On birth

June 15, 2006 | 9 comments

First of all, thanks for all the comments to my post about my little pregnancy issues. I feel much better about everything now, in part thanks to your comments and support. I think a lot of it was that I was just frustrated and exhausted the day I wrote that. I’m still limping and in pain but I’m kind of used to it now, and I’ve come to realize how utterly inconsequential it is compared to the honor of being able to participate in the creation of a new life.

And now for something that’s on my mind that is also inconsequential in the grand scheme of things but won’t seem that way for about ten hours in late July: birth.

I’m not looking forward to the actual giving birth process, and it bums me out since I’d like to have nothing but joy in my heart when I think of the day I’ll meet my daughter for the first time. I wouldn’t say I’m dreading it, but my blood pressure does go up a bit when I think about it, and I wanted to see if any of you clever people have any thoughts that might help me. Here’s the situation:

The Plan
Unless any unforeseen complications arise, I’m delivering my daughter at the same birthing center where I had my son. They have no pain medication there. It’s basically the same thing as doing a home birth, just at someone else’s place.

I’m pretty committed to natural childbirth in theory, but I can’t say that my labor with my son is one of my favorite memories. In fact, it sucked. I didn’t click with the midwife on call and my son was compound presentation, meaning he had his fist balled up on the side of his head. They say that you won’t experience more pain than you can handle, but I disagree with that. I could not handle the pain. I was literally going out of my mind, speaking in tongues and crazy stuff like that. The day before I went into labor I had seen a documentary about that hiker who had to cut off his own arm with a dull knife, breaking his own bone and all. When I was in labor I actually let out a little grunt/laugh at what an easy walk in the park that would be compared to what I was feeling.

“So why don’t you just go to a hospital and get an epidural this time?”
A few reasons. A big one being that, as small business owners, we don’t have insurance that covers maternity. The total cost for all my prenatal visits, the birth, and six weeks of post-partum care at the birthing center is around $3, 500. Doing all that throught the doctor/hospital route would add up to at least $12, 000, maybe more.

But, honestly, I doubt I’d go to a hospital even if we had insurance that would cover it. The doctors around here recently banned midwives from having hospital privileges, so there’s no in-between: you go the traditional hospital birth-as-a-medical-emergency route or you give birth outside of a hospital. That’s it. And since I don’t believe that uncomplicated birth requires much intervention and I don’t want to be bossed around and have my baby treated like she’s the hospital’s property unless there’s an emergency, I don’t think that going to a hospital is really a fit for my personality anyway. I’d like the epidural but don’t want all the B.S. that goes along with it.

(I should note that my research has led me to conclude that giving birth at the birthing center is as safe as giving birth at a hospital. Obviously issues with hospital procedures or money would be no object if the safety of my child were at stake.)

“What about a doula?”
I’m going to look into getting a doula (a woman who attends the birth to give the mother emotional support). But, frankly, I’m skeptical that it would help that much. Also, most of the doulas around here are the spiritually liberal, earth-goddess, pagan types, which isn’t what I’m looking for.

I do need to call the mother of five and Catholic doula who I met that amazing day I stumbled into Mass on a Tuesday. Why I have not done so yet is a mystery that can only be explained by my laziness and utter awkwardness on the phone.

So where does this leave me?
In theory I am committed to natural childbirth outside of a hospital setting for this pregnancy since it’s a normal pregnancy and I’m healthy. But I struggle with the pain issue. I hate to think of going through that kind of pain again, but do I hate it enough to deal with a hospital and pay $12, 000? It’s a close call, but I don’t think so.

Things that might help
I do have some ideas about things that might make the birth go better this time. First of all, I was still an atheist when my son was born. It never even occurred to me to pray or ask for God’s assistance with the birth. Of course I will not make that mistake again.

