will chime in with “I had a beautiful home water birth. I laboured for only 8 hours, pushed twice, and out he popped! It hardly hurt at all, I could have ridden a bicycle the very next day! Oh, and I had no issues with breastfeeding either.”
I’m sorry. I’m that jerk.
When I tell people about my son, I usually jokingly say “I earned him.” He is my second born. He was born just after midnight at home in a rented birth pool. My mother acted as my doula (yes, I’m also that jerk who has that kind of relationship with her mother) my husband got into the pool with me, my daughter slept through most of my labour but woke up when she heard my cries while her brother was crowning and arrived sleepy eyed in the birth room just in time to see him being born. We had a glorious first few hours together and then all went to sleep in the family bed.
My daughter’s birth was not quite as easy, though all in all I don’t have much of a horror story to tell about that one either. It was a much longer labour, 17 hours or so. I pushed for a long time, in a variety of different positions, without much success. While I had planned a water birth for her also she had other ideas and I ended up birthing flat on my back. She was not in a very good position for birthing, facing entirely the wrong way and causing her mother a great deal of back pain. I had a cervical lip that just would not soften and my midwife ended up sticking her arm all the way up inside me and holding it back while I pushed the baby’s head past. This I remember as being far more painful than actually giving birth. Later I learned if that hadn’t worked my midwives had decided that they would have to transfer me to hospital, where I would most likely have ended up under the knife.
I was lucky.
As my children grew and I listened to other women’s stories, I realized just how lucky I was. But I realized something else too – luck favours the prepared. Since I was one of the last of my friends to have children I had benefited from their experiences and knew to seek out midwifery care. I had already done my initial doula training and had attended three births already so I had seen what a hospital birth was like, and I didn’t want that for myself. I had read a million books on the subject of childbirth and was extremely well informed. And most importantly, I believe, I myself was born naturally and breastfed. My mother had told me all my life that childbirth was no big deal, and she also blamed the ‘women’s issues’ she suffered from on ‘those butchers in the hospital’ where my sister was born, who insisted on routine enemas, catheterization and episiotomy and had no idea what to do with this strange Englishwoman with her weird ideas about Lamaze breathing and no drugs. I think her story made me more than a little wary of the hospital way of birth.
People tell me that I am brave to have birthed my children at home, but the truth is I was more afraid of the hospital than the pain of childbirth. And I know for a fact that if I had a doctor instead of a midwife for my first pregnancy I would have had a C-section – no doctor would have done for me what my midwife did. And yet, as a doula I love attending hospital births- it is my goal to make birthing in the hospital as pleasant as possible for my clients. I hope my success stories give them confidence. I don’t believe I am special or different – I think anyone can have the birth they want if they surround themselves with people who believe and trust in the process.
Are you pregnant and in the Toronto area? Contact me here.