As baby’s birth gets closer, I thought I’d share some of our plans for the birth along with some of the things we’ve been doing to prepare, things we’d like prayer for, as well as the fun stuff of taking guesses about baby.
Pretty much as soon as I started working on this post, we started having a lot of questions about where we were going to have the baby, due to an OB telling us the minor complication I had might not be quite so minor, which sent us on a roller coaster for almost two months.
The plan before I was pregnant was that we’d deliver at the hospital birthing center, since I had friends that had done that and it sounded great, and my normal doctor was in the same system. I hadn’t done research into how all that would work with insurance since I’d been told by friends with the same insurance how it had worked for them, but decided to try to get around having to pay anything out of pocket and asked for a referral, which they never got back to me about and when I called, I found the doctor hadn’t referred me to the birth center like I’d asked, but to the family practice OBs. The day before I’d called to check on the referral, I’d heard about the freestanding birth center and was leaning towards it because the reviews for it were way better.
So we switched, and were incredibly happy with our decision. They have enough medication and equipment to make it safe in case of an emergency, as well as practice with emergency and non-emergency transfers. We knew our desire for a natural birth would be not only supported but that we would be taught and helped along the way so we could do it. The midwives and all the staff are amazing and I’m so comfortable with them.
And then in August we found “it” (I say “it” because we’ve had 4 people look at it and have had 4 opinions on what it is), which at first we were told was a number of other things that wouldn’t cause any issues. But we saw the OB who diagnosed it as something that would potentially lead to postpartum hemorrhage, and suggested we switch to the hospital, but to talk with the midwives and come back in four weeks. In those four weeks, we decided we were comfortable staying at the birth center, and it got a little smaller (rest, prayer, & helichrysum essential oil!). We went back to the OB and after talking to him about it, he had a slightly different view on it than the midwives – they were saying it wouldn’t bleed quickly, while he seemed to suggest that anything could happen. The OB implied it was a reasonable risk to take, but it was bothering me a lot and I wasn’t comfortable going forward at the birth center any more. I feel like it’s one thing to acknowledge the possible risk of postpartum hemorrhage at a birth center equipped to stop or at least stabilize it and another thing to plan to deliver there when the risk is more possible to become reality.
We talked a lot about it between the two of us and with the woman teaching our childbirth class at the birth center. She suggested seeing the other backup OB since he doesn’t have partners and so would be the one delivering our baby and the nurses know that his patients want natural births so are more respecting. Our first choice was to switch back to the hospital birthing center, but we were 3 days too late for them to accept our transfer, which was hard for me to accept, especially since we’d been considering it for longer than three days. But we were praying that God would make it clear, and one of the ways He did that was by our delay in decision-making.
It was looking more and more like we’d be delivering at the hospital, which was really difficult for me, for two main reasons. First, I felt that my wanting to switch was due to changing my opinion on birth centers or chickening out. But when your low-risk free of foreseeable risk turns to low-risk with a foreseeable risk then it is a different story.
But the bigger reason was that I don’t think I’d been truly honest about not hating hospitals or really understood trusting God with the birth. Ezra reminded me at one point to not go on an endless search after a birth utopia, and that after looking at what we can humanly know and making an informed decision for what’s safest, how everything goes isn’t up to us, and things can go wrong anywhere and with the best preparation. One of the natural birth “mantras” is “Trust birth,” and while I do believe God designed women’s bodies to be able to give birth well and naturally, we live in a fallen world and our bodies aren’t perfect.
The weeks between OB appointments and midwife appointments were really stressful, because none of the options we had seemed like what we wanted, and transferring at 34 weeks was never what I wanted because of the lack of time to get to know a provider and a hospital. I was really confused about what I believed about birth and whether I was acting out of wisdom or fear, and why this was happening in the first place. Ezra was supporting and helping me think through it, praying for me often and giving me his thoughts and scripture, but ultimately wanting me to be the one to decide where I would be the most at ease with the birth. His comments about not searching for a birth utopia were also the turning point for helping me realize why this was all happening: God was showing me that I wasn’t trusting Him with the birth but was seeking to control it myself and was idolizing the kind of birth I wanted, even though I was saying and thinking that I was leaving it in His hands. When plans started changing, it became clear to me that I wasn’t really trusting Him with it but was putting my hope in what I could control, as well as not really being fair towards hospitals and OBs and giving them a chance to allow natural birth.
