Jon has been training for his upcoming half-marathon. Our Coastie friends Nick, Lindsey and Rose will be joining us in March. Everyone but me and the babes will be running. And I am perfectly fine with that! I must confess, I HATE to run. No lie, it is probably on my list of Top 10 Things I Most Dislike to Do. And so I pretty much don't. I endured it during my years of field hockey and one year of track :) but have rarely picked up the pace since high school. In fact, I think the last time I ran was during our first year of marriage. We were living in the original Love Nest, which was conveniently located right next to a state park with miles of hiking, biking and running paths. Jon wanted to go out for a jog, and I wanted to be with my hunk of a husband. Less than a mile later I informed him I was done and he sprinted on ahead. I always had shin splints in high school, but you would think they'd be gone after 4 years. In fact, my husband assured me they couldn't possibly still be around. But by the time I had walked home that day my shins were on fire, and it hurt to walk for 4 straight days after that. Jon thought I was being a big wuss, and I began to wonder if maybe I was. I always thought I had a semi-high pain tolerance, but seriously, who can't run a mile? So it was then that I told myself, and Jon, that someday I would have a baby and have one naturally just to prove to him that I'm not a sissy, that I can handle pain, and that when I complain that my shins hurt I REALLY MEAN IT!
And that, dear readers, is the real reason I began my pursuit of a pain-med-free, intervention-less childbirth. Since then I've learned bit more about the benefits of "going naturally," but I had to tell you the honest story of how it all began!
So while Jon has been training for his upcoming marathon I've been training for my own - the birth of our second child. And for me, the best way to prepare is, of course, to read! Here's what I've read so far:
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth - Ina May Gaskin
This was on my list of books to read when I was pregnant with Jack, but I never got around to it. If you look up midwife in the dictionary you should find Ina May's name after it. I would consider her to be the midwife of all midwives. Back in the 70s she started a communal living area/out-of-hospital birth center called "The Farm." The first part of this book is all birth stories from woman who delivered at "The Farm." Normally I love birth stories, but these got old after a while. Some stories were encouraging, others were just a little beyond what I'm personally comfortable with. I read about half of these, then skipped ahead to the second half of the book which is all about labor and birth. After reading this book I realized how much I didn't know going into Jack's birth, especially about the whole physical - emotional connection. I highlighted and marked up many portions of this book to go back and read over again closer to THE BIRTH. There were so many little tidbits in this book that I want to remember too - like blowing raspberries during labor may help you relax. I also realize, after reading this, how special Jack's birth was, and how well things worked out for us that day. On the same note, this book also made me afraid of all the things that could "go wrong" for our next birth. I don't think that is at all the author's intention, but I couldn't help but wonder just what my chances are of having a straightforward birth when there are so many factors to consider. In fact, after I finished reading it, I began to really worry about delivering at the hospital again and whether I could continue to expect the kind of mostly-positive experience we had with Jack. So I started researching our military benefits, what would be required of me to change to a civilian doctor or midwife, and whether the local birthing center would accept these benefits. In my search, I stumbled across a few message boards about military healthcare, and delivering naturally in Hampton Roads, and one of the posters recommended the next book I read ...
Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care - Jennifer Block
I looked it up on Amazon, read a few reader reviews and then did something I never do - went out the next day and bought it, brand new for full price. I always buy books used or check them out of the library, but the library didn't carry it, the used prices weren't that much lower, and I really wanted it for our vacation out West. If you're looking for a diplomatic view of your childbirth options than this would not be the book for you, but if you're interested in understanding the history of modern maternity care and why doctor's and hospitals handle maternity care the way they do, then I would highly recommend this book. Even if you're not interested in a natural delivery, I think it contains good information about what to expect from modern maternity care in a hospital. The author is a journalist, and I really liked her style of writing. After reading this I actually started to feel better about delivering at the Navy hospital again. Sure I won't have a doctor with whom I have a relationship, or even one that I know. I think this is one case where not having a relationship with your medical caregiver almost works to my advantage. I don't have to worry about being induced to meet a doctor's schedule, or be rushed to deliver before a change of shift. The doctor's at the Navy hospital aren't making more money by taking on more patients than they can handle, handing out more epidurals or ordering more c-sections. They make money from tax dollars. :)
I liked the real-life birth stories in this book, even though many of them weren't positive. I also learned a lot of new information about c-section rates and VBACS. And gained a new interest in the whole underground homebirth movement. Some of the stories of how far woman were willing to go to avoid a repeat c-section were fascinating! In fact, the whole "showing up pushing" thing has really captured my interest. Generally, this is done by women who have previously had a c-section and want to ensure a trial of labor the next time around. They'll drive to the hospital, labor in the parking lot for as long as possible, and potentially walk into L&D while the baby is crowning. You would think this would guarantee them a VBAC but apparently it's not always so - it's also amazing what some doctors will do to protect themselves. One woman labored at home for as long as possible, walked into the hospital as her baby was about to be born and, without her consent, was given "oxygen" that knocked her out and wheeled to the OR for surgery. Wow! Thankfully I don't have to worry about a VBAC at this point, but I will admit, the thought of arriving at the hospital just in time to push has it's appeal.
My two complaints with this book are the author's view of abortion (it was completely out of place and awkward in a book about childbirth) and the fact that she unloads this slew of information about the sad state currently maternity care and the growing popularity of homebirths and birth centers, all of which I agree with, but offers no real solutions. Even a solid birth plan can't protect a woman's rights and, she claims, only gives them a false sense of power. I can see her perspective, but I was very thankful that I had a birth plan I believed in with Jack, one that all the doctor's and nurses that attended me reviewed that night, and one that my husband was willing to stand up for when I was too tired to do it myself. We'll definitely be going that route again!
The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth - Henci Goer
This was recommended to me by aspiring natural-birther friend. After reading the previous two books, a lot of the information in this book I had heard before. So I kinda rushed through it. Plus, I borrowed it from the library so that means no underlining or making notes and that means no anecdotes off the top of my head. My favorite part of this book is the layout. Each chapter covers a different aspect of childbirth and and that subject is then broken down into different sections like "The Bottom Line...", "Pros and Cons of ...", "Questions to ask about...", and "Gleanings from Medical Literature..." So if you don't to read through the whole book, it's easy to find information on one specific topic. The author also offers lots of suggestions and strategies. That said, be prepared for a very biased discussion. She says right in her introduction that she will not be objective and that her goal is to convert you to her way of thinking, but I appreciate her honesty. I also thoroughly enjoyed the charts and graphs in the back of the book. We all know how much I love numbers. Stuff like episiotomy rates, c-section rates and induction rates. It got me interested in my own hospitals data. I found this handy webpage with information on Virginia Obstetrics - http://www.vhi.org/ob_reports_results.asp, but it appears that it doesn't include any data on the Navy Hospital nor any doctors that work there. Heck, it would be nice to just find a few names of doctors on staff there! I was supposed to do my hospital pre-admissions work weeks ago, so maybe when I stop by to do that I can ask about some numbers. Chances are they won't have anything, but at the very least I could find a list of doctors to Google. :)
Next on my list is Dobson's "Bringing Up Boys." I'd like to get one more Jack-book in before delving into the last of my pre-baby reading, which will include:
Dick-Read's "Childbirth Without Fear" - my all-time favorite childbirth book. I'm not quite sure why, since it is ancient and written by a man, but if I could only read one book to prepare me for labor and delivery this would be the one!
Babywise and the Baby Whisperer (I have the important parts of these underlined so I don't think I'll have to completely re-read them)
Weissbluth's "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" (Just a review of the section on newborn sleep since this book is LONG.)
And last but not least, if I can find the time, I'd like to check out "Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank" which was recently recommended by my college-roommate-turned-librarian. It looks entertaining and completely different from all the other books I've read thus far.
So that's where I am now. With just 9 weeks to go, I need to get "bookin' it" before I enter the "no free time" zone. If I only I could still win free pizza for the number of books I finish!