Truthiness Day 17: Book Learning

Day 17 → A book you’ve read that changed your views on something.

Before I read The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, I had no idea why in the world anyone would ever want to have a home birth. I only slightly understood the natural birth movement.  I was interested in the idea of avoiding an epidural for two simple reasons – the first being that there was no way in hell I was going to sit still while someone stuck a needle in my spine, and the second reason was that at least half of the time, my body just doesn’t react to medications as it should.  I suspected that I would go through the trouble of getting an epidural only to wind up with the wrong part of my body numb (this happened to a friend of mine…).

Still, I wasn’t sure what the deal was with avoiding an episiotomy or giving my baby Vitamin K orally rather than by needle.  The book provides a ton of research laid out in a way that you can understand.  It lets you know what the risks are so that you can decide if the risks outweigh the benefits of a given procedure.  This was important because NOT ONCE did any of my medical providers offer me the risk information unless I asked for it.  Often I would ask, listen to the explanation, and then go home and do research to determine whether I was given the full scope (not surprisingly, a lot was left out).  Interestingly enough, that was at a hippie dippy birthing practice with midwives and homeopathic remedies and such.  I don’t think the providers were necessarily trying to keep information from me; I think the reason for withholding information had more to do with trying to keep me relaxed.  Still, I am not the type of person to blindly put my trust in anyone, even someone with a medical degree.  No matter what they know about the birthing process, they don’t know my body like I do.  I think it’s important for providers to work together with their patients for just that reason.

If you are pregnant and haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it.  You don’t have to read it from start to finish (I surely didn’t) – instead pick the chapters that are pertinent to you.  I turned the book often when writing my birth plan, for instance, because that was when many of my questions came up.

*Yes, the link above is an affiliate link.

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How I'm Using What I've Learned

I know I at least mentioned this before, but in speaking with family and friends this weekend I found myself more clearly stating my plans for birthing a second child.  I will absolutely do things differently next time around, and that means I will stay out of a hospital if at all possible.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I have nothing against hospitals.  I worked in a hospital and absolutely loved it.  I love the people and their commitment to helping others.  I love that hospitals offer safety and a variety of medical expertise.  There is so much about Jack’s birth that I cherish.

But!  The downsides are many.  The people in the hospital don’t know their patients for the most part.  The number of staff is large, and the shifts do not cover an entire labor.  Some of those members of staff have a horrible bedside manner, and patients are stuck with what they get.  Of the four nurses who attended us during our time in the hospital, two of those four were absolutely horrible.  And unfortunately due to timing, those two horrible nurses had a much greater impact on my birth experience than the great nurses.  I do not want people I don’t know to have that much impact on what is a very personal and unique experience in my life.

Despite my birth plan, despite my doula, despite my OB’s agreement with my wishes, despite my repeated restatement of my wishes, choices were taken away from me in the hospital.  And the reason why those choices were taken away?  Simply for the nurse’s convenience, or due to someone else’s mistakes, and my OB was not there to overrule in my favor.  Being admitted to the hospital meant that others took over and had more control over what was happening than I did; in spite of all previous reassurances that my wishes would be respected.

I didn’t have a horrible birth experience.  I was able to deliver Jack vaginally, without pain medication, and I healed pretty quickly.  My son is healthy, and I am healthy.  My goals were achieved.  But I know if I had simply chosen to give birth at home or at an independent birth center, there would have been a lot less stress, a lot more support and comfort.  I thought that the birthing room looked homey and warm, but I didn’t realize that decor is only one small piece of what makes a person feel comfortable in their environment.

Let me be clear.  I am not the type of person who desires to “experience the miracle of birth” or “realize my strength as a woman” or other such romantic notions.  I am nothing if not practical.  I simply don’t want to hand over my autonomy to a large number of strangers who have done nothing to earn my trust and who have protocol in the forefront of their minds at all times.  Birth is about babies and parents and nature and all working together in a common goal.  I want to be surrounded by those who respect that with words and deeds, and I want the birth to be the priority, not something that is thought of after the institution is taken care of.  I understand why hospitals do what they do, but that doesn’t mean I have to let a hospital and its staff dictate how my child comes into the world.