Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Why I No Longer Have Birth Regret

I've had different experiences with different births, and each one has been unique and promoted personal growth.

My first baby's birth was the hardest. I went in naively thinking I could have a medication-free birth in the hospital with very little preparation. I knew my mom gave birth to all six of her babies without medication, and I assumed I'd be able to do the same. I didn't realize how much things had changed in 15 years and I wasn't prepared for the routine interventions that seemed to cascade out of control. My water broke, I was induced to the point that I was begging for medication, got the epidural which led to fetal distress and slow labor, threatened with a cesarean if I didn't progress, and ultimately pushed for almost two hours and was given an episiotomy without my consent.

I was grateful I'd avoided the c-section, but it had been a traumatizing experience. The childbirth classes at the county health department had not prepared me for being bullied and coerced by medical staff to receive interventions I never wanted.

The crazy thing is that I would have gone back to the same obstetrician for my second pregnancy, except that he wouldn't accept my new insurance. I'll be forever grateful for being forced to find a new doctor. I also changed hospitals, which I now realize was a huge step in the right direction. I've since learned that the hospital where my first child was born has the highest intervention rates in the area. It's the best place in the county for premature and sick babies, but the worst for healthy moms and babies and natural birth. I chose a smaller community hospital after that and never went back to the first hospital.

My second baby's birth was a result of me trying to take control of the situation. When my doctor said my cervix was favorable and offered me the option of scheduling an induction I felt like I had power over my baby's birth. I had decided I just couldn't handle birth without pain medication and made peace with the epidural. It was actually a very positive experience for me. Labor was much faster, more than two-thirds shorter than my first labor. I was laughing with my husband and the doctor during labor and pushing, and my son came out with about four pushes. The doctor was gentler than my first OB, and he was more friendly. He didn't cut me, but I tore along my episiotomy scar. My baby latched on while the doctor was stitching me up, and nothing felt rushed or pressured. I think it was exactly the experience I needed at the time.

I stuck with my second OB for the next two births, which were both unmedicated births in the smaller hospital with a doula. My doctor was very supportive of my wishes and so was the hospital. I really think I had the best births I could have had in that setting, with very few interventions. I felt like the hospital staff were just observers and I was doing everything with the support of my husband and my doula.

My fifth baby's birth at home was incredibly healing for me. It had the opposite effect on me than what I'd expected. Instead of becoming further polarized to home birth, I found myself opening up and being more accepting of the different choices women make for birth. I felt that I would personally never step foot in a hospital to give birth again, but I was more understanding of other women who chose differently than I did.

I think that shift happened because I became more at peace with myself. For years I'd been angry with my first obstetrician for the way my first baby's birth played out. Not at first, but as time slowly went by I realized there was a lot of emotional pain from the experience. I felt like everyone around me had been making decisions for me. I had no voice, and when I tried to speak up no one listened. I blamed my doctor for everything that hadn't gone according to my wishes. I had deep regrets, especially after I was finally able to have a natural birth in the hospital and was learning more about physiological birth. If only I'd been able to prepare myself better during my first pregnancy. If only I'd put some thought into which doctor I went to and where I would give birth. If only I'd been smarter, more informed, and not so quick to trust the medical professionals. I blamed myself for not making better decisions and knowing better.

I transferred the pain and blame I felt onto other women who seemed to be making the same mistakes I'd made. I couldn't understand why anyone would knowingly choose a birth full of interventions and I had a sort of self-righteous attitude about it. I felt I knew better, and people should listen to me. I took it personally when they didn't want to listen. I wished I'd had someone to tell me all the things I should have known, and my friends were dismissing this important information without a second thought.

My home birth helped me find inner peace. Somehow through that experience I was finally able to forgive myself. For the first time in nine years I no longer felt angry or pained at the memory of that first traumatic birth.

My inner peace seemed to translate outward toward others. Once I was able to forgive myself for being human and making mistakes I was able to be more genuinely loving and supportive of others who made decisions I wouldn't personally make.

