Going Against the Grain: Labor and Delivery

by Alissa on November 11, 2010

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I wrote here about the struggles that arise when your parents disagree with your parenting.  The feedback was overwhelming and I have decided to share my own story of going against the grain and my path to attachment parenting.  I do this in the hopes that you will take a few minutes to share your stories about overcoming prejudice, digging deep to make wise decisions, and sometimes defending those decisions.  In a world where many moms and dads (including me) live far away from most of their extended family, in a world where attachment parenting seems radical, stories and advice from people like you are what inspired me, encouraged me, and ultimately kept me from pulling all my hair out.  Let’s collect stories and be a tribe of support and encouragement to one another.  (Here is my story of going against the grain during pregnancy.)

Can I just get something of my chest?  Going through Labor and Delivery is not the same as going through brain surgery!  For brain surgery you need anesthesia, an operating room, IV’s, and monitors.  You also need to schedule brain surgery in advance.  You do not need anesthesia for Labor and Delivery.  You do not need to be in an operating room for Labor and Delivery.  You do not need to be hooked up to IV’s and monitors for Labor and Delivery.  You do not need to schedule your Labor and Delivery.

Sure, sometimes women make more medicalized choices.  I know several Attachment Parenting moms who hate Fetal Heart Rate Monitors and only have periodic monitoring or none at all.  I also know Attachment Parenting moms who feel confident knowing (via Fetal Heart Rate Monitors) that baby is doing great and they can just focus on laboring.  Women choose hospital births. (I did!)  Women choose homebirth.  Sure, sometimes interventions are necessary.  Inductions (like mine) save mothers and babies from the real risks of eclampsia.  Babies lives are literally saved through C-sections.  But all these interventions that are necessary for everyone facing brain surgery are not necessary for everyone who is in labor.

My extended family and friends have had a hard time grasping this concept.  People thought I was “radical,” “liberal,” even “putting my unborn son in danger” because of my decisions regarding Labor and Delivery.  Many people are raised viewing childbirth as a medical event.  Many people don’t question something their doctor says is safe.

I was pretty open about my plans and hopes for my labor and delivery.  People questioned me, thought I was crazy, didn’t understand.  My mom (while I was 8 centimeters dilated and panting through a contraction) raised a fuss because I had chosen to stay in a skirt and tank top instead of put on a hospital gown.  So just imagine how she reacted when I was considering a homebirth!

The thing that frustrates me the most are uneducated comments.  I can deal with sincere curiosity, incredulity, even open disagreement or the inevitable “Well what if…” questions.  But when people just repeat something they’ve heard or learned from a TV show… I find it difficult to stay calm and not let their comments get to me.

How do you walk the line between respectfully educating someone and just letting a lost cause go?

The best advice I received regarding Labor and Delivery came as a question from my husband: “Doesn’t making a birth plan set you up to be disappointed?”  My husband and I did make a birth plan together.  We researched, talked, argued, agreed, and disagreed.  In the end we had a learned a lot about our choices and possible challenges we might face and how we would face them.  And then we threw that birth plan away.  No really, I didn’t even save a copy of it on my laptop.

This choice has earned me some weird looks even among my Attachment Parenting friends, but going into Labor and Delivery without a specific plan is awesome!  I ended up having a completely different birth than I had expected, but I was able to go with the flow and make educated decisions along the way.  (If you’re a birth story junkie like me you can read my long and detailed story of my son’s arrival here).

Did you do anything against the grain with your labor and delivery?  How did you deal with comments and worries from family and friends?  Do you try to educate people about childbirth choices or do you just let it go?  Did you have a birth plan?  Share your stories in the comments!

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Alissa (15 Posts)

Alissa writes at A New History where she blogs about the challenge of authentic living with her husband, Levi and her almost two year old son, Solomon.


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Carla November 11, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Ask most L&D nurses about a birth plan and the honest ones will tell you to forget it. Don’t even bring it to the hospital. If you walk in with a birth plan, you are almost certain to leave with a birth that does not meet you expectations. When I was working in L&D this happened over and over and over. I think women fail to realize that a birth has many many variables. If you are well educated as to the possibilities and then leave your mind and soul open to see how labour and delivery goes for you, the experience is a much more fulfilling one, despite what may or may not happen.

Kudos to you for going in with an open mind and coming out with what you wanted!

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Lorette Lavine November 13, 2010 at 9:18 pm

As a former L & D nurse I totally agree with your comment here.
Education is great…but certainly keeping an open mind will get you through even the most difficult of labors with much more ease.
I have attended many labors and deliveries …they are all individually different as they should be.
I had no birth plan 29 and 30 years ago when my girls were delivered. One was a failed epidural delivery with me screaming through a low forcep delivery due to cardiac complications of mine. The other was an emergency c-section for a transverse lie…my daughter had a 1 and 3 apgar score and needed resucitation. Fortuantely we were in the right place at the right time and all was well. None of this was how I thought my delivery would be but I did not have a plan as I knew better from my nursing experience.
Thank you for the discussion.

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Kate November 12, 2010 at 8:35 am

The idea of throwing away the birth plan is really great! I wish I had done that with my daughter…we took the Bradley Method class, and so had a very detailed birth plan. Then I ended up with an emergency c-section under general anesthesia (seriously….it was like an episode of Grey’s anatomy…). Next time around I will take a cue from you and make a birth plan, know my options, but I will keep an open mind and heart going in. Thank you for the reminder.

