Monday, November 9, 2009

Birth Stories

An Exclusive Postilius Interview

photo by Stefanie Boucher

Amanda agreed to sit down with Postilius to talk about the birth of her first child, Ezra.   Amanda, dressed in jeans and tee shirt, had already arrived at the coffee shop we planned to meet.  She causally held Ezra on her lap while sipping one of the first cups of coffee she has had now that she is no longer pregnant.    

Postilius: Hello, and congratulations on Ezra’s birth.  He really is a beautiful baby! 

Amanda: Thank you.  I am glad to be here.  I love your [our?] site. 

P: Before we get into too many details
why don’t you quickly summarize your birthing experience with a couple of adjectives.

A: Intense and rapid.

P: From what I have heard those seem very fitting.  I would like to begin by talking a little about how you prepared for Ezra’s birth. 

A: I read a lot! . . . Ina May Gaskin’s books, The Sears’ series, websites, The Pregnancy Bible.  Reading made me feel less nervous.  I felt like it helped me understand pregnancy, at least in theory.   I choose books that had similar philosophies to my own, those that focused on natural childbirth, homebirths.  I also found reading other women’s birth stories helpful in pointing out the variety of birth experiences. Though for some reason I kept a pretty narrow idea of how my birth experience was going to be.

I also took a childbirth education class that emphasized natural births.  The classes helped reinforce my ideas about how I wanted to give birth.  For example, we had thought about the need of hiring a doula before the class.  The class convinced us it was a good idea.  By the end of the class Garry and I felt really good about our birth plan.

In addition to intellectually preparing for the birth, reading and classes, we also had to plan the physical logistics of having homebirth.  Assembling a birth team.  Gathering the necessary supplies.  Prepping the house.

P: That seems thorough.  In retrospect is there something else you wish you had done to prepare? 

A: I wish I could have seen someone else’s birth in person.  I know that is not an option, but watching videos does not really capture a live birth. 

Really, I would not have changed much.  I felt well prepared.  Maybe I would have gone to the grocery store sooner.  My contractions started while trying to quickly grab a few groceries after my water broke.

P: It seems the months up to the birth must have been pretty busy getting ready.  During this preparation you must have fantasized about the upcoming birth. How had you imagined it taking place? 

A: I thought the birth was going to be relaxing, intimate - almost romantic - as it slowly progressed.  I always pictured a slow build up over a week.  Labor would take place over a day and half.  Garry and I would walk Piper and cook during contractions.  I would take long baths to ease the pain.  I was positive the birth would be very slow.  Perhaps it is better to be surprised by the birth being much faster than you expected.

I also feared I would be difficult during the labor - impatient and mean to the people trying to help me.   I was told I was incredibly kind and thoughtful during labor.  Asking everyone if they were doing okay in between contractions.  I do not remember this.  I also thought I would be pretty independent and find other people distracting.  I did not anticipate having to need as much help and support.   I didn’t doubt the need to hire a doula, but always pictured her more as insurance in case things got too difficult.  I thought she would primarily help to guide and instruct Garry in providing support for me.  Her and Garry’s support were essential to me being able to get through labor without medication.

P: How did the actual birth compare to the fantasy?

A: The real birth started quickly and was fast.  Four hours from start to finish.  I did not really even plan for the possibility that birth would be really quick.   I didn’t realize how much I had expected a certain type of birth. 

P:  That is fast for a first time mother.   When our culture discusses birth it seems the discussion of the pain often overshadows everything else.  So, I would like to, just for a minute, discuss what labor felt like.  Let’s not use the word pain - it seems so negative, but can you verbalize the sensations?  For example, how would you describe how labor felt to another woman about to have a baby?

A: In my experience, it hurts like fucking hell. 

P: Okay, you seem comfortable using the word pain.  Can you tell me about your planned pain coping techniques and how you actually worked through the pain during labor?

