Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One day soon

Dallas Eve, a little imp

So I never intended for this blog to become any kind of pregnancy journal, but today I'm feeling compelled to write about some thoughts I've been having related to this whole birth thing. Just a warning: what follows is a personal matter (that I am not opposed to sharing) and significantly strays from the style of my typical blog posts.

Before I became pregnant, and even throughout these first six months, I was certain that I would ask for an epidural if the pain became too much to bear, and would have no qualms in doing so. Even though I think I have a high threshold for pain, I kept reminding myself that labour pain is in a completely different league and that I, as a first timer, might be totally unprepared for it.

But then I began asking myself: Why do I have to feel unprepared for it? Just because it will be a sensation (likely an excruciating one) I've never felt before doesn't mean I have to be completely blind-sided by it. I would like to think that there are effective ways I could psychologically and physically cope with the intensity of labour without surrendering to chemical interventions. And my rational for hoping to avoid drugs isn't necessarily because I'm worried about side effects or consequentials, but more because of a growing determination I have to do it on my own (or more accurately, with a team of drug-free people by my side). Why shouldn't I be able to own the pain? Why not have to suffer a bit to bring my son or daughter into this world? So my thoughts have shifted and I am now approaching this as a true test of strength, as a challenge of focus, of teamwork, of self-control. I want to feel it. As absurd as this may sound, I actually want to enjoy the pain. Afterall, the reward will be more than worth the effort.

In the past when I'd hear of expectant mothers who were adamantly opposed to taking drugs I'd wonder why they would choose to suffer. I'm sure everyone has different reasons for hoping for a natural birth, and for me it's not that I'm trying to be some kind of a hero, but recently I've had an instinctive desire to do as nature intended and I feel very secure in it. My yoga instructor is big on existing in and appreciating the present moment (shocking, no?) and she talks about changing our perception of things that we are conditioned to view as a chore or something we would rather get over with quickly. A difficult yoga pose, for example. Our muscles are straining to hold it, we're struggling to balance, we feel pressure. And we're waiting for the yogi to relieve us of the task of holding it and move on to the next thing. Counting, breathing, waiting, waiting. But why can't we just embrace the difficulty of the position? More like counting, breathing, listening. We are fortunate just to have bodies that are functional enough to allow us to operate them in such a biomechanical way. We have sensation, we are living. Why not confront the difficulty? Why not enjoy it? And truly, at least with yoga, as soon as I switch over to that mentality, the experience is completely different and becomes spiritual.

Now, I am NOT comparing downward dog to labour! I may have already exposed my naivety regarding some aspects surrounding childbirth, but I by no means attempt to convince myself that labour will be a little uncomfortable at worst. I completely acknowledge the possibility of it becoming so intolerable that I start to panic, shake, vomit, scream. And that, dear friends, will be the weakest link, if it comes to it. It will be in that moment when I will beg for pain medicaton. I have experienced significant physical pain before and it's when panic sets in that I lose both my control and my focus. But it's no secret that breathing helps. When I have a migraine, or when I'm at the height of anxiety during take-off on an airplane, I rely on my breathe and turn my focus inward.

But essentially, it's that breaking point that I know I will need help with if my wish is to not surrender to it. I have total faith that Scott will be supportive and wonderful, but I know it can be a challenging and exhausting experience for partners too. So after some thinking and discussing, we have decided to interview a doula, or labour coach. Using a doula statistically (and I like statistics) lowers the instances of Caesarean births, requests for chemical interventions, the likelihood of a long labour, and improves the active participation of the partner. Not to mention, I think I'll really need another woman there, someone who is very familiar with childbirth and can give me a play-by-play of what's going on. I want to know the mechanics of what's happening in my body. The more I can visualize, the more in control I know I will feel, even if unforeseeable events occur that are totally beyond my control.

And additionally, the more I educate myself and the more support I have, the less I fear and the stronger my confidence.

This has been more of a stream-of-consciousness journal entry than anything, a way for me to articulate in writing the crux of my I don't expect many of you to have made it to the end of this post, but if you have, thank you for sticking with me.

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