Here I’ll tell the story of my first pregnancy, at the age of 30. I’ll be real with you about the fight I went through. The fight to have a natural pregnancy and childbirth in a very medical-minded society.
I’ll start from the beginning…
I was married at the age of 19 to my first boyfriend, who was 23. I was his first girlfriend (doesn’t happen often, I know!).
This was a fact I’ve always been proud of, in a world of shallow relationships that don’t often last.
Being married at such a young age definitely has its ups and downs. We learned a lot, going through a lot of firsts together.
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I immigrated from Canada to the USA after we got married. After that, we lived with his parents for a few years while we got some things figured out.
We bought our first home and waited until we felt thoroughly ready (HA!). When we had been married quite some time (almost 10 years), we decided to try getting pregnant.
One of the downfalls to waiting to feel “ready”, is the feeling that you’re ready. When in reality nothing can truly make you ready for the life change you’re in for.
We didn’t expect to have to wait nearly a year and a half before we would actually conceive. I had been on the pill for so long, and didn’t realize how bad synthetic hormones are for your health.
Becoming pregnant was very difficult for me, despite using a unique natural ovulation device (which was super helpful). I was starting to get really worried and frustrated.
As soon as I relaxed and essentially “gave up” and said, “it will happen when it happens”…
Boom! Baby number 1 was on the way.
And so my pregnancy story really begins…
I decided to ask some very like-minded friends who had kids of their own for doctor recommendations.
Once I settled on one, I was very pleased with myself. I was sure that he would give me all the information I needed.
So then I was pretty shocked when I went to my first appointment…
He talked to me for a few minutes, asked me if I had any questions. I answered them, thinking “aren’t you the one who is supposed to tell me what questions I should be asking?”…
All of a sudden, it was like hitting a brick wall… Realizing how little I knew about pregnancy, childbirth, and raising a baby of my own.
I left that office feeling very upset and uncertain.
From this I learned: You need to research BEFORE pregnancy as much as possible (or at least in the early stages), and make a list of important topics and questions you have so that you can literally interview your doctor or midwife when you meet them.
Now, I have been raised and lived my life with as little medicine and doctors visits as possible. So this was a very eye-opening experience for me; how little my very highly recommended “medical professional” had to say to a newly pregnant woman. (He was actually on the board at the local hospital)
They know that birth is NOT A MEDICAL PROCEDURE.
I didn’t have the experience to back up what she had told me.
I did know that I wanted to do it naturally, with no epidural, interventions or unnecessary meds. At that time, however, I thought that the hospital was the safer place to be…
…I had bought into the fear of childbirth complications that is needlessly spread throughout western society.
Please understand, I’m not saying that complications never happen. But when you do your own thorough research, you will find that MOST complications are as a result of other needless interventions.
Interventions that are nearly always done because “it is hospital policy”.
There are actually 30 year old (or longer) policies in many hospitals. Policies that are PROVEN TO BE HARMFUL TO WOMEN AND BABIES. Yet these policies are still in widespread use in 2020.
***PLEASE don’t take my word for any of this. Do your own research! Look at the situation from all sides and make the decisions that are right for you and your family.***
Anyhow, back to my story…
It was extremely important to me to try to have a natural childbirth if at all possible. So, despite my full time job as a competitive gymnastics coach, I took it upon myself to essentially work a second full-time job researching everything I could about pregnancy.
Childbirth, vaccines, medications, interventions. natural preventative measures…
The MANY general medical choices that a woman needs to make when she’s pregnant and has an infant.
If you’re not comfortable having your pictures taken…
GET USED TO IT. When you’re pregnant, you’ll feel all kinds of gross… fat, bloated, nauseated, sore, the list goes on…
But really, please have your partner and other family members take LOTS of pictures of you, because yes, even if you’re the self conscious type (like I was), you will be happy to have them later.
Now, I find myself wishing all the time that I had more photos. And even the ones that I used to think were horrible pictures; I look back now and see them as valuable moments captured. It’s all about perspective.
Oh yeah, and take LOTS OF SELFIES…
Yes, even if you have prior opinions (like I did) about them being silly. Some of my best photos of me and my little ones have been selfies. Who would have thought?
I digress… Now back to it.
HAVE A BIRTH PLAN!
I learned that you shouldn’t wait too long to start learning about the most important topics, because you will feel rushed and unprepared.
