On Friday I went to my OB for my regular check up.
Unlike my first birth, where my husband anxiously held my hand each month in the waiting room and smiled excitedly when the thumping of the baby’s heartbeat came over the sonogram speakers, eight months into this birth and he has attended only a smattering of check-ups. The reason? I usually don’t tell him about them. Why have him leave work and trek across town to witness a 10-minute check of my vitals and weight gain?
So maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised when my doctor chastised me for failing to book a tour of the new hospital the practice had recently moved to. Or realizing that at 32 weeks, it was now time I see her twice a month. Her actual words: “You are in denial that this baby is coming.”
Was that true? It threw me for a loop that I am still trying to unravel.
Since learning I escaped the diabetes that plagued me during my last pregnancy—aside from the insulin shots and water retention, it resulted in an induction and C-section—I assumed this time around I would try for a VBAC. That is, as soon as labor began, I would get an epidural and try and have a medicated vaginal birth.
But last Friday, my doctor shattered my idyll. It was imperative–“you must must must”–hire a doula, she said. The doula, or birthing coach, was critical because for the best chance of a VBAC, she wanted me to hold off on the epidural as long as possible. At least until I was five centimeters dialated. Maybe the whole time.
I am eight weeks from my due date and I now need to give up on the idea of medication. Because, as one of the doulas I’ve frantically been interviewing told me, “If you go into labor knowing you can have an epidural at 5 cm, it will be a lot harder to get past 2 cm without the help. Better to think it gone.”
I have been down this path before. Before the birth of my daughter two years ago, I took an intensive birthing class focused on natural childbirth. I read Ina Mae Gaskin. And when I learned I had diabetes and was told I was now high-risk, I longed for the births some of my friends were attempting with just the help of a midwife.
Why start down this emotional path once again? Why hope for, or possibly glorify, an unmedicated birth? While my C-section was not a walk in the park, my daughter was born beautiful and healthy, and I had moved past my sadness over never having experienced a contraction.
But as another doula reasoned with me: “It’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.”
Is that really true? Especially when the real goal is a healthy baby? The whole idea of a “birth plan” is a misnomer–hardly any woman I know has ended up with the birth plan they had been coached to create–so why even go through this mental gymnastics?
For me, not only must I wrap my head around the impending birth of my son–thank you DVR for the back episodes of Pregnant in Heels that I have heretofore neglected to watch–but I must psyche myself up for labor pains in order to have a successful VBAC.
So here I am, pushing aside work to interview doulas, staying up until 3 a.m. contemplating my pain threshold, finally getting around to buying that double stroller.
And while I love my husband, who religiously makes it home by 6:30 each night for her bedtime routine despite a grueling work schedule, for this journey, like so much having to do with birthing a baby, he is mostly relegated to the sidelines. Much of him still remains in denial and he often looks for guidance from me. I can see those flickers of annoyance he tries to suppress as I obsess over whether to have a safe word during labor or discuss the pros and cons of buying a birthing ball.
When did birth become so fraught with politics and peer pressure? Obviously the most important outcome is a healthy baby and mother. But in the meantime, I feel myself slipping into a vortex of confusion, pressure, and self-coaching. All for an outcome that I am not even married to.
For more pregnancy decisions, read about giving birth for the seventh time, how one mom went from epidurals to homebirth, and a grandmother who thinks that birth is the easy part.