I got to a place where I was ready to accept a hospital birth and work with what we could, making the best of it. The midwives were supportive either way, still feeling that they could handle any complication “it” might bring, but ultimately wanting us to make the right decision for us and where we’d be most comfortable.
And then we got to my appointment with the other OB. Immediately I was more comfortable than I had been with the first OB. This one was much friendlier, explained things more thoroughly, let Ezra help check the fundal height and find baby’s heartbeat, as well as just generally seeming to enjoy his work more and his partnership with the birth center. He took a look at “it” and told us he didn’t think it was what the first OB thought, and even if it was, it was a vein-issue and was he said it wouldn’t bleed profusely. But he didn’t think it would burst because of how it responded to pressure.
So with four opinions from four people I was still a little confused, but because of how this OB explained things and repeatedly said “hopefully this is the only time I see you this pregnancy,” and was so supportive of us being at the birth center, as well as 2 of the other opinions being that we absolutely could deliver at the birth center and the final one implying that we’d most likely be fine there… we’ve decided that we’ll plan to stay at the birth center.
So why did we have to go through all that? I think there was a lot I had to learn about where my heart was at regarding what I thought of birth and how I trusted God with it. And now in hindsight we can see why it didn’t work to go back to the hospital birth center… because we could stay at the freestanding one.
That’s the plan right now. If “it” gets bigger then we’ll switch to the hospital, and we’d also switch if I just can’t seem to settle with having “it” and being at the birth center. I’m not more nervous one way over the other at the moment, since I know both are good options that we can be comfortable with, but to be in a place where natural birth is so supported is our preference and since we received such a clear go-ahead from the OB and the midwives we feel it’s safe, too.
But we know that unmedicated, intervention-free birth doesn’t come without lots of preparation!
All along I’ve been doing squats and other pelvic floor exercises, and in the last few months trying to do more light interval training since contractions are intervals! I’ve also tried to do a lot of the exercises recommended on Spinning Babies to try to get baby optimally positioned for the birth. Baby’s been head down since 27 1/2 weeks, which is really comforting, although hiccups are incredibly annoying. Last week baby flipped from the right side to the left, and while I’m not expecting baby to stay there for the next few weeks, it IS where we want baby (and this week baby flips back and forth sometimes every few minutes). It’s amazing how much of optimal positioning has to do with how we sit!
I want to find a balance and not let it take up all of my time, also knowing that this baby is probably the only one I’ll have this much time to prepare for, but it’s also totally new to my body so does need more preparation.
I’ve also been trying to eat enough protein and have been eating dates because they’re said to help make birth easier (and I read a study summary about it, too, and I love dates so it doesn’t hurt anything to eat lots). Gelatin helps with the protein as well as stretch marks (none so far, but I know I’m still pretty small!). I’ve also been upping my water kefir and yogurt intake to get more probiotics, and drink red raspberry leaf tea every day.
I’ve read a lot on pregnancy and birth and done research on this and that as well. At the birth center, we were required to take a preparation class, and while it didn’t have to be at the birth center, we decided to take the one there because it was shorter than Bradley classes and we were already doing the Bradley Method book. The classes have been really helpful and enjoyable. I think one of the most beneficial things was walking through various positions for labor and doing practice contractions in each one to get the feel of them and for Ezra to get used to coaching me through them. It’s helpful to know in advance what helps you feel open and comfortable, even though it could change in labor and I wouldn’t be surprised if I found myself in a position that I now say isn’t as comfortable or helpful. And although painful, there is a certain confidence you get from clenching an ice cube for two minutes straight and getting through the pain that helps when you really have no idea what the pain will feel like… but to know you can get through pain helps a lot.
While being completely clueless as to exactly what labor is going to feel like (I don’t think I can rely on “my Braxton Hicks feel tingly” to get me through the birth), I’ve tried to do some reading to be prepared for dealing with the pain. We have a number of essential oils to help, as well as various positions and relaxation techniques. I don’t have my heart set on a water birth but we can do one at the birth center and I’m sure I’ll at least use water a little bit for pain relief.
