Natural labor, are you a crazy person?

February 6, 2011

I had seen the advertisement for the tv show “One Born Every Minute” on Lifetime (I think they show the ad on TLC?) and I decided to watch it this afternoon.

Ugh.

That will sum up my opinion of this show.

To actually sum up the impression I got from this show: Epidurals and pitocin are good and pretty much a necessity. Get the drugs ASAP (Woman A). If you had a bad experience with your last baby, why the heck aren’t you having a c-section right away, silly woman (Woman B)? Natural labors are bad. Bringing a birth plan with you means you are rigid and expect too much (Woman C).

If you don’t want an epidural, they will not suggest you (Woman B) move around or try anything to help with your labor and the pain; instead, they will wait around for you to ask for meds. Oh wait, they finally gave her a ball to bounce on. And… there’s her epidural. (To be fair, she ends up going for a c-section because the baby’s heart rate starts to drop, it is a large baby, and her last birth resulted in her large baby’s collar bone breaking during delivery.) Her baby ends up being 9 pounds 12 ounces. She’s not a tiny woman and it makes me curious about the circumstances of her last labor, if she was induced, etc. but they don’t share much other than that it was difficult and the collar bone broke.

The loving couple working through their natural labor? You know, the pushy ones with the birth plan? They aren’t progressing. After 11 hours, it’s “stalling.” Wait, did you hear how they said “doula”? Look at the silly crazy couple. Listen to how funny she sounds. What is that sound? The labor & delivery floor shouldn’t sound like that! Um, wait a second… are these nurses really laughing about it with each other? Making weird faces? Uh oh, 15 hours have past. Uh oh, they aren’t listening to all of the nurse’s suggestions. Go complain to another nurse about that. Go start to discuss with the couple how the longer the labor the “harder it’s going to be.”

*cue the “the nurse is the victim” (er, I mean “advocate”) talk and portray the couple as ridiculous for standing up for themselves*

Throw out the word “safety” a few dozen times and drop the “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result” line. More weird noises from the laboring mother. It’s been 18 hours now. They don’t want to “throw in the towel.” The nurse insists on a cervical check, despite the couple’s wishes. The couple says the certified nurse midwife should do it, not her. She’s at 8cm at this point and the CNM recommends pitocin; they accept. The nurse complains that she felt like her “hands and feet were tied together” that day. She’s “glad the shift is over.” The woman is at 10cm and can push. She is successful at vaginally delivering her baby after about 24 hours of labor. It’s a girl. She gets immediate skin on skin contact and the narrator emphasizes that they were able to have it “their way.”

Oh, but don’t worry, remember the woman who loved her drugs (Woman A)? She is already cuddling with her baby. Has been for quite awhile, actually, since only a few minutes into the show. Hardly had to show her on this episode, she was so easy to work with! (If you want an easy labor, just get the pitocin and epidurals before you settle into your room, people!)

All joking aside… I just got bad vibes from this show and how things were portrayed (though I do plan on watching it one more time, just to see). I felt like they really pushed the positivity of medical interventions, even before they become necessary. Labor is considered “stalled” at only eleven hours. The couple hoping for a natural birth are depicted as being difficult, stressing the nurse out, and like total weirdos. Maybe I’m just feeling argumentative, but I didn’t like how I felt watching this show. And it made me wonder what the nurses and staff thought of me when I was in labor, making lots of noise and asking for more time and being held by my husband and massaged by my doula and saying no to pain medication, and (heaven forbid) giving them a birth plan because I had certain goals and hopes for our birth.

Disclaimer: I planned for a completely natural birth in a hospital with a doula and ended up, after almost 24 hours of labor that had stopped progressing at 6cm for the whole day, getting pitocin and an intrathecal before vaginally delivering my son. I know interventions can be necessary and can save lives. I know nurses almost always want what is best for the baby and mother, and they are taught to treat pain and prevent complications and to carefully monitor everything. I am thankful that we are able to offer c-sections and pitocin and other drugs to mothers. I was glad to have that option when the time was right. I was glad that the pitocin I received in the end helped me progress and meant I didn’t end up having a c-section. I was glad that the intrathecal allowed me to rest and I had the energy after a long, painful labor (back labor, ow) to push my son out myself.

However… we need to stop treating every labor and delivery like it’s a giant medical procedure, and allow women that want a natural birth to at least have a fair shot at one. And it is terrible to mock them and act like they are crazy… that is inexcusable. I can’t help but wonder, if I had been allowed to relax and people weren’t constantly trying to monitor me the whole time, if maybe we could have progressed on our own. I’ll never know that, and I know there’s a very very good chance that I would have needed the pitocin either way. Most of my birth plan was respected, but when I look back I also see that I had to fight for some of it harder than I should have had to, and in other areas I didn’t fight enough. There were times I felt resigned to the “patient” role, even before we had complications. I don’t have big regrets about my birth and it was, overall, a very very positive experience. I had one nurse that was phenomenal and I love our doctor.

But damn it all makes me want to try for a home birth next time.

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4 Responses to “Natural labor, are you a crazy person?”

  1. I watched it last week as well and was not thrilled. I agree with the drugs and interventions being pushed. I was irritated that the 2nd lady just laid there and her whole family just got on my nerves and the nurse who definitely didn’t respond very positively when she said no she did not want an epidural. The natural birth couple did annoy me and I think it was because they were too rigid with what they wanted. I mean the whole show irritated me but I saw them as being overly ridiculous and not receptive to anything even if it was a natural option, if it wasn’t on their plan they weren’t going for it. I may watch it again but I found it ridiculous. But much better than a Baby Story haha.

    • Yeah, I think they were a bit rigid until the end. However, I’m curious what they didn’t show (was that nurse extra pushy at times?), and I think part of their combativeness may have related to knowing you have to FIGHT for a natural birth in a hospital. When I was preparing for that and reading up on some online forums/lj communities, I remember feeling like I was going to have to really be prepared to fight for want I wanted. I read a lot of stories about wishes not being granted, nurses being really pushy about pain meds, birth plans being completely ignored. I didn’t really feel that way at our hospital, but I did feel pushed into being monitored more than was necessary and often felt like I was a patient and not at all in control. It’s hard to stand up to hospital staff, especially when you’re in the midst of something as profound as giving birth (and especially if it’s your first go at it).

      • I honestly, didn’t really see their nurse as being that bad, I just think they did not jive well together as patients/nurse. I’ve heard of all these horror stories but I feel very confident in our choice of a midwife at a hospital that is very natural labor geared. As in I won’t be ABLE to get an epidural if the freaking middle of the night unless the OB on call wants to come in because they require one to be on the floor when they give one out. Also, our midwife will be with us the ENTIRE time and said it is my show and she is there to guide me and catch the baby. Works for me.

      • I definitely wish you the best! I hope it all goes smoothly for you.

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