If you read the story of my first birth, you may have gotten the impression I was traumatized by the experience. I was. I still am. I’ve never received official therapy for it, but I think it may be safe to say I suffer some post-traumatic stress disorder because of it. To this day. Which became a bit of a dilemma when my husband and I decided to try for #2. Honestly, I couldn’t even handle the thought of going through birth again for so long that it wasn’t until my son was almost three that I decided I might be ready. Well, it only took a couple of months this time to get pregnant and immediately the anxiety set in. I hadn’t really decided how I would approach this next birth, although it had been on my mind for a long time. Would I do it without drugs again? Should I do the standard OB/GYN hospital route? After my son was born, I swore that with any subsequent children that I would head straight to the hospital for an epidural after the first contraction. Being aware of and fully immersed in the full experience was for the birds! (Actually, I think my unfiltered thought was “f* that sh*t!”).
My awareness of how a standard hospital birth can easily turn into an intervention-laden medical event left my psyche feeling a lot of anxiety, as well. I didn’t want things done to me. I didn’t want to be a patient. I did not want to ride in a car for twenty minutes while in active labor. I did not want a cesarean. But I also did not want that traumatic experience again. I called up a midwife that I had met during my first pregnancy and had a long conversation with her about my first experience and my indecision on what to do next, as well as got a feel for how she would have approached my previous experience and how she could support me in my next if I decided to birth at home again. So I decided, about 13 weeks in, I would do another home birth. The only reason I was able to make this decision was because I wanted to just give myself the opportunity to have a good experience. I wanted to leave that possibility open, and if it wasn’t going to happen, I knew I had other options. So, my one stipulation would be that if anything mirrored my first experience, I was out of there. To the hospital for an epidural I would go. My other one stipulation was that I would do everything differently this time. All new support team. Different back-up obstetrician, different doula, different midwife, even the birth tub was put in a different place in my home. Different birth prep class. This time it was going to be different.
I spent more time researching natural pain relief for labor this time, met with my homeopathic doctor for a labor prep consultation and got remedies for labor prep as well as for labor. I took a Hypnobirthing class and listened to the Rainbow Relaxation recording every night and listened to and repeated the Birth Affirmations recording as well. I bought a new TENS unit just in case it might work this time (it didn’t the first). I got acupuncture during my pregnancy for general anxiety as well as once weekly labor prep sessions in the last month leading up to my due date. I planned to do sterile water injections in the event I had severe back labor as I did with the first. I even ate dates every day as recommended by this study just for good measure!
I got intensive chiropractic deep tissue treatment that focused mainly on my pelvis and more specifically on my tailbone. I had injured my tailbone with the first birth and the tissues connected to it never fully healed. I didn’t realize this until I started chiropractic treatment, but thankfully my Doctor was able to work out all the kinks and tightened ligaments with several VERY intense deep tissue sessions. His initial assessment of my condition was that I probably injured my tailbone from falling (snowboarding) which caused it to turn inward (which it still was) which is part of what caused the trauma to the area during the first birth. When I pushed to birth my son I thought for sure I was giving birth to my tailbone. I did not feel like a baby was coming down, I thought I was pushing my tailbone straight out my back side. It sucked.
Overall, my pelvis was also very stiff, which he concluded was probably why I experienced such severe back labor. Amazingly enough, after just four deep tissue treatments these issues were almost totally resolved. My tailbone still turned inward, but it was more mobile and the tissues had loosened. Hallelujah!
Of course I did the raspberry leaf tea deal again, in capsule and tincture form this time since I hate the taste of the tea. I started taking and, ahem, inserting, evening primrose oil in the last two weeks of pregnancy. To help prevent Group Beta Strep, I made sure I was consuming lots of probiotic-rich foods (sauerkraut, pickles, kefir, yogurt, kombucha), took a probiotic supplement and swallowed a fresh garlic clove nearly every day during the last trimester.
I was also more aware this time of what I would have to contend with once the baby was born. I had terrible after pains with my first, so I was fully expecting a return of the same, just worse (as I was told this is how it works). I came across this lovely product while purchasing my birth kit, and I have to say it actually made a huge difference. I used up the entire bottle. I made sure I had ibuprofen on hand for the engorgement that I fully expected, and I thank my dear midwife for suggesting I try Soothies on my nipples for relief for the soreness. I swear, I could hear angels singing in the heavens every time I reapplied them after nursing. I went through four boxes of them before making it through that challenging phase. I was a super heavy leaker the first time around, so I made sure I had a stock of good nursing pads, disposable first, but eventually transitioning to reusable. Of course I had Arnica Montana, in abundance, for all the aches, pains, swelling and soreness that were sure to accompany the experience. As for using the restroom, I got one of these electric tea kettles for my bathroom. It takes a full two to three minutes for the water to get hot in my bathroom, and having to stand there waiting and wasting water every single time I peed (especially in the middle of the night), just to get hot water for the peri-bottle was very aggravating. This tea kettle idea worked great! Water was hot and ready within 30 seconds of being switched on. I congratulated myself on that one. Somehow my brain worked enough during pregnancy to figure that one out ahead of time.
But, I’m not gonna lie. I was totally lazy. In fact, I was completely unmotivated and carrying around a bad attitude. The first time around I did everything I thought would guarantee a good birth experience. I was motivated. I had time. I walked 2-4 miles a day, five days a week. I took prenatal yoga once a week, every week through my second and third trimester. I hiked up and down hills when it got close to my due date. I did squats every day, usually sitting in a squat anytime I was watching TV, especially in the last month. I swam laps in the pool. I ate like a champ and avoided all the bad stuff (caffeine, chocolate, sugar, alcohol, fast food, junk food). I got acupuncture and chiropractic treatment starting early on. I did perineal massage and kegels. I visualized him in the optimal birth position. I was confident I wouldn’t have back labor. I spent time visualizing the experience I wanted, even down to the length of time I wanted labor to last (ten hours). I had no fear. I talked to him about how his head needed to emerge slowly so that I wouldn’t tear. I was in the birth tub, the lights were low, I was breathing him out. It was joyous! An ecstatic, rewarding experience!
Except it wasn’t. It wasn’t anything at all as I was willing and preparing for it to be. The only thing that mirrored my vision was the dimmed lights, because he was born at 3:44 a.m. It wasn’t in the tub. I tore. I was in labor for 31 hours. Horrible back labor. I couldn’t breath him out, I had to grimace and hold my breath and bear down with every single ounce of my might. I lost a lot of blood. I wasn’t joyous. I barely felt like I was still alive. And I wasn’t happy to see him. I was just happy to have him out and to have it over with. It was profoundly disappointing.
And so I went about this pregnancy with a lot of angst. Screw all that preparation stuff! Waste. Of. Time. Besides, now I have a toddler I am in charge of. Good luck finding the energy and time for that whole song and dance again. Good riddance!
I would go to my prenatals and my midwives would ask me if I was getting exercise. At first I was like, “Um, yeah, I walk and stuff.” Uh huh. To the park and back, a whopping five blocks each way. After several suggestions that I walk four to five miles a day, I finally just let it out that I wasn’t motivated to do anything this time. It did not serve me as I expected the first time, not wasting my time the second. Not motivated. Don’t care.
I will admit a certain amount of anxiety plagued me for this relative inactivity leading up to the incredibly physical event of labor and birth. But I ignored it. What was meant to be was what was going to happen. I just decided my physical fitness wasn’t going to be the deciding factor on whether or not I was in labor for two hours or two days. We only have so much control (or really, none at all), over how our births play out.
How did you prepare for birth? Do you think anything you did in preparation made the difference?