I’m excited about the birth in a curious/nervous sort of way. After having read so much, I really wonder what it will actually be like for me and how what I’ve read will help. I feel well prepared and when I think about it don’t fear the birth itself as long as complications don’t arise but am more worried about tearing and discomfort afterwards.
We’re so thankful for all the help of our family and friends, many of whom are not just supporting us but have influenced the way I think about birth to be what it is today (especially my mom & Cait!).
Speaking of worries and complications… The hardest thing about pregnancy is coming face to face with so many unknowns out of your control. And then knowing that just because they work out well with this pregnancy doesn’t guarantee it for other pregnancies. But our lives and safety are always fragile, even when they don’t feel like that. And yet, they’re never fragile because God is always the one in control of them.
When I was at the peak of struggling with all sorts of “what-if’s” and really fearing and not wanting certain interventions, especially a c-section, I read Habakkuk in my French Bible and spent a while thinking about the end of Habakkuk 3, and re-writing it for pregnancy and childbirth – with “though the… [bad thing]” all being things like c-section, NICU, bad tears, fetal distress, etc. – and then being reminded that although any or all of that happens – our rejoicing comes not from circumstances but from hoping in the Lord, who is not only our salvation but makes us able to get through those difficult things. I pray that if anything we don’t want happens or I don’t have the birth I want that I will have prepared enough in advance to not let it get me down too much afterwards.
We are so thankful for how safe and easy this pregnancy has been so far. I know the “most dangerous” part is still ahead, and yet it’s something that while unknown and therefore scary, it’s something we’ve prepared for as best as we humanly can.
We covet your prayers, for the safety of myself and the baby, as well as for wisdom and trusting Him with the outcome (and trusting Him in general, not being at a certain place).
Predictions (really guesses, but I was keeping with the “p’s”)
I never got into guessing about babies’ weight or time of birth, but now that I’m thinking about it more I’m having all sorts of wondering and ideas.
Size: I’m guessing somewhere in the upper-6 to low-7 pound range (Ezra says 6# 6 oz to 6# 8 oz). Baby’s always measured on due date (though that’s not always accurate), but we’re both smaller people and it is our first, but I know it also has a lot to do with my diet so I’m not expecting a tiny baby (though I know my mom had a good diet with all of us and her first was 6 lbs, 7 oz, and I as her second was 6 13). Ezra was 6# 10 oz, but was born quite early.
Time of Birth: From what I’ve read, the average for a first-time mom is 41 weeks, 1 day. My mom’s first was 40 weeks, 4 days. My sister and sister-in-law were both closer to 39 weeks with their first. It probably has nothing to do with when baby will actually be born, but both my body normally and this baby’s growth have been pretty predictable, even textbook, so I wouldn’t be too surprised with a baby born on the due date. We do really like the due date, since it’s a year after our original wedding date and a year after I ran a half marathon, which seems fitting. 😉 That said, 2 days early would put baby 9 months younger than cousin Gavriel and a week and a half late would be 6 months younger than cousin Rosemary, which would be fun. I really do NOT want a Thanksgiving baby, but any time at the end of November could be Thanksgiving at some point, so it’s kind of hard to avoid. Ezra has it all planned out for what days make for the most ideal leave time, based on time off for Thanksgiving and weekends – he gets time off that isn’t deducted from normal leave allowances and we can easily take more than that, but if we time it just right (ha) he’d only have to go back to work for a day and then get a 4-day weekend “free.”
As far as day of week or time of day, I’d really love to get a good nights’ rest and/or not be up all night in labor, though I know my chances of not being in labor at all until a decent hour of the morning and then delivering before late night are pretty slim with a first baby. But hey, maybe those dates will do something (not that we’d know for sure if it was the dates or something else).
Gender: I’m not willing to take an absolute guess on this and really don’t have an intuition either way… but it is a little uncanny that every dream I had with the baby in it the baby was a boy, although I really don’t put a lot of weight on that meaning anything at this point, so wouldn’t be totally surprised if it’s a girl. The old wives’ tales I find equally pointless, especially since according to them I’d be having a boy (no morning sickness) and a girl (craving sweets).