Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Two big worries

We’re really getting down to the end here, and I’m still rather nervous about a number of things but I feel like we’re slowly getting the necessities done. Thank you, nesting instinct. I don’t know where I’d be without you. Lying on the couch, probably.

The two things I’m most nervous about right now are:

1) Recognizing I’m in labour when I go into labour
2) Changing our family dynamics

Unfortunately I can’t do much either of those things until the time comes. How do you learn to recognize you’re in labour without actually being in labor, or practice bringing a brand-new baby home to be a part of your family forever? We read about it, we talk about it, we pray about it…and I’m sure everything will work out fine, but there isn’t really anything concrete I can do to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible. 

I’m kind of happy with our family dynamics right now. Rachel and Miriam get along so well. Miriam never cries, Rachel can’t do anything to her when I’m not looking, they don’t poke each other’s eyes or call each other names. They get along royally.

How long will that last after the baby is born?

How will we handle the transition of adding a child to our home while helping Rachel grow into her role of big sister?

How will we deal with the sibling rivalries in the years to come?

How will I divide my time between two little people without completely letting go of the housework?

Will I remember how to hold an infant? How to nurse an infant? How to calm an infant? Will I have to relearn all of that?

Will I ever have a moment to myself ever again? Ever?

It’s a good thing Karen will be here for the first few months. Thank heaven for Grandmas! (I’m already nervous about what we’ll do after she leaves and how we’ll adjust then. Chronic worrying runs in my family; it’s nothing to worry about—I’m fine).

And then there’s the question of if/when I’ll recognize I’m actually in labour. With Rachel it wasn’t until she was basically crowning, but I didn’t know it and I didn’t want to leave for the hospital because I had to go to the bathroom sooooo bad. Finally we just went in (it was a good thing we did because I was already dilated to a 9) and I remember asking the nurse if I could get up and use the washroom because I felt like I was going to have a bowel movement. She said,

“Honey, that’s not a bowel movement. That’s the baby’s head. You need to be ready to push in just a few minutes.”

Whenever I tell people that they mention how nice it would be to have such a pain-free labour that you didn’t even know you were in labour. And then I laugh at them because labour wasn’t pain-free at all; in fact it was quite painful, but nothing that I wasn’t able to handle, apparently.

I’ve had a theory about why this is and I just read about my theory in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth that my friend lent to me (thanks, Jill). I’ll use her words instead of mine:

“One of my sisters taught me that some women come to their first birth with life experience that has prepared them well for putting labour pain into perspective. I had just helped her and her husband with the birth of their first child at home and happened to mention that she had seemed to have an especially easy time for a first birth.

‘I kept waiting for the rushes to get as painful as my period cramps,’ she told me. ‘I used to get cramps so bad that I had to go to bed with them on the first two days.’ A woman who has had a miscarriage or who is used to severe menstrual cramps already has some life training that should help her to give birth without becoming terribly frightened of pain itself.”
                --Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, p. 154-155

When I read that I told Andrew that that was exactly the reason I hadn’t realized I was even in labour yet. I had read that one of the first signs of labour was period-like cramps and I kept waiting and waiting for the contractions to be as bad as my cramps. Eventually they did—and it isn’t that it didn’t hurt, it’s just that I already knew how to handle that kind of pain. And I didn’t even realize I was in labour before the period-like pain started; by then I had been in labour for several hours, I’m sure, since I was almost ready to push when we got to the hospital.

Contractions are actually one of the first ways I know I’m pregnant. I start feeling Braxton Hicks contractions very early on, and although I wouldn’t describe them as painful, they certainly aren’t comfortable. I told Andrew it’s kind of like a charley horse, only there isn’t anything you can do to make it go away. All of a sudden your stomach turns rock-hard and then all of a sudden it stops.

I have several contractions every hour, and I did with Rachel, too. Since I’ve been feeling them for the past, oh, 31 weeks they’re pretty easy to ignore. And since I ignore them it’s going to be hard to notice when they turn into rhythmic, real contractions. I don’t remember having any rhythmic contractions with Rachel because by the time they were painful enough for me to pay attention to them they were coming right on top of each other. We didn’t time them ever because we couldn’t.

So I still don’t really have any idea how to time a contraction or what early labour feels like. Everyone tells me that I’ll recognize it because I experienced it before. But I don’t think I will because although I experienced it before I didn’t recognize that I was experiencing it.

It’s like falling asleep in a movie. Sure, I “saw” the movie, but if you showed me the scene I missed while I was sleeping I probably wouldn’t recognize it. Not that I ever fall asleep during movies or anything (*yawn* Star Wars *yawn*).

That isn’t to say that I didn’t experience pain during labour. I did. But I agree with Ina May that it is a different kind of pain—it isn’t a pain that you hide from or try to run away from; it’s a pain that you work with.