Knowing what I wanted my birth to be like was very difficult when I knew nothing about childbirth.
This was a big source of stress for me at the time, because I knew nothing about the process of going through pregnancy.
It was a huge relief to complete my birth plan, which happened much later than it should have. Don’t assume that your wishes will be followed in the heat of the moment, with only your prior verbal instructions. IT WON’T HAPPEN.
Your medical professionals have a lot to remember. It’s your job and your birth partner’s (doula, husband, whoever is with you) job to advocate for YOUR wishes.
(I’ll elaborate on the birth plan more in part 2, my natural birth story…)
My parents warned me about this many times. There are very different philosophies between the medical field and what should simply be called the “health and nutrition” field.
They told me that if you go to a doctor with an ailment, they will automatically want to medicate you for something. Necessary or not.
Often they will not inform you of the side effects. In fact, many doctors don’t even know the side-effects of the meds they prescribe, because there are just too many…
I was very healthy growing up, and went to the doctor only a handful of times.
This was all hearsay to me.
Sometimes in life, you don’t believe everything your parents tell you (understatement of the century)… Because frankly, sometimes they are full of crap, even if they 100% believe they speak the truth.
This turned out not to be one of those times…
After choosing not to return to my obstetrician and searching long and hard, I finally found a group of midwives finally who delivered out of the nearest hospital to me.
This hospital was known supposedly to have an excellent birthing staff. I was over the moon, because I had been searching for a while already but this was the only practice around (other than home birth midwives), which I naively didn’t really trust.
I overlooked many available home birth midwives because I had already set my mind on the hospital birth. If I could go back, I would have a home birth in a HEARTBEAT. Keep reading to understand that statement.
At each appointment with the midwives I saw a different one, only one of them did I ever see twice. They kept telling me the baby measured small, but I wasn’t worried at all; I explained to them many times that they had the wrong due date, because my cycles were 38 days long before conceiving (not 28 days, like they will assume at a hospital).
Before getting pregnant, I had been in great shape, I ate healthy, did low carb eating and intermittent fasting (before they were trendy, like they are now), and I was always doing various different workout programs, running, etc.
One of my most important pieces of advice for women who want to get pregnant, is to START WORKING OUT EVERY DAY, or at least regularly 3-4 times a week BEFORE you conceive, and continue throughout your pregnancy!
There are many reasons for this recommendation, but as your body starts changing and shifting, everything loosens up and moves and it is much easier to get injured, even just doing normal daily activity. Working out truly helps SO much to handle the physical demands of pregnancy.
When you’re pregnant, a weak body will turn into a frail body that makes it very difficult to handle the extra weight, so becoming strong before pregnancy is highly recommended.
In my third trimester, I started taking Bradley childbirth classes, something I recommend EVERYBODY who’s having a baby take. It was amazing education for me and my husband, and it basically trains your birth partner how to be your doula (birth coach).
The Bradley birth training is based on a goal of natural delivery, but it contains amazing information regardless of your views. It includes a lot of techniques and information on how to avoid unnecessary drugs and interventions allowing for the highest possible chance of a natural birth.
ALSO, the Bradley classes gave me a very detailed plan for good nutrition for yourself and baby (essential for their development), and a full list of pregnancy exercises to complete every day, ranging from kegels, to squats, to pelvic tilts, to long walks.
AND I almost forgot to say, the training was INVALUABLE when learning how to put together a birth plan, and what I might need to put in it.
I wish I had started the classes sooner than I did, because it would have been better to get on the nutrition plan and the exercises right away, and have time to let the information sink in.
I learned: Hospital midwives and home birth midwives are two different breeds. My instructor actually warned me… she called them “Med-wives”, because they are still very much bound by hospital policy and the “recommendations” can’t always be trusted as a result.
By my last month before my due date, the midwife (another new one) told me that the baby was still measuring small, and she just wanted to do another ultrasound just to be on the safe side. This sounded completely reasonable, so I went along with it.
I asked them what it would cost, but they couldn’t tell me (I won’t get started on this HUGE problem with our medical system), so I figured it would be comparable to my last ultrasound with my former obstetrician.
So I got the ultrasound, at which point, my healthy, perfect baby was still supposedly “small” and they still wouldn’t recognize the discrepancy in my due date.
The bill was $1500 (!!!!), AND they wanted me to get WEEKLY ultrasounds AND twice weekly non stress tests (!!!)…
…all because they wouldn’t change a number in their computer.
