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Letter C for Childbirth

April 3, 2008

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April 2008 NaBloPoMo

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Today is the third day of the NaBloPoMo challenge, and I have chosen to write about childbirth. I have been promising to tell my birth stories to Accountable since November! Well, I’ll start with my own birth. I was born by cesarean in 1979. My mom didn’t experience labor pains before the surgery. I was born at 4:08 in the afternoon. She had a cesarean because her doctor told her that a VBAC would put her at risk. My older brother had been born by cesarean about three years before. My younger brother would also be born by cesarean 14 months after I was. I grew up hoping I wouldn’t need to have a cesarean when it came time for me to give birth.

Since I was in Japan and was married to a Spanish-speaker (two strikes against me getting what I wanted by merely expressing my wishes) I read several books which set the stage for a very healthy and natural birth. I felt like I needed to be really confident in my choices since my husband insisted that I give birth in a hospital and I was desperate to avoid the machine that goes “ping” (watch the video). The cesarean rate in Japan is quite low and they do encourage women to try natural birth, but still I was nervous because of the language barrier.

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I placed a large order from about 6 months before we wanted to conceive. My reading list would honestly be perceived as extreme and unapologetically biased. While we were in the planning stage, I read Healthy Parents, Better Babies and Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Then while I was pregnant, I read books to gear up for the act of childbirth: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and Gentle Birth Choices (a combination of a book and a video).

I watched the Gentle Birth Choices video many times and tried to image the pain of labor. It was amazing to see the women during labor and then hear what they had to say just minutes after giving birth. I saw how the pain would all be worth it and taught myself to keep it in perspective. I also saw that it was normal to squirm around and kneel or squat instead of lying down.

The most valuable passage I read was on page 161 and 162 of Ina May Gaskin’s book. She writes, “The women from The Farm know that birth usually hurts—at least the first time you do it—but they know it as a different kind of pain from the pain of injury. When you are injured and feel pain, its message is ‘Run away!’ or ‘Fight! You are being damaged.’ This is survival information. The pain of labor and birth has an entirely different message. It says: ‘Relax your pelvic muscles. Let go. Surrender. Go with the flow. Don’t fight this. It’s bigger than you.'” I tried to keep that in mind when I was in labor.

Here is a video of Ina May speaking about midwifery and some of the births she has witnessed.

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part 2 and part 3

My parents were there to witness the birth of their first grandchild. They went with my husband and me in a taxi to the hospital and were there in the laboring room with us. We got to the hospital around midnight and I wasn’t dilated at all yet. That was disappointing. I guess I didn’t know how strong the contractions would eventually be!

I was very frightened while I was trying to give birth to my daughter (in the pushing stage) and I didn’t do it like a perfect, innately-maternal goddess would have. But in retrospect, I did benefit greatly from having read those books and having watched that video. I stayed in the labor room, squirming, rocking, and pacing, for as long as possible (about 7 hours) to avoid having to lie down. I did my best to imagine myself at The Farm rather than at the hospital. Having those ideas in my head helped me. What hindered me was that I didn’t understand how to push. I resisted the pain instead of working with it, so I had to push for about 2 hours! But at least I would know what kind of pushing was required for the next time I attempted to give birth.

The doctor saw that I was tearing and asked me if I wanted an episiotomy. I said that I would just deal with the tear and I begged her not to cut me. Then they started to say that my daughter had been in “the birth canal” for such a long time that she was showing signs of distress. I really had to get her out. One nurse pushed on the top of my belly to give me the illusion that she was helping push the baby out. That worked and I finally just let myself tear and she came out. I was shaking and my teeth were chattering. I still felt scared, even though the only thing left to push out was the placenta. What calmed me down was the smell of my newborn daughter. She was covered in blood and fluid and smelled so good. Her hair was matted and appeared curly. She had very large eyes and she cracked us up with the way she was looking at everything. I wanted to inhale her smell for comfort. No one had told me about the smell of birth. I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, they took her away to show her to my parents and weigh and measure her and bathe her.

They didn’t move me yet. For another hour I was still on the table and felt a bit forgotten. I didn’t think I was worthy of being left alone with my daughter. I was scared she would roll off the table because I felt too exhausted to hold her. Two of my sisters-in-law came into the delivery room and coached me a little bit about breastfeeding. A nurse came to check on me and helped my daughter latch on to my breast. That made my uterus cramp. Establishing breastfeeding was one of my priorities, so I asked for a lot of ibuprofen. I had made it through the entire labor and delivery without any medicine, but the afterbirth pains were excruciating.

I shared a room with a Brazilian woman and the hospital’s translator spoke to us in Portuguese. I liked being able to combine English and Spanish and Japanese and Portuguese so that I would understand the schedule and expectations for my week-long stay at the hospital. I had to weigh my daughter before and after every feeding and make a record of all her diaper changes. I was a little bit uncomfortable because of the stitches due to the minor tear I had. I took more ibuprofen than I was supposed to when I was trying to deal with the cramping. Once, I woke my roommate up because I was moaning in my sleep. She called the nurse and they woke me up to give me more medicine. In Japan, even women who have completely natural births get to stay in the hospital for a week. I loved the healthy food and the reassurance I received from the nurses.

In the United States, I choose a team of midwives to help me with the birth of my son two years later. I am going to save that story for another day, as this post is already very long!

  1. April 3, 2008 11:12 am

    Very cool! Thank you for sharing!!

    When I had my son, the doctor didn’t ask, he just cut. 😦 But it was all good.

  2. April 3, 2008 12:16 pm

    Cesarean births are much more cost effective and safe for the mother. The medical community suppresses this information though because it will drive down medical billing. There is also a much more nefarious reason for avoiding wide-spread C-section deliveries. Mothers have a much higher chance of contracting cervical, uteral, and other repoductive system cancers if they deliver vaginally. This creates additional profits for the medical and pharmaceutical companies when they can treat cancer victims at hundreds of thousands of dollars. Also it reduces population, one of Elites overarching agenda items.

  3. April 3, 2008 1:36 pm

    Accountable, I don’t know what kept me from sharing back in November, but I’ve always wanted to tell you my story.

    Good Lord, I hope no one takes JP’s bait.

  4. April 3, 2008 7:21 pm

    Beautiful post, in fact your past few posts have had me close to tears, they’re so lovely. Thanks for sharing your daughter’s birth story. I can’t imagine trying to give birth somewhere with a language barrier.

  5. April 4, 2008 7:40 am

    Wow! I couldn’t comment yesterday due to my tears-hehe! You are becoming such a great writer over here! This will be a great archive years from now! Still trying to decide if I wanna go through childbirth-lol!

    I have decided to do Blogthings alphabet style-I know, not very creative here. I started with the letter A today. A is for Age. If you want-come on over and play:

  6. April 4, 2008 8:15 am

    Thanks for sharing this. I plan to write up my son’s birth story but then completely forget to do it!

  7. April 4, 2008 10:12 am

    Childbirth is the most beautiful thing ever! I love the essence of a brand new baby also…….

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