Thinking about Babies

Be prepared: This post combines my experiences from growing up on the farm with my experiences studying Biology, in which I have both a B.S. and M.S.  You will probably think I’m a gigantic weirdo by the end.  If you didn’t already.  Also note: I do not intend to turn this into a baby blog, but I can’t help that it’s on my mind a lot lately.

Growing up, I was fortunate to know that birth is a natural part of life (as is death, but that’s another topic for another time).  Spring was always filled with excitement, wondering when our Nanny goat would have her kid, when the sheep would have a lamb, when we could go visit the first new calf at my mom’s family’s dairy farm, and even when the llama would have her baby (is there a name for a baby llama?).  It seems somehow fitting now that our baby is due in springtime.  While we mostly didn’t witness births, since animals seem to prefer to labor and give birth away from human onlookers, it was always exciting.  Most recently, I was amazed when our Shire Annabelle gave birth to her foal, Isabelle, overnight, totally unassisted, and with no complications.  When my dad found Isabelle, she and Annabelle were both clean and dry, and the afterbirth was buried.  Annabelle is a wonderful mom.

But it wasn’t always picturesque.  My dad tells of wrapping a rope around a calf’s feet and pulling it out, when the cow had trouble giving birth.  There was a time when a lamb was stillborn and the mother sheep died shortly after.  I wasn’t a witness, but I heard what happened.  And of course there were eggs that didn’t hatch.  Things go wrong.

In college, I had the opportunity to take a course in Human and Medical Genetics, in which we covered both common and obscure genetic abnormalities.  These genetic disorders led to physical and/or mental defects, and while I knew they were rare for the most part, the knowledge of their possibility scared me.  The number of disorders tested in prenatal screening is amazingly minute compared to the number of known genetic disorders.  However, the vast majority of them do not have treatments or simple dietary guidelines like phenylketonuria (PKU), so they’re not tested for before or after birth.  In fact, a genetic disorder may not be identified until a child exhibits developmental delays.

I’ve also visited a little room in Yale Medical School that’s filled with jars of preserved human fetuses, showing the vast number of structural abnormalities.  Of course these babies were preserved many years ago, before ethics would prohibit such treatment of miscarried fetuses.  Walking through the room, looking at structural abnormalities from microcephaly to conjoined twins to deformities that I don’t care to remember, is a surreal, macabre experience.  While I’m aware that these deformities are rare, and that today they would mostly be identified in an ultrasound, the images stay with me.

It seems I’ve had much more experience with genetic abnormalities and birth defects than the average pregnant woman.  And while I don’t expect my baby to have any of these rare disorders, the possibility still lingers in the back of my mind.

These are all issues I consider when I think about where I want to deliver my baby.  I am totally confident in my body’s own ability to deliver our child.  Ideally, I would like to labor naturally without interventions like an IV, epidural, catheter or episiotomy.  But I also want to be in a hospital.  I’ve heard a lot of negativity about hospitals in the eco-blogosphere, and I’ve heard of successful home births.  However, away from the internet, I’ve heard many positive stories of hospital birth, from women like my mom and mother-in-law, family members, friends, and colleagues.  I don’t believe that a hospital birth is always as negative as the horror stories I read on the internet.  I believe I can have the birth experience I want, and be in a hospital, too.



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21 responses to “Thinking about Babies

  1. Wow! Abbie you probably are a bit more graphic and biologically-oriented that the “average” pregnant woman, who might be in a “la la, dreamy” state, thinking about her infant-to-be. But, you’re a scientist, so how could I expect anything else? Sometimes the more you know, the more you think and worry; at least that’s the way it is, for me. But I also have faith and I know that you and Ed are doing everything you should be doing and believe in to make the future perfect for your baby-to-be.

    I guess I’m relieved to hear that you’re okay with delivering in a hospital, so that you would have whatever technology necessary for the best outcome for your newborn and you. Knowing you, I know that you will certainly inform your midwife, your doctor, and hospital personnel exactly what you want and what you DON’T want. I also know that you will do everything you need to do to prepare yourselves both mentally and physically for the delivery. Your Dad and I did have great experiences, with all three deliveries in the hospital, without any medical or drug interference. With both of us growing up on farms, we knew birthing was a natural practice and we informed our ob/gyn of our preferences. We had a lot of fun preparing for childbirth, using the Lamaze methods and found the breathing a great way to stay in control, without any need for medication. We actually argued with the hospital staff after your brother’s birth when they charged us for an epidural, when I didn’t have one; of course, we won! (Customary charges, they said, yeah right!)

    But, we also wanted to be prepared for any unexpected complications, because you just never know.

