Through my journey of becoming more health conscious, I naturally did some research of becoming “cleaner” during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. While there is a lot of different advice out there (most of it very contradicting!), we are pretty much in control of what we eat and do during pregnancy and breastfeeding. This control however, disappears when it comes to childbirth.
In Luxembourg we are monitored during pregnancy a great deal more compared to other countries. We get an ultrasound every four weeks and during the last two months it’s every two weeks with an obstetrician. We get money back from the state if we attend all these controls, otherwise we have to pay for them ourselves.
Is all this monitoring really necessary? Probably not and for some women this can be very scary, but for others it can be reassuring. This depends on the person you are, I guess. I think there is a fine line between what a pregnant women needs to know and what she doesn’t need to know.
During my first pregnancy I wasn’t given much information from my doctor and I never worried about the wellbeing of my baby. This time I have a new doctor and he shares a bit too much of his thoughts and I have worried a lot more.
However, no matter how much we are monitored, nobody holds you accountable for your unhealthy diet or lifestyle, although many studies have shown that poor diet during pregnancy can greatly affect the health of your child when he grows up. The same holds true during breastfeeding and what you feed your child later.
During childbirth though, everything is checked and controlled. My first birth did not go as I had imagined. Although it is hard to imagine something you have no idea what feels like, I did not expect this.
I was told during all our preparations that the midwives would encourage you to go as far as you can without any medical interventions, and the birth should be as natural as possible. Now, this was not the case for me.
Contractions started at home, but I had no idea if this was the real thing or just practice contractions, as it was quite early before my due date. We called the hospital to get advice – big mistake! They said we should come in and we did.
I was expecting them to tell me “yes, labour has started, now go home and do the work and come back when it becomes unbearable”. The midwife did not say this. Instead, she let me walk around a little (I was only 1 cm open) and after a few hours (when I was 3 cm) she encouraged me to get an epidural. Anyone with good knowledge about childbirth knows that opening 1 cm an hour is pretty good! She should have let nature takes its course!
But I trusted her, so I said yes. After all, she is the professional. This was a big mistake. Here after I am not allowed to drink or eat or walk. I have to lie down and basically wait for baby to come. Obviously, the baby had no way to move downwards because I couldn’t move around and let nature do its work. Luckily, I had a very experienced doctor and it ended with a vacuum suction to get baby out. I am convinced that if I had had another doctor, it would have ended in a C-section.
I once heard a story that the reason women give birth lying down is because some 300 years ago a French King (1) wanted to be present at the birth of his child and since he was King he could do whatever he wanted. For a better view his Queen was asked to lie down. Now, because the King and Queen did it like this, everyone else was doing it like this too. This position is also a lot more convenient for doctors and midwives, so they can see what is going on, but really bad for natural childbirth. The baby needs the help of gravity to find its way out, so why should we lie down? Makes no sense.
I was very depressed after this experience. All I was told before birth was that women have done this for millions of years and your body is made for it, so therefore it will go smoothly. Well, it didn’t and I swore that next time would be different.
This time we signed up for HypnoBirthing classes in hopes of learning something new about childbirth. They have been amazing. We are taught why childbirth is so painful and it basically boils down to fear! Control your fear and you control your pain. So we learn techniques to relax and to not be afraid. I love this and it really makes you feel close to nature!
The most surprising thing we have to learn is to be our own advocates. How to verbalise our wishes throughout childbirth to the midwives and doctors. If midwife suggests an epidural, but you are not sure, we learn how to be strong enough to say NO!
Isn’t that horrifying? We have to fight to have the childbirth we want, even if childbirth is supposed to be the most natural thing out there! It should be the other way around, no? That we have to fight to get pain medication?
The advice we received is to stay at home as long as possible and only come in when I think baby is just about to come. This is basically to avoid being influenced my midwives and doctors. As soon as you come in to the hospital they will start to take over control and having the natural childbirth you wish for gets harder. Unless you have a very strong partner who can be your advocate! You are busy with contractions and have no more energy to also fight with the staff.
This is not the idea I had of midwives as I thought they would always be on the mother’s side – it is after all her doing the hard work! I am sure not all midwives are like the ones we have experienced and maybe if you are out there, you must speak louder so we can hear you!
Until a couple of weeks ago we were convinced I would have this natural childbirth I was dreaming of, of course with the possibility to take the epidural in case I need it. But…
At a check up I found out that my baby is breech! At 34 weeks, my baby was breech! My doctor immediately started to talk about C-section! I was devastated. NO! This is not what I wanted. He said that there was nothing I could do about it and I could only wait and see if baby would turn by himself. However, this is unlikely because there is so little room for him to do so at this point. He might have said some other things, but this is what I heard.
Now what should I do? Naturally I went home to Google and needless to say Google had a lot of advice and suggestions on what to do. I tried some of them and found a few that made sense to me.
At our next appointment, a week later, baby had actually turned 90 degrees and is now lying transverse, from side to side. This was very good news to me and to my doctor as well – who now hopefully understands that I want to have as natural a childbirth as possible. Chances are baby will turn further the next couple of weeks! What a relief! We are back on track! I hope!
Please don’t get me wrong, I think medical intervention can be life saving in some circumstances and should not be underestimated. Some women need a C-section and I am grateful for them that this is a possibility. However, the C-section rate in Luxembourg (30%, 2) is more than double the acceptable rate as established by the WHO (3). This indicates that unnecessary surgeries are done for the wrong reasons. Women need to be empowered so they have the confidence to make choices that are right for them. For me personally it would be a complete failure to not be able to at least try to deliver naturally. If complications occur and a C-section is necessary, then thats that.
Here is my message to all women! We need to take back control! We go through 9 months of pregnancy and we have to endure the agonising pain of childbirth – we should be in control of what happens to us! And remember: Where the mind goes is where the body goes! So believe and trust in your body and speak up and demand what you want!
Phew, I feel better. The feminist in me has spoken!
Lastly, to all my fellow natural childbirth believers, please help me pray to the birthing Gods that my baby will turn head down by the time he is ready to come out, so I can have the natural birth I want! Thank you!
What are your birthing stories? Was there a time when you had to take back control?