So we took off for the hospital. It just so happened that we were in a raging thunderstorm (I guess I was planning for the movie version later…needed more drama!). The midwife climbed in the back seat of the car, and hubby drove. I was in full on “I gotta push!” mode at that time. So as we drove through the thunder and lightning and downpour of rain, I pushed and hubby wondered if we would be delivering this baby in the car.
The nurses got me right in, examined me, gave me pain medication (which helped some, but not enough), helped me to try to push with the medicine in me, and held the doctors at bay until I’d had a chance to try for myself and see that this baby would not be coming out without a c-section. Those nurses were very wise. I came to look at the c-section as a much needed operation for me, because I knew I had tried everything else first. I will always be grateful to them for this small kindness when other nurses might have just given me a lecture (which I probably deserved).
So, I gave in. I had the c-section. I had come to the end of myself and had come to realize that I was far stronger than I thought I was. I have rarely heard of a woman who has been in labor as long as I was (my labor started Sunday afternoon and Burrito was born early Tuesday morning). And when women say, “I pushed so long! I pushed for 3 hours!” I think, you wouldn’t believe how long I pushed! I shouldn’t have, but I did.
Burrito was born under the cut of a knife, which was the last thing I wanted to have happen. But I know now that it was unavoidable.
I also know that I am supremely blessed that nothing bad happened out of my stubbornness. Though to my knowledge Burrito was never in distress, surely that would not have lasted forever. I should have listened to my body and waited to push until I was ready. And when I knew I was beyond my own strength and ability to deliver her, I should have laid down my pride and my control and given in sooner. It is by the grace of God that Burrito is fine today.
I learned some valuable lessons. I learned that no matter how hard you try to control birth, it is one of those things that cannot be controlled. The best possible circumstances can be set up, but things will still happen that are beyond your control. This is humbling. But ultimately birth is in God’s hands, just like death.
If I had it to do over again, I would probably only choose a midwife that had emergency back-up. Regrettably, we had no such midwife in our corner of North Dakota, so I probably would have had to go to a doctor. I still believe that for the majority of women, as long as there is an emergency plan, home birth is a safe and reasonable option. And I did have emergency back-up with the local small town doctor but the constant worry that my midwife would not be at my birth made the days before Burrito’s birth more scary than they needed to be.
I didn’t have a great option for her birth out of any of the options available, but the one thing I should have done was to go sooner to the hospital. Waiting so long and refusing to give in, having such a fear of medications, and worse, having a fear of being a “wuss” who gave up…these things kept me from doing what I needed to do for too long.
I came to realize that I did not die by having to go through an exam with a male doctor, medication did not harm my child or me, and the hospital wasn’t such a horrible place. I was treated kindly and compassionately. I still wish I would have been able to deliver Burrito at home but it was not to be. My next baby will definitely have to be born in the hospital because of a slightly increased risk of uterine rupture after a c-section, and I’m ok with that. I am blessed to be in an area now that is much more friendly to natural birthing options, even within the hospital environment. And I am blessed to live in an area where the larger hospital is only a short drive away.
I don’t want to scare anyone off from the idea of home birth. It can be a beautiful thing, a natural thing that women have been doing for generations and generations. Generally speaking, women (with the help of trusted women) know what to do to get a baby born. And as I said, the first day of pain management went extremely well. But if you pursue a home birth, plan for the fact that something can always go apart from “the plan.” Yes, you need to think positively about birth and hear all the good, empowering stories and words you can, but you also need to make yourself feel secure by knowing that you have a plan if the tiny chance of something going wrong happens.
If you have a home birth, you definitely need a midwife who has a back-up midwife. You definitely need a doctor on call in case you or the baby go into distress, a doctor who is 10-15 minutes away from you. And you definitely need to listen to your body, no matter what anybody tells you and no matter how much you want your labor to just be done. Unfortunately, the process cannot be rushed. And finally, there is no shame in having to go to the hospital. Hospitals are there for people who need them. Most births can be accomplished safely at home, but we want to have hospitals for the people who cannot make this happen. It has nothing to do with our virtue or lack to need the hospital. It is just the bodies we and our babies are given and the unique circumstances of their births. The most important thing is that the mother and baby end up happy and healthy by the end of the birth.
I’ll write another day about the challenges Burrito and I faced after the birth. Those early days were certainly tough. But one thing I have learned is this: when we live through such difficult days, we come to realize that we have a strength we didn’t know we had.