This is a guest post, written by my beautiful niece, Doni Imes. It is a little long for a blog, but after she wrote it, I could not find anything I was OK with taking out. So, here it is, with just a couple of edits by Aunt Jeanie, but primarily just as written.
The day I found out I was pregnant, was a day full of happiness, joy, tears, phone calls, and fear; lots of fear. I’ve never experienced anything like this before! I had been telling my friends, family, and co-workers for a while that I believed in natural/un-medicated childbirth. But now I actually had to do it! “What have I gotten myself into?!?” This question crossed my mind many times, especially the first few days. I had to put my money where my mouth was now.
I had never considered natural childbirth as an option until I was 23. My mother had C-sections with myself and my two brothers, so this was of course what I knew most about, and I was hoping I could ask for a C-section. C-section babies have these perfectly round heads! And there were a few other fears I had that I will not go into right now because it is major TMI. Then, I met my husband and he told me about a family friend who was a midwife. Ok……what in the world is a midwife??? I honestly cannot remember what his response was or how he told me about it, but I did my own research and asked around to figure it out. The definition of a midwife is someone who is trained to assist women in childbirth. Seeing the word “assist” was really powerful to me and such an eye opener. You mean, I am supposed to be in control of my delivery? Really? This was such a new concept to me! It was frightening until I empowered myself more by becoming more knowledgeable on childbirth.
The first thing I did, was talk to my husband’s cousin who had three of her four babies at home with the “assistance” of the midwife my husband told me about earlier. Her words were so beautiful to me. The way her face lit up when she spoke about her experiences was just profound. I could feel myself becoming a natural childbirth junkie right then. My husband has another cousin who is a doula (one who offers support, encouragement, and wisdom through labor and birth), so I picked her brain a lot too. We spent a lot of time at her house and I loved hearing her birth stories, even though I have to say they still scared the living bah-Jesus out of me. I still felt like I needed to know more. The first book I bought was The Birth Book by William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N. Mrs. Sears has had every kind of birth under the sun. At a hospital, at home, medicated, un-medicated, water birth, etc. It was nice hearing someone’s opinion that did not know me and that had experienced it all. Their book really opened my eyes to my options as a woman. Why aren’t women talking about these things more often??? I had never heard of most of the things they talked about in this book! I was a little angry about it too. I am not really sure why…I just was I guess. My next step was to go to the movies. Who doesn’t love a good movie! I decided to watch “The Business of Being Born”, which is a documentary featuring Ricki Lake that focuses on birth in America and really what is wrong with it. Literally, it has become a business. This documentary BLEW-MY-MIND. I was horrified learning that America has the highest infant/mother fatality rates of all the civilized nations and we also have the highest C-section rates and the lowest home birth rates. Could there be a correlation? Maybe so.
My goal as a mother-to-be completely changed. It went from “I want to meet my baby!” to “I am doing any and everything I can to keep my baby safe starting right now.” And for me, that meant no drugs. Many of my friends and acquaintances called me crazy and told me I’d change my mind, but I knew I wouldn’t. I knew the side effects of an epidural (from drugs.com - All medicine has some risks and side effects. With an epidural you may get an infection or have bleeding in the epidural space. The medicine may not completely control your pain. The medicine could numb your muscles so much that you cannot move or walk. The medicine could make your blood pressure drop too low. It may also make you breathe too slowly or not often enough. Your skin may be itchy or you may have trouble urinating. From drugs.com: all medicines may cause side effects, but many people have no, or minor, side effects. Check with your doctor if any of these most COMMON side effects persist or become bothersome when using Pitocin: Nausea; vomiting; more intense or abrupt contractions of the uterus. Seek medical attention right away if any of these SEVERE side effects occur when using Pitocin: Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); blood clotting problems; changes in heart rate; heavy or continued bleeding after childbirth; irregular heartbeat; pooling of blood in the pelvis; ruptured uterus. Fetus: Bleeding in the eye; irregular heartbeat; seizures; slow heartbeat.
I was not ok with these possibilities. All of these people would say, “Well my babies were all born fine with no problems.” And I am so thankful to God for that! I am one of those babies keep in mind. But, just because it didn’t happen to their babies, doesn’t mean it can’t happen to mine. These statistics I had been reading about didn’t just come out of nowhere and it made me frightened. I became more frightened of the side effects from medical intervention than I was about feeling every contraction.
Luckily, I did not have to get through labor all by myself. I had an amazing support system. My husband and I chose The Bradley Method of natural childbirth (AKA Husband Coached Childbirth) as our birth class. In this class, you are taught to completely relax during contractions and to breathe through them with the aid of your spouse/partner. My husband was there for every contraction and was my back bone, my guide, and truly my partner in delivering our son. This class also gave us so much information about what my body was going through during pregnancy and also what my body and my baby needed to have a healthy pregnancy. For example, did you know that a high protein diet during pregnancy can reduce the risks of pre-eclampsia? So easy! I also had a doula and a midwife present. I did all of my prenatal care at Community Midwifery Services in Norman, OK and then transferred care to Dr. Robert Ryan at Saint Anthony’s when my due date came closer. I think I started seeing Dr. Ryan at 32 weeks. I didn’t transfer care because of any problems, I just wanted to deliver at a hospital. But, I’ll probably do a home birth next time. My doula and midwife went to the hospital with me when I delivered. They gave me so much support before, during, and after delivery. They gave me pep talks when they could tell I was scared and filled me with an enormous amount of wisdom and strength. My wonderful doula, Nicole Imes, was there for all of my crazy questions during pregnancy (“Um, I have a cramp, is that normal?”) and always had an answer and reassurance that my baby was ok. My midwife, Gail Brown, told me something at one of my last prenatal appointments that stuck with me, “God knows what He created your body to handle, and He will not give you more than that. Just give the pain to God and you can get through it.” I’m not sure if she noticed, but I almost cried when she said this. In my head I was screaming, “YES!” This was EXACTLY what I had been waiting to hear but didn’t know it! My fear went away at that moment. I chanted this over and over silently in my head during every contraction.
My labor was very long, but I made it. My son was born exactly one week after his due date after 93 total hours of labor. That sounds pretty scary, but the first few days I was still going about my normal activities while barely noticing the contractions. Because of the knowledge I was given, because of the support system I had, and because of the power I knew I had in myself, I made it through natural/un-medicated childbirth. I actually enjoyed it too! Why shouldn’t I? It’s not like the movies with women screaming profanities at their husbands. I have never loved my husband more or been more thankful that God gave him to me than the moment I saw him holding our son for the first time. My contractions were manageable and not excruciating like I was warned by so many people. I think the reason I was able to handle them so well and with little pain is because of the knowledge I had and the support system around me. I knew exactly what my body was doing and that this is what it is supposed to be doing. I believe that every woman should have the birth story she wants. This was exactly what I wanted. At the end of the day, I know that I did everything in my power to give my son a fighting chance at a healthy life from before he took his first breath.