Sunday, January 29, 2012

No Regrets, Only Experience

Yesterday, I was finally using a gift certificate to a salon from my birthday and started making small talk with a stranger. She asked why it had taken me so long to use the gift certificate and I explained that it had been a very busy year since Monkey was born and that I had just not made the time to schedule an appointment.

As many conversations go when children are mentioned, we started talking about my children and that while the stranger did not have any children yet, she shared some details about her nephew. She mentioned how difficult it was sometimes for her sister to have a night out because she was nursing her young baby, which led to me mentioning the monthly Breastfeeding Cafe that I attend and how much it has helped me to have the support and education that it offers.

From there, the conversation snowballed, turning to the different resources that I'm aware of in the area. The stranger mentioned that she had thought about an unmedicated birth when she started her family in the future, but was not sure if she would be able to do it. I let her know that the best thing she could do was educate herself, because that education would help her make choices and prepare for them. I let her know that my unmedicated birth was the least painful birth because I had prepared for it, which helped me manage the pain during labor and delivery.

It was a very interesting conversation. I always find it amazing how two complete strangers can share such intimate details if it is in the right setting. I shared some general details about each of my births, including that if I had known about all the choices in the area and been better educated with my first birth that I likely would have had a home birth. The stranger was floored. She had no idea that homebirth was even an option in our area.

After a little more discussion about the resources in the area, she asked if I regretted my births with my older children since I had said I would has prepared for a homebirth if I had known the option existed with my oldest.

THAT gave me something to think about.
Do I have regrets? Should I have regrets?

I replied to the stranger that I don't really regret the births, but that I would have made different choices if I had been properly educated about pregnancy and birth.

Even though that was the quick answer, I still spent the rest of the day dwelling on the idea of regret. After dissecting my births with Sassy and Diva, comparing them to my birth with Monkey, and processing it all, I came to some conclusions.

I have NO regrets.

When I had Sassy, I was 19. I had no real knowledge of pregnancy and birth outside of the human anatomy and health classes I had taken in high school. It was the "thing to do" to have an OB oversee your prenatal care and birth, so that is what I did. It was the "thing to do" to take the hospital-sponsored childbirth class to get all the knowledge you needed to delivery in their hospital. It was the "thing to do" to get an epidural for pain management because that is what nearly ever woman did unless she was having a C-section. It was the "thing to do" so listen to the nurses as they helped you bring your baby into the world because they had been doing it much longer than you.

So, given my situation when I had Sassy and Diva, I do not regret my births. I do not feel like I made mistakes. I made the best choices I could given what I knew and what I thought was available to me.

Do I feel like I could have had better births? Absolutely.

I'm sure that my slow progress with Sassy was because I was laying in a bed for 18hrs. I'm sure that the shoulder dystocia could have been resolved faster if we had tried the Gaskin maneuver instead of attempting to use the vacuum extractor (which wouldn't work), attempting to use the forceps (which they couldn't find), and finally pulling my legs back really far and nearly dislocating my hip as they worked to dislodge her shoulder.

I'm sure that my induction with Diva was unnecessary and based on the "big baby" myth and my past history of dystocia. I'm sure that allowing negative influences in my birthing space caused my body to kick into gear and sprint from 5cm through transition and delivery in 40 mins. I'm sure that I would have strangled the nurse who kept telling me that I shouldn't be feeling all the pain I was experiencing since I had an epidural, even though I CLEARLY was in pain and progressing fast.

But do you know what? Without those experiences, the research and knowledge I had gained during my pregnancy with Monkey would not have been so deeply ingrained in my brain.

There is a difference between reading and hearing that being stuck in a bed during labor can negatively affect labor and actually experiencing it and realizing that things could have been different if you were not stuck in the bed.

There is a difference between settling for a hospital birth because you were unaware that options existed and deciding on a hospital birth.

There is a difference between the pain you experience during labor and delivery when you are only prepared to mask it with pain medications and the pain you experience during labor and delivery when you are prepared and know different comfort measures to help manage it.

To say I regret my births would be saying that I regret the person I was when I had Sassy and Diva. I do not regret their births because those experiences made me who I am today.

When I realized that birth options actually existed, it was those experiences that stuck with me and made me wonder if birth could be different, if it could be better. It was those experiences that inspired me to spend the second half of my pregnancy with Monkey researching birth choices, pregnancy health, the history of different hospital policies and how many of them are outdated or based on preventing litigation and not in the best interest of the mother and baby.

So I have no regrets. The birth experiences I had with Sassy and Diva put me on the path of birth education, influenced the choices I made, and allowed me to fully appreciate the differences between those births and Monkey's birth. And it was those differences, from having medicated hospital-managed births to an unmedicated birth that I was actively participating in, that made me passionate about informed choices and full education.

So you will find no regrets here, only experience.

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