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Caryl November 12, 2010 at 10:34 pm

I had a ‘just-in-case’ birth plan, meaning ‘just-in-case’ I controlled the universe, these were the things that would happen. So opposite of what did happen LOL My hubby and I decided we would just go with the flow, and do whatever needed to be done. I ended up with a nightmare of back labor, wanted and received medications to ease that pain,, so not part of the birth plan LOL My MIL did not respect boundaries, and within hours of delivering I had to get ugly with her regarding our plans for visitors, etc. Totally sucked the joy out of my day.

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katherine November 12, 2010 at 11:14 pm

We planned a homebirth. I wasn’t sure my mom would be on board, so we avoided telling her until late in the pregnancy. I was worried she would show up at our house and either be stressed or stress me out, so we didn’t tell her when I went into labor; instead we surprised her with the news after our daughter arrived. I told all my friends and coworkers our plan for a drug free water birth at home, and most thought I was nuts and asked lots of “what ifs” about emergencies that could arise. I also worked until the day I went into labor which my coworkers thought was crazy. At my shower a few weeks before the baby was due, my friends all started discussing their labors and their favorite drugs. All agreed they would NEVER do it without an epidural. Many people told me I would change my mind about a natural delivery because I just didn’t know what I was in for. Most of the time I just let it go, especially with my friends; they were all done having kids, so it’s not like convincing them would make a difference, and I figured doing it would prove what was possible more than my “inexperienced” opinion. We didn’t have an official birth plan, but I hoped to deliver in a birth pool at home. I was also open to a hospital transfer if necessary or whatever else it would take to safely deliver my baby. In the end, we did have to transfer to the hospital because when my water broke there was meconium in it; however, there were no interventions required, no drugs, and we left the hospital the same day as early as they would let us. :) I was in labor for 27 hours from start to finish (one hour at the hospital before she was born). Labor was long, but it was manageable. At no time did I long for drugs or think I couldn’t do it. And I’ll do it again one day for the next one, but hopefully be able to use the birth pool for the birth! (and hopefully a little quicker!)

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mstmompj November 13, 2010 at 7:19 am

For my last child (#4, a birth center birth after 3 planned homebirths) I had a birth plan with plans A (perfectly normal), B (in case of transport to hospital), & C (in case of need for surgical delivery) due to my age (40) and medical history between babies #3 and #4. It was helpful for my husband and I to work through the “what ifs” of various contingencies so that if we were asked about something, we would know what we wanted to answer. As it turned out, the birth itself was completely uncomplicated but baby needed to transport an hour later due to rare breathing complications (persistence of fetal circulation/PPHN)–and per the birth plan dh accompanied baby during transport. But with the homebirths I didn’t need a birth plan since the home midwifery choice *was* the birth plan.

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Leslie November 27, 2010 at 4:26 pm

For my first I had a detailed birth plan that fell through when my family portion of my support system was not prepared to support a natural labor and delivery at a birth center. It was a first experience with natural labor for all of my family members, especially my husband.
This time i decided to pick the three most important things to me for labor and delivery. I figure that there is less room for disappointment and more room for celebration of the newest member of the family.

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Courtney November 29, 2010 at 7:18 am

I had a birth plan for both children and while I didn’t throw it out the window I didn’t take it with me to delivery. With my first everyone around me thought I was nuts for not wanting the epidural and what not. I simply told them I was going to see what happened and try not to have one since it can have lasting side effects. Well I took my birth plan into talk with my midwife at an early appointment and used it simply as a bullet list to remind me what I wanted to discuss. The midwife didn’t ask for a copy, but did take notes of what I wanted and didn’t want. My son was breech 11 days before his due date and I had an appointment to turn him the next with the midwife. Well he turned just before dinner 11 days before EDD and my water broke at 5 am 10 days before EDD. I called the office as soon as they opened and since I wasn’t having contractions of any noticeable amount yet they said to take a shower and eat and come in at my 9 am appointment. The midwife asked if I still wanted a natural birth and when I said yes of course she did no internal exam, but did use a little paper to cnfirm it was fluid not pee. She then told me to go for a walk and come back in a few hours. I ended up giving birth with the only intervention being an internal monitor because my son’s heart rate was dropping and not coming back up during pushing. I could have refused, but we made the decision it was worth the risk. He ended up with his cord wrapped 3 times and it was short. Even after being unwrapped he barely reached my breast with it attached.

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Victoria November 30, 2010 at 3:30 pm

I spend a good amount of time and effort to not have a c-section. I studied my hypnobirthing quite regularly, talked with my husband all the time about our desire to have a medication free delivery, and I even hired a doula to help me since I was in the hospital and wanted that 24/7 support the nursing staff would not be able to help me with. So needless to say when I “gave up” and asked for an epidural my birth plan went out the window and next thing I know I end up with a c-section. My family had fought me all the way about my decision and not understanding why I thought a medication free delivery was beneficial to me or my baby. To my surprise even after my c-section they still teased about what a waste of time my early efforts to avoid a c-section were when ultimately that is where I ended up. It made recovery a lot harder that it should have been since I was already disappointed in myself. My next birth plan will be to not include my friends and family in my birth plan.

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