i was in my last year of medical school when i became pregnant with our first child. i had already rotated through our ob-gyn department and my experience as a student on those wards left me with some serious misgivings about giving birth there. i had no doubt about the overall quality of care, it would be excellent. it was more the vibe of the labor & delivery floor at that time. it was an older wing of the hospital, a little overcrowded, very bright, very loud. there were residents, fellows, students, nurses, student nurses, just a whole lot of people around. this was my first baby, and quite frankly, i wasn't entirely ready to be exposed to the world in such an unceremonious way.
so i had to do some serious thinking about where to have this baby. home? a friend of mine had already had three children at home with a lay midwife. i'm not that brave, and just exactly what do you do with all the, um, mess? the backyard? i don't think so. so i decided to go to the birthing center a few miles from our hospital. immediately i loved it. it was everything i was hoping for - warm, inviting, quiet, encouraging. there were three licenced nurse midwives, and they were all wonderful. initially they were a little surprised to know that i was a medical student, but they did what midwives are so gifted at doing, they took it as just one little part of who i was and continued on with their role as mentors and guides. their posture of openness and acceptance so impressed me, that i still try to emulate it today.
that's not to say they weren't a little kooky. they encouraged me to read these crazy books about childbirth, one of which was just waaaaaaay out there, wanting you to get in touch with your inner she-wolf and howl at the moon (or something like that). my sister and i dubbed it 'birthing with wolves' and had many laughs at that poor author's expense. but i tried to absorb as much as i could from it. i didn't want to let my midwives down.
so my due date came. and my due date passed. i knew i had to deliver within fourteen days of that date or it was l&d for me, baby. by day ten i was starting to panic, searching back through all those books for some practical advice on how to get into labor. we tried it all, to no avail. desperate times calling for desperate measures, i downed a good dose of castor oil and six hours later i was in full blown labor. the real deal. (here is where i should refer you back to my disclaimer about this blog not being medical advice.)
the night before, my husband and i had listened to a prairie home companion's annual joke show. so i would occasionally rouse from my labor-induced haze to share a one-liner with the student midwife (yes, we students were everywhere) when she came in to check on me. 'two men walked in to a bar. the third one ducked.' silly jokes like that. eventually she was comfortable enough to tell her own joke, just as the midwife in charge walked in. she gave the student a puzzled look like, you know, i'm not sure that's really appropriate, but we filled her in that this was my birthing strategy - telling jokes. they said to have a birth plan didn't they?
so we laughed our way through much of my labor, but i can't say i handled the pushing part with quite so much grace and ease. at one point, that dear midwife got right in my face and said, beth, there's a lot of energy coming out of your mouth (such a midwife thing to say), i want you to put your head down and P U S H. i though about telling her that i was just howling with the wolves as instructed, but the look on her face quickly stifled my impulse. and so i did just what she asked. and the rest, as they say, is history.
thank you, maureen!