Also, I had a real exhaustion issue last time. My labor started at midnight and, as a nightowl, I had not gone to bed for the night. By the time my son was born around 7pm the next evening I had been awake for about 36 hours straight. And considering that the hardest work of labor is pushing, which is at the very end, and pushing was particularly difficult with him being compound presentation, it’s really a wonder that I had the energy to do it at all. Surely this time I’ll be better rested for the birth.

Another thing is that I didn’t click with the midwife who was on call. She was a tense person and seemed really stressed from the moment I walked into the room. It made me feel tense and stressed as well. She’s no longer at the birthing center and I like all but one of the midwives who are there now, so hopefully that won’t be an issue again. Also, since it’s my second birth I won’t feel as dependent on the midwife for encouragement.

And, please God, hopefully this baby won’t be compound presentation.

What do you think?
So, do any of you have any advice or thoughts from me? I’m interested in all opinions, even if you haven’t given birth yourself.


  1. SteveG

    OK, I am a dad here so fall into that ‘haven’t given birth’ category you ID at the end. But you asked for it, and I’ve never been one to hold my tongue. 😉

    You already likely know this, but remember that every birth is different. The experience you had last time with regard to both intensity, and complication doesn’t necessarily imply anything regarding this one.

    Second, births typically are MUCH shorter than first births. The length of the labor and pushing can make a huge difference in that exhaustion issue you identified.

    My wife’s first was only 1/2 as long as yours, but afterwards she literally collapsed from exhaustion when she tried to stand up. Second birth, only about 4 hours of active labor and pushing and the difference for her afterwards was like night and day. 3rd one, even shorter (1 and 1/2 hours active labor). She was tired and all, but you’d have never thought she had just delivered a baby. She actually left the hospital next day after a decent night’s sleep.

    Obviously, this is anecdotal and each delivery varies from woman to woman and birth to birth, but it does happen as I’ve laid it out in a good number of cases (the pattern at least if not the length of my speedster wife).

    Now the most useful thing I think I have to say. Regarding the Doula…

    We’ve never used one, but we had as close an experience to using one as I think exists when our third was born.

    The midwife on call was working with a midwife in training that day and we were OK with her being present and participating (as long as the mid-wife was in charge). This midwife in training was unbelievably supportive and helpful (as I imagine a doula would be).

    She and this particular midwife gave my wife attention like I’d not seen before (the first two midwives were fine, but this one and the midwife in training were exceptional). She was getting foot rubs, back rubs, and the kind of encouragement and support that I think only someone whose been through a lot of births could possibly give.

    Of course as her husband, I tried to be supportive, give back rubs, etc., but I am not ashamed to say compared to these two I was a total hack. I was in awe of the difference they made in the experience. I’d go so far as to say despite the pain, my wife would agree with me that they made the entire experience, well…..wonderful.

    If a doula typically gives the kind of above and beyond emotional and physical support that these wonderful women did, then I’d say they are worth their weight in gold and that they really CAN make a difference. I’d urge you to get on the horn and call that lady you met on that amazing day (somehow I just don’t think it was an accident that you met her).

  2. Ersza

    Yes, yes, yes! I remember seeing a Mel Gibson movie (don’t remember which), in which Mel is tortured by getting his fingers chopped off one by one. I think they maybe only did one or two fingers. I turned to my husband and said, “That’s just like my labor, except that Mel would need about 700 fingers.” Yes, I had approximately seven hundred contractions and most of them were in the 10/10 pain range–equivalent to the worst pain I’ve ever felt, aka breaking a bone. Some of the most insensitive, disrespectful comments I’ve received have been from women who have had easy, mildly painful or “uncomfortable” labors who assume that everyone gets the same thing. They don’t. I couldn’t handle the pain, either. I ended up with a case of PTSD from it.

