This week in our childbirth prep class we watched videos of an unmedicated vaginal birth and a cesarean section (which was animated to show surgery detail and not gross us out). The woman in the first video labored for a small eternity, only to find out that she was only dilated 5cm (halfway). She was exhausted and wanted to quit. I didn't blame her. It was one of those mental-freak-out moments for me: "Ohmygosh, this thing inside me? It has to come out. Out of a disproportionately small opening. And the baby is growing bigger every day." (Incidentally, yesterday I read that the baby at this stage of development has doubled in size in the past month, which may be why people are telling me I suddenly popped out.)
In class we learned about things that can go wrong during delivery that necessitate a C-section, the worst of which (to me) is CPD because I've pretty much convinced myself that this baby is gargantuan. I probably have a slight case of medical student syndrome on account of the larger-than-average abdominal measurements, but to me CPD is a very real possibility.
We also practiced our 2- and 4-count breathing and added "hee hee hoo" breathing. Our partners were told to randomly hold up 1-4 fingers to tell us how many "hees" to make for each breath. I always thought applying those syllables to breaths was as strange as attributing "cockle doodle doo" to a rooster crow that to me sounds like "rrr rr rrr rr rrrrrr." Then it finally dawned on me that the Hee Hee Hoos are not an invention of Hollywood, but a very clever technique to distract us from the pain by focusing on the fingers and the "hees." I very much wanted to take and post video of 15 couples going, "Hee hee hee hooooo. Hee hooooo. Hee hee hee hee hoooo. Hee hee hoo."
Our instructer, Mary, is a doula and very pro-natural-childbirth, although she realizes that most women (including me) opt for the epidural. But she has a good point when she says that this hospital doesn't administer the epidural until the mother is 4cm dilated, and getting to that point can be pretty long and painful if one is not trained how to handle pain. I also hear "horror birth stories" about women who wanted an epidural as part of their birth plan, but were too far along for one when they got to the hospital, so they delivered unmedicated and unprepared for the pain. Thankfully, Mary said that at this hospital it is never too late to get an epidural, but it does take a while to take effect and can prolong the delivery. I have a hard time saying I'm definitely going to have an epidural because I hear so many stories that illustrate how we are not always in control of the way things go. And that's why I kind of laugh even when someone asks me if I have a birth plan. My plan is to be flexible and trust the experts. I don't care if there is music playing or the lights are dimmed, and I'll let Steve make any decisions about circumcision.
Last night I had a dream that I went into labor while in Pennsylvania. I don't remember anything about the delivery, but I do remember the nurse bringing the baby to me in my hospital bed for a feeding. Eyes squeezed shut and looking like it was already about 3 months old, but so sweet. This brings up my anxieties about breastfeeding being a long, difficult, and painful process, and in my dream it already was frustrating within the first 5 minutes. I realize that this isn't the case for everyone, but I work better preparing for the worst-case scenario and then if it goes well that's icing on the cake. So when someone asks if I'm going to breastfeed, I just say, "I'm going to try!" I keep telling myself that women have given birth and breastfed for thousands of years, and try not to think about how many of them have indeed died in the process.