Pregnancy website and books tell expectant parents to have some kind of "birth plan". For Clara's birth, my plan was to simply wing it. Not knowing at all what my options were (all my books and websites were written with a stateside audience in mind), I really kind of refused to investigate. Mexican medicine in general is a very paternalistic affair, so I figured that my options were extremely limited anyway. While I've never presented a birth plan to my obstretician, who is in my opinion an excellent, excellent doctor, I'm fairly confident that I'd hear his low chuckle, although bet he'd try to hear me out while patiently explaining why my "options" weren't an option at his semi-public hospital. Really, I didn't want to know much more about the birthing process than absolutely necessary. I figured that everyone else gets through it, so I would, too.
We survived, but I decided that the second time around I wasn't going to go into the experience blind.
In fact, Birth Plan A consisted of us moving to the US, so I could get an epidural as I walked into the hospital, even at a mere 3 cm dilated. I have an OB/GYN friend who mentioned (I believe, correct me if I'm wrong) that many of her patients get sent right to the anesthesiologist after being admitted, and a number of friends have mentioned the modern miracle of a pain-free birth, thanks to the power of drugs. That was what I wanted. Give me drugs, baby!
However, I never discussed this plan with Mario (whose cooperation was vital to the success of the plan). I knew the timing wasn't quite right for him, so I just kind of held my breath, hoping that fate would intervene. As the months went by, it became clear that Plan A was not going to work out.
Nuts. Now, I don't what standard procedure is in most Mexican hospitals (and, with modern medicine being what it is, IS there even any kind of standard procedure?). However, in comparing experiences on the births of our first-borns, my two friends and I had remarkably similar experiences. One was very commited to having a natural birth, the other was quite interested in having in having hers unmedicated, and I just wanted drugs--the sooner, the better. However, all three of us were given epidurals at the very, bitter end of our kids' deliveries.
There may be three very different reasons for this. I know for a fact that in my case, as Clara was born at 1:30 am and I entered the hospital sometime around 10 pm, that at least part of the holdup was that they simply couldn't find an anisthesiologist until the last minute. Maybe they would have doped me up earlier. But I never asked my doctor, so I had no way of knowing. Also, there is no way of knowing that Child #2 wouldn't be born in the middle of the night, so it's entirely possible that the same holdup would occur.
So I went to the opposite extreme. A friend of mine, whose first child's birth was much more traumatic than Clara's, borrowed a copy of The Bradley Method from a friend. As she was going into labor with Child #2, she said that she and her husband read through it, followed their relaxation exercises as best as they could, and had a MUCH more positive experience for their daughter's birth. I figured if it could work for her, it could work for me.
So I borrowed the book, too. Turns out that holding off on epidurals until the last minute is the healthier way to administer them . . . too bad. But the book helped me be prepared for anything. If the hospital offered me an epidural straight away, sweet. I'd take it. Otherwise, I was starting to look forward to trying out the relaxation techniques for real, to find out how well they really worked. It's one thing to practice relaxing. It's a whole other thing to relax while one's body is being turned inside out.
At 8:30 on Sunday morning I woke up knowing that I'd have the baby that day. I knew that second babies come much faster than first-born babies, but with Clara it took twelve hours' worth of light contractions before they got serious. Four hours after that, we went to the hospital, and three excruciating, unmedicated hours later, Clara was finally born. After that experience, I knew I wanted to spend as little time at the hospital as possible with #2.
We went through our normal Sunday routines, as my contractions were merely of medium-strength, menstrual-cramp variety. After Clara woke up from her nap at 4, as I was pulling the popscicles out of the freezer, it was becoming clear that things were becoming more intense. Clara and I sat on the patio with our limeade popscicles, watching Mario finish tarring the roof. I took breaks from the stimulating conversation with the two-year-old to focus all my energies on relaxing every five or six minutes. She didn't mind too much.
