Okay. So I've finally had a few moments (at midnight) to gather my thoughts and write about my birth experience – and a very important lesson I learned in the process.
Before having a baby, expectant mothers are encouraged to write a birth plan for the doctors or midwives to follow. Well, my birth plan for number four was a home birth. My first two were natural births with an epidural in hospital. I didn’t enjoy the effects of the epidural and I started looking for a different birthing experience for my third. I started reading and learning a lot and after being a doula for my sister’s water birth at home I knew that that was the direction I wanted to take.
One of the books that had a profound impact on me was a book called ‘Labor of Love’ by Rachel Broncher. I recommend it for all expectant moms. In addition to an in depth understanding of labor and how the body works, it provides incredible insight and wisdom from our rich Jewish heritage, empowering an inner strength of mind and belief in Hashem (G-d) and developing a sense of appreciation for partnering with G-d in the miracle of childbirth and embracing every part of the process for the gift that it is. It also gives tools for labor like breathing exercises and visualizations.
So for baby number three I decided to have a water birth free of any medical intervention or pain relief. I still hadn’t quite gotten my head around a home birth so I opted to have it with a midwife in hospital. Thank G-d it was an awesome experience. Powerful and Spiritual. And no epidural meant no negative side effects. The only downside was being at the hospital. Things like the stress of being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic to get there, having to sit on the bed to be monitored - slowing the labor in the process, and not being in my preferred environment made me feel that for my next birth I really wanted to be at home.
So when I fell pregnant with number four I started making plans for a home birth! I chatted with the midwives, bought all the necessary items to make it happen and was VERY excited and proud about my decision. But little did I know that G-d had other plans.
Towards the end of the pregnancy the midwives picked up that the baby wasn’t gaining as much weight as it should have. When I went to my back up doctor for a scan before going to New York for my brother’s wedding he found that all the vital signs were okay but he also noted that the baby appeared small and should be monitored again when I got back from New York and after the holidays.
When his office re-opened after the holidays I went for another check up. Again baby seemed fine but still wasn’t showing signs of significant growth. Because of the possible risks the doctor encouraged getting the baby out as soon as possible. Thankfully my doctor isn’t Caesar happy (one of the reasons why I chose him – South Africa has the second highest Caesar rate in the world!) but wanted me to be induced. I was obviously very disappointed because I really wanted a home birth but I wanted a healthy baby too and I knew I had to get the baby out to make sure everything was ok. I asked him for a day for me to get my head around it and I also needed to organize my mom to come from Johannesburg to help with the kids (she is an absolute life saver!), get everything organized and besides, my husband was officiating at a wedding that night.
The next day (Tuesday) I checked into the hospital. We started the induction process but by Wednesday morning I needed some additional oxytocin as the contractions had not yet started. It did the trick and the contractions started coming on strongly every five minutes.
After 9 hours of strong contractions and (with much disappointment) little progress I needed to have my waters broken to get things going. Five hours of strong contractions later I had still not dilated any further so the next step was a stronger dose of oxytocin via a drip. By that stage I was completely exhausted and with the intense contractions that come with induced labor and the fact that it wasn’t natural anyway, I decided not to be a martyr and to have an epidural. The anesthetist was called to give me the epidural but as luck would have it, the epidural didn’t take on my right side! So along with all the negative side effects of the epidural and the heavy contractions brought on by the induction that were just getting stronger and stronger, I wasn't even able to be on my feet and move around because the epidural had numbed my left side! At that point, to put it mildly, I was just begging Hashem to please hurry up the process!
Thank G-D my prayers were answered and at a minute after 1am , the tiniest little girl was born! Perfect, healthy, with eyes wide open and ready to feed after only ten minutes.
I can't describe the huge relief that was felt at that moment along with immense gratitude and awe at the little miracle that was lying on my chest and taking her first few breaths of life weighing 2.050 kg!!!!
I couldn't have done it without my husband, mom , midwifery team of Ciska (by my side from 7am till 3am the next day!) Juliet,Glynnis and Susan of www.birthoptions.co.za and doula Gayle Friedman (also at my side giving love and support for the entire duration of labor) of www.wombs.org.za. I had the most amazing team and am so appreciative to each and every one of them!
So to sum up, the important lesson I learned was that instead of a Birth Plan we should prepare a Birth Wish. Ultimately Hashem is in charge and while we can wish for things a certain way G-d may just have other plans.
I also think that women who want a natural birth should be careful to make informed decisions before being whisked off to surgery. If I hadn’t known better and I had a doctor who wasn’t so open minded I could have very easily ended up with an unnecessary Caesar. Doctors and medical technology are big blessings but different doctors have different approaches and it is important, if you want a natural birth, to choose a doctor that is on the same page as you. If the baby is not in distress and there is no compelling reason to do it one should be careful of being pressured into surgery unnecessarily. I would have been so upset and disappointed afterwards had that happened to me. Indeed I could imagine there is truth to the suggestion that the feeling of not being in control of what is happening during child birth or feeling like you are not being heard could be a contributing factor to post natal depression.
So there you have it! My birth/learning experience. Hopefully for my next baby- ( no I'm not really thinking right now about the next one :) ) I'll be able to have my birth wish of a home birth without any complications!
Please feel free to share your story.