I also realized that each of my birth experiences was a part of my path. When I was pregnant for the first time I wasn't ready for the information I now understand. After the disappointment of my out-of-control first birth I needed to heal, and that took time and experience. Even though it was fully medicated, my second baby's birth was very healing for me at the time. I learned that medicated birth can go smoothly and it's not always a train wreck. Through the births of my third and fourth children I learned about my own power and strength, and I was gradually growing more confident in my body and spirit. I also found great strength and support in my husband and my doula, and it was beautiful to have them to depend on. My natural hospital births gave me the confidence to move forward with a planned home birth. Through my home birth I felt I came full circle and was able to embrace every experience I'd had before that point in time. I also feel the home birth helped prepare me for more things to come, possibly a planned unassisted birth in my future.

One thing I've realized is that people can and do change, and what we each need is loving support for where we are and what we need at the time. I'm glad I didn't have someone screaming in my face telling me what a mistake it was to be asking for an epidural, or how stupid it was to schedule an induction. At those points in time I wouldn't have been able to accept it.

I needed to have these experiences for my personal growth, and I feel it will help me to better support other women in their various pregnancy and birth choices. I understand why women choose interventions because I've been there. I also understand what it's like to experience trauma and regret, and the healing that takes place. I accept that each woman is at a certain place in her path and must make the choices that she feels are best for her and her situation. Understanding my own imperfections helps me to appreciate someone else in her imperfect state. When I think about what I've been through and what has brought me to where I am now, I can more easily accept a woman for who she is today and what she chooses to do.


  1. I too have been healing from a rough birth. I planned a home birth with my son. I educated myself, but that's not the way it went down. I had to transfer and ended up with the very thing I dreaded most, c-section. I had to be completely knocked out for his birth, so neither my husband nor I were there for the birth. I wasn't forced into anything and I made every decision and had excellent support. But it still left it's mark. I think that had I had a successful home birth I wouldn't have learned as much as I have since his birth. I wouldn't be as understanding of others and their choices, even though I'd choose differently.
    We're trying to get prego for #2 and I'm planning a HBAC. I don't regret one decision we made regarding his birth but I wish it could have been different. I hope and pray that the future pregnancies are healing and wonderful!

    Thanks for sharing your story with us.

    You can read my story here.

  2. This is beautiful. I can see how you could go from blaming yourself and the professionals who didn't help you to blaming other parents for making the same mistakes. How incredibly healing that you've had multiple births since then to resolve those issues inside yourself.

    My first birth was not what I wanted it to be, and I'm hoping for a healing homebirth this time around. I have also needed to let go of my expectations for what other people should choose for their birth experience.

    Your post reminded me of many from the Carnival of Natural Parenting this month on compassionate advocacy. Thanks for adding to my thoughts about the topic!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your story...I love how you`ve come to the resolution of no longer having birth regret.

    My first birthing was in hospital and involved many more interventions that I wished (thankfully my midwife did save me from a nonconsentual episiotomy - the OB who ended up delivering was just itching to do one :p).

    I sincerely hope to give birth at home next time, but I have learned so much since then that even if it ends up being in a hospital, I feel better prepared to state my needs - knowing that birth is something I am doing, not something be done to me!

    We need these stories mama - thank you again for sharing!

  4. I loved reading your journey through your births. It is very telling how we learn so much through each experience.

  5. Beautifully insightful! Thank you for sharing your lessons with us!

  6. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing your journey. In many ways it mirrors mine though the actual path was completely different. Blessings to you for opening up to us, like this.

  7. Thanks you for sharing your feelings with so many. Birth can be such a sacred experience. I to have a hard time understanding why someone would choose drugs. But it's the se reason all of us make different choices
    About marriage parenting etc. I love sharing my birth story of my son Oliver and encourage every woman I can to consider the power within to have a natural birth. A month after my first birth I was attending a yoga class, something that I had previously loved to do. I was unsure how my body was going to physically handle the experience, once there I found I got through the class with ease and I thought. If I can give birth naturally, I can do anything. What an empowering moment in my life!