When Mario finished up and and showered, I requested that he and Clara go out for lunch, as I just needed to have her far from me while I worked through the contractions. Being quite confident that I still had hours to go, at five o'clock I told Mario and Clara to go eat and check back on me in an hour. I cleaned up various things on the patio and then decided to try out deep-relaxation mode, as prescribed by Dr. Bradley's childbirth method. It was a lot of work, but I did have a feeling that I was much more in control of myself than I had been for Clara's birth. Then, at 5:15 (or so) I had a feeling that I just couldn't do much more of that and feared that I sent Mario away at a very inopportune time.
During the next contraction, my uterus reared up and started PUSHING. Oh, shit! The book was right. It was a feeling that one just couldn't fight. Problem was, I wasn't supposed to be at home at this stage. Alone.
Feeling utterly alone, I called out Mario's name. He must of hear me, way out at the grocery store, as he and Clara were back home within five minutes, well before I told them they should return.
I had him call the doctor. While he was doing that, Clara was standing at the side of my bed (I was facing away from her). But one of my arms was behind me, so she held my hand during two of the worst contractions. This was not AT ALL what I wanted my two-year-old to witness, but so is life. After the second contraction she either got scared or mad that I wasn't paying attention to her (or both) and started crying. Mario finally came and got her, while I told him to put Clara in the car, get the bags, and then we'd drive to the hospital.
As he came to get the bags in the car, I was pretty certain that the boy was crowning. Mario confirmed this through freaking out (really, he did pretty well). He called the doctor again (our house is, fortunately, right between the doctor's house and the hospital) and, as he was on the phone, Little Guy slithered right out.
Yep, the baby was born at home. On our bed.
I am fairly certain that this will always be up there as The Coolest Experience of my life.
Five minutes later, after un-hurriedly enjoying the baby's first moments, the doctor showed up, and confirmed that we were all OK. I did need a few stitches, but that was waaaay better than the episiotimy that I had with Clara. We stayed in the hospital for 24 hours (for stitches and observation's sake, I suppose). We could have left after a mere 12 hours, except straightening out insurance hassles took the extra twelve.
The Little Guy slept through the night while we were in the hospital, so between him not being born in the middle of the night and automatically losing an hour of sleep that way, we're still doing quite well.
I'm in worlds better shape than I was two days after having Clara. I'm chalking it up to:
- the birth being far less traumatic than Clara's (I'm fairly confident that the experience was worse for Mario than for me)
- not recovering from an episiotomy
- not having missed a night's sleep (until last night, but that's another story and--cross your fingers--I think the problem is solved)
- I have a feeling that postpartum hormones are triggering an ecstatic wave right now. So if I miss another night's sleep tonight, this post may have taken a much different tone than had I written it tomorrow. Not looking forward to getting those switched around . . . so I'll ride the wave while I can.
- Just knowing that I delivered the baby myself is staggering. While Kiddo was keeping me up all night last night, I might have normally lost it somewhere around 3:30am (especially keeping in mind those postpartum hormones--they must really get triggered by lack of sleep). However, every time I looked at him, I'd keep thinking about that moment, after working and knowing that he was coming, when it was just me and him in the house, when he just gushed right out and the first quiet seconds when I wasn't sure whether he was OK or not . . . this kid is MINE in ways that no other kid will ever be.
And for those who are or may become pregnant, as fantastic as this experience was, I highly recommend getting to the hospital on time. I'm really glad it worked out this way for me, but we're also very lucky that we had no complications. True--in the majority of births, there won't be complications. But for those births that do pose risks (and often there's no telling until labor is well underway) it could be a life-or-death risk for both individuals involved. I know we're fortunate. It could have gone so very, very badly. So if you choose to do the home-birth thing, actively choose it as an option, and have a midwife or doctor present.
I need to go to bed, so if there are typos, or odd phrases that don't make sense, I'll edit those the next time I'm on the computer.
Further updates on the boy and all his accomplishments will more likely be brought to you on www.xanaidah.blogspot.com