We already feel inadequate

I watched Orgasmic Birth last night on Amazon.  When I told my husband what I was watching, he gave me a look like “oh no, you’re going to be one of those women this time, huh?”  I told him that despite the title, the movie was supposed to be good, and for the most part it was.

If you go to the OG website, you’ll see that they define the word orgasmic differently than you would expect: “Intense or unrestrained excitement or a similar point of intensity or emotional excitement.”  I’d agree that all of the normal physiologic births shown on the video demonstrated intensity.  It’s important to read the definition above with the word “or” in mind.  A woman does not have to achieve orgasm during labor/birth to have an orgasmic birth.

I found it interesting that one of the interviewed NCB experts suggested that we don’t share our birth stories because we don’t want to make other women feel inadequate.  Perhaps a woman who consents to an epidural in a hospital setting will feel inadequate, I don’t know.  But, a woman who has undergone a cesarean after trying to labor will almost always feel inadequate in some way.  (I know there are always women out there who will say different.)  Let me explain.

A woman is told that babies come out of vaginas, and that most of the time that is possible.  Women may enter into the last stages of pregnancy knowing that they want an epidural or to be induced, but they still expect that in most cases, the baby is going to come out normally.  However, most hospital birthers are not given the right kind of support to achieve a natural physiologic birth or normal birth.  Inductions are fairly normal.  Augmentations are fairly normal.  Epidurals are extremely common.  As one expert pointed out on the movie, when most (like 90%) laboring women receive an epidural, and you don’t, you take the staff out of its comfort zone.

So after these interventions and more (constant monitoring, restricted movement in labor, etc.), women are still expected somehow to birth vaginally.  And a third of us are sectioned – or more, depending on the location.  Our bodies failed us, we are lead to believe.  “Thank God I was in the hospital or my baby and I would have been in big trouble.”  Our inadequacies are magnified by the overwhelming successes of the medical machine.

Women who have had cesareans are defensive.  “My cesarean was necessary” is a common belief.  But to suggest that women don’t share their birth stories because they don’t want to make a cesarean mother feel inadequate is not understanding the situation.  We already feel inadequate.

I am 1 of 3 women sectioned in childbirth.

I am one of numerous women told that her body wasn’t capable of birthing her baby.

I am 3 of 4 women sectioned in Montana for twins.

I am nearly 100% of women in my community told they cannot have a VBAC in the hospital after multiple scars.

I am nearly 100% of women told to be thankful that they have a healthy baby after a cesarean section.

Share your birth stories in a supportive, instructive, and hopeful manner.  Give cesarean mamas hope that next time can be different, if she chooses.  And she has to choose; you can’t choose for her.  I myself am preparing for a transformational experience this summer.  I can’t get there unless I embrace stories of uninhibited natural physiologic birth.

Shaken Not Stirred by Interventive Birth

There is no polite way to discuss this.  It comes directly from my soul.  I don’t mean to offend or whine, but it is bound to happen.  The fact is that I still feel sorry for myself.  I still feel jipped.  I still feel like my babies died because providers refused to help me.  I know that I can’t change the past and that rolling around in yesterday’s pain will not help tomorrow’s healing.  I know that I’m fortunate to have my daughter.  I know that people have been through much worse than I.  None of that helps.  And now I sit here still trying to process my sister-in-law’s interventive vaginal birth.  Yes, interventive.  Yes, vaginal.  No, not natural.  No, not normal (in my personal definition of normal birth).

My sister-in-law had cesarean written across her from the start.  She was subjected to a full genetic screening of which she and her spouse were not fully informed.  The result was a pregnancy shadowed by the fear of a child with fragile X syndrome.  They’ve been faced with the choice of abortion (not that they considered it), amniocentesis (they thankfully declined), and several ultrasounds.  And along the way my sister-in-law began to fear childbirth.  It didn’t sound like the typical scared stuff that you expect; she sounded AFRAID.  I tried to console her in my way and bolster her confidence without devaluing her feelings.

Next thing you know it she’s due.  They’re already talking about induction.  The decision was made to induce her a week after her due date.  I did e-mail her and my brother-in-law and remind them that babies should be given a due MONTH, not a johny-on-the-spot due date, and that it was inappropriate to push her towards induction at least before 42 weeks.  I knew I’d lose that one.

At 41 weeks she was induced in the hospital.  Dilation was slow, and understandably she began to get frustrated and concerned.  She was told that she should be dilating at a rate of 1cm per hour.  What an awful thing to tell a woman who’s not progressing – that her labor isn’t normal or on schedule.  They broke her water; they upped her pitocin.  They did all of the things that can cascade into a cesarean.

Only, she didn’t end up with a cesarean.  Her pelvis wasn’t declared inadequate.  Her baby wasn’t pronounced too big.  How in the heck did she avoid the knife?  All the signs were there pointing towards a cesarean delivery and yet she didn’t get cut.

Her experience has caused me to ask myself some tough questions.  Did you want her to get cut?  Did the fact that she had all of these interventions and still have a vaginal birth take the wind out of your arguments against interventive birth?  Does her success reflect on me somehow and my failures?  Did she deserve a vaginal birth and I didn’t?  Or am I just “mad” because she deserved to get cut (having agreed to so many interventions) whereas I didn’t deserve to get cut because I had educated myself and planned for a natural birth.

Two weeks have passed since my sister-in-law had her baby.  I am thrilled for her and my brother-in-law.  I can’t wait to meet my new niece.  But the ghosts are still rattling my cage.  I am not stirred by her experience.  Rather, I am shaken.