For some women, the thought of giving birth is full of fear and dread, for others it’s something they dream about their entire life. For me, it was the latter.
I literally had dreams of fulfilling the what I believed to be the most important purpose of my body, growing and birthing a baby. I was confident that my body was divinely made for this one purpose.
I dreamed about it as a little girl. I got married at 25 so I could fulfill my dream as early as possible.
I got pregnant practically on my honeymoon and immediately started planning for the amazing natural birth I would have. I knew I’d be giving birth in Miami where I was born, where my mom, dad, stepmom and grandma lived and where I’d be living for a year during my post-law school clerkship.
The natural birth experience was so important to me that I found midwives to provide my prenatal and delivery care. I knew that my chances of having a natural childbirth were greater if I delivered with a midwife than if I went with a traditional OB/GYN.
I even drove 45 minutes each way in Miami traffic and summer heat for my pre-natal visits because it was so important to me.
I read everything I could get my hands on about birth. Even erotic birth stories. Those blew my mind and made me even more excited about a natural birth! I had my birth plan. My husband and I had attended our Bradley classes. We were set to go.
Then, 36 weeks into my pregnancy, I kept feeling as if I was peeing in my pants. Everytime I went to the bathroom, my underwear was soaked. It didn’t really smell like urine though.
I consulted with my online mommy support group asking if they thought that was normal and they all said it sounded as if I was leaking amniotic fluid and I should get it checked. On Halloween night in 1999, off to the hospital we went. I wasn’t due until Thanksgiving.
It was the end of a hot summer in Miami and I had ballooned to nearly 200 pounds, adding 70 pounds to my body. By then, I was so done being pregnant. But, I had 4 weeks to go before my due date.
When we got to the hospital, it turned out I had a leak in my membranes, often called a “high leak” and the midwives called the doctors at the hospital and the doctors who didn’t know me or how important a natural birth was to me decided I had to deliver my baby within 24 hours.
Now, with hindsight and time to do plenty of online research, I know that was the WRONG answer.
What they could have (should have?) done is sent me home, told me to monitor my temperature for a fever (which would indicate an infection) and to rest.
Instead, they convinced me that I had to give birth right away or my baby’s life would be at risk. I was scared. They said cervadil would be a good choice to begin to “ripen” my cervix. You see at 36 weeks I wasn’t even effaced and if you aren’t effaced, you can’t dilate.
Think of it this way – effacing shortens the cervix and dilation opens it. Well, you can’t open until it’s shortened. The cervadil is supposed to shorten the cervix so it can dilate. Um, yea, right.
The interventions had begun. One thing led to another and 28 hours later I was having an emergency C-section. Of course I was.
The cervadil led to the pitocin to induce contractions which led to intense and unyielding pain, which led to the epidural, which led to more pitocin, which led to baby in distress from the never ending and unnatural contractions, which led to the c-section.
One intervention leads to a series of interventions, which leads to the c-section, which never would have been necessary without the initial intervention. It’s an all too common pattern.
When I finally came out of my morphine induced fog after the surgery, I remember seeing my baby and not even wanting to hold her. I felt annoyed, bothered, out of it. I needed someone to take care of me, I couldn’t take care of another being. All I got was intrusive hospital staff trying to force me to let them feed my baby just a little formula until my milk came in.
I was confused, uncertain and afraid.
My sister came to visit and she was scared because she said it seemed like I didn’t even like my baby. She was right. I was out of it.
Finally, the morphine wore off and I was able to think clearly enough to keep the well-meaning nurses away from my baby, but not before they permanently altered the lining of her gut with an ounce of formula they insisted would keep her from starvation. Um, no. She spit up every time I nursed her for the next 3 months thanks to their well-meaning intentions.
3 years later, pregnant with my son, I was determined not to let any of this happen again. I sought out one of the few doctors in Los Angeles known for supporting VBACs (vaginal birth after a c-section) and started a search for a doula (a birth support coach).
But then, at 34 weeks pregnant, I went to visit the hospital I’d be giving birth in. As soon as I got up to the L&D floor, I knew. If I went there to give birth, I was going to have another c-section. Without a doubt. I couldn’t do it.
With a little more than a month to go, I decided to find an alternative. Not easy today. But, luckily for me (and my baby) I found the women at the Hollywood Birth Center and they agreed to take me on with extremely short notice.
6 weeks later, I gave birth to my son, intervention free, surrounded by 7 women and my husband. I pushed my baby into the world as I was held in the arms of my best girlfriend, squatting and yelling the primal screams of womanhood.
My son ripped me open, but my midwife Connie repaired me with a tenderness and care that I can’t imagine many surgeons could muster. And, three hours later, we were home with our new baby.
For weeks after the birth, I was visited by the postpartum midwife to check on me and make sure all was going well. I’ve never felt more loved or cared for. I’ve never felt more empowered. I’ve never felt more like a woman.
Today, woman do not have the option of having a birth like mine in Los Angeles because there is no longer a birth center. Other than a hospital birth, the only option is a home birth and many women aren’t ready to take that step yet. I wouldn’t have been then.
With nearly 33% of all births today resulting in c-section and up to a whopping 90 percent involving some form of intervention in the hospital, the women of Los Angeles County deserve the space to give birth intervention free. And, it’s just good business too because they are demanding it.
If you were moved by this story and want to do something about, there are things you can do:
1. Watch the movie produced by Ricki Lake, the Business of Being Born. It’s an eye-opening look at the state of birth in the United States today.
2. Insist on an intervention free birth of your own and only give birth in a hospital if you have a high-risk pregnancy.
3. Invest in a birth center.
The women of Los Angeles County deserve and are demanding a place to birth without risk of unnecessary interventions. If you’ve been looking for a meaningful investment for your capital that will not only provide a great return, but also allow you to be part of something amazing, please contact me to find out how you can help create the most incredible birth center, almost more of a birth spa, in the center of Los Angeles where the business of birth can return to what it’s supposed to be. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put Birth Center in the subject line for more information. Serious inquires only please! I’ll get back to you with our requirements for investors. Be patient as it may take some time for me to respond.