With Rachel I got a spinal block because I got a little panicky when the nurse informed me that I was almost through labouring, not just beginning. It slowed down my labour and blocked all contractions, which was kind of nice because I was able to rest for a few minutes before I had to push (and since I had been working all day long I needed a rest). I didn’t really like it, though, because I couldn’t feel any urges to push, either. I couldn’t feel anything. I think that might be one reason I tore so badly—because I wasn’t really working in tandem with my body.

I’ve decided to have a natural birth this time around.

And it maybe only has a little to do with Nellie’s tale of how she was given a sedative in the hospital I’ll be delivering at and instead of just calming her down and easing her pain they completely knocked her out, then pushed her baby out, and wheeled her into the hallway to recover excepting her to be “out” for another hour or more while they did all the baby stuff. Her husband followed the baby because he didn’t want anything funny to happen to her, either. Besides, Nellie was completely sedated. She’d never miss him.

Wrong. Nellie woke up alone in some random hallway, unpregnant.

Yeah, no thanks…although it does make a pretty good story.

I’ve been worrying about how I’m going to handle having a natural birth, but I feel a lot more confident now that I have some books to read on the topic (thanks again, Jill!). Nothing like cramming before an exam…or giving birth.

I read a lot last night and I feel a lot better about things. One thing in particular that has been bothering me is wondering if I’m “showing off” by having a natural birth. Like, the time my friend Rachel Carter said, “What is with these recipes that call for fresh herbs?! Do they think they’re better than me?! Who grows their own spices?!” And I felt guilty because Andrew and I had recently harvested our first bunch of basil and made the most delicious spaghetti sauce.

It’s not like we habitually grow herb gardens. And it’s not like growing your own herbs is showing off. And it’s not like not growing your own herbs marks you as lazy. So why did I feel guilty?

No one has ever said, “Oh, you want a natural birth? Show off!” But plenty of people have said, “Why? When there is medicine available that can take away all the pain, why would you choose to not use it?”

The analogy my father-in-law likes to bring up is, “You wouldn’t have a root canal without anesthesia. Why would you push a baby out without it?”

Obviously I feel guilty about it for some reason otherwise I wouldn’t rationalize it here. But I feel like I need to. So I feel guilty.

It isn’t that I’m going for a badge of honour, or anything. I know there isn’t any special prize for delivering a baby naturally verses not. Either way you get the baby. And it isn’t that I enjoy pain, really, it’s just that I think labour pains are different. Labour is a natural body function. Having a root canal is not.

My body knows how to deal with labour pains; it knows how to push a baby out; it just knows. My teeth don’t know how to handle having holes drilled in them—that’s not natural. Having a baby is natural, and my body knows what to do about it.

I feel that I severed the connection between my body and my brain when I got the spinal block with Rachel. I couldn’t focus my mental thoughts on delivering a baby anymore because I couldn’t feel what my body was trying to tell me to do. I think that things will go a lot smoother this time if I’m both mentally and physically there. The disconnect between my body and brain ruined all the work I had done before when I was labouring on my own. I didn’t have to focus on breathing and riding the waves of the rushes as I had been doing before I got the medication it was kind of disappointing to not have to work hard when I had been working so hard for so long.

I don’t know if that makes sense, and I know I am under no obligation to explain my rationale to anyone else. Since I’m the only one doing this thing—having baby Miriam—it’s kind of up to me.

I only hope that I get to the hospital on time because Andrew can’t handle the sight of blood so an accidental home birth really wouldn’t work out so well…


  1. And that's pretty much exactly why I would like to have a natural birth (in a controlled environment, just in case) - we're meant to!

    You're going to do great!

  2. If you can have a natural birth, which is sounds like you can, why not? Seems perfectly reasonable to me. And who cares if you did it with drugs or not? Like almost everything else in life, people are different, and do things the way that works for them. Best wishes with all that! You're going to be amazing.

  3. I can see you as a natural birthing mama. I see it going hand in hand with the cloth diapering, EC-ing, extending breast feeding. and I always thought "You work so hard for 9 months watching what kind of medications you put into your body, to just blow it all to heck and pump your baby full of medications at birth."
    Good luck! I can't wait to hear about how it goes.

  4. I'm sure you know my feelings on this subject :).

    I never felt like I was showing off wanting a natural birth, but now that I've had one I feel like I have to tiptoe around it sometimes. Which is ridiculous. I think it's natural (no pun intended) to feel self-conscious about it when in mixed company, just in case everyone doesn't agree with you, and when it's something you're proud of.

    And by the way, besides the wonderful mind-body stuff you mentioned, some of my main motivations to avoid medication with my second birth were centered on the baby. With the epidural I had with Miriam, it made her sluggish and slow to nurse, and as a result she had a quite severe case of jaundice and had to be re-hospitalized. That was a big incentive for me to go natural the second time, all my personal feelings and opinions aside. So you can pump yourself up with that knowledge, too.

