Friday, January 25, 2008

The Business of Being Born

My chiropractor told me today about a new documentary by Ricki Lake called The Business of Being Born. You can learn more about it on the movie's website. Some of you might know I'm a fan of natural birth when it's possible, and when you combine that with my frustration regarding the current state of our medical system, I'm thinking I'll probably be the movie's number one fan. When checking out their website I came to a section where you can share your story of giving birth. I couldn't resist submitting my story. Experiencing birth is so spectacular, and I love reading stories of other people's birth experiences. What I wrote probably won't be made public by the movie's producers (they're putting some of the stories submitted into a book that comes with the DVD), but I'll share it with you here.

Brynn was a week overdue. My doctor was a natural doc - the kind who trusts that a woman's body knows how to grow a baby, and so he didn't do an ultrasound through the pregnancy until the day before Brynn was born. At that point, he decided we should take a peak to be sure the baby wasn't getting too big to come out easily. So, we did the ultrasound. From what the tech could see, it looked like Brynn was going to be between nine and eleven pounds. She was my first baby. I'm almost five foot eight and fully pregnant I weighed nearly two hundred pounds, but the thought of an eleven pounder still threw me a bit. It threw my doc, too. He said that if I didn't go into labor in twenty four hours, he would want to induce me. That baby wasn't getting any smaller.

Thank God, I went into labor naturally the night I was supposed to check into the hospital for induction, so there was no need for pitocin. My husband and I had studied the Bradley method of natural childbirth and, despite the cold surroundings a hospital offers, we wanted our baby to be born in a hospital but as naturally as possible. I had to deal with the IV in my arm and the monitor on my belly almost all the way through labor. Luckily, labor lasted only twelve hours and through most of it I appeared, to an outsider, to be sleeping. I made my way through each contraction the way a swimmer gets through a hard workout...I paced myself, I tried to relax, and I hung in there through the tough spots.

Almost exactly twelve hours after arriving at the hospital, Brynn was born. It was a quiet, cold, snowy morning in Cincinnati on November 21st, 2002. The peace and quiet outside contrasted starkly with the bustle of my delivery room. There were a few pediatric medical students there observing the birth, extra nurses, and a few extra doctors on hand to deal with any issues that might have arisen from the meconium observed in my water. Even my mother was there to watch. I know that all of those people were present for Brynn's birth, but to tell you the truth, the only people I remember were my husband, my trusted doctor, and my baby. While I was pushing her out, I was so focused that it seemed as if nobody else existed. After a few good pushes (and a dreaded but necessary episiotomy) Brynn arrived. Everyone gasped and commented on how large she was. I don't know - she seemed normal to me. I'd never been around a newborn, how was I supposed to know I got stuck with the XL version? As it turned out, she only weighed in at nine pounds fourteen ounces. Not quite the giant everyone made her out to be. We do still joke, though, that if she hadn't pooped on her way out she would have been a ten pounder.

Looking back at Brynn's birth (and my next baby, Callie's) I see the birthing process as one of the few times in my life when I really felt confident in and comfortable with my body. I knew that my body knew what it was doing. I knew that I could do it. I knew that I was made to give these two children life and I knew that I could do it in a way that honored my body and the generations of women who gave life to me. In fact, I would say that giving birth is what I do best. I stunk at nursing and I'm generally unhappy with my body for various other reasons. But, when it came to giving birth, I kicked ass.

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