“I usually talk in my classes about how ‘this’ is the only chance you’re going to get to birth this baby. Sure you may go on to have other babies, but you only get *THIS* chance to birth *THIS* baby. I also share with moms that because of this fact, the significance of this birth is infinitely greater than the significance of this birth is to your nurse, OB, midwife, etc.” – Louise Delaney
As I was writing my post last week about “bragging rights” in birth, I was also considering the role of birth regret. I’ve come to realize that just as each woman has moments of triumph in birth, almost every woman, even those with the most blissful birth stories to share, have birth regrets of some kind of another. And, we may often look at subsequent births as an opportunity to “fix” whatever it was that went “wrong” with the birth that came before it. While it may seem to some that most mother swap “horror stories” more often than tales of exhilaration, I’ve noticed that those who are particularly passionate about birth, may withhold or hurry past their own birth regret moments, perhaps out of a desire not to tarnish the blissful birth image, a desire not to lose crunchy points, or a desire not to contribute to the climate of doubt already potently swirling around pregnant women. I’ve already acknowledged all of my own moments of birth regret, but never all in the same post…so, here they are…
First birth: This birth was great and very empowering, but I also learned a lot of things I’d like to do differently the next time. Maybe “regret” is too strong a word, but there were things I definitely knew I wanted to change for next time. I regretted feeling pushed into several things I wouldn’t have chosen on my own, such as giving birth in a semi-sitting position rather than on hands and knees. I wished I hadn’t had quite so many people around me at the birth and I wished I would have just stayed home, rather than driving to a birth center. I regretting not asking to squat after the placenta to help the “sequestered clots” come out and possibly avoid the manual extraction I experienced which was pretty awful (I swear my uterus actually twinges when writing/thinking about it). I regretted having a pitocin shot after the birth, because I still don’t think I actually needed it and it bothered me for a long time that I couldn’t figure out whether or not I’d really needed it. I was also pretty physically and emotionally traumatized by the labial/clitoral tearing I experienced and desperately wanted to fix that next time! Interestingly, most of these regrets were clearly connected to other people and to events in the immediate postpartum period, rather than anything to do with the labor or birth process itself.
Second birth: With this birth, I see very clearly how I deliberately made choices to “fix” the things that nagged at me from my first birth. I gave birth at home, I had very few people present, I gave birth on hands and knees. I was extremely distraught to tear again in the same unfortunate and traumatic way. I’d been totally convinced before the birth that it was all related to positioning and I could fix it, next time. I regretted getting up and showering, etc. so soon after the birth and I wished for more postpartum care (noticing a theme here…). I wished I hadn’t almost fainted several times and still recall the feeling of my head snapping back as I almost went under. That said, I felt the proudest and most exhilarated after this birth.
Third birth: Aside from the obvious of wishing my baby had been born alive, I “fixed” some things from prior births in that I stayed down after the birth to keep myself from fainting. I regretted drinking Emergen-C after the birth. I regretted not being better informed about coping physically with a miscarriage. And, I wished I’d been better able to assess blood loss. I also wished I’d had an attendant of some kind, particularly for immediate postpartum care. I still feel traumatized from the memory of what felt like extreme blood loss during this birth. This was the most physically demanding experience of my life. Not just my birth life, my whole life.
Fourth birth: My biggest regret from this birth was having tried to use a hypnosis for birth program while in labor. I feel as if there were some pre-birth benefits from using the program, but it was not a match for the way I labor and birth and I actually feel as if using it had a negative impact both on my ability to clearly remember and to focus my energy. I did still tear in the same place and in what seems like some new ways as well. I never want to tear like that again. I hate it. I’ve reached my physical and emotional limit with experiencing that type of tearing and I feel like I still have some negative lasting effects. I also think I had some nerve damage that continued until about six months ago. What I “fixed” this time was having a living baby and rediscovering that I could in fact do this and there was nothing wrong with me. I loved that I caught my own baby. (Best. Moment. Ever.) I also had the immediate postpartum care I’ve finally learned I really, really need. I consumed a small piece of placenta postpartum, I drank chlorophyll (and not vitamin C), when I went to the bathroom and did not look down, so I didn’t get all fainty and woozy from seeing the blood, and my doula encapsulated the placenta and I loved it.
It is interesting to me to look at these feelings and situations in the same place. With my last birth, I finally “fixed” the postpartum and blood loss issues that haunted me, but I created new things to fix by experimenting with hypnosis rather than the active birth, birth warrior, Birthing from Within type of experience that truly suits me. I guess I will never fix the tearing situation (I still want to write about that someday!). I also notice how impacted I was and still am by the two births that involved major blood loss. This came up for me very viscerally in reading the current Midwifery Today issue about hemorrhage. While the topic is important and the issue is really informative and useful, I actually had to put it down by page nine because my uterus was hurting/twinging so much (low back too). I really don’t think it was only my imagination either. (This is one reason my work with birth is never going to actually include becoming a midwife!)
I’m curious to know…do you have birth regrets? Or, things that you used subsequent births to fix, overcome, or cope with? Do you see any patterns to your birth experiences like I see in mine?
The other thing this exercise brought up for me is the important of preparing for the birth you want during this birth. This baby is only born once. This birth only happens once. I have clients tell me sometimes while still pregnant with their first baby, “well, next time, I’ll try XYZ…” Don’t wait for next time, do it this time!
The first birth is the pivotal birth. Every birth experience that follows builds on that one. Our choices now are choices for the NEXT birth. The first birth doesn’t have to be either perfect or awful and earth shattering to make us think. We don’t have to choose differently than the first birth; but it’s the first one that gives us a place to begin experiencing not just birth but ourselves as mothers, women, people. We may not all have ground shaking, earth thundering thoughts but we have them. The experience belongs to us. We choose what to do with it. Choosing to do nothing different is still an influenced choice ~ made on that experience…
…What will YOU do to have a first birth that leaves you with few regrets or changes for your NEXT birth? Why not have the birth of your choosing, rooted in truth and your ability to know yourself and your baby now?…
These types of triumphs and regrets produce both birth professionals dedicated to helping others and also mothers who become so hurt and disillusioned with birth that they may actively reject the “natural birth” movement.