This might sound crazy, but I've had a last minute change of mind about my birth plan! I'm just about 36 weeks pregnant and about to embark upon a new phase of my pregnancy. It feels like a phase of confidence in my mothering, intuition, and my ability to chose what is right for me. I am leaving my passive phase of fear and the feeling that I want someone else to choose for me and tell me what is right to a phase of taking charge and putting myself right in the middle of this birthing experience.
I'm leaving my OB and original plans to have a hospital birth at Overlake, and am instead switching to midwifery care and having a birth (anticipating a water birth) at a birth center!
Now let me start off by saying I liked my OB and had no problems with Overlake as a potential place to give birth. I looked forward to every one of my prenatal appointments, appreciated the quick responses to all of my worries and calls, and felt well-taken care of in terms of getting all the testing and screening I needed, getting answers to medical questions, and addressing potential issues. My tour of Overlake's Birth Center was impressive. Compared to traditional creepy hospital settings, Overlake presented a much more comfortable environment in terms of hospital birth. It wasn't exactly warm and cuddly, but the lighting was dim, the rooms streamlined and modern, and the scary-looking equipment was either hidden behind sleek doors or easy to overlook. Of course, there was a slightly cold and 'sterile' feeling to the place, which I'm sure is impossible to avoid in a hospital.
So if things were going so well, why change now?
When our first little 'surprise' came about and I began to accept that we were having a baby, I was scared and passive. I hadn't done a lick of research about pregnancy, labor, or delivery. I had no idea what to expect, what was routine, what was best. I just wanted someone to tell me what I should do, where I should go, what tests I should take, where and how I should give birth. Of course, being the bookworm and organized planner that I am, I quickly started reading and learning about what I was about to embark on. I slowly became more and more comfortable about what was ahead for me, yet I remained passive. I've had the tendency to do this in the past- freeze up in fear and ask someone else to tell me what the right decision is. In fact, I do this when choosing ice cream or when buying a new jacket. Or picking out the best cracker for a certain cheese. Just ask anyone I know...seriously!
If you've read my last post, you'll remember I mentioned having to take charge and choose a day to take maternity leave on my own. This is when I was the most afraid and uncertain, yet it led me to become empowered.
It began with the rib pain, sluggishness and 'run down' feeling that began as I approached my 7th month. I was starting to feel like it was time to take it easy, work less, and really prepare for the upcoming change. I remembered the 7th month was about the same time that two other women from my work had quit working and took leave, so I felt like my feelings were spot on. When I came to my OB and asked her when I should take leave due to my difficulties at work, she had no answer for me. She couldn't gauge my physical pain, she could only see if my pregnancy had complications or was causing harm to the baby. Not having a plan stressed me out. I wanted her to give me an estimate, a suggestion. I ended up talking to one of the women from my work who had her baby last year. She encouraged me to choose for myself. It was a mother's decision; my OB was only there to back me up. Her midwife had been more than supportive of her decision to take leave when the time had come. And I remembered the other woman from my work saying the same thing of her midwife.
So October 7th I chose. I toughed it out to my last month. I was almost in tears from my rib pain many days, but I held out as long as I could, iced my rib, thought positive thoughts, and (almost) made it to my anticipated day. I had told my OB a couple weeks before this that I had chosen a day to take leave, and she made no comment opposing it. Around this time, my OB measured me and found that I had measured a little on the big side. She sent me in for an ultrasound to check baby's growth, and the next day I was told to go to the Overlake birth center for a non-stress test. Of course, upon hearing I needed a NST, I became stressed! No one told us why we needed one, only that the baby had measured large. During the test, the baby's heart rate and movement looked great. But they discovered I was contracting!
It was just a day or two before when I first started noticing the difference between baby's movement and my braxton hick's contractions. I wasn't paying much attention to which I was feeling during the test, so I was a bit surprised to learn I had been contracting regularly, about every 10 minutes. I thought that since they didn't hurt, and I was having no other labor signs, that the contractions were fine. But the nurse told me my OB wanted me given a shot of Terbutaline to stop them. I was so overwhelmed, I didn't ask why or what would happen if I said no, or what we could try instead. I took the shot, felt like I was incredibly high on caffeine after a night of binge drinking, was told my contractions had stopped, and then sent home. I was so confused. No precautions? No rest? Nothing? I was good to go home and back to my everyday life without any change? If I needed a shot to stop contractions, shouldn't I be taking precautions so I don't get them again? And if not, then obviously it wasn't a big enough deal to warrant the shot in the first place! And I was still contracting later that day, and the next!
I was so stressed and confused I had my OB call me on her day off to clarify what was going on. It turns out the NST was ordered because the ultrasound didn't provide solid results and she wanted to make sure the baby was fine. The contractions were just a coincidence, not the reason they sent me in. The shot was given more for peace of mind than for real necessity. She had no reason to believe I was in danger of preterm labor, and didn't exactly need to STOP me from having contractions, just needed to make sure they weren't real labor contractions. I was deemed fine. I felt a lot less stressed and worried after that, but I realized my OB and I didn't really see eye-to-eye about a few things. I didn't agree that I didn't need to be careful after this. I had a feeling that my body needed rest. Also, I didn't know what my stand on drugs during labor was until after that shot. I hated it. I hated the side effects. I hated feeling loopy and shaky. I was sort of depressed afterward. I felt slightly betrayed, for some reason. I realized then that I wanted a natural birth for sure.
So this long detour brings me back to the week before October 7th. I called my OB requesting the doctor's note I would need to officially go on leave, and met another conflict of opinion. She didn't see any reason why I should take leave. She said there would need to be complications with my pregnancy in order to recommend such a thing. This is not the way I operate! I would much rather take preventative steps according to what I feel is right for my body, then to wait until some harm to the baby became apparent! I did, however, realize I probably needed to be more clear about how my rib pain (among other daily complications) was negatively effecting my job, and explain WHY I felt like I needed to take leave. So my OB offered to check me at my next appointment and see if there was something she could find to write a note about. This made me feel criminal! I wasn't trying to fight the system. I wasn't trying to con her into doing something inappropriate. I felt so bad about myself. Was I just being weak?
While I still felt like my OB could help me effectively after some better communication from me, and Overlake could still be a wonderful place for a natural birth, I started researching midwives and birth centers. I was drawn to Puget Sound Midwives and Birth Center. The website provided a lot of info about their philosophy with beautiful pictures of their birthing suites. And they allowed water birth! I had been really interested in a water birth until I found out Overlake didn't allow it. They allow and promote many natural pain coping techniques, including laboring in the Jacuzzi tub, just not birthing in it. After a consultation at the Birth Center a couple days later, I was sold. I immediately felt at peace. I told the midwife my story and I felt like she really listened, understood, and cared. She couldn't believe I was having so much trouble getting a note from my OB to take leave! I have my first offical appointment tomorrow, where she will more than happily write me a note supporting me taking leave.
I'm really excited about this. I'm actually EXCITED to go into labor and give birth! It helps that I'm reading Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, full of inspiring stories about the hardships and rewards of natural childbirth. Of course, I am still fully aware and accepting that something could occur, and I could have need of a hospital birth, and maybe even medical interventions. There's always a chance. But I feel like I'm in good hands. I feel like I'm a participant in this birth, not just a passive vessel. I feel empowered to make decisions, and I feel supported in following my intuition and my body's signals.
I also feel huge and like I can't possibly get bigger or carry this weight on my squished bladder much longer. But at least I'm at home resting where I know I belong!