    Regarding birth choices. Let’s be honest, here. Childbirth is not a time to cheap out. If you want an epidural, go to the hospital for your delivery. Why do you think the bill would be $10,000 for an uncomplicated vaginal birth? That sounds high to me. When my son was born (which was seven years ago, I’ll admit that), my uncomplicated vaginal delivery WITH epidural, plus a whole heap of morphine (thank you very much) was only $5000. A C-section would have been $20,000. Which, by the way, you have no choice in whether you get a C-section or not. If you need one they will put you in an ambulance and you will get a bill for $20,0000, and then you will ruefully laugh at yourself for being too cheap to kick in an extra couple thousand for a hospital birth.

    I’m really sorry that you don’t have health insurance, but I think cost is not a good thing to base your decision on. Yes, a second baby will probably be easier, but it’s still going to be no picnic. If it hurt before, it will hurt again. I agonized over this during my second pregnancy, not knowing whether I wanted to hire a doula, or beg for induction and epidural immediately (my labor ran three days with no breaks–we finally induced in the last fourteen hours) or try to get something to help me sleep at home or what. It’s ironic, but my miscarriage really helped me make that decision. I now know that if I do it again, I will ask for meds to help me sleep through the unbelievably painful early labor (the condition runs in the family and I know it will happen with pregnancy number three–my miscarriage was five days of contractions which I handled fine with vicodin).

    Sorry this is so long. You will get through this.

  3. Hannah

    Dear Jennifer,

    I’ve heard for a lot of women the subsequent births go much faster and easier. I’ll pray for you to have a safe and quick and (relatively as much as possible) pain-free delivery.


  4. Colleen

    I am an old worry wart but since you have some possible medical issues, wouldn’t a hospital birth be a safer choice?

    Could you call around and compare prices? I know that you are in an urban area (I think I know, that is) maybe a little comparison shopping is in order.

    I do not lightly suggest considering something that you can ill-afford. But I am also not a fan of suffering, if there is help available.

  5. Elena

    Jen, I’ve done the homebirth thing for money reasons too. I completely understand!! And frankly I disagree with your previous commenters in that if you are stressed about the money, going to the hospital is not necessarily going to make birth easier. Midwives are birth professionals and I concur that birthing centers are safe for low risk moms.

    All that said, I would go ahead and call that Catholic doula. Doulas are good about reminding you of ways to relax and work with your labor instead of against yourself. Working with your body will help you deal with the pain. My doula and my husband became a team and together they found places on my body where I was tensing during contractions, and helped me to relax those places.

    A tip I used through labor was to keep my jaw open and loose during a contraction. It is very difficult to tense up the vaginal area if your mouth is open and loose. Try it! Also try a deep low controlled moan during the contraction. Your doula and your husband can help remind you to keep the tone low and not let it get high and shrill. These are relaxation techniques that really helped me to open up, relax and let my cervix do its thing.

    You might want to read up or visit a hyponotherapist. I never did that but I know a woman that did and just the techniques she learned through that were very helpful.

    Steven G was correct. No two labors are the same. This little one will always be different from his/her brother!

    Just remember, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (something else I repeated through labor – the rosary is another.)

  6. majellamom

    I have to admit that I am TERRIFIED about having my second baby in November…In fact, I was terrified about having my daughter as well!

    I think that it is normal to be nervous and second-guessing yourself. If you did fine (relatively speaking)delivering at the birth center with your son, it makes sense to do the birth center again! Do they have any pain medicine options at all? The rural hospital that I was originally going to deliver my daughter at did not have anesthesia available at all, but could do some sort of pain killer in a shot form…

    Hospital births are important for high risk patients…but it doesn’t sound like you are high risk…just have more pregnancy discomforts than many people. I, unfortunately am high risk in my pregnancies and will be traveling over 3 hours to deliver in a big city hospital that takes in high risk patients from a 3 or 4 state region…fortunately, we do have very good insurance.

