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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
That's What She Said
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Friday
Apr182014

Charles In Charge: The Birth Story Part I

To say that giving birth naturally in my home is the greatest thing I've ever done and likely will ever do isn't really an exaggeration. Unless I lift a car off someone in the next couple decades or otherwise save a life in similar dramatic fashion, giving birth to Charlie in our living room is a highlight.

Not only was it miraculous because it brought me my son, the third love of my life, but it taught me a lot about what I'm capable of if I let go of fear, follow my heart and mind and allow my determination to lead the way.

The decision to give birth at home wasn't conscious, it was the result of all I have learned over the past several years (while writing for a major parenting website) and, once pregnant, just seemed like the obvious course of action. I had, of course, watched The Business of Being Born and studied articles like this one in the NY Times called American Way of Birth, Costliest in the World, but out of all that what sticks in my mind the most is a small incident that occurred when I was giving birth to Violet.

There I was, lying on my back, legs spread to the high heavens that surely exist above LDS hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah when the door to my room whipped open and a janitor strode in, looked directly at my, uh, blossoming flower, grabbed the trash basket, dumped it into the larger bin on the janitor cart, put it back on the floor and exited the room.

Oh, hi, janitor. This is my vagina. Vagina, that's the janitor.

It's not a huge deal. Especially when one is in the throes of transition and attempting to push a human from one's lady business. But the situation, to me, is indicative of what giving birth in a hospital is like. Although both our first two children were born in hospitals and we very much enjoyed the experiences, I tend to think it's because we didn't really know better. The janitor crashing my daughter's birth is a small example of the larger problem I see with hospital births. Giving birth didn't feel sacred or respected, as every childbirth should, I felt like cattle. Ushered from one high price room to the next, a fleet of nurses poking and prodding me at all hours, laughing at my shy desire to attempt to give birth without an epidural. "Nobody wins a medal for a natural childbirth, honey."

I was not in control of the greatest moments of my life. I was at the mercy of strangers who were at the mercy of ridiculous hospital policies created to avoid a society that has become insanely litigious. And a lot of the things they end up forcing on you aren't even policies, just standard procedures that you can turn down, you just don't know you can.

You have to be strapped to all this equipment at all times!

You don't. Intermittent monitoring is just as effective and with all the monitoring you're forced to lie down and stay pretty still which means all you can really focus on is your contractions. I gotta move around, baby!

You must not eat anything but ice chips or popsicles!

Total bullshit. Want a sandwich? Eat a fucking sandwich. You wouldn't tell someone to run a marathon but skip breakfast, would you? Yeah, there is some concern that if you need a c-section you could aspirate on vomit after being intubated but as Medical News Today notes, in modern obstetric practice most doctors are using regional anesthesia as opposed to general anesthesia thereby avoiding intubation and the risk of aspiration. Bottom line? Eat those Doritos if they get you through the next two contractions, sister friend.

Get on your back to give birth and then push until the veins in your face explode and paint the walls in blood and even then they'll all still be screaming PUUUUSH at you.

Giving birth on your back is solely for the benefit of the doctor. It's the best position for him to get up in there. However, lying on your back not only reduces the size of the pelvis significantly, but it puts pressure on the vena cava, which reduces blood flow to the baby and your lower body. So, unless this position feels best to you, do your own thing, sister. Squat, on all fours, whatever rocks your world. I gave birth on my side and back, kind of like I was sliding into home plate.

We're going to tell you when to push because we know better than you!

There is a video of me giving birth to Henry that shows me pushing so hard at the behest of a doctor and nurses you think my head is going to pop off my neck and explode, cartoon-style. So unnecessary! Newsflash! Your body knows what it's doing! Just like when you avail yourself of the facilities after a large dinner, you'll know when to push! In fact, pushing so hard can make you tear more and is just generally not a good idea, even according to the World Health Organization which also, by the way, agrees with me about restricting food during labor and also calls constant electronic fetal monitoring a "practice which is frequently used inappropriately."

Wake up! I need to take your vitals!

More hospital policy crap. For the love of Christ, lady! I just gave birth and I'll be going home with a fussy newborn soon, LET ME SLEEP.

Here is a $50 Ibuprofin for your pain.

Seriously. Read this article. It will blow your mind.

You're NOT going to breastfeed? Shouldn't you at least try, for your baby's sake?

I've written about this enough on Babble so I'm not going to go into it here. Yeah, "breast is best" until it isn't. And for many women, it isn't. If it isn't best for mom it isn't best for baby, The End. Stop bullying and respect every new mother's choice.

All of the above, coupled with the fact that, after two induced labors and subsequent epidurals, I had an overwhelming desire to experience going into labor and childbirth naturally as millions of women before me have, I determined that a midwife and a home birth was the way forward.

Reader Comments (13)

I usually dismiss childbirth posts. A lot of times, these types of blogs are self righteous and feel like another way to oppress women. Not this. This was so unique and actually informative. Well said!

I'll still give birth in a hospital and I'll still have my epidural. I call it natural because the baby is still exiting my body through my... Well, ya know. Haha! But those are just my preferences because of my medical history. Anyways, I still love everything about this. I will definitely eat my damn snickers the next time.

