The following is a guest post by my friend, Maggie, owner of a beautiful home schooling, more natural living blog, The Cappuccino Life. I hope that you enjoy her post as much as I did.
I am not a confrontational person, by nature. In fact, I’m often a capitulator, going with the flow, trying to keep the peace. One major exception to this in my life has been the births of my second and third children. Although the birth of my first son was short and “easy” as births go, I carried a lingering sense of disappointment with me, though I didn’t understand why. As I began to learn more about birth, I realized that fear and helplessness were not necessary companions to a birthing mother, and that things could be very different. I learned that the Stadol I was given “to take the edge off” (it didn’t!) likely made the experience much worse. So I set about educating myself. And I got a little angry. I totally lucked out by going into labor naturally at 39 weeks. The OB caring for me wanted to induce labor on the day my pregnancy hit 40 weeks. She said my baby was already over 8 lb at 38 weeks, and that waiting longer would mean a difficult birth (when he was born at 39 weeks, he was 6 lb 14 oz). Because I was ignorant, her reasons sounded good at the time, and because I was ignorant, it didn’t occur to me that she might be suggesting something harmful. Both my parents are doctors, after all. Who am I to question a doctor’s recommendation?
This is where it gets sticky for me. As a Christian, as a young person, as a woman, as a layperson-all my upbringing and training pushed me to accept on good faith anything my doctors said. They’re the experts, after all. They’re authority figures. They’re mostly older than me (and therefore, likely wiser)! They’ve had decades of schooling and experience. And having heard my parents complain about self-diagnosing patients who took internet postings as gospel and always had some wild disease that needed expensive medication, I was hesitant to voice any concerns that I had at the time for fear of being viewed as someone like that. So I pushed my concerns down, and I thank God that pregnancy didn’t hit 40 weeks, or my birth history would probably have been very different. By the time I was pregnant with my second child, we had moved to an area where a midwife practice was available to us, and I was excited about the prospect of using the birth center (and the jacuzzi!). The midwives were sweet and kind and encouraging and my pregnancy went well. But somewhere in the last trimester, one of their backup doctors looked at my chart, and decided I was “risky”. Thus started non-stress tests, ultrasounds, calculations, worried looks, and a lot of stress for me and my husband. I saw the doctor who had picked me out for his ministrations exactly once, at which time he urged me to have an induction (I was 39 weeks at the time) and when I said no, his response was “Well, see you in the OR then. You’ll never get this huge baby out”. He was clearly annoyed by the young idiot who thought she knew better than he did. Eventually even the midwives urged induction, as I started pushing 42 weeks, but I refused, by this point out of sheer stubbornness. They could give me no genuine reason for having the baby right that minute, just vague “what if’s” that didn’t hold water when researched. I stuck to my guns.
Standing up for what I knew to be right was difficult and painful for me. I spent a lot of time second-guessing myself, wondering if I was smart enough to be sure the doctor was wrong, and facing the temptation to just say “OK” because the doctor’s glare and the midwives worry pressed on my heart and made me feel like a horrible, selfish, stupid person. If it were not for my husband, I would have caved. He stood by me and let me rant and complain and worry, and told me over and over again that he knew I was making the right decision, and that everything would be just fine. He was as angry as I over the treatment I received at the first birth, and as a foreigner, it shattered his lofty idea of American medicine as the epitome of wisdom and good practice. That second son was born at the hospital, because after 42 weeks the midwives could not allow the birth at their center. He was big-9 lb 14 oz. I suppose, really, that he was very big. However, that birth was 4 hours from start to finish. He had sticky shoulders and I bled quite a bit, but it was awesome. I did it! That birth, I was not afraid. I didn’t feel out of control. I didn’t feel much pain at all-the contractions were huge and big and amazing in a way I can’t describe, but not painful. Instead of being on my back, at the mercy of medical personelle, I was on my hands and knees, doing birth, instead of just observing.
You would think, after delivering that gigantic baby in such a short time with so little complication, the pressure would have eased with my third baby. Early pregnancy went just fine, but once again I found myself facing a wall of opposition in the third trimester. After being told and encouraged that sure, there would be no problem, I was again pushed to NST’s and ultrasounds, again because of the “massive size” of the baby. And of course, once his massive size was confirmed, the fear mongering began. My midwives tried valiantly to encourage me, but their backup doctor (a different one, and a woman this time), sat me down and told me straight out she wanted me to induce and if I didn’t, I’d be putting my baby at high risk of death and myself at risk for serious tearing. Adding to the pressure was the fact that my huge baby apparently had enough room to flip breech and back again, multiple times. Nobody wanted to touch me. By this time, I was furious. I knew that the risk wasn’t that great, especially with me having “proven” my pelvis with two successful births and one very large baby. The midwives had risked me out of their birth center even before the 42 week mark, and since I wasn’t going to get to use the birth center even if I did allow them to induce, I decided I might as well wait until the baby was ready. Because I didn’t trust the doctor, I stayed at home in labor until I started puking, forcing my husband to drive like a madman to get us to the hospital in time. Once again, labor lasted 4 hours to the minute. This time I really, really felt it-Ouch! But I knew it wasn’t because of his size, just a natural variation of labor. My 10 lb 8 oz third son was born without even a hint of shoulder dystocia, and I required all of one stitch. So much for “tearing from stem to stern” and “killing your baby”.
Next time, I am going to be stronger. I am not going to allow myself to feel guilt and trepidation over decisions made with the information that is available to me, even if my decisions are the opposite of what a doctor wants me to do. While I appreciate modern medicine, and respect doctors, I no longer believe that when I am pregnant, I am ill. And I no longer believe the obstetrics has a good handle on what mothers and babies need. Looking back, had I toed the line and accepted the interventions offered, myself and my babies would have been at more risk than they were with the decisions I made. The interventions pushed in my situations would have had a high probability of leading to c-sections. And c-sections are major surgery. That would have put myself at risk in future pregnancies, and future children at risk. I now have confidence in my body. I understand that disasters happen, but I know that not every birth is a disaster, and that most would not be, if they could avoid interference. I also know that offering to sign waivers of liability has amazing, magical properties-when I did that with the doctor who threatened me with my baby’s death, she suddenly, amazingly, calmed right down. Obviously her “fears” weren’t so much about my baby as about her legal status.
And although all my training and knowledge of right and wrong keeps me from doing this, there are days when I want to take my huge babies in to the OB practice that insisted I couldn’t birth them. I have this fantasy of standing in the hallway, in front of the doctors, telling them how easy the births were and how wrong they were and how very glad I am that I did not accept their word as the gospel truth. And then, in my fantasy, I stick out my tongue and blow raspberries at them. But, like I said, I’m not really a confrontational person, so I will probably never live out that fantasy. I will just go on quietly, smiling sweetly, but not compliant.