Sunday, December 18, 2011
Changing the plan: From Unassisted to Hospital Birth?
Each of my childrens' births were unique -- I was completely alone for Kyle's birth; Jason II was posterior and his birth was extremely painful; Logan came so fast we only had time to half-fill the pool -- but for all three I had regular professional prenatal care and planned unassisted waterbirths. Despite my birthplans being unconventional and taboo, I knew I was making the right choice for each of my births (you can read more about why Here.)
In the three years since Logan's birth I've grown more as a woman, mother, wife and spiritual being than ever before. I'm more connected, more aware and more in touch with my intuition. I'm more experienced and more confident and everything seems to be in my favor to plan another beautiful, private birth at home.
When I found out I was pregnant again, I felt I was ready to take a less clinical approach; I planned to do my own prenatal care and I looked forward to my first pregnancy with no ultrasounds. This time, I'd rely on my intuition and my connection to my baby for information.
But the thing is, being intuitive doesn't mean things are going to go your way. You're bound to the same reality, even if you're able to sense more of it.
From very early in this pregnancy I found myself imagining giving birth in the hospital. Something also felt clearly different this time. Around 8 weeks I became confident I was carrying twins and it all made sense. Even though I know that twins can be safely born unassisted, it didn't feel right for these babies. In a bit of a panic, I started looking at what my hospital birth options would be. We decided on an ultrasound to confirm the intuitive feeling that we were expecting twins, and to learn what type of twins (identical twins sharing an amniotic sac face considerably higher risks during birth and also throughout pregnancy.) The ultrasound showed twins, but only one surviving (vanishing twin syndrome) so the pregnancy would continue as a singleton. My feelings again became confusing. The feeling that something was different didn't go away and I started to question whether there was some problem with the surviving fetus. Then, I started to wonder if the ultrasound was wrong and both babies were in fact healthy. But after about a month (I'm guessing this is how long it took for my body to level out hormones, absorb the remains of the second fetus, and accept the loss,) the sense that I was carrying two babies melted away -- I can only describe it as feeling less pregnant -- and for a brief time, I felt very much like I had during my other pregnancies.
I had mixed feelings about getting a second ultrasound, still having high hopes for an independent pregnancy, but it helped me feel closure to see that one growing baby and I really did fall deeper in love when I saw her (no, the sex is not confirmed, I'm just speaking with my guess in mind) kicking and wiggling and sucking her thumb. I was on the fence about continuing prenatal care with the midwives now that everything is back to 'normal,' and I started thinking about another unassisted birth, though the thoughts of birthing in the hospital never fully went away.
Then, I started re-examining a few of the increased risks faced by survivors of vanishing twin syndrome... None of them were particularly concerning to me, especially since the loss was so early, but I noticed something: I was looking for something to be wrong. I was grasping for a reason to birth in the hospital this time. I've never fixated on hospital birth before. This feeling was demanding my attention.
As I shared my thought process with some of my online networks, the feeling became stronger -- in much the same way the twin feeling had grown very intense after I began to put it to words. I don't have a clear sense of something being wrong, I don't feel like I need to be in the hospital "just in case," I don't even feel entirely safe or comfortable going. But the feeling is very clear: "You will birth in the hospital. Prepare for it."
Trusting this feeling is scary for several reasons. It's inconvenient, new, out of my comfort zone. It means traveling to the hospital, riding in a car during labor, deciding when to leave, what to bring, where to take the kids. It means trusting other people to be in my birth space -- trusting other people with my newborn baby. But the scariest thing about trusting this feeling is that it means trusting that something will most likely go wrong and I don't have any idea what that will be other than that me or my baby will likely need urgent medical help or lifesaving technology.
I have to leave a little space in my heart for the possibility that everything will unfold perfectly and we'll just stay home, but I've let go of my ideals for this birth and I'll pack a bag for the hospital well in advance. It's going to happen how it needs to and I'll understand more as the pregnancy progresses. I've committed to prenatal care with the midwives, and probably a third ultrasound. If something is wrong, having every possible bit of information (including the 20 week scan) could prove valuable. I expect to spend most of my prenatal appointments discussing (very possibly negotiating) how I can maintain a self-directed birth in the hospital setting. I know this process is far from over...