I have to admit that in recent years I have become quite the birth junkie. When I had my first baby 23 years ago, I attended the prepared childbirth class offered by my hospital. One mother in our group of about 16 couples wanted a non-medicated birth. Quite frankly, I thought she was crazy! I wanted my epidural because I sure wasn't going to go through THAT with no medication to help me! My "prepared epidural" class gave me the basic information I needed, and I didn't have time to do much other reading because I spent all my evening hours grading AP English essays or coaching cheerleaders.
After several weeks of bedrest following a preterm labor scare, I was overjoyed when I went for a checkup at 38 weeks, and my doctor told me I was in labor. I didn't really know I was in labor, but he said I was, so I figured I must be! He told me to head on over to the adjoining hospital to have a baby. Once I was all checked in, he came in and broke my water, and I did start feeling some contractions. It wasn't too bad, and pretty soon they came in to tell me it was time for my epidural. IT HURT LIKE HECK!!!! But then my husband and I just played cards and watched TV until they said it was time to push, because I really couldn't feel much of anything. Once they told me I could push, I tried to, but since I couldn't feel any contractions, my pushing was pretty ineffective. After two and half hours of that, they finally used forceps to get her out. She had swallowed blood during the ordeal of pushing, so they whisked her off to the nursery, and I didn't even get to see her or nurse her for three hours.
When I got pregnant again, I decided that I would educate myself this time around. I wasn't ever going to go through something like that again. So I read the classic book Childbirth Without Fear by Dr. Grantly Dick-Read. I found a nurse midwife and planned the kind of birth I wanted. It was wonderful! I had my third and fourth babies the same way, and became a fairly outspoken proponent of a mother's right to have childbirth her way. I was never comfortable with a home birth; I preferred a hospital or birth center, but I encourage mothers to do their own research and make an educated decision about the birth they want.
So when mothers come into the store early in their pregnancy, I often talk to them about their birth wishes. I try to encourage moms to do some good reading early on. One great resource is The Birth Book by Dr. William and Martha Sears. This book explores all the options available to parents and helps them make an informed choice about the kind of birth they want.
Another resource we have on hand is Prepared Childbirth The Family Way by Debbie Amis and Jeanne Green. This wonderful manual does a terrific job of helping a mother understand exactly what her body is doing during each stage of labor. It gives her exercises she can do throughout her pregnancy to help her body prepare for the work of labor.
It doesn't matter how busy you are with your job or how crazy your life is, if you're pregnant, you owe it to yourself and to your baby to make the time to learn a little something about birthin' babies!
If you've already had a child or two, please leave a comment below about your birth experience and what made it good or bad. Your comments can help other mothers in the decisions they have to make!