Mama in the City

A blog about raising my family in downtown Vancouver

The Birth Experience

The experience of birth is an amazingly huge experience in your individual life. I believe it is so powerful that it shapes you into a different person after birth. Like any big life experience really. When I go to work and attend a labor in the same room where Ben was born, I can't help but reminisce about my own labor and delivery of my son. Every single time. Of course some of the painful memories have faded and I am left with these fuzzy amazing memorized moments my labor and birth.

I have started to pay more attention to how a persons individual birth experience shapes their post delivery feelings, especially when things don't go as they had hoped or planned. For myself, I had a great labor and birth ( all be it long) and I left that part of my life with positive warm fuzzy memories of the people involved and my general experience. However, I know from girlfriends who had STAT c/s or instrumental deliveries were left with different types of memories than me. One friend even had such strong emotions tied to her stat Cesarean birth that it was months before she could talk about her daughters birth without feeling traumatized. Another felt like the nurses played a negative role in her stat forceps delivery and she still harbours anger around her birth experience.
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This isn't a new topic by any means but I think that I finally understand the importance of each individual persons birth experience since I have had my own. It may just be 'another long shift' at work for me but it is a life time of memory for the family that I am working with. I get that and now I totally practice based on that belief.

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The thing that I struggle with is how can I, the maternity RN, help you get your warm fuzzy memories when things like STAT c/s or forceps deliveries have to happen in order to have healthy alive babies and mothers? I want all of you to have amazing powerful birth memories and feel full of strength and support. When the power of your personal experience is taken away how can we give it back to you and recognize what may have been lost along the journey?

12 comments:

Kristen said...

The thing I think about when it comes to delivery is to have no expectations beyond "operation healthy baby". My 2 boys deliveries couldn't have been more different, yet the outcome was that I have 2 lovely, healthy boys. My first I was induced and had high blood pressure. This meant that I had little movement beyond being allowed to the washroom and back. I was on an IV right away. He was also born with the cord around his neck, which meant that he went to neo-natal right away and it was a hour before I got to hold him (I did get to see him briefly). Disappointing, yes, but overall, because I had let go of expectations of 'the perfect birth' I was okay with it. I knew he was okay and getting the best possible care he could. The nurses were very reassuring to me.
My second really was "the perfect birth" - lots of freedom to walk around, use the birthing ball, have a shower etc...that it felt almost easy. (And it really almost was being a second- the nurse had me try one push and told me to stop as he was coming and needed a doctor in the room!)
I think so many women come to the birth with too many pre-concieved ideas that it will like this and they have a list. I see them on the message boards all the time. While I think it's nice to have ideas of what you would like, there has to be a way to get the message out there that operation healthy baby is the most important thing, and sometimes that means not following the list to a 't'. The best thing the maternity nurses did for me was just be with me and reassure me, especially with my first son when it was more complicated. They were so encouraging through the whole process. I can't say enough good things about them.

November 30, 2009 at 5:36 PM  
Sister Sarah said...

First birth: Blissful, lovely labour once I got the drugs. Listening to Sarah Harmer whilst pushing my sweet healthy baby girl out. Chatting and laughing with the dr. about kids and the beach whilst being stitched up. Thinking I might like to go through this experience several more times...

Second birth: Short and brutally painful thanks to no drugs. Feeling like my body was ripping in half whilst screaming words that would make most hardened criminals blush. Nether regions changed forever thanks to a nervous intern (not blaming her really but just wish I hadn't been that day's guinea pig). Thankfully healthy baby boy arrived and I recovered (well, somewhat intact). Thinking two kids are great and NEVER wanting to go through an experience like this again...

However, two years have passed since my last birth and I can't help but think that I might like to do this again. Just with drugs:) Or without...just as long as baby and momma are healthy!

November 30, 2009 at 7:36 PM  
Mama in the City said...

