Sorry for the silence on my end lately. The past few weeks have been a mix of busyness, stress, excitement, exhaustion, etc. Even though I adore blogging, I’m feeling pretty dry for inspiration lately and I’d rather take a break than post random crap just to keep things updated. I hope you’re okay with that.
Anyway, Where to begin? Since my last post we’ve had several more appointments and at this point the baby’s still breech. It was a very difficult thing for me to accept initially and I reached out to friends and family for support, which I got tons of. Another thing that came with the support was a ton of stories about babies flipping very late or even at the very last minute before delivery. While these stories give me hope that there’s still a chance she could flip and I could enjoy the normal birth I had envisioned, I now realize that I need to start focusing on preparing myself for what is now my reality. I will be giving birth to a breech baby and “fighting” doctors and midwives to keep it as natural as possible.
I also had a neuvola appointment today, which was perhaps one of the most refreshing baby-related appointments I’ve ever had in Finland. My neuvola nurse recently changed as my previous nurse is now also on maternity leave, and I reeeeally like this new one. We’ve only met a couple of times but, beyond just feeling comfortable around her and her great English skills, after talking with her today I felt like I actually had someone on my side.
As I walked into her office she said that she noticed I had an appointment at the hospital yesterday to check to see if the baby had turned, which she hadn’t, and she asked me how I felt about that. After a big sigh and a nervous laugh I just said, “Where to begin.” And really, where do I start? My feelings are so complicated right now it’s difficult to sort through them. I told her that while I have accepted that the baby will be born breech, and I’m really not nervous or scared about that, I am feeling very frustrated by the Finnish approach to birthing. I then began to unpack that statement, as I’ll do for you now.
A few years ago an American woman told me that she felt the Finnish birthing system was a far too medical process. I was quite surprised to hear this coming from an American 1) because from the bits and pieces I’ve heard about the American system it’s quite medical and very much about getting moms and babies in and out as fast as possible, and 2) because I knew that midwives were present at every birth in Finland. I know in the States you have to hire a midwife on your own dime and even in Canada (or, in Ontario at least) midwives are covered by our health plan but you still have to go to a midwives practice and hire one on your own, as opposed to being automatically assigned one. Midwives are supposed to be advocates of natural birth. A refuge for women who realize that the birthing process has gotten messed up and want someone who can support them as they try to let their bodies do as much as they can on their own. You hire a midwife that you trust and can connect with, and you build a relationship with her prior to your delivery. In Finland, you get whatever midwife is on duty at the hospital and you’ve never met her before.
Because midwives are present at every birth in Finland they have to deal with women who want every different type of birth. Fully medicated or completely natural, a midwife has to get each woman in Finland through her birth. And my hat’s off to them for this. But for that reason, midwives in Finland are not what they are in North America. They are basically labour nurses, not the women who we go to to connect with and trust emotionally.
After the ultrasound we had yesterday I was asked, as always, if I had any questions. Sometimes I have none and sometimes I have more than I can remember. Yesterday was of the latter variety. I began by voicing my concern to the doctor about the use of oxycontin during my labour. I know that having a breech delivery there are greater risks and therefore a greater likelihood of needing oxytocin to help labour proceed at a steady rate, but I told the doctor that I didn’t want to be given drugs until it became clear that it was necessary. What if my body is doing just great and labour is progressing well on it’s own? I have a very big issue with being pumped with drugs for absolutely no reason. She responded by saying that there was nothing she could promise until I talked to the pediatrician who would be present at my labour, but that they give oxytocin to almost all women during labour because, “it is very rare for women to have strong enough contractions to move labour along at a proper rate.” Ummm, pardon me????? So what about the thousands of years women have been giving birth before the use of oxytocin during labour? Are you trying to tell me that women’s bodies were designed to create an entirely new human being but when it comes time to get it out our bodies fail? God just got lazy at that point and decided to skip the bit about getting that baby out of a mother and into the world? I think not. Of course I didn’t say any of this, but I did say that I didn’t agree with that practice and I think the doctor could sense how uncomfortable I was.