    If something were to go wrong at a birth center, they would send you on to the nearest hospital, and yes, it would be more expensive, but I don’t think you would be concerned about that (until the bills come in!) but just about your little girl. We have friends who had to be flight for lifed with their first child (it was the mom’s first airplane ride ever…) and didn’t have insurance…I am SURE they are still paying off those medical bills, but they have a healthy toddler now, and that is what is important…

    So pick up that phone (I know, I hate making phone calls myself) and call that wonderful Catholic doula (I’m so jealous! I am just hoping to be able to find a Christian doula of any variety!) and see if she can help you with the birth. Doulas can help with pain management, and basically hold your hand through the labor!

    You’ll be fine, and soon you’ll have that wonderful baby girl to hold!

  7. Jennifer

    E: the movie was Payback!

    James Coburn says one of my favorite lines: “You shot my alligator bags. That’s just MEAN.”


    This might sound weak, but my friend, who is a really sceptical scientist, has been raving about hypnobirthing. (I think she used the Bradley method.)

    She had a NIGHTMARE first birth, and an epidural that just went dead wrong (hit a nerve or something and she couldn’t walk for days after the birth)lots of puking and a baby that just wouldn’t come out.

    She used hypnobirthing and is raving about it.

    I don’t know a blessed thing about birthing no babies, miz jenny, but that’s just my 2 cents.

  8. Anonymous

    Ok, so I know I’m a bit late in posting this response, but I just wanted to add my 2 cents, for what they’re worth.

    I don’t know what to tell you about the financial aspect because only you know just how much it’s worth to you to have an epidural available should you need it.

    I’ve had six births (yes, I’m that same anonymous who had the b*lls to post that having a large family isn’t necessarily a source of joy to every fertile married woman out there *grin*), and I’ve never had one as miserable as yours sounds. I’ve been induced, I’ve had pitocin, I’ve had OBs, I’ve had midwives, I’ve had “natural” childbirths (not by choice—it was just too late for me to have anything, much to my dismay!), and I’ve had nubain for most of them. I’ve been in hot tubs to labor, I’ve labored in bed and all hooked up to monitors. I’ve labored standing, I’ve labored in the hospital, I’ve labored at home. I’ve experienced excruciated pain (the worst ever!!) when my cervix has gotten stuck (in two labors!), just a sliver over the baby’s head, and the doctor/midwife has had to flip it over the baby’s head manually. I’m just telling you all this to let you know I’ve been around the childbirth block a few times.

    I love giving birth. Yes, absolutely love it. And while we hope our family is complete at this time, I have to say that the thought of never giving birth again saddens me. Too bad newborns have to grow up *g*!!! Newborns are just unbelievably adorable. I’ve never had an epidural, and I’m glad I’ve been able to avoid it, but I’ve always said I would have one in a heartbeat if it meant the difference between 30 hours of hell and then misery and exhaustion after childbirth or having a joyful experience.

    My birth experiences have been absolutely amazing. Whether they were attended by a midwife or an OB, I’ve had fabulous experiences every single time. I could never sacrifice that for financial considerations, and if it took an epidural to give me that joy, I would take it in a heartbeat and make installments on it later. I’ve had pain in labor, but the nubain was always enough just to take the edge off so I was so frightened or out-of-control feeling. I personally think fear is a HUGE factor in how labor goes. I’ve had friends whose cervixes simply WOULD NOT dilate until that epidural kicked in, and I think it was the pain and fear that was causing their bodies to tense up so much.

    I do think hypnobirthing, doulas, and all sorts of other alternative ways of dealing with the pain and fear can be very helpful to some women. I personally have always been “hands off” in labor and don’t want people touching me or even talking to me too much. My midwives were always great at letting me pretty much labor the way I wanted to. My husband has been fabulous, too, and now that we’ve been through six births, he knows just to BE THERE for me.

    I can only share my own experiences and thoughts. Only you know what is best for you and your new arrival. It just saddens me to hear of traumatic birth stories because I wish every woman could have joyful experiences. I will send prayers your way that this one is very different for you!

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