Thanks for your comment. I could not agree more with you about going into your birth with no expectations. So many times I meet people with very very detailed birth plans and things NEVER go as planned. Even with no complications, things just go on their own schedule. We have a little joke among OB people that when we see a birth plan we know that they will be a complex case that requires some level of intervention. Weird connection but there is something related. At first I was really put off by that connection but I see it happen more and more. Weird right? I think your comment is correct. If you go into your birth with no expectations other than having a healthy mum and healthy baby you will have your experience. Whatever that is. A vaginal birth that is straight forward or a rapid emergency c section. Great comment!!

November 30, 2009 at 8:13 PM  
Mama in the City said...

I like to think of each woman's birth as their experience. Whatever happens. This is YOUR experience. There is so many different things that can happen at birth, even variations that are still normal.

Whenever we have a second time mama coming through the doors we expect a rapid birth. Fast and furious, that cervix has memory and the body just works faster than our minds can keep up with. Really amazing actually.

November 30, 2009 at 8:15 PM  
Natalie said...

We have seen it too often haven't we Andrea? Three page birth plan ends up oxy augment, failed trial of forceps with a c-section. I feel really bad for these moms who feel like they have failed because it didn't go as to the birth plan. I completely agree that with every labour and birth you really have no idea how it is going to end up, so it is best to not have a "plan" and to just go with it. Healthy mom and baby are the best outcomes of a delivery!

November 30, 2009 at 11:43 PM  
Jenny R said...

My actual birth experience went pretty well - only 13 hours of labour, no drugs, no tearing even though my daughter was 9 lbs 5 oz. I had back labour but I got through it, and the midwife, doula, and nurse were awesome. They were a little worried about the baby's heartrate a couple of times (although I was so inwardly focused I'm not sure how aware of that I really was at the time), but ended up not having to do any interventions.

Until, shortly after she was born, when they realized that the placenta was not detatching.

Then I had to go on the oxy IV and wait, lying on my back with my legs open, for 1.5 hours with various people up to their elbows in my uterus, and I was exhausted and starving but I wasn't allowed to eat anything or drink anything but a bit of water because I might have to go for surgery, and they had actually brought in somebody to explain our OR options when they tried one last time and the placenta finally detatched.

So yes, things can always be unpredictable! Textbook birth until the not-so-textbook afterbirth. :)

(It's funny how you beat yourself up - I was disappointed in myself for "caving" and asking for an epidural at one point (although I didn't end up getting one because I was quite close to pushing). But that is silly because it's totally true that the important thing is that you're both healthy).

December 1, 2009 at 10:20 AM  
Sister Sarah said...

It's a good thing you live so close to St. Pauls...when you have your second baby you can practically walk there! Otherwise, I can totally picture Alex helping you deliver at home...Haha:) I'm interested in how many readers have given birth at home and what their experiences were like.

December 1, 2009 at 3:36 PM  
Kristen said...

I had to come back and see what others wrote - I just got off one of my message boards and refrained from giving this one mom to be a piece of my mind who was going on and on all about how she expects her birth to go exactly according to her plan and that it is all up to her and how she doesn't want any interventions...etc, etc... I feel for you labour nurses when you come across a patient like that - my hat's off to you!

December 1, 2009 at 5:38 PM  
Mama in the City said...

Ahh the dedicated birther who has lots of hopes and dreams..how easily and sadly it is to end up feeling disappointed in this type of situation. I think a lot of women romanticize birth and when that happens it is easy to feel let down when things go on their own course. Tough situation because it is good to think about your upcoming birth but not to over do it with rigid expectations.

December 3, 2009 at 12:47 PM  
Jenny R said...

I hope I didn't come across as one of these when I mentioned that I was disappointed in myself for asking for an epidural! My "birth plan" was to try to do it all-natural but to be OK with whatever interventions were necessary, and to ask for an epidural if I really felt I needed one. During the actual birth I was fine with everything that happened. It was only a few days later while in the sleep-deprived hormone-addled new mother state that I thought that since I didn't end up getting the epidural after all, I kind of wished I'd been hard-core enough not to ask for one (which I realize is silly!)

