Monday, April 2, 2012
I'm only in my first trimester and I've already had to make a big choice: I've decided to see a certified nurse midwife for prenatal care, labor, and delivery. The plan (which I hold loosely, as anything can happen) is to have an unmedicated birth in a hospital. There are a number of reasons I feel this is the best of both worlds, and I'm so lucky to get to choose this setup. As I learn more and more about midwives and their practice, I gain confidence and peace - and I also feel peaceful about giving birth in a hospital just in case I'm part of that 2% that have complications. We live nowhere near a hospital, so it feels like the safest option.
From what I understand, the basis of the natural birth route is the belief that women's bodies were created to give birth - that pregnancy isn't a disease to be heavily investigated or treated as a medical condition. For thousands upon thousands of years, women have needed little to no help in giving birth. And in most of the world, birth is still attended only by midwives and does not take place in a hospital setting. So why now?
My first prenatal appointment was with an obstetrician where I received an early ultrasound (so fun to see that tiny little bug-like baby!) and a boatload of information on all of the strongly encouraged genetic testing. I felt pressured to get tested for a myriad of possible chromosomal abnormalities, and to "sign on the dotted line" because it would "really help the whole process" if I opted for the testing. If I'd had a history of these problems or any real reason for concern, I might have been up for the testing. But knowing how famous those tests can be for false positives (from nursing school, not from this appointment), and knowing that I would not abort no matter what - it didn't seem necessary. And that didn't make any sense to the doctor. I left the appointment excited about being pregnant, but a whole lot more scared about the 1% possibility that my baby could have serious problems. Not fun.
I went to a midwife next, hoping to gather information and compare my experience with the previous appointment. It couldn't have been more different. My mom went with me to this appointment, and we both left saying, "That was amazing." I can't wait to go back. The midwife was warm, gentle, and so encouraging that pregnancy and birth are beautiful, natural processes with very small chances of major complications. The midwives definitely use less technological intervention - only one ultrasound at 20 weeks - and when I declined the genetic testing, she calmly said, "I totally respect that" and had me sign the papers. She knew that I was a Christian and recommended a Christian doula and Christian birthing classes, and I left the office more excited and peaceful than ever about the next several months.
All that to say, I have so much to learn. I'm reading Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, as recommended by my midwife, and soaking it all up.
Please hear me say: this isn't a topic I want to push onto anyone, and I'm painfully aware that it can provoke a very heated discussion. That definitely is not my intention. I really believe that every woman should be able to make a choice for herself and her unborn child, and every birth is equally beautiful and exciting! I just want to share my own experience along the way to be thinking about birth in another much less popular way.
Oh, and in case you didn't know, my sister is also pregnant right now (3 months ahead of me!) and will also be using a midwife. I'm the lucky one to get a preview of what it may be like just before it's my turn. :)