Labor Pains?

We have completed two of our seven childbirth classes. Going into the first class, I was pretty terrified by the idea of birthing this little girl. Coming out of that first class, I was still terrified of giving birth. And I didn’t know why. I mean, yes, fearing the pain is a part of it, but there’s more to it.

I couldn’t put my finger on it exactly, but thinking about what we learned in that first class after the fact, I think I know why I’m so terrified of labor, and it all boils down to one word: control.

What I mean is this: There are certain things about how this child will enter the world that have, from the get-go, been out of my control because of my medical condition. Women in low-risk pregnancies have so many options before them when they begin thinking of how they want to bring the baby into the world. They can choose a home-birth, a birthing center, a midwife. They can choose to wait until labor starts naturally. They can choose whether or not to use pain medication. And barring a medical emergency, they can (somewhat) confidently advocate for no C-section (and even more-so if at home or a birthing center)

These are choices I have never had. I have to labor in a hospital (granted, I most likely would have chosen this anyway). I have to be induced, which means Pitocin. Pitocin plus my incredibly low tolerance for pain means that I will have an epidural. From all I’ve heard about Pitocin, only the most GI of Janes would even think of laboring without an epidural after being induced. GI Jane I am not. Of course the use of an epidural means a catheter, and also means a limited amount of birthing positions and movement.

All of this may be irrelevant anyway, for if our daughter is nine pounds or more at 39 weeks (something entirely possible given the high risk for babies born to diabetic women of being h-u-g-e), the doctor has basically indicated that a C-section is a distinct possibility. Though of course I would not know if that was going to happen until shortly before it would.

As for what happens after birth, Atticus and I are very interested in attachment parenting. A lot of it seems quite intuitive to me, though at this point I’m not taking it as dogma. One of the ideas of AP, after-birth bonding, seems particularly common sense and attractive to us. It makes sense to me how important it is to hold your baby and nurse your baby during the first hour of life.

Regardless of how our baby enters the world, she will be laid on my chest for a minute or so, then she will be taken away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for four hours. And I will be taken to recovery (1 -2 hours). This happens because babies born to diabetic women often are born with low-blood sugar and need to be regulated. NICU is standard for all babies born to high-risk women. It will probably be two – four hours before I get to try and nurse her.

Now I know Atticus can go to NICU and be with our daughter, and perhaps even get to hold her during the time I am recovering. The nurse who is teaching our child-birth class told me that if our baby’s initial APGAR scores are good, I may be able to hold her for a few minutes more before they take her away. Even so, it would only be five or ten minutes, which seems like such a short time to hold her when I’ll have been waiting nine months to meet her.

I hope it doesn’t sound too much as though I am complaining, or that I think this whole birthing thing is all about me. I am not so foolish as to think that. I am well aware that the ultimate goal of this process is a happy, healthy, child in the world, and I am willing to do whatever is necessary for that to happen.

That said, being a somewhat well-educated person who likes to read everything I can possibly get my hands on about what I am going to experience, I know the range of options that exist, and I am well aware of my lack of choices. Given the lack of choices, I can’t help but be left feeling… powerless. And anyone who knows anything about childbirth will tell you that a woman going into birthing feeling powerless is not a good thing. But how can I feel that I have confidence or power in a situation over which I have had such little say?

Compounding all of this is my melancholic nature, which gives me a decided tendency toward being a dissatisfied perfectionist. It is my natural tendency to think there are certain ways things “ought” to be done, and if I don’t or can’t live up to my own expectations…I lose confidence in my abilities. And I give up. Two things that are disastrous in child birth.

I’m not saying I’m proud of this tendency, it’s actually a major character flaw. But, I think that this aspect of my personality, coupled with my lack of choices, has made me feel both scared of giving birth, and somewhat dejected by being unable to make the kinds of choices many other women are free to make.

I’m not depressed. I’m so, so happy to be pregnant and to bring a child into the world at all. I’m trying to express why I seem so scared of child-birth, seemingly more than other women I know who are expecting for the first time. We all have a cross to carry, and it seems that for right now, this is mine. The beautiful thing about that fact is, that by December 28th, this cross will have been resurrected and God-willing, we will have our daughter in our arms. Perhaps on that day I will have thought all of this fear and powerlessness was quite silly.

Have you ever felt powerless in an important situation? How did you deal with it?


8 thoughts on “Labor Pains?

  1. Even with the choices you feel you lack, I often feel powerless about the childbirth thing. Because, in the end, as you note, God is in control of it all. Every time I get ready to go give birth, I am in awe at the magnitude of the process. Powerless isn’t necessarily a bad thing, is what I’m trying to say. And it’s not that uncommon, especially with bearing children.

    Where I currently feel powerless is in my in ability to do anything to comfort my sister who is suffering. All I can do is pray and while that is welcome and good, it feels so inadequate.

  2. Have I ever felt powerless? Oh, yes. Dealing with it is not always very graceful but one step at a time is all I can manage.

  3. Having just been in a similar situation; facing an induction because of a baby that appeared not to be growing ~ surround yourself with support people you trust and can draw strength from ~ and while ideally you will have a lot of time with your daughter in the first hours, bonding happens over the first days and weeks.

  4. the one good thing is that you know all this in advance. you know you’re going to need to be induced and all those other things, so it’s not like you’re going into labor hoping for something else and then finding yourself in that situation, which i think is something that upsets a lot of women – especially those who have a really solid idea of how they want the birth to be.

    i was actually reliving my birthing experience today and thinking about how there were some things i was really dissatisfied with (them keeping him in the nursery overnight b/c he was jaundiced even though it was so incredibly important for him to stay with me, not being able to hold or feed him immediately b/c there was meconium in the amniotic fluid, and not being able to wait for them to cut the cord for the saem reason). but i was thinking today that despite all that, now i have this great 5-month-old and even though in an ideal situation those things would have been different, they don’t really seem that important anymore. all that really matters to me is that i can hold and love my little guy now! so hopefully that helps. good luck with your labor! 🙂

  5. Thank you for sharing.

    I have felt powerless and not in control when I had to let my children drive cars. In fact, I still sometimes feel that way.

  6. I’m with Rae – all I could think while reading this is if I could somehow make it easier for you, and the only thing I could come up with is a hug.

  7. Oh Sarah, I think it’s great that you were able to pinpoint the source of your fear. With so many choices out there, it would really suck to feel like you don’t get to make any of them for yourself. In the end, of course, your choice would no matter what be to bring your daughter safely out of your womb, but that doesn’t make the anticipation any easier. As for the after-birth bonding, while I think it is great, I am sure you will still bond well with her a few hours later. I was just at a La Leche League meeting the other day and one of the women had a similar thing happen – she couldn’t hold her baby until four hours after the birth. She was still able to nurse as soon as the baby came in and her daughter looked to me like she was thriving.

    I’m sure Atticus will be such a help to you through all of this.

    I like Kelly’s comment, too.

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