Saturday, March 7, 2015

Countdown to the Birth of a Mother... Take 2

In 5 days or so, if all goes as planned, my labour will be induced.

Alex and I are taking the time to appreciate one last quiet weekend at home. Really, we would do without the extra sleep and jump into parenthood right this moment, if it weren't for the fact that each day in the womb allows William to grow bigger and stronger, preparing him for the challenge that lies ahead.

To me, the experience of childbirth is as much an emotional rite of passage as a physical challenge. Not only is it the birth of a baby, but the birth of a mother. Yes, in some ways, I am already a mother... but with William's birth I will become a mother again.

William's birth will be a very different from Anya's. The setting will be different: this time we are choosing to give birth at the Montfort Hospital. The use of medical technology will be increased: labour will be medically induced and William's heart rate will be monitored constantly. But most notably, Alex and I are different: Anya's death has transformed us, for better or worse... for better and worse. We love more heartily and appreciate life's gifts with ease. Yet we worry more quickly, and as parents we will have to fight the urge to be overprotective, so William might make mistakes, learn and flourish. Anya's death is not William's burden to bear.

I am planning for a natural birth; by this I mean I am not planning on an epidural or any other anesthesia to manage labour pains, unless this becomes medically advisable. This is important to me, as I want to fully be part of and share in this birth with William. I want to feel my body and feel William being born. I want to be fully present to each moment of his birth.

Yet beyond this aspect, my views of birth as a natural part of life have shifted. For countless women, birth is a physiological part of life. Their bodies can give birth to healthy babies without medical intervention. I don't know if this will be the case for me, so constant vigilance will be key... if William shows any signs of distress, I am ready to put my faith in the medical professionals who will surround us.

There is still so much we don't know about fetal development and birth. I didn't know this the first time I was pregnant. I had naively assumed that in the 21st century, childbirth was something we had down pat.

If signs of risk or distress arise, the doctor on call will make the best decision he or she can, with the information and experience he or she has. I know, from our experience with Anya and the past 37 weeks of William's gestation, that medical science isn't perfect. Doctor's don't all have the same opinions or approaches, but - like midwives - they are all educated professionals who have chosen to dedicate their careers to the well-being of mothers and babies.

I am not planning on a c-section, though many have asked us this question. This isn't a question of selfishness or pride. A c-section is not currently medically advisable in my case. Vaginal births are usually safer for mother and baby, though when risk factors or signs of distress arise, the balance of risks shifts and c-sections can become the best course of action.

If medical interventions, beyond the induction and planned monitoring and vigilance, become necessary I am prepared to let go of my planned natural birth and give William his best chance. Any mother faced with such a situation would be. But I know it will be scary, and it will hurt, not just physically, but emotionally as well. Though all that really matters to me is that William gets to come home, healthy and thriving, I would be sad to have him torn from me by a doctor, rather than gently bringing him into the world myself. The scar that would have to heal would be both physical and emotional. But that is OK.

We all want healthy births and healthy babies. That doesn't mean each person's experience of childbirth - each mother's hopes and dreams for the birth of her baby - will follow the same path. There is no single right way to give birth. An anesthetic-free birth isn't better than an epidural, a vaginal birth isn't better than a c-section. Each choice, each birth is as unique as mother and baby. As are all the choices we make every day of our lives.

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