It Came Out Of My Vagina - An honest (Like Really Honest Guide to Conscious Parenting)
Written by multiple moms including Betsy Chasse and Debbie Weisman sharing hilarious and honest stories about being a parent.
Excerpt Chapter 1 - The Birth Plan
Two Moms share their Birth stories
I've never been a patient person, so sitting with my pants down, holding a pee-drenched stick waiting to find out if my world will be forever altered by a beautiful bundle of joy was probably the most excruciating sixty seconds I've ever endured. I sat and stared at the stick as the hue of pink slowly crept in.
If you've ever taken a pregnancy test, you know it starts out looking negative with the sad little (-) sign and then suddenly in pops another and you've got a baby on the way!
Woo hoo-- you did it! After the excitement wears off, you've shared the happy news and everyone is thrilled for you (oh, and suddenly a parenting expert), reality sets in. Luckily for me, in those early months as my body evolved into its new state, I didn't have morning sickness. I did miss my morning smoke and my evening glass of vino, but for the first few months I was in pregnancy bliss. That was, until I started to grow; I mean like really grow. All of my body-conscious buttons were being pushed and I spent a small fortune keeping Pea in the Pod in business. This wasn't just any pea in my pod, this was some sort of ginormous being growing in me.
I lived in a community that was all about all natural home births and all I could think about was how in the hell this gargantuan creature was going to come out of me! Every mommy I encountered wanted to share her birth story (ok I admit it, I'm guilty of this too). It's a badge of honor; when you pop a human the size of watermelon out of your Vagina, you're going to want to brag about it too. But with each triumphant "push!" story I began to feel more and more stressed out. I eventually decided to go with the flow. I'd have my own home birth, with my own hand-picked midwife who urged me to write my own birth plan. I ordered the birthing tub, created my play list, went to the Lamaze classes and grew and grew...and grew. As the birth date approached, my nesting instinct took over. I had either registered for or bought every possible baby gadget a mommy could want. The nursery was ready, the house was cleaner than it had ever been, and I was ready.
I was amazed at the little wheel my midwife used to calculate the exact date my baby would arrive in this world. I circled that date on my calendar, cleared my schedule and manically planned my every step for the days leading up to the birth and the week after. In hindsight, I realize how futile this was. It was simply an attempt to hold on to some control of an event that I had no control over at all.
It's a funny thing, those due dates. Seriously, most babies never get the memo, my baby included. So my first piece of advice to you is this: Chill. That baby will come when it's damn good and ready!
That lack of control became evident the moment I went into labor. I had spent the evening in Seattle, and it was nearing midnight when, after a two-hour drive, I was finally heading down my long driveway lovingly referred to as the plains of Mordor. Along the way I felt something stirring down there. Thankfully, my water waited until I got in the house and then suddenly...gush!
I awoke my sleeping husband and we leapt into action. Timing contractions, calling the midwife, filling the birthing tub. About three hours later my midwife arrived and for the next 18 hours I was in labor. Yep, 18 hours and still no baby. So much for my "have-her-out-in-five-hours" plan. This baby girl was having none of that!
We were in the tub, out of the tub, in a chair, in the bathroom (all places I never expected I would be giving birth, except the tub--it was all about the tub). But truth be told I hated that tub. For god's sake, seriously, whose idea was it for me to squat in a lukewarm kiddie pool, gushing amniotic fluid and pushing like my life depended on it?! Oh wait, it was my idea. I had watched the videos, read all the books and listened to all those mommies share their fairy-tale birth experiences in water, and somehow I must have screwed something up. Did I buy the wrong candles? Should I have purchased the pool with the turtles on it instead of the goldfish? Maybe it was the music. Yes, that was it, the music. Clearly I should have gone with Mozart instead of "It's the end of the world as we know it".
Well, whatever it was, my birth plan had gone to hell in a kiddie pool with goldfish on it.
Here's the thing. Women forget about the pain, the doubt, the fear and the absolute horror of giving birth mere seconds after that baby is out and in their arms. So often the birth stories you hear may joke about the pain, but no one ever lets you in on the secret that giving birth hurts like hell! Even as I write this I have to work to remember how hard it was. Our brains are wired that way; otherwise who the hell would do it again?!
After it was clear this baby was not coming out, it was decided I should go to the hospital. I was surrounded by people who for months told me awful stories about hospitals, and there I went, this time with my husband and midwife, back down the plains of Mordor. Only this time I was having full blown contractions while on a 45-minute drive to the nearest hospital. Yay me! Yes, this is exactly how I planned to have my baby-- on the side of the freeway in the wee hours of the morning. Finally, I was wheeled in through the emergency room doors, plugged in and my labor stopped. Yep, the hospital stopped my labor, only to restart it a few hours later (I learned after the fact that I inconveniently showed up in the midst of a shift change. The gall of me and my baby!)
Forty hours after my labor began I was told I needed a C-section. The sad but honest truth is that in that moment they could have told me I was getting a lobotomy and I wouldn't have cared--just get this baby out of me! I actually recall screaming that as I was hanging from a bar on a hospital gurney attempting one last time to push that stubborn little pea out of my pod.
Since I had been given an epidural, I was able to stay awake during the C-section, and I have to tell you, it was awesome. Well, at least the drugs were awesome and finally she was out; I instantly forgot about everything else - thanks Brain!
It wasn't until a few hours later, when the drugs wore off and I attempted to forgo the pain meds so as not to affect my breast milk did the memories flood back in: the sweat, the tears, and the excruciating pain. But not for long. See--after you have a C-section, the most important thing on your mind is, "Can I poop without my gut exploding?" The answer, thankfully, was yes, and despite my concerns, my gut didn't spill out onto the floor.
