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An "Easy" Birth

Teresa Board
Tempe Arizona USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 2 March-April 2000 p. 40

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

When I was planning for the birth of my first child, I decided to take the easy way out: natural childbirth. Many of my friends and co-workers thought the opposite - that I was choosing to do it the hard way when the perfectly easy alternative of a medicated birth was readily available. At one time, I would have agreed with them. But when I worked as an editor at La Leche League International's Publications Department I heard many stories about both breastfeeding and childbirth. Since I didn't have any children, I tried to absorb as much information as possible. Gradually I realized that women who trust their bodies to nourish their babies through breastfeeding are naturally inclined to trust their ability to give birth with a minimum of medical intervention.

I also began to question the assumption that choosing a medicated birth was the easy option. My vision of sailing through labor on a wave of epidural-induced bliss was replaced with this realization: The more intervention you accept, the more you may need. And there's nothing painless about an episiotomy, a cesarean birth, or a spinal headache from an epidural.

Of course, there are no guarantees when it comes to birth. But when my husband, Chad, and I were expecting our first baby, we decided that planning a natural birth - avoiding any unnecessary intervention - was the way we wanted to go. We wanted to participate actively together in the process of labor and birth. Fortunately, there was a free-standing birth center near our home that fit well with our desire to create a comfortable, flexible birth environment.

Although we did a lot of reading, Chad and I tried to remember that each birth is unique, and you never really know what to expect. We steeled ourselves for the kind of 48-hour marathon that veteran parents had been all too eager to tell us about. When my water broke at midnight, we knew labor might not start right away, so we tried to relax and just wait and see what happened. Within about half an hour, contractions hit. Chad was timing them, and they were getting longer and closer together faster than they were "suppose to." We thought maybe we were timing them wrong. I got scared, because after only a few minutes the contractions were so much more intense than I expected in early labor. (Now I know that's because I pretty much skipped early labor!) I thought, this is so hard already - if this is the "easy" part, I am in trouble.

I kept telling Chad not to call our doula because I didn't want to bother her too early. I was really in active labor by the time she arrived, so we had to leave right away for the birth center. I had such a hard time making myself leave the house. I kept saying, "After this contraction, just one more. "Our doula finally said, "Okay, one more, but then we better go or this is going to be a home birth!" ("Which is all right with me," she said, "but I would have liked to plan ahead!")

When we got to the birth center at 2:20 AM, I was 8 to 9 centimeters dilated! I was fully dilated and pushing by 2:30. I progressed well at first, but at a certain point, the tissue resisted stretching. I was stuck for about 40 minutes, but when the midwife suggested an episiotomy, I resisted. The baby and I were both fine, and I wanted to give it some more time. The midwife used hot compresses, and my doula helped me do some visualization.

Then, at 4:15 AM - just over 4 hours after my water broke! - Mason Chad Board made a sudden appearance, all in one push. His daddy caught him and laid him on my chest. In our first minutes together, the three of us felt like we were in our own little world. We hardly noticed the nurse cleaning Mason off under the receiving blanket and checking his vital signs - all while he lay in my arms. I needed minor repair for a small tear, but I was so wrapped up in my new baby that I hardly noticed.

Then Chad, Mason and I took a bath in the birth center's jacuzzi tub. Mason loved the warm water; he kicked his little legs and looked at us, then nursed for a bit. About three hours after he was born, we went home to our own bed. Where can you relax better?

Most people think I had an easy birth because it was so short. I won't argue with them, although I will say undergoing the physical changes of labor in such a compressed time is pretty intense. For me, what made my birth "easy" was being surrounded by supportive people in a relaxing environment. Chad and I had prepared to work as a team, we had the support of my mother and a great midwife and doula, and the birth center was a beautiful, quiet place for Mason to enter the world.

And even though no amount of preparation can guarantee an uncomplicated birth, Chad and I felt a huge sense of accomplishment. I turned to him after it was all over and said, "We did it!"

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