So I was furious. I should have trusted my gut in the first place, I KNEW better, I knew my due date was wrong, and they were only calling my baby “small” because they thought he was a week older than he actually was, but I had compromised my own knowledge because I wanted to trust them.
I refused the rest of their tests with the full support of my husband. I had allowed them to scare me into this test, by making it all sound perfectly harmless, when the information I knew to be true was telling me that the tests were not needed.
See, what most doctors don’t tell you and some don’t want you to know, is that you can say HELL-TO-THE-NO to absolutely anything they want you to do. Any test they want to run, ultrasound they want you to get, etc. etc. etc.
They will even tell you you “have to” get a certain thing done. They will make it all sound very reasonable. A question I came to understand I should ask as often as possible: “What happens if I don’t?”
YOU decide, and you can refuse ANY of it.
I found out: INFORMED consent is imperative, and something YOU have to take full responsibility for. Insist on it.
Do not just ask your doctor. Find out what their stance is, and do your own research. If you see 3 different doctors or midwives, you will likely find that they rarely have the same opinion or give you the same information, have the same policies, etc.
I learned: Most doctors are very well intentioned. But just because they are NICE doesn’t mean that their information is sound. Just because they wish you and your baby the best, doesn’t mean that they truly know what they need to know.
Any professional is only as good at their job as the data they learned through their own education and training. We all know that competence varies widely in any profession, so why would we expect the medical profession – arguably the most complex profession out there – to be any different?
The “trust the Doctor because they know best” mentality is frankly absurd if you take it in this light. And not taking the time to inform yourself can have grave consequences when you’re talking about the birth of your child.
Learn about these topics yourself. Don’t make excuses about it. Clear up the words you don’t understand during your research.
Then you can OWN your choices.
As you know if you’ve been through it, motherhood changes you in ways that even if someone described it in painstaking detail, you can’t truly get it until it is REAL to you.
Besides that, nobody’s struggles are the same, so one mom might warn you against some trouble or other that won’t have anything to do with your own mama journey, and you will, inevitably, run into obstacles or issues that nobody had warned you about.
So here’s the thing… Confidence in yourself and your body… knowing that child birth is totally normal part of life, and NOT a medical procedure… Those things are what allow you to be calm and relaxed, two things that are extremely important to let a baby through a much smaller opening.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but people looove drama… Telling you about their awful birth stories or complications or problems is no different. People will come out of the woodwork telling you about those things that “could happen to you because…”, so it makes it all feel very scary and like it can’t be confronted. And like you need medical help to get through it.
The truth is, women in natural, healthy childbirth rarely need medical interventions. OBs are baby surgeons. Their job entirely revolves around the medical procedure of childbirth.
Would you go to a surgeon when you needed a checkup?
I didn’t think so.
And yet, North America treats Midwives like they do tinfoil hats and conspiracy theories, while in other countries, midwifery care is commonplace, they spend WAY less money and get WAY better results.
Did you know that the national average for getting a c-section in a hospital was 31% in 2018? This is alarmingly high.
The truth is that pregnancy and childbirth is a HUGE industry in the USA, and our ignorance lines the pockets of people who care about their bottom line, so they use fear in their marketing strategy. Look at the actual data.
Midwifes at a home birth have a much lower rate of 5%, and depending what midwife you choose, it is often much lower even than that, you just have to ask them. Also, the statistics for other highly important topics such as breastfeeding success are extremely favorable for a home birth.
Question everything. Ask for sources rather than just accepting. If something piques your curiosity or makes you want to learn more, do some research on that topic. Don’t take anything at face value. Also, don’t waste time arguing or being offended… similar to arguing politics, nobody wins in the end.
Definitely don’t let your own attitude be affected by the doomsday stories of others. Arm yourself with knowledge so that you can confidently make decisions that are right for YOU, whether your healthcare provider agrees with you or not.
Healthcare providers are on YOUR payroll. You can fire them, and you should, if you are uncomfortable with the service you are receiving.
Mama doing what she needs to do to stay calm and relaxed throughout pregnancy and childbirth is the best thing she can do for herself. And I can tell you from my experience that being at odds or doubtful about your Midwife or Doctor will plant unwanted seeds of anxiety, even for the most confident mama.
The attitude I took was: If every mother in the entire history of the human race could do it, SO CAN I. I have confidence in myself, my body and my ability to handle what is thrown at me.
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