A: My pain coping technique plan was: breathing, eye contact, having a doula, moving around, using a birth ball, walking, hot baths.  I mostly found these to be helpful, at least the ones I could do.   Many were impossible because of the speed of the labor and the contractions were so close together.  I thought I would want more manipulated techniques like shoulder rubs.  I mostly just needed people to hold my hand and help me breath through the contractions.   This surprised me.

Pushing hurt a lot.   The whole time I was pushing I just wanted it to be over.  I never felt euphoric, or had the surge of energy some people experience after transition.  I never hesitated to push through a contraction, but I wanted it to end. I felt immensely relieved when the midwife after almost two hours of pushing, around three pushes per contraction, said “let’s get the baby out”.  At that point I just pushed continuously without a break.  I guess pushing for so long has one advantage – I didn’t tear.

P: You seem clear that it really hurt.  Do you regret going natural?

A: No, I am very happy that I had a natural birth.  It hurt more than I imagined it could. There are descriptions of types of pain you experience during labor.  For example, you stretch your lips to simulate the pain of the vagina stretching, but it does not compare!  I don’t think my pain tolerance is that high.  I would not have been able to cope with that amount and type of pain without the support system I had set in place with the people we had selected for the birth: our midwife and assistant, a doula, and Garry’s sister and her husband.   The doula we selected had also had a home birth, and this was important.  I wanted to surround myself with people that knew and admitted the pain was intense, but also believed and reminded me that it is a natural part of a birth.  In a hospital there is always an underlying attitude that the pain is not necessary.  I am sure medication is very tempting when in a hospital. 

I am very happy to have had an all-natural birth.   After the birth I felt sore, I am sure everyone does regardless of whether or not they had a medicated birth, but I felt good – not drugged. 

We have talked a lot about my having a natural birth, but I think giving birth at home was actually more important to me than having a natural birth.  I would not trade medication for not being home. 

P: So we have talked about some of the details of the birth, but have yet to tell the whole “birth story”.   Let’s imagine it is 2022.  Ezra is 13.  How would you describe his birth to him?

A: First, I hope Ezra is familiar with his birth story way before he is thirteen.  I know a woman who was born at home.  Her mother pulls out birth photos on each of her children’s birthdays, and they start the day by their mom telling them about their birth.  That seems nice. 

P:  Did anything about the birth surprise you?

A: I was surprised that I spent so much of the labor on my back.  Everything I read and learned about birth emphasized that being on your back does not help labor progress, is uncomfortable and is only used for the convenience of doctors.  I was really most comfortable in this position.  I tried squatting, kneeling, sitting on a birth stool, but kept wanting to return to my back.

P: How did you feel when you first saw Ezra?

A: I remember my first impression and the first thing I said was “it looks like an alien.”  He was gray, and slimy.  I wish I had said something different. 

I also did not want to find out his sex.   It seemed overwhelming to within seconds become flooded with information about this person I had been carrying for 9 months.  I did not feel an immediate need or rush to inspect him – to count his fingers and toes.  I wanted to keep everything simple.  I wanted to feel him against my chest, to feel him breathe. 

P: Though you sound happy with your birth experience, is there anything you wish you could change about the birth?

A: I would not change anything about the birth at all except our mid-wife was attending another birth.  The back-up midwife and her assistant were great – I just wish we could have added MH.  She did eventually arrive a few hours after Ezra was born. 

P: Thank you for talking with us.  One last thing, as someone who has really recently given birth do you have any advice you would give to someone who’s due date is approaching?

A: I would strongly encourage them to hire a doula.  If you are having a natural birth you will need that extra help and support.  If you are having a hospital birth a doula seems the best way to help have the type of birth you want.  Definitely, have a birth plan, but also prepare for the unexpected.

The following is one in a series of five birth stories told by people present that day.   In addition to this account, you can read about Ezra's birth according to Amanda, Amy, Stefanie, and Garry.

1 comment:

lady b said...

I just laughed really loudly and kept chuckling at Amanda's description of labor, without using the word pain. "fucking hell" sounds about right... hard stuff. but i loved how you spoke of ezra's birth. it was real but it was totally amazing to be a witness to.

nice interview. i can pretty much imagine these words spoken by you two.