• Katie McCarthy

What I Didn't Know About Childbirth

As I put my son to bed tonight, on one of the last nights he’ll spend as a one-year-old, I reflected on the day he came into this world. The time before a baby comes can be stressful. I was preparing our home, and our daughter, for a new baby, planning maternity leave and finding childcare.

And the birth. The unknown that comes with childbirth.


I didn’t have a doula for either of my births. To be honest, I didn’t even know what a doula was before my first child was born. I wanted my birth to be an intimate experience for my husband and me, with little interference from the outside world. But what I didn’t know was that a doula would have provided me the emotional and physical support that my husband could not. Don’t get me wrong. My husband was wonderful during both of my labors. He did everything I asked of him. Everything I thought I needed. And at the time, I thought this was enough.


Yes, my husband was great. But he is not a birth worker. He is not educated on the physiology of birth. We knew I had to dilate to 10cm then I could push, but neither of us truly understood what was happening inside my body to achieve this 10cm goal. Or how the rate of dilation could be affected by my position, by my emotions and by the environment in which I labored.


But, you can’t want something you didn’t know was available, right?

Well, now I know what is available.


Now I know that I can choose my care provider. That even in Western New York, there are many options. Not only among OBs and midwives, but also places to give birth. Have you heard of the Coit House (wow!).


Now I know that I can labor in different positions that give baby the room to move into an optimal position for birth. I know I can refuse cervical checks, or request them. I can ask people to leave the room, or join me. I can push in different positions – not just on my back. Oh, and pushing. I didn’t know there was an alternative to directed pushing.


“Hold your breath and push while I count to ten.”


How about waiting for my body’s natural urge to push? Or maybe even experience the fetal ejection reflex. I can catch my own baby, or my husband can.


These are all things I’ve learned in the last two years, since my son was born. If I could go back in time, would I change how I approached about my birth?


Maybe.


Maybe not.


I had the unmedicated, intervention-free birth I’d planned. My baby and I were healthy. I’d even gone into labor after a full night of sleep and had my baby before lunch. It was pretty amazing.


Would I change how I approached my next birth (if there is one – don’t bring this up with my husband!)?


Absolutely.


I would do the work to give myself the best chance of having an empowered birth experience. I’d hire a doula because I know the value of having someone there to remind us of our wishes and advocate for ourselves. I know the value of having someone support my partner (God knows I’m in no position to provide emotional support). The massages, foot rubs, fanning, and words of strength and encouragement don’t hurt either.


In short, I’d plan for a birth experience where I felt respected, supported and empowered. What better way to bring a baby into this world.



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