Monday, March 3, 2014

The Right to Give Birth

Women’s rights. What does that mean anyway? Voting rights, equal pay, reproductive rights, equal opportunity…. What about the right to have your baby however you damn well choose? How can a doctor make one decision that affects the rest of you and your baby’s or babies’ futures?

My husband and I planned our pregnancy. We had to due to “infertility”. We went down this road knowing how unpredictable babies can be. However, we thought we could plan our birth regarding who would be there, what interventions I would refuse, how much time I would be given to give birth, and how the baby would be cared for once he arrived.

From the beginning of my appointments, my doctor told me there is no reason for me to have a C-section unless something went terribly wrong. From the looks of it, my pelvic structure was perfectly normal, I was in great physical shape, and the baby was healthy.  I went over my birth plan with him several times to assure he understood how important it would be to me, not to have any kind of intervention, especially any kind of medication.

Why did I not have a home birth in the first place? I thought they were unsafe because gut tells you that being in a hospital in case something went wrong would give you access to the quickest medical help that could save you and your baby’s lives, right? Wrong. Home births attended by midwives are actually proven to be safer for both mom and baby. Hospitals can actually reduce the chances of a woman going into labor spontaneously due to being around unfamiliar equipment, and the medical interventions can cause unfavorable outcomes in otherwise healthy women (

I trusted my doctor, and thought I was educated enough to know when and how to refuse any interventions. I did know that if something were to happen, I would have to have a C-section. I was perfectly open to that if it were to save my child’s life. I told my doctor that in that case I would want to have a VBAC next time and he assured me there would be no reason in most cases why I couldn’t have that.

The documentary, “The Business of Being Born” depicted my birth so perfectly it is frightening. So many women have the same thing happen and are scared into C-sections, which is why I want more women to understand why it is so essential for them to do research and speak up. My water released at 7:50 PM Monday night, I had some small contractions throughout the night after going to the hospital right away (dumb move #1), and nothing really changed by 8  AM. The nurses kept telling me I need to start Pitocin since it will help me to contract effectively, which is stupid because the baby hadn’t even dropped and I hadn’t dilated more than 1 cm). At 9:15 I agreed to allow my doctor to start the Pitocin (dumb move #2). As the day went on, they would increase the dose of Pitocin, and my contractions would grow stronger. I walked around and got into numerous positions to help the baby to drop. The nurses continued to ask me if I wanted to go ahead and have a c-section since chances are that nothing would change. At 8:15 PM, the on-call doctor told me that my heavy contractions could be hurting the baby, but still aren’t helping me to dilate and the baby was still high. She told me that chances are, my baby will get stressed from the contractions and the outcome could be devastating. My doctor had apparently been waiting in the operating room ready for me to make a decision and get cut open. At 8:45 I agreed to the C-section since the doctor and nurses kept scaring me telling me my baby could die. At 8:50 they inserted the epidural and at 8:55 my baby was “born”.

None of this would be traumatic had I actually needed the Pitocin in the first place, and had my baby really had the big chance of dying, and had I not ben completely paralyzed from the epidural from my face down and able to do nothing other than vomit and shake so I couldn’t hold my newborn who I’d been more excited and overjoyed to meet than anything I’d ever wanted in my life. You see, this is where you need to learn the reasons for and effects of medical interventions before going to a hospital to give birth, be that your choice. If your baby has dropped and you are stuck at say, 6 cm dilation or whatever, sure Pitocin might help you. However, if your baby has not dropped and you haven’t dilated, Pitocin will do nothing but stop your body from continuing labor and simply give you false contractions and give your body the signal to rely on that medical intervention to keep you going. Had I not had the Pitocin, my body could have most likely gone into second stage labor eventually, even if it would take a day or two. The baby could have been perfectly fine without the induced stress on my uterus squeezing the crap out of him getting him nowhere. Many first time moms take a while to go into active labor, and I was one of those.

I tried to deal with it, thinking the C-section saved my baby’s life, and that I’ll just have a VBAC (Vaginal Birth after Cesarean) next time. At 6 weeks postpartum, I was already scouring doctors via the internet and phone calls trying to find who would be the most VBAC supportive. To be supportive is one thing, to actually be committed to helping you with your VBAC is a completely different story. I looked at success rates. I found a doctor I was set on who had a 99% success rate at her hospital. When I found out I was pregnant again, I called her immediately to schedule an appointment. Everything was great until she asked for my operative report, only to find that the doctor who cut me open gave me a single-layer suture, instead of a double-layer suture. Her hospital policy would not allow her to attend my birth because of that one problem. By the way, there is no evidence that a VBAC on a woman with either suture would make any difference. There are arguments in both cases.

In my 24th week of pregnancy, I had no one to attend my birth. I called several VBAC friendly doctors to ask who would help me with a VBAC though I have a single-layer suture. Some said they wouldn’t, and others said they might, while others wouldn’t even answer my question. “Might” is not good enough. I will NOT be cut open again. The success rate of VBACs is incredibly low in the first place in a hospital setting, simply due to the calls made by the doctors who just want to get home in time for dinner and don’t want to risk a medical malpractice suit. I called the only home birthing midwifery in the state and the founder would not allow any of her midwives to help me. She said she would be putting the practice of midwifery in danger. Midwives in bordering states have been crossing the state line for years to help women like me in need. However, these women get cease and desist letters and put their practice at risk every time. So basically, the law is trying to force me to give birth in a hospital, ultimately forcing me to have a repeat C-section, which will put me at greater risk of uterine rupture in the future and decrease the amount of children I can safely have. The law is trying to decide my future. Will I let that happen? Absolutely not. Can the law take away my God-given right to birth my child in the safest way possible? Not at all.

It’s funny, I asked a midwife if I could just go to a doctor who says they “might” give me a VBAC and be armed with all of my information. I asked if I could have a similar outcome at home as I would at the hospital if I simply refused all interventions and wouldn’t allow anyone to do any cervical checks or give me a time limit or anything. She said she’s been at births where women were slipped Pitocin via IV against their wishes, among other things. Out goes that compromise.

Sure, it’s great we have the fall back of having a C-section to save our baby and our life if something were to go very wrong. However, just because our baby is positioned a little differently than optimal for a quick delivery, or our pelvis is just a little small for a smooth slide out, or our labor takes a long time due to whatever does not mean we need to jeopardize our futures or our babies’ futures by cutting them out so quickly. We all need to look into the dangers of C-sections and the advantages of Vaginal Births. There are so many reasons babies should be born the way they were designed. From breastfeeding, advantageous intestinal bacteria, and brain and lung function to an array of other things, babies need the chance to be born naturally. No one should be able to choose for us, how or where we give birth. Until more women understand the importance of standing up for their right, there will be many of us left to struggle our way through something that should just be natural.

I mean really, why is it so hard for me to just give birth??? 

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