Now I have shared my birth story, here's what you should do with it. Smile and say thank you--and then forget everything I just said. Your birth is your birth. It will happen as it happens. Trust in your own abilities to listen to your body and your baby, find a midwife or OBGYN you love and listen to them.
Betsy is right. Your birth is going to be whatever it is, and whatever is it will most likely not be what you're expecting. That's how it was with me. It was a different time and a different generation. So many things that are commonplace now, like midwives and home births, were alien concepts then. The idea of having husbands in the delivery room was pretty much standard practice where we lived, but there were still some backward sections of the country where people were just coming on board.
There was no doubt in my mind I was having a hospital birth, and with my living in Los Angeles and being Jewish, this meant that the hospital of choice was Cedars-Sinai. There's a reason it's called the Hospital of the Stars, although truth be told I have never seen any famous people in all the times I've been there. It really is a beautiful complex though, with museum-quality art on every floor and every single kind of high-tech medical equipment imaginable. I saw quite a bit of all of it during my two pregnancies.
I didn't expect I'd have a high-tech birthing experience, although at the time I was kinda proud of it--to a point. Even though I opted for a hospital birth, my kid's birth was going to be natural, all the way. No drugs for me. Just me taking big cleansing breaths while having my husband there to cheer me on.
The first six months of my first pregnancy were fairly uneventful--no morning sickness to speak of and nothing unusual to report from my prenatal checkups. But around that six month mark a gigantic endocrinologic bomb exploded inside me. I gained weight--lots of it--and my normally petite face grew to the size of a pumpkin. My blood pressure was higher than it was supposed to be and I was this close to having gestational diabetes. If that wasn't bad enough, I also broke out with the worst case of acne and started growing a beard! My husband was pretty understanding about it, but I imagined this little baby-to-be was going to wish she could retreat back into that uterus when she got a look at this horrid, hairy, zit-filled face of her mother's.
Because of these changes in me, alarm bells rang out in my doctor's office and I was marched over to Cedars for twice-weekly stress tests. If you've never had one of these, don't worry; it's a simple test to make sure the baby's heart is beating normally, although telling the mother-to-be that it's a called a stress test doesn't do anything to calm the worried mind. Anyway, the good news was that while my outside was a mess, all this monitoring showed that everything inside was progressing nicely.
About a week before my due date, I was having one of these stress tests done when the nurse picked up the graph spewing from the printer and held it up to me with a big smile on her face. "Look, you're having contractions," she said, pointing to the sharp spiky black lines on the paper. I smiled too. I didn't feel a thing, and if this was what having contractions was all about, I was home free.
It was decided then--note that I had no say in this decision--that because of my precarious state and those contractions, I was to be induced. No rushing to get to the hospital, no packing bags, no having my water break naturally. No, I was calmly walked down the hall to the birthing area, and before I knew it I was on my back getting shot up with Pitocin and having my labor forced upon me.
As Betsy indicates, there is something about childbirth that makes a woman forget the pain involved. Yet on this first go-round, I had to conclude it wasn't all that bad. My Lamaze training paid off; all that breathing really did mask the pain of the contractions. Nine-and-a-half hours later, I was the proud mother of a healthy baby girl.
I also have to admit that I recovered from this birth rather quickly. Whether that was due to having been in good shape, good genes or those crazy hormones doing me a favor, I don't know. In any event, I went home the next day and shocked my very traditional mother when I drove to the supermarket the day after that. I felt fine and even went back to my low-impact aerobics class (hey, this is what everyone was doing then) three weeks later.
I'm not going to tell you that this is how it'll be for you. Every woman is different. All I can say is to listen to your body. She'll let you know when you're ready to return to your pre-pregnancy activities.
In my case, after a couple of months, the acne and the facial hair went away--as did the weight--and a few years later I was ready to do it again. Of course the second time around was totally different. This time the entire pregnancy was uneventful. My son was growing so well inside me that there was some concern he was growing too well. My doctor was concerned that his head was going to be the size of a small watermelon, too big to travel safely through the birth canal, meaning I would be forced to have a C-section. He consulted with a number of his Ivy League OB-GYN buddies, who came up with all kinds of ways to calculate the circumference of the baby's head and compare that to the width of my birth canal. They all reached the same conclusion. This baby had to come out sooner rather than later. I had an amniocentesis, which indicated he was ready to go. So there I was, marching back to the hospital two weeks before the due date, all so I could avoid a C-section. Once again I didn't get to experience having my water break. Once again I was induced, but not too worried. After all, the last go-round wasn't too bad.
Be careful what you wish for. This was nothing like the first time. About an hour into the induction, I had the worst case of back labor imaginable. Let me tell you. I hope none of you ever have to experience back labor. Being hit over the head with a sledgehammer would have felt better! No amount of Lamaze breathing was going to work this time. Just like that, my dreams of another natural birth went down the tubes. I wanted drugs--all of them. I begged for an epidural; the moment I felt that numbness over my lower body I felt ecstatic.
That feeling didn't last long, though. After hours of contractions and continuous measurement of my cervix, it became clear that this labor was going nowhere. Despite all those calculations, all that pre-planning and all those tests, I ended up having a C-section anyway. And that giant head my son was supposed to have? Well, that head turned out to be just as normal as the rest of him, although I do have to admit I was pretty surprised when he came out with blonde hair and blue eyes since both my husband and I are brunettes. Still, in the end I truly had nothing to complain about. I had a healthy newborn son.
That final thought is so important I feel like I need to repeat it. Whatever happens during your pregnancy, and whether you have a hospital birth, a home birth, whether you use a doctor or a midwife or a witch doctor, none of that matters. The only thing that counts is that tiny little bundle of love that you get to hold in your arms afterward. But having a good story to wrap around it makes it interesting.