I also heard from a friend that a midwife told her it is better for women to take some sort of pain relief medication as quick as possible because it relaxes the mother and therefore her body can proceed with labour faster. I do completely agree that labour will go faster when relaxed, but why is the first attempt at calming and relaxing a woman giving birth to shoot her up with drugs? If a woman requests it on her own, sure. But why are we not encouraging women to have faith in their bodies’ ability to do one of the most amazing things on earth? Why are we telling them that they are not capable of being calm and relaxed on their own and need meds to reach that state? The birthing process scares the shit out of most first time moms-to-be, and I don’t blame them. We are told about how much it will hurt. That we almost certainly cannot do it on our own and will need several interventions to get through the process. I wish you could see how big of a face-palm I’m doing right now.
At an appointment a few weeks ago I was told that in a breech birth the baby would be taken away for an examination right away and not given directly to me as in most normal deliveries. I didn’t say anything at the time I was told this, but after it sat with me for a couple weeks I realized I was just not comfortable with that. I asked yesterday what kind of procedures are done during this time and how long it would take. I was assured that it was just routine checks of baby’s heart, sight, hearing, muscles, etc. and would take 5-10 minutes max. I think she was quite glad to give me that answer because she though it would finally be one that I would be happy with. I was not. So, you’re telling me that even though my baby would be healthy and breething, you’re going to separate her from me immediately after birth even though numerous studies have shown the benefits of skin-to-skin contact between the baby and the mother directly following delivery, to do a bunch of procedures that are not critical to her health and will have the exact same results in say, an hour? Why is it that all of these procedures are done about an hour after birth in normal deliveries but immediately after a breech birth? “Oh, because the pediatrician that does the checks for every baby is already in the room for a breech birth and they’re quite busy. So it’s good to do it right away so they can move on to their other duties.” Great. So for the sake of your schedule let’s deny my baby immediate contact with her mother. That bonding time that is notorious for having immense psychological benefits for the baby. Sounds great to me.
Another big frustration was that a lot of my questions were answered with, “It’s up to the pediatrician, so you have to wait and talk to them.” Thing is, I’m not going to see a pediatrician until I’m in labour. Two problems with that. First is that I obviously have no idea how long my labour will be. I may have loads of time to talk these things over, or I may have next to none. I don’t want my wishes and concerns to be overlooked because my labour is going too fast and I don’t have the time to properly discuss these things. Second, because I am aiming to have as natural a labour as possible, I don’t really know what kind of mood I’m going to be in, and it’s certainly not my goal to piss off the doctor that will be delivering my baby. I don’t think that’s going to be beneficial to anyone. But there is no way to meet with a pediatrician from the hospital beforehand to discuss these matters and talk about why they want to do certain things and why I want them done differently. I do understand that even if I got a meeting with one, it is unlikely that it would be the same pediatrician that would be on duty during my delivery. But don’t they all go through the same education system? Don’t they all have the same general procedures and practices? I know there are some things that differ between doctors and what they are/aren’t willing to do, but I know that a lot of my questions probably could be answered beforehand and still be accepted by a different doctor. But nope, I have to wait until I am in the midst of the biggest physical & likely emotional feat I will ever face, and I have to start discussing why I’m such a black sheep in this birthing mentality.
Back to my neuvola nurse. She said a few things during our appointment that, while they didn’t change anything about my situation, they did really help me feel less alone in this. But the greatest was after I said, “I know that in the end, when I have my baby, none of this will matter.” I’ve been told this by mothers time, after time, after time. I’ve repeated this to myself time, after time, after time. And I do believe it to be true – to an extent. I know that when I have my perfect angel, my Hadley Bear, in my arms I’m not going to care about some of the “small things.” Not initially anyway. But then my nurse said, “But it really isn’t a good thing if after you get home you are upset about how the birth went. It may stop you or delay you from having other children because you are so upset with your experience.” FINALLY! Someone who actually acknowledged the fact that the birth experience DOES MATTER after the baby is born. I will love my daughter beyond measure. I will do anything for her. But if I hate my experience and have to fight every step of the way, my nurse is more than correct that I’ll think twice about doing this again any time soon. I wanted to give her a hug. But you know, Finns don’t tend to like that.