    Good luck whatever happens!!!

  5. I was worried about it as well. I was induced and given an epidural with Lincoln, and I was planning an the same with Fiona. She came about an hour before my induction was scheduled. I went to the hospital when my contractions were getting painful (I wanted to be on an epidural because I didn't know how much more intense they would get). By the time the epidural was available I was already pushing. Fiona came out quickly and naturally. If I could have that birth experience again I would go natural again. My main concern was length of being in pain in addition to the building intensity. All in all it was intense, but was over so quickly I may try a natural birth again someday.

  6. As a man, I have no right to an opinion on the subject, but I think it is great that you are planning to go naturally. Medicine is great when unexpected things happen, but to, as a general rule, disconnect the mind from the body seems wrong to me. Holes drilled in teeth isn't natural, but I still prefer to be aware of what is going on. My body seems to respond well to a mental suggestion that, yes, this hurts, and I thank my body for alerting me to what is going on, but tell it that I have chosen to have this done and it is going to be okay. Best wishes, to you, Nancy, as you go through your natural process and enlarge your family.

  7. Uncle Bruce, my friend Esther actually had some major dental work done recently without medication. She used the relaxation methods she learned in her HypnoBabies class.

    I know my mom doesn't like to be all frozen up, either, so she does teeth "naturally," too.

    I think, on the whole, that it is good for people to learn to deal with pain.

  8. I hope you don't mind me adding my two cents. I've had three babies at home, with no meds.
    I used self- hypnosis to manage the disconfort of labor (Hypnobabies is my favorite program)
    I chose home natural home births because I am not comfortable in hospitals, and liked the idea of staying in the comfort of my own home.
    My babies were born with out pain meds in their systems and were alert and great nursers from day one.
    I respect others choices of being induced and having an epidural, and hope others respect my choice of a home birth.
    The mind is an amazing thing! If you decide to go natural you'll be able to do it. Best of luck!

  9. Ok. This is going to be kind of long, sorry. First of all, I think it is amazing that you are strong enough to want to try having a natural birth. You will do wonderful and I hope that everything goes smoothly for you. You do not have to rationalize it to anyone, not even to yourself. When we were deciding whether or not I was going to get my ... Read morehysterectomy, I felt like I had to justify it to myself and to EVERYONE, even to Mike who had seen the pain I was going through. I prayed that I wouldn't feel like that anymore and I didn't. I had made the right decision and Heavenly Father helped me to feel that I didn't have to justify making the right decision for me. So don't feel guilty. There is nothing to feel guilty about. It's your body, your decision on what's best for it.

  10. I hope you get there on time!

  11. Since that one was getting too long, here is part two. As for knowing when you are in labor, pay attention to your braxton hicks. Learn how they are working and if they have any sort of pattern to them. When that pattern changes to where they are either more powerful or are coming at a more frequent rate, or even if there's just more of them... Read more, that's a pretty good sign that you're in labor. I also had braxton hicks almost the entire pregnancy. They were VERY painful for me and would often have me bent in two because of the pain. But I learned to tell when they were just braxton hicks and when it was something more. Now, you don't have to take my suggestions, that's all they are. I just wanted to pass on a little bit that I have learned and hope maybe it will help. Good luck Nancy!! Everything will be fine!! Love you!

  12. Hehe,yeah waking up in the hallway alone was no party! Ure gonna do great,i know it!

  13. I compare birthing to losing weight. There are soooo many programs out there to help you lose weight--weight watchers, LA Weight Loss, Bob Greene, The Biggest Loser--I could go on and on. (However, you may not relate to this as I have a feeling your weight is not an issue for you :)) Anyway you find the program that works for you. The trick is ... Read morefinding the one that does indeed work for you. They're generally all the same, just presented in a different way. Same with birthing. In the end you have a baby, you just get it out in a different way. There are soooo many ways to give birth--at home, in a hospital, in a bathtub, with meds, without meds, hypnosis, etc. You find the one that works for you. You don't ever have to justify it to anyone. I think you're amazing to go natural and it sounds to me like your reasoning is perfectly sound. I hope you find it was the right way for you and Miriam. Good luck!

  14. Nancy, just so you know, I want natural too and think it's funny how everyone else talks like I won't be able to handle it or I'm trying to act tough or I'm just plain being silly wanting to suffer when I don't have to. That's not what it's about. Even my doctor laughed a little when he read my birth plan and saw that I didn't want medication. "... Read moreWell, that's your choice." I hate taking stuff if my body can handle what I'm experiencing. If I have a headache, I take a nap. If I have cramps during my period, I get a hot rice bag and go lay down and hopefully take a nap. :) (I'm noticing a theme here.) Anyway, don't feel guilty, don't feel like you have to rationalize to people. Smile and nod then let their comments go out the other ear. You know what you need.