    I’m so glad you’re such a level-headed woman; sometimes I just have to remind myself that you tend to me more graphic due to your biology/scientific background, which I applaud.

    I trust that everything will turn out just the way you and Ed want it!

  2. I am a pretty crunchy granola type mom, and I chose natural birth assisted by midwives. I also chose to birth in the hospital. The first time I didn’t have a choice, really, as I delivered 6 weeks early. The second time was by mutual agreement with my husband.

    I have had very quick and easy deliveries. That may colour things, since I assume you’re less likely to receive interventions when you deliver your baby within 45 minutes of arrival. Either way, I found giving birth in the hospital to be positive. I think what really matters is that you’re comfortable, you have great support, and you trust your caregivers. For some people, that means that they want to be at home. For me, that was in the hospital.

    My wishes for a safe and easy delivery are with you, wherever it happens. 🙂

  3. Jena

    Sounds like a great plan! I feel about the same as you. A home birth sounds very nice but I could never forgive myself if something went wrong. Plus we’re so far from a hospital here that a home birth wouldn’t even be an option. How far are you from your hospital?

  4. I did natural childbirth in a hospital, but couldn’t have done it without my wonderful LaMaze training. My son was transverse and wouldn’t turn head down. If I hadn’t been in the hospital I am afraid to consider what could’ve happened. Sensitive doctors worked to turn him and finally when they decided to do a C-section I begged them to let me try one more time. I DID IT! Very satisfying and the opening door to one of the greatest joys of my life.

    I’ll keep checking on you!

    Best of luck,

    Sharon Lovejoy

  5. I think you are already so far ahead of other pregnant women just by default that this is going to be such an amazing journey for you! I did find that the Biology background was really helpful when they were explaining tests, procedures, whatever to me at the doctor or midwife’s. And in the back of my mind were often images of studies gone wrong from the lab and the badly deformed mice… so you’re not alone in those images.

    However, you have your education and you have the ability to make an informed decision. You aren’t going to allow yourself to be bullied into a procedure, but you also aren’t going to make foolish decisions just because you have your ideal. As I have mentioned many (many) times before, we took the Bradley method classes and I felt so empowered before my water even broke! I actually looked forward to D-day because I knew what was going on and I wasn’t afraid. I’m so excited to see how all this goes for you and to continue following along with the blog!

  6. ctdaffodil

    just stay calm and don’t get all wrapped up in stickin to your ‘birth plan’. I did that – I planned on NBGH delivery and that was the only thing that went along with the plan. I planned on a drug free delivery (didn’t happen because I had to be induced because I was re-absorbing the amiotic fluid.) I planned on laboring in a whirlpool at the hospital but because of all the monitoring my oldest child needed during labor that was not possible. Because he was large and basically got stuck I had to have the episiotomy. I had to have pain meds because I wasn’t relaxing enough to dialiate because I was induced.

    Even though it didn’t go according to plan – I got what I wanted – A happy HEALTHY baby boy and that was all that mattered in the end.

  7. My oldest (the one who is pregnant now) was born in the standard hospital setting for 1979 except that my doctor knew that I didn’t want anything done to me. I had no pain medication, but as much as she lubed me, when I started to tear she did an episiotomy. She told me what she was going to do and I don’t think she would have done it without my okay.

    Next two were born in the “Birthing Room”. I told my doctor that I wanted home birth and he said, “We’ve just now gotten the infant mortality rate down to something we can live with and you want to take us back 20 years?” So, we compromised on the birthing room.

    The birthing room is like a suite in a motel. You deliver on a bed (versus the cot with your legs in stirrups) and you can have your family with you. My oldest was there for the births of both of her siblings. There’s a kitchenette, TV, stereo, dressers, etc., so you don’t feel like you’re in a hospital setting, but the dressers are a facade which hides emergency equipment in case anything goes wrong, and in the very next room are nurses which are there to help you (only if you need them).

    No enemas, shaving, drugs or all the other nightmarish things you might have heard about will happen in the birthing room, although I didn’t have any of that with my first one, either, probably because I made my preferences known beforehand. I was quite pleased with my “hospital”
    experiences and they’re quite willing to release you whenever you feel ready versus waiting for your bowels to move or whatever women waited for in the past. I was there about 12 hours each time.

    My water broke on my first delivery, and labor stopped. That’s not a good thing and my ob/gyn suggested she might want to induce. I told her that I didn’t think I could keep atop the labor if she induced, so one of the nurses told me to a) walk the halls, or b) sneak into a closet with my husband for a little foreplay to get the labor going again. I walked the halls and delivered right after my ob/gyn had finished her dinner (for which she thanked me).