December 8, 2009 at 10:19 AM  

Ok, I know I'm wandering into this conversation very late (ended up here through a link at the end of a more recent post), but I just felt I had to add a little something to the, "At least you have a healthy baby" type comments.
I recently read another author who equated this type of comment with telling a new bride, "At least you have a healthy marriage" after her wedding day was a disaster (rain, wrong cake, wrong flowers, stained dresses etc.). As pregnant women we go into labor with high hopes and huge fears. I'm an RN as well, and while I felt prepared for birth, it was still intimidating and disappointing to accept what I was told were necessary interventions (cervidil and pitocin after my water broke and labor didn't start right away). I still look back and think how lovely it all was since I had a fantastic doula and was still able to have a water birth.

What made it easier for me to get over the interventions was the fact that I trusted my midwife and doula, and had relationships with them. As such, I knew that they would be honest with me when it came to assessing whether or not I truly needed interventions.

As for your original question, I think it helps to acknowledge the mother's original wishes, reassure that the interventions would not be offered unless absolutely necessary. I think it would help to tell moms who are being induced, "I know you were hoping to avoid this, and we wouldn't be (inducing/other) unless it was absolutely necessary. I am going to do everything I can to help you meet the rest of your plan. I've seen other moms still deliver (or bond or whatever the hope is) even after (whatever intervention)." Help the mom focus on the good things that are happening (your body is preparing for birth. Soon you'll get to hold/meet your baby, etc.). Lastly, if it's necessary for further interventions, and you've taken on a doula roll and established a relationship with her, try to get another nurse to help do the physician's helper type activities so that you can stay WITH the mom to provide more doula support rather than focusing on the technical aspects of the delivery.

With all the extra stuff going on during delivery for me (changing antibiotic IV bags, adjusting fetal monitors, vaginal exams) I still mostly only remember the support of my husband and the voice of my doula. Their emotional support trumped the disappointment of the interventions by a long shot.

So sorry for the lengthy response. I'm working night shifts right now, and I know I'm a little less than coherent.

March 22, 2011 at 2:21 AM  

Ok, I know I'm wandering into this conversation very late (ended up here through a link at the end of a more recent post), but I just felt I had to add a little something to the, "At least you have a healthy baby" type comments.
I recently read another author who equated this type of comment with telling a new bride, "At least you have a healthy marriage" after her wedding day was a disaster (rain, wrong cake, wrong flowers, stained dresses etc.). As pregnant women we go into labor with high hopes and huge fears. I'm an RN as well, and while I felt prepared for birth, it was still intimidating and disappointing to accept what I was told were necessary interventions (cervidil and pitocin after my water broke and labor didn't start right away). I still look back and think how lovely it all was since I had a fantastic doula and was still able to have a water birth.

What made it easier for me to get over the interventions was the fact that I trusted my midwife and doula, and had relationships with them. As such, I knew that they would be honest with me when it came to assessing whether or not I truly needed interventions.

As for your original question, I think it helps to acknowledge the mother's original wishes, reassure that the interventions would not be offered unless absolutely necessary. I think it would help to tell moms who are being induced, "I know you were hoping to avoid this, and we wouldn't be (inducing/other) unless it was absolutely necessary. I am going to do everything I can to help you meet the rest of your plan. I've seen other moms still deliver (or bond or whatever the hope is) even after (whatever intervention)." Help the mom focus on the good things that are happening (your body is preparing for birth. Soon you'll get to hold/meet your baby, etc.). Lastly, if it's necessary for further interventions, and you've taken on a doula roll and established a relationship with her, try to get another nurse to help do the physician's helper type activities so that you can stay WITH the mom to provide more doula support rather than focusing on the technical aspects of the delivery.

With all the extra stuff going on during delivery for me (changing antibiotic IV bags, adjusting fetal monitors, vaginal exams) I still mostly only remember the support of my husband and the voice of my doula. Their emotional support trumped the disappointment of the interventions by a long shot.

So sorry for the lengthy response. I'm working night shifts right now, and I know I'm a little less than coherent.

April 8, 2011 at 9:51 PM  

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