Let me start by assuring you there will be no gory medical details in this story. We don’t know each other well enough for that. Yet. (Just kidding – we will never know each other well enough for me to share any personal medical details on the Internet. I’m sure you are all crushed by this.)
So, the always fun subject of childbirth is on my mind these days because I’m due to have baby number 2 (or as we like to call him, Kid B) in a few months. You might think that, this being my second time around, I’d be pretty zen about the whole experience. That isn’t quite the case. The fact is that I have never believed the women who told me that I’d forget the pain of childbirth and want to have another, and another, and so forth until I became the subject of one of those awful TLC shows with kids popping up in every available nook in the house, and sometimes in cabinets. I haven’t forgotten the painful reality of giving birth in the least, and my birth wasn’t even particularly difficult, if the stories I’ve heard are anything to go by. This has led me to wonder whether I just had beginner’s luck and am destined to experience something crazy this time around.
So I’ve ended up doing something I didn’t do the first time around: research. Let’s just say that, in my desire not to get caught up in overthinking something, I sometimes neglect to think about it at all, for a long time. This is how I was able to be at the end of labor with my first kid without knowing that it was possible for your water not to break, or that I would have to push once for his head to come out and once again for his shoulders. I have never been so disappointed in my life as when my midwife said, “And another push for the shoulders!” Really? Why wasn’t I done yet? I wanted to say, “Are you fucking kidding me?” but I’m far too polite. Also, I couldn’t breathe well enough to speak just then.
But I digress because really, I’d just like to say how great it is to be in a city like Boston to give birth. For one thing, it’s easy to find a midwife, and you don’t get the crazy side-eye from people if you talk about seeing one instead of seeing an OB. Plus, you don’t have to be a home birther or go to a birth center with your midwife; as far as I know, all of the major hospitals in Boston have midwives on staff, which means you are giving birth with an epidural and an operating room close by in case you need them, but you will have no pressure to use them to speed things up. Reading articles about the over-medicalization of birth, such as this one, can make the hospital experience sound scary, but for me, home birth was not an option, and once I knew I could get the care I wanted from a midwife in a hospital, I was sold.
On top of that, there are a lot of top-notch hospitals here to choose from. Boston Medical Center, where I had my first, has a great team of midwives and OBs, and even has a Birth Sisters Doula Program, which will provide any first-time mom with a doula. I took advantage of this service (which was free a few years ago, though I’m not positive it still is), and it was awesome because although everyone else was in and out of the room for the birth, my doula was with us the entire time. Thanks to her pain management tips – and my own strange desire to see how long I could take it before I cracked and screamed for drugs – I was able to make it through the whole ordeal without any meds. And I know friends who’ve had kids at Newton-Wellesley, Mount Auburn Hospital, Cambridge Hospital, Beth Israel, Mass General, and Brigham and Women’s and had good experiences at each one. And some of them had more complicated births than mine, so basically, this speaks very well of our hospitals.
One other thing I’ve noticed here is the somewhat ridiculous level of support for breastfeeding. It starts in the hospital and continues to meetings with lactation consultants (I didn’t even know this was a job a few years ago) and frequent La Leche League gatherings. Oddly, this was the only aspect of birth about which I felt any pressure from outsiders, all of it in favor of breastfeeding. I had the same sort of “we’ll see what happens” attitude toward breastfeeding as I did toward birth, and I didn’t get a good reaction from people on that one. They were all like, “But why wouldn’t you breastfeed?” in tones of shock and horror. Well, reasons abound – from the fact that it’s not necessarily a comfortable, simple thing to do to the fact that some women’s jobs make it almost impossible – but we could start with the fact that maybe I don’t feel like it! Although I did end up nursing my son for a while and I appreciated the advice I got on how to breastfeed, I really don’t have any problem with formula either. After all, lots of us were raised on it, and we didn’t grow horns, right? Just watch out for those organic ones with with all the arsenic (sigh) – and admit up front that either way, you’re doing it wrong according to someone – and you’ll be in good shape.
I guess what it all comes down to for me is choice. Here in Boston, I have the option of choosing a midwife or a doctor, a water birth or a birth in a hospital bed or a home birth, drugs or no drugs, cloth diapers (thanks, Diaper Lab!) or disposable, and I feel like all of these things are equally available to me. That may be true in other major US cities, but it’s definitely not the experience all of my friends and family have had in other locations, so I feel lucky to have had it so easy. And if I’m going to have to give birth in the first place, I may as well have as much control as possible over how it happens.
So, anyone else have any birth stories they’d like to share? Just try not to scare me too much please…