First, a quick update: all is well! We had our first growth scan Thursday, and in addition to showing a nicely growing little guy who weighs about a pound now (at 21 weeks), we got the last view of the heart that they couldn’t get at the anatomy scan and it was fine. As the doctor said, “There are never any guarantees of a healthy baby… but everything looks fabulous.” Our little guy is kicking up a storm, and I’m getting bigger too.
It’s still a long way off, but something that’s been bouncing around in my brain a lot lately is the question of how to approach labor and delivery with this baby. My first L&D experience was traumatic for various reasons, but mostly (aside from the obvious fact that I was giving birth to our dead daughter) because I felt out of control and in extreme amounts of pain, and as I found out afterward, the inexperienced midwife made some really poor medical decisions. So as I start to think about what L&D will feel like for me in this pregnancy, I worry that I’ll be panicked and fearful, and that I won’t feel that I can trust our new providers, and I don’t want it to be that way.
Penny Simkin, author of “Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn” and famous childbirth educator, distinguishes between pain and suffering in labor. She believes that it is possible to experience labor pain without suffering, and that suffering comes from feeling out of control or believing yourself or your baby in danger. I certainly experienced both pain and suffering with the birth of my daughter, and it has made me feel panic and fear when I think about giving birth to my son. But I don’t want it to be that way — I want to feel prepared and powerful when my son is born, no matter what the circumstances. And whether or not I feel pain (my plan is to start off without pain meds and decide as I go — I’m not going to berate myself if I opt for an epidural), I do not want to suffer with this birth the same way I did in my first.
So, I’ve been trying to think about ways to prepare myself for L&D well in advance of going into labor with my son. I’m starting to compile a list, partly based on things that I came up with on my own, and partly thanks to suggestions from an online group for women who are pregnant after 2nd trimester loss that has been very helpful to me in this pregnancy (I won’t advertise it here because it’s non-anonymous, but if you are interested and can give me a way to contact you privately I’d be happy to share the information!).
- Birth classes – This falls into the “obvious” category, but I think it’s going to be very important for me as I prepare to give birth to my son. The first time around, I had signed up for childbirth classes, but they hadn’t taken place yet, so I only knew the bare bones of what to expect (and I wasn’t exactly in a frame of mind to be educated and deal with things calmly, either!). As I think about going through L&D again, I want to be informed and prepared for the process of normal labor, as well as common complications and interventions. For me, as always, knowledge is power. We are signed up to start childbirth classes at our hospital in November. One woman from the 2nd trimester loss group suggested seeking out a couple of different classes through different organizations, since the information and format is often very different. This sounds like a great idea, and I’ve seen free birth classes offered by a local community center that I might look into.
- Hospital tour – I don’t really need the tour to find my way to the L&D ward of our local hospital — after all, I’ve been there before, for some of the saddest and most painful hours of my life. When I think of going back there, I shudder. But I’d rather go back when I’m feeling well and in control than show up when I’m already panicky and in labor. So I’ve signed us up for an early tour next week, and I might drag my husband back there another time or two before we have to do it for real, just to build some memories and experience there that is different from the birth of our daughter.
- Making staff aware of our loss – Many people have suggested this in one way or another. Some are planning to call the L&D ward before they go into labor, others are writing it prominently on their birth plan or making a sign for their door. Obviously our local OB group knows about our previous loss, but since we won’t know until we get there which doctor will be on call or which nurse we’ll get, we’ll have to think of a way to be prepared to communicate our history and our need for extra understanding and reassurance.
- Hiring a doula – This is something that we’re considering, but haven’t firmly decided on yet. There’s some evidence that continuous labor support from a doula can reduce rates of interventions and c-sections… but like most of the literature surrounding pregnancy and birth, the strength of the evidence is a bit shaky. Still, it seems like it might fall into one of those “can’t hurt, might help” categories, which makes it at least worth looking into. One of the women in the 2nd trimester loss group has been working with her doula to help prepare herself for birth after loss, which I think sounds great if you can find a doula who is sensitive to the needs of someone who’s pregnant after a loss.
- Reading positive birth stories – This is something that hadn’t even occurred to me, but it’s true that most of the birth stories you read on the internet are negative. Since my own first experience with birth was also quite negative, it might help to read about what happens when things go right, to prepare myself with some different visions of what my reality might be, or what I might hope for in a birth. I think I’ll have to be careful not to get my expectations too high, but since I have plenty of negative birth images and experiences to color my thoughts, I might as well add some positive ones to my arsenal too!
- Hypnobirthing fear release – This method may be a little too crunchy for me, but since it’s helped other women in the 2nd trimester loss group, I thought I’d mention it. Apparently if you just purchase the fear release track it only costs $4 — link is here if you’re curious.
So, that’s where I am at the moment. If you have other ideas for dealing with fear left over from a previous traumatic pregnancy experience, I’m all ears! I know it probably seems early to be thinking about all of this, but as I found out last time, you just never know when you’re going to wind up in the hospital — so the sooner I deal with my issues the better.
I do feel like I’ve entered a point of relative calm in this pregnancy. I still feel good physically, I’m enjoying the “new” pregnancy experiences as I get bigger and the baby gets stronger, and I’m starting to plan ahead, just a little bit. Our nursery is still an empty room… but now it has curtains! My husband had ordered some curtains for the main upstairs bathroom, which will be the “kid” bathroom eventually, and while they were totally adorable, they clashed with the shower curtain. So I found us some solid-color curtains for the bathroom to go with the patterned shower curtain, and tentatively suggested that maybe these curtains would look nice in the nursery? My husband agreed, and installed them immediately. I think they look great. Maybe I’ll post a picture once we start to accumulate actual furniture! After many months of feeling like time was slipping away from us while everyone else’s family was growing and changing, it’s nice to feel like things are moving forward again, to start to make plans, and to keep hoping as hard as we can that things will work out this time, and that our son will fill our house with baby cries and gurgles soon.