There is a great deal of choice when it comes to birth. You can choose where and how to have your baby, what sort of pain relief you would like for the birth, what to do with the cord and whether it should be clamped, whether to let you baby chest crawl. It is wonderful that there are so many choices, although it can be a little confusing and we need to do our research to figure out what is best for us and our baby. In this post I want to talk about my own birth choices and why I made them. This will be followed next week by a post about making birth choices and where to get guidance and advice (it will take a couple of days to put together). I hope you enjoy my story in the mean time.
One of the most important choices for my birth was where to have my baby, and in my case I chose a birth centre. There were a number of factors behind this, including distance - the birth centre is a five minute drive from my house, while the nearest hospital is 7 miles away in Manchester city centre. So not easy to get to when you're in labour. As well as the distance, another deciding factor was the environment. I had been to the hospital a few times for antenatal classes and the odd appointment, and I had always found it to be a busy environment with a lot going on. Although there were two birthing pools (more than at the birth centre) I knew that I would struggle in a place that was busy and overly medical. In comparison the birth centre was quiet, I had never seen another person on any of my visits and I liked how it wasn't too medical. The rooms were comfortable, decorated like hotel rooms and I found the midwives very reassuring. I liked the idea of midwives being in attendance and not doctors. I don't have any problems with doctors and appreciate the work that they do - especially when helping with problematic births - but for me, the less I saw my birth as medical the better. I don't know why, but this really helped me. In the time since the birth I have found this view point has helped me to recover, especially after I had a fair few stitches. I am trying to view it from as holistic a view point as possible as this will help next time round.
In the end, I felt that the birth centre would be more sympathetic to my choices and that I would feel more relaxed there. So this is what I went with. I did not regret this decision and would do it again. There had been talk about moving me to the hospital afterwards, but it was decided that I would be alright staying at the centre, which was a relief as also found it much more relaxing after the birth. As it was much quieter than the hospital it meant that there were more opportunities for one-to-one attention from the midwives, which was great as we were having problems establishing feeding and had to stay in overnight. The ladies did a great job, for which I will forever be grateful. I may also consider a home birth next time around, but we will see.
Having chosen the birth centre there were other decisions to make and I would look to talk here briefly about why I made these decisions.
The second big decision besides where I would have my baby was the pain relief. After doing a lot of research, I eventually chose to go without an epidural. I would only have the pain relief injection if needed, but was favouring a water birth with gas and air if needed. This was not an easy decision by any means and I think there were a few times that I regretted it during labour, but being able to use the birthing pool really helped and I ended up labouring and giving birth in the pool as I had wanted, using gas and air as needed. The decision will be no easier to make next time, but having given birth in water I can't see myself doing it any other way in future.
The other three decisions that I made were stage three management, when the cord would be cut and about skin to skin contact. I can't remember why I had opted for a natural third stage of labour, but in the end I took the offered injection to just get it done with. The cord however, I requested not to be clamped until it had finished pumping. I had read that this was better for the baby as more oxygen rich blood was sent to there body whilst they were getting used to breathing. This meant that I could not choose to donate the cord, but the birth centre did not run a donation scheme anyway so it did not make too much of a difference and I feel that my baby benefited.
The last decision and one that I feel was very important was requesting skin to skin contact as soon as the baby was born and allowing the baby to breast crawl. I would like to have done more skin to skin, but had problems with blood loss and a tear - but I was able to do it before and after being sorted out. Although we were not successful in getting breastfeeding going, skin to skin is still vital to the health of the baby. The breast crawl took a while, but if it helps to establish breastfeeding then it is worthwhile and fascinating to see. It is worth checking out baby breast crawl videos on YouTube, as they are amazing to watch - but hurry as they sometimes get taken down for ridiculous reasons (God forbid that boobs should be seen doing what they were made for.)
I hope this post has shed some light on some of the choices that are available for birth. I will be posting next week giving a more detailed explanation of the choices available and where you can find support and information on the options and available and on writing your birth plan (although the birth plan information may come in another post if it is too long.) Good luck in your decision making and remember to take your time and think things over. It is your birth and your choice.