Sometime around January I started thinking about my birth plan. It was with a mix of trepidation, fear and excitement that I began to envision what it would all be like. It didn't really occur to me not to have a baby in a hospital. I sort of thought that is just what you did.
A couple of events took place in February that altered the course of my thinking. I attended a women's retreat where I met a labor support doula. Within minutes of our introduction, we were talking about the increasing rates of cesareans and pain medication during birth, and potentially what this meant for the mother and baby in the long run. I felt a little paralyzed with all this new information and all the choices I had to make. A small part of me thought I wasn't ready for motherhood at all because I didn't have strong opinions about the child birth process.
Not long after, I heard about the Ricki Lake's The Business of Being Born documentary, which profiles a few births and endeavors to reveal what's behind the changing nature of childbirth in the U.S. today. My husband and I were able to view the film shortly thereafter. It was, in a word, eye-opening, and not just for seeing Ricki Lake delivering her baby in the bathtub! (My husband, being perhaps the only guy in the audience, took this all in stride.) That feeling of paralysis gave way to empowerment and a pretty intense desire to know more. I read everything I could get my hands on - stats on the national rate of c-sections, stats on NYC hospital c-section rates, and on, until I was resolute to have a midwife. With my husband on board, I set out to find our PLA (personal labor assistant).
I called every midwifery practice in Manhattan. By this time (early April), many of the reputable midwives in the city were committed to delivering other healthy babies. I paid $100 for one midwife to tell me that my idea of a completely natural birth in a hospital setting (this was what we decided we wanted) was idealized and unrealistic. And while she was probably right, I hated her patronizing tone. We talked about having a home birth but the prospect of situating a birthing tub in our living area and not having space to move around seemed more stressful than being in a hospital bed.
I felt like I'd already failed and I hadn't even starting having Braxton Hicks. I ultimately let go and focused on being thankful that at least I could now make decisions from an informed standpoint.
Over the next few visits with my OB/GYN who I've been to for over 7 years, I realized that he was relatively accommodating to my requests (mainly no paid meds and to let me labor as long as medically feasible). In late April, we took a tour of the hospital where we are delivering and found the nurses very au natural, tremendous advocates of breastfeeding - seemingly just what we had hoped for.
Now it's practically June and as the Babe kicks harder and as the Pod is increasingly filled with pastel colored onesies, I'm realizing that in order to have my close-to-natural-as-possible child birth I'm going to need some serious help. My husband will be there every step of the way, but I really want a doula.
I found myself back in that place of paralysis where there is far too much information and far too many choices. DONA International lists some 20 different doulas in the city alone. So I did what any web 2.0 mother-to-be would do - I googled. I started googling every doula in New York City to see what reviews I could find (plenty in fact!). I also searched on Facebook and found several doulas in the city who I could connect with online.
While I haven't found our perfect PLA yet, I do feel one step closer and more sure of my opinions about child birth in general. And that, in and of itself, makes me feel slightly more ready for motherhood. At least for today.
What's it like to raise a newborn in a 525 sq ft Manhattan studio? I don't know yet but for the next few months I'm blogging about our decision to live small as a means of living a more sustainable (and frankly, more affordable) life. This is an exploration of the coolest new tools to economize on space, ecofriendly baby products and musings on the "less is more" approach to child-rearing.