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAudrey

I had my first in a hospital and it was not the best experience...I believe my labor was delayed significantly by a too late, too strong epidural. I still had my second in the hospital but he came so fast (we called my sister to come over to watch the big at 7:20, I had him in the hospital at 8:18), there was no time for them to manage me. Other than telling me not to push (which yeah right doctors, don't push while every fiber of your being is telling you to do so...I think I actually screamed at them "you have got to be f*cking kidding me") while I was in the hallway going from the triage room to the delivery room. The recovery from my second was SO MUCH BETTER than my first, it's not even comparable. I had stitches both times but something about a prolonged epidural labor was really much harder on my body than the quick natural delivery.

I'm so glad it was a good experience for you. I would have liked a home delivery but no way would the husband agree to it...he would be too worried about the what-ifs.

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjen

Monica, You're a good person. I love your little video. Be well.

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterrenee

I'm with Audrey- this was a great post on the topic of childbirth with no agenda and new information. Well done! And while THIS sister won't be having any more bambinos, I'm certainly going to be sharing this great information with the next generation of mommas to be that I know.

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMona

ive given birth twice. both in the hospital with a midwife. the first was of course scary and i was glad i was in the hospital. the second was horrible, the doctor who was i swear an impatient 12 year old that just wanted to go home since she was at work too long....told me i could push at 8cm, put the iv in wrong (luckily we had a watchful nurse).....oh i could go on.....

anywhoo....i plan on never giving birth again, but if i do it will be at a birthing center with caring midwives.

im always glad to see an update on your blog. i'm pretty sure we would be best friends if we lived in the same neighborhood. :)

April 19, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterrach

I am surprised by your delivery of Violet and Henry. But glad you had the delivery you wanted with Charlie. I had my first (in a local hospital in the UK) 19 years ago while standing up - well actually bent over an open window, and not one midwife or Doctor gave a toss so long as I had a soft blanket on the floor between my legs that was all that mattered. There was only one comment from the midwife who said 'Are you comfy? Can you hold on for 5 while I run and get my cardigan?' ... Well it was October

April 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSaffron

It sounds like it went exactly as you wanted it to, which is absolutely great, of course it is. My huge overwhelming issue with these sorts of births where ideas of ''sacred'' and '' I want'' are at the top of the list is that it's all fine and great... until it isn't, until you're racing to the nearest hospital with a blue, brain-damaged baby, or bleeding to death in your living room, your toddlers standing there watching. In your case as in most cases, happily, it went well. You've delivered naturally and normally twice before, so the odds were great that it would be fine, and it was.

The trouble with statistics is that it only has to be you who is the statistical anomaly just the once. I know, I know, terrible things can happen in hospitals (NHS I'm looking at you), but it just seems safer to be where the emergency care and ICU and paediatricians and all those good folk actually are located. Maybe it's because I needed an emergency C-section with my first, after a totally smooth, easy pregnancy, apparently out of the blue. Maybe that's what's shaped my thinking, or maybe it's the friend whose baby is now severely CP because of a botched home delivery. It's hard to know. I suppose we all have to make our choices according to our own priorities and then let the chips fall where they may.

April 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline

I am not very fond of birth stories as I am really scared. I am expecting in couple of months so I gave a though to read it and you did a fab job describing your experience.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteramber la

I think the problem with hospital births is largely an American problem. In Australia it is nothing like you suggested above.
The hospital I was in has birthing suites with big spa baths, fabulous double head showers, birthing balls, ipod docking stations, food brought to you, fridges to put your own food in, a big reclining chair for dad to sit and rest in.
You're encouraged to bring in whatever you want in terms of music, essential oils, food, massage aides, support people.
You are discouraged from lying on your back.
You're only monitored periodically....I didn't have my first VE until i'd been going for 12 hours.
The epidural rate is only 30% and there isn't an on site anaesthetist....the Dr on-call gets called in if needed.

But the best part is that if things start going wrong after 24 hours as they did for me and you end of needing an emergency caesarean you have top notch medical staff and equipment there ready to go when needed.

April 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Great job on standing up for what you want and how you want things done. Although I may not be as courageous as you are, I admire your strength. I agree on almost, if not all, that you said. It is ultimately a woman's choice to deliver her baby in a certain way. I enjoy your blog a lot! Thanks for the good read!

April 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGrace Powell

Monica... I read your love story a couple years ago and related with you in so many ways, especially your understanding of Utah and Mormon culture. I am finally ready to have children and I get plenty of opinions on how it should all go down. I'm pretty much going to take your word for it as I respect your opinion and honesty. Wish me luck! Congrats again on your sweet new baby.

May 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBreanne from utah

This is a great post. I think hospitals vary a ton too. I was induced but was allowed to eat throughout labor and requested and was lucky to get remote monitoring equipment so I didn't have to lie down and was free to move around. I would definitely recommend that to anyone who needs to be induced.

May 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIsabelle

Great story Monica and congrats for your new born. Looking for next part.

May 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

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