  8. P.S. I think you are already so far ahead of other pregnant women just by default

    When I delivered my first one, I heard another woman screaming in pain down the hall. I asked my doctor, “Is that gonna be me pretty soon?” She said, “The difference between you and her is that YOU’RE prepared for delivery.”

    Also, I recommend that any/every pregnant woman read, Childbirth Without Fear. We’ve been “programmed” to think that childbirth will hurt, yet American Indian women got off their horses, squatted on the side of the road, got back on their horses and moved on with the tribe. Expectations account for a lot, and I think this book dispels many of the myths.

    • Thanks, I’ll look into that book. I’ve always tried to think of it from an evolutionary perspective. We survived this long somehow!

    • Oldnovice,

      We must be from the same generation! “Childbirth Without Fear” is also one of my favorites; a recommended read from our Lamazza class, if I remember correctly.

      Congratulations and best of everything to you and your daughter as you embark on this exciting journey, too! Isn’t it even more fun the next go-round?

      Everydaywoman (aka “The Farmer’s Daughter’s Mother!”)

  9. Have you see The Business Of Being Born? I think you are smart to have a midwife as well. I think the biggest problem with hospital births seems to come when the woman is not in control of what’s going on and from others I have heard from it’s easier with a midwife as they will help advocate for you.

    Since you live on a farm I’m guessing you aren’t just super close to a hospital which I could see that making homebirth less of an option to start with. I know I would want to at least be near one if I did need to go to the hospital for any reason.

    And as you said on your other blog you don’t have a birthing center which to me has always seemed like a nice idea. Somewhere clean, with options for if things go wrong but not a hospital.

    I think it’s great that you seem to have looked at different options and know you have options. Sadly so many women seem to think there is only one way to give birth anymore.

  10. Jena and Lisa- We live about 15-20 minutes from Yale, which is one of the top-ranked hospitals for maternal-fetal medicine in the country. CT is a liberal state, and Yale is looking to reduce their C-section rate, etc. So I’m happy to live in a very progressive state.

    I’ve gone to my midwife for years for well-care, but unfortunately she doesn’t deliver anymore. However, I will be meeting the Dr.’s in her practice, and if they don’t respect my preferences, I will be moving on.

    • That’s good to hear. I don’t live in a progressive state (Oklahoma) and the near by hospital won’t do VBACs and has a large c-section rate.

  11. Lisa, I have seen the Business of Being Born. However, I think there has to be a happy medium between delivering at home (where I know I’d be way more stressed) and a powerless hospital delivery.

  12. Many hospitals now have birthing centers that are peaceful and home-like, but are conveniently close to the things you may need to assist you. You can have a great experience in a hospital. In the 70’s I was so set on delivering naturally with a midwife, but I personally went a month early and needed to be in a hospital setting. I witnessed two home births during those years. One, a second child, went smoothly with a midwife; the second involved a high-speed race to the nearest hospital (25 minutes away!) with an umbilical coed in the wrong place and a near accident on the way. It is a risk. Many things that can be taken care of in a hospital setting could be devastating at home. My own daughter delivered her second baby in a darkened hospital suite; like me, her first son was born early, with complications (though in a hospital), so she was high risk. For son #2, also a little early, things were quiet and warm, and her family was present. I think it was the best of both worlds. She does too.
    While it would be nice if we could drop our babies in soft green grass and go about opur business like the cow and calf I handled two days ago, we’re not built that way. A little help in the right environment is fine…and can be beautiful.

  13. Marie

    Ab and Ed
    All valid points, go easy on yourself, keep it simple and do what ever feels right for you and Ed. If there is one thing you can count on, it is that you cannot count on anything. Every pregnancy and labor is different so you will do what you feel is the right thing to do at the time. Try not to worry, the three of you will be fine.
    He / she is as big as a lime this week!
    Mimi xoxox

  14. Hi! I just stumbled upon your blog from The Green Phone Booth, and I like it. 🙂

    I have 3 daughters. #1 was an OB/GYN attended, induced hospital delivery. Pit, broke my waters, epidural. Everything went better than expected (the whole slippery slope of interventions and all), normal vag delivery. #2 was a midwife attended, no interventions/non-medicated hospital water bith. Completely amazing, and so empowering. #3 was a planned homebirth. Baby didn’t feel like waiting for the midwifwe to arrive, so hubby and I delivered her on our bed, and everything went perfectly.

    Being informed and making the decision that is best for you and your family, regardless of outside influences, is what matters. And it is obvious you are very well informed! Good luck with your pregnancy.

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