  15. Ina May's THE woman. Make sure you read the "Sphincter Rules".

    I know the feeling of talking to people about natural birth. My father in law is a anesthesiologist and he took me aside one day to give me a talk about how there's no need to suffer we are blessed with modern medicine. I just wanted to see what labor felt like and I'm not too keen on... Read more needles in my back. My first was such a great experience, I didn't think twice about not going natural the second time. You can do it (and really any woman can) if you really want to and if you have a little support around you.

    PS. Those damn braxton hicks tricked me. I thought I was in labor 3 weeks before I actually had a baby.

  16. I am having my 4th baby, and I am still worried about not recognizing labor. I have painful braxton hicks from about 4 months on, and I have never actual gone into labor like "normal" women do. The first time, my water broke, so I went to the hospital for that. The second time, I was actually at the hospital hooked up to monitors and the nurse told me I was in labor (I had no idea). The third time, they induced labor because my first 2 had been so fast, they wanted to make sure I made it to the hospital in time. So I hear you, I am so afraid of not recognizing it until it's too late, especially since my last labor was not quite 2 hours long, and the delivery took 3 pushes!

  17. So glad to hear more women describing Braxton Hicks as painful. I've always been wary of saying that because they're "supposed" to be painless and I've even read that some women never notice them. My reaction to that is always, "Seriously!? How can you not feel them?! They squeeze the life out of you!"

    I guess I find them more intense than painful because I try not to associate the word pain with contractions. A mental game I play, I guess.

  18. Wow, what a lot of comments! Hot topic, apparently!

    My worst delivery was the one with the epidural. I will never never never do that again--and seriously, I won't since my last baby is fifteen years old!

    The three born naturally--much better. I felt better sooner. The babies felt better sooner.

    Mind you, the idea of having a baby naturally--that just is a scary thought. Hurts to think of it. I was so scared to have the last one that way, but after it was all over...I was glad it happened the way it did.

    And I have no idea how you know for sure "this is it!" about labour. I am glad I am finished havinf babies, but if I WAS having another one, I would still be clueless.

    Me and Alisa are a team on that one!

  19. I can definitely relate! Baby 1- epidural (low dosage), painful, felt contractions and urge to push, but never felt the episiotomy or stitches. Baby 2- all natural, intensely painful (contractions were worse because of the pitocin), tore 3 ways, felt every piercing stitch even though there was local anesthetic. Every birth is different and my labors never went as planned.

  20. Everything was different with each one, but I am in labor for so long. Andrews was the worse because it was an emergency c-section. Plus they over medicated me, I slept for 17 hours afterwards, and never saw him. If I can bring the twins home after a c-section and have 3 other kids and no loving man to help, you can do it with two.

  21. I know our talk on FB resulted in me asking "Why?" However, I did extern with a midwife and we made plenty of housecalls to deliver. Granted it made me want an epidural more, but I also though that obviously I am built to do it naturally so why not? I guess for me, we will see when the time comes. And no, natural childbirth does not make you a showoff. If I hear anyone say that I will be one ticked of woman! haha! If only you could do it at home because even with the doctors' (and of course I do not know how they work though) and nurses around, they will still try to control it. When I externed, yeah would help ease the baby out, but the mother was able to reach down and push on her perineum as she felt the burn and could move, touch places, etc., as they felt fit to their comfort. And it worked perfectly. I just am not sure you have the necessities to deliver at home. It is definitely cheaper and if you would like to have a natural home childbirth if you get back to Utah, I can give the number and website to where I externed. It is great pricing and great people!

  22. Oh when I talk about the doctors' I meant to say I do not know how they work in Egypt. HAHA!

  23. Nancy you will do great! Thank you for your comment on my blog. I am pretty jealous you are preparing for childbirth right now - not just because you'll have a baby at the end of it but because of the amazing experience that it is! There are so many many many reasons to avoid pain medication and other interventions and you should not have to rationalize yourself to anyone! Like you said your body was MADE to do this!! Just trust in your body and let it do it's work and the more you do to relax the better off you'll be! Good luck and I can't wait to hear how it all goes.

  24. @ Lillie and Brittany -- Truthfully I would like to try a home birth, but my insurance won't cover a home birth here and there are like 2 midwives in all of Cairo, I'm pretty sure...they just don't exist. Plus, I shudder to think how long it would take to get to the hospital if something were to happen...far too long.

  25. Yeah I understand that worry. Are you guys ever moving back to Utah? Look up and they also opened a birthing center called Bella Natal Insurance covers a little bit from what I remember from externing there, but not much because it is deemed unsafe and elective to do a home birth. The website has all the packages and package prices. I am getting so anxious to see pictures of Miriam. :)