Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Preparing for Labor After a Traumatic Birth

My belly is getting huge. Even the maternity clothes I have are starting to feel snug. I bend over to pick up something off the floor, setting off the tightness of a Braxton Hicks contraction. My body is preparing to give birth. My hips and ligaments are loose and stretchy, my belly is riding low, so that when I sit I can literally feel the baby sitting on my lap. I'm too uncomfortable to sleep, my body's subtle way of reminding me what sleepless nights with a newborn are like. 

I know my body is preparing to give birth, but I can't seem to get my mind to follow. Even though my first baby was born over two years ago, I can't seem to get the 50 hours of labor and 5 hours of pushing out of my head. Not to mention the sickening feeling of having my son rushed to the NICU when he was just one day old.  All these memories have me shoving thoughts about labor and delivery to the back of my mind. I'm very excited to have another baby, but don't really want to think about having another baby.

How do you approach labor and delivery after going through a very traumatic one?

For me it's been something like this:

After Johnny was born and the dust had settled the OB came in told me that the next one wouldn't be this hard, and I shouldn't let this experience discourage me from having other kids


And then, Don't even talk to me about having other kids. Don't. Even. 

Over the course of the next year I went from feeling like I could never have another baby, to feeling like I could, but would just induce and have an epidural right away, to finally feeling like I would attempt natural childbirth again.

Key word being attempt.  I'm not trying to prove anything to anyone, and if things aren't going well I will have no trouble calling in the anesthesiologist.

But the truth is, I'd like to prove to myself that I can deliver a baby naturally. Partly because I think it's good to avoid unnecessary medical expenses, but more so because I believe we, women, are capable of doing it. Sometimes things don't go well, and when that's the case I'm thankful for modern medicine. But I'd kind of like to do things the way countless generation of women before me have done them.

So now it's game time. One month to go. I'm acknowledging that I'm scared to give birth again, but I'm also doing things to help myself prepare for it.

First off, we are changing locations. The hospital where Johnny was born is a beautiful hospital with wonderful labor and delivery nurses. But through nobody's fault, we had a terrible experience there, and now there's bad juju. So we will be delivering at a different hospital, with a beautiful mother-baby center and that is connected to a level IV NICU and the children's hospital where Johnny had his second, third, and fourth surgeries. Lord willing we won't be needing the NICU this time around, but it gives some peace of mind knowing it's just an elevator ride away. New hospital = new start.

In addition to switching locations, I decided to switch from an OB to a midwife and I feel SO GOOD about this decision. I'm going to a small clinic, only four midwives, and they only deliver at one hospital. They have all said that they want this birth to be redemptive, and that they want to advocate for me. They know I'm nervous and that I haven't ruled out medication, and they're ok with that. I'm already feeling more confident and assured knowing that they will be with the entire time I'm at the hospital.

We are also using a doula this time around. When I was pregnant with Johnny I specifically decided against a doula because I thought Alex and I had everything under control and a doula would be an invasion of privacy and an extra body in the room. We had done Bradley Method childbirth classes, and while they were great and we learned a lot, I think they gave a false sense of confidence.  We thought we were prepared for something we had never experienced.  Maybe if it I had had a textbook labor we would have been able to handle it on our own, but 50 hours? I don't think anything could have prepared us for that. I think a doula or a midwife would have helped us get past some of the humps, or helped us see earlier that things were not going well, and would have helped me make the decision sooner to get some help.

We've met with our doula a couple times now to talk about the up-coming labor.  Aside from helping me process Johnny's birth a little more she has helped me realize that I really have been avoiding thinking about this birth.  I think I've been telling myself that it's not a big deal because it's not my first. But it is a big deal.  Childbirth, however you go about it, is a huge feat! It is always a big deal and it's ok, even good, to treat it as such in your mind.

So I have been preparing, physically by trying to eat well (sugar, you are my kryptonite), getting enough sleep, and trying (emphasis on trying) to exercise, because after delivering Johnny every muscle in my body was sore.  Muscles I didn't even know I had were sore. I'm convinced childbirth is the ultimate insanity workout, and the more in shape you are for it, the better.

I've been preparing mentally.  I'm borrowing Ina May's Guide to Childbirth from my friend Jacqui who said reading positive birth stories really helped her prepare for labor. I'm finding them to be so encouraging. I'm thinking about music I might want to listen to, or snacks I might want to eat while laboring. I'm using visualization, which is something I used a lot in my music major days. But now instead of visualizing a good performance, I'm visualizing dealing with contractions in a non-freak out way.

I've also been preparing spiritually. I don't stop and think often enough about the miracle of life and how amazing it is that God lets us assist in creation. I think birth has a spiritual side to it, so I have been gathering scriptures to meditate on over these next few weeks. I've had Psalm 139 memorized since I was in grade school, but focusing on it through the lens of labor and delivery has made it new and profound. I've also been lifting up this birth in prayer, and simply telling God I'm excited, and I'm scared, and asking for His protection. One thing my past experience has taught me for certain is that whatever happens I will be able to handle it, with His grace.


keep in touch!




  1. As the mom who had a redemptive birth after a traumatic one (44-day NICU stay and 7 subsequent surgeries), I can tell you that it's possible. That last birth healed me. Big time. The one thing I did (it was a VBAC with no drugs), was collect prayer intentions and offer up each contraction for an intention. It was amazing. You will do great!

    1. Thanks, Kathryn. I have read about your NICU stay. It's so encouraging to hear that you've had a good birth experience after all that craziness. Love the idea about gathering prayer intentions!

  2. My first birth was pretty traumatic too, and the subsequent ones were progressively more awesome. Praying for you!


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