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Any Healthy Delivery Is A Good Delivery

Last week’s poll was all about your birth story: did you have a
c-section? Was it scheduled? Did you go natural, or have an epidural?

50% of you had an epidural; the other 50% was almost evenly divided
between natural childbirth, a planned c-section, and an emergency
c-section. None of you wrote to me with your birth stories, which
disappointed me: believe it or not, I love to hear that stuff. I’m also
a nut for wedding stories, by the way – and I cry at both.

been thinking about birth stories recently for a couple of reasons.
First, as I believe I’ve mentioned only about a gazillion times,
Madeleine just turned one and since I woke up on her birthday I’ve been
thinking, “This time last year I was – climbing up on the operating
table – in recovery – checking into my room – coming home from the
hospital – spending our first night without medical staff on hand –“ and
so on. Reviewing my birth story in my mind brought all the memories and
feelings back full force. 

The second reason I have baby arrivals on the brain is that I’ve got a
few friends pregnant right now, a couple of whom are creeping towards
their due date. My girlfriend Bev is entering her last trimester and we
were chatting recently about Lamaze refresher courses, good books to
read on the subject, etc. And then there’s my friend Emily, who is due
in a couple weeks and is a first-time mom. We’re loaning them some baby
gear and while I pulled it together to pass on to them I also printed
off a copy of my birth plan for her to use as a reference point.

vividly remember writing out my birth plan, and passing it on to my OB
for verification around 32 weeks. I was very proud of the plan; my
girlfriend Abby and my mom were both going to be at the birthing center
with me and Brian, and a couple friends of ours were also coming to pray
for us in the next room. I’d written out who would be handling what –
Abby would buy a copy of the NY Times so we’d have it for baby girl’s
scrapbook, Mom would be responsible for making sure our birth
certificate paperwork was filed – and what my preferences were

Now, to be fair, I didn’t write an eight-page
treatise on different labor positions, things the hospital was NOT
supposed to do, and so on. I implicitly trusted my OB and was going to
be in a birthing center so I knew there was much I didn’t need to say.
The Plan (notice the capital letters) was more for the involved parties
– it included directions to the hospital and the parking garage – than
for the hospital staff. Nowhere did I tell my doctor how to do her job,
or how I’d like the incision closed if I had to have a c-section, or
anything like that.

My doctor read through it, smiled, and handed
it back to me saying, “That’s so cute.”

I asked innocently.

“That you think you can control your birth
like that.”

I smiled politely, acknowledging that things
often go wrong and of course I wasn’t pinning my hopes on this
picture-perfect birth plan I’d drawn up (though of course I was!) before
climbing up on the examing table.

Where we found out my baby was

Weeks of acupuncture, chiropracty, lying upside down,
prayer, and version therapy later, I had to acknowledge that I was not
going to be in the birthing center. My doctor was willing to let me try
a breech vaginal delivery if I went into labor ahead of my due date (and
after much research we decided to try it), so I drew up a new birth plan
for the regular ward. My visions of hot tubs and hours of unfettered
pacing had to be adjusted to jet bathtubs and intermittent monitoring.
But I clung to my aromatherapy, my massage sticks, my battery-powered
candles, and my IPOD of birth music. I knew I could still do this
somewhat like the picture in my head.

Yeah, ha ha.

A few
days before Maddie was “supposed” to be born, my OB made a unilateral
decision: too close to the due date, too worried about her size, time
to schedule a c-section.

I wept. I did not want a c-section. I
did not want to start my daughter’s life recovering from major surgery
and on painkillers. I didn’t want to spend the first couple days of her
life on a catheter, unable to get up and change her diaper. But most of
all, I didn’t want to miss the experience of bringing her into the world
myself; being passively cut open and having her unceremoniously brought
out of me, my abdominal wall pinned back, was so not the picture in my
head of how I wanted to meet her.

For a few weeks after Maddie
was born I was embarrassed that I had a c-section. I’d stumble over how
to describe her birth day; I couldn’t say “I gave birth on such-and-such
a day” because I didn’t give birth! So I’d adapt and say “Maddie was
born on . . .” instead. I felt like a “fake” mom; I didn’t go through
the ritual of labor, didn’t have to work to have Madeleine. Through no
effort on my part, Maddie showed up and was handed over the blue
surgical screen to me! I felt no connection to her arrival at all, and
less worthy of the title “mother”. I even had one woman say to me, “You
had a c-section? Oh, that’s cheating!”. And I didn’t argue.

know, I know, it’s insane. The pain I went through recovering from the
c-section, holding her and nursing her while she insistently kicked my
incision, definitely counts as birthing pains. And a few weeks (ok,
months) later I got over my inferiority complex.

Because you know
what? I had a great plan. Had everything gone as I would have liked,
it would have been a beautiful birth. But what would the ten hours of
elaborately staged labor have mattered if I had complications because I
had to be rushed into an emergency c-section at the last minute?

if my daughter had been born with brain damage because I stubbornly
insisted on doing things my way? I spent my time in the recovery room
with another woman who had also had a c-section – but hers was an
emergency c-section after 30 hours of labor. How grateful was I to be
able to go into that surgery well-rested, with my doctor having a
leisurely amount of time to make a small, neat incision and remove a
non-distressed baby from me? One of the women in my Lamaze class had to
have an emergency c-section TWO MONTHS before her baby's due date. Do
you think she was agonizing over her lack of opportunity to use her
Lamaze skills while she watched her baby in intensive care for six weeks?

bottom line is, the best birth is one that ends with a healthy baby and
a healthy mom. You can’t look at a woman on the playground and tell
whether or not she had an epidural, labored for twenty hours in her
bathtub at home while listening to Amazon rain forest sounds, was rushed
to an emergency c-section, or delivered accidentally in a cab on 42nd
Street. All you can see is a healthy mom and a child who’s happy to
have that mom. I felt so privileged to be my girlfriend Abby’s birth
coach and watch her deliver two children naturally. But I wouldn’t
think one bit less of her if she’d changed her mind and had an epidural.
I wouldn't have said, "Oh, no that's just the hormones talking; it says
right here in her birth plan she wants to do it naturally."

still think birth plans are a good idea; it helps you clarify in your
own mind how you want things to go, and makes sure there's no surprises
for you, your partner, your doula, etc. - issues like circumcision an
eye drops get talked about beforehand. But know it's a fluid thing, and
not likely to come to fruition. Most important, though, don’t ever let
anyone make you feel bad about how you chose- or didn’t choose – to have
your baby. The proof is in the pudding. Or should I say, your Puddin’. 


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