As my sister-in-law closed in on the last few days of her pregnancy this month, she would ask me questions about her pregnancy and impending birth of her son. I recalled a little over three years ago, when I too, felt the same wonderment, apprehension, and anxiety.
I remember wondering what the birth would be like. Would I be able to handle birth without an epidural (my goal because I did not want to not be able to feel my legs-that freaked me right out)? Would breastfeeding come easy? Would she have hair? Would I have a complication? Will she come on her own? What if I have to have a c-section? What if she fails her hearing screen? What if she’s jaundice?
I also remembered the comments I received when I was stuck in the hospital, Pitocin pouring into my vein, almost a week past my due date. Like most, I shared brief updates of my journey on social media. After I had been in the hospital over 24 hours after my induction and STILL had not dilated one measly centimeter, the comments came.
“She’ll come when she’s ready.”
“You just need to relax. Have your husband give you a massage.”
“Get an epidural so you can relax.”
“Have you tried essential oils?”
“I have noticed that a lot of the special ed kids I teach were from inductions.” (yes, really, someone said this to me)
While these comments were meant with all of the best intentions (I hope), these are not helpful. They don’t know my body. No one who commented was an obstetrician or, come to think of it, had any background in labor and delivery. I did not ask for this advice. I simply provided an update.
It is not to say these comments didn’t conjure up some guilt.
Maybe I should’ve waited, I thought.
However, after 36 hours of labor and still no progress at 41 weeks, the choice was made to have a c-section. It wasn’t emergent. My child wasn’t in distress, but I had been in the hospital for 36 hours, getting every induction medication this side of the Mississippi injected in my vein or inserted in my vagina with ZERO DILATION. I made this decision in conjunction with my obstetrician.
I know people deal with much worse. This is not a post to say “Oh, I had is so rough” because I didn’t. I had very little pain, my child was perfectly healthy, and she was a champion breast-feeder.
This is a post to ask us loving friends and family members all to trust and allow mothers to make decisions with their partners, physicians, midwives, and/or doulas about THEIR bodies and THEIR babies.
Later, at one of my follow-up appointments, I expressed some of the guilt I was feeling to my physician. I will never forget what he told me. “If you had been pregnant 100 years ago, she probably would’ve been born at 42 weeks or later, and probably would have been stillborn.” I don’t think I have to tell you how thankful I am for modern medicine.
Earlier this year, I had a procedure called a hysterosalpingogram (HSG), which is done to evaluate the fallopian tubes and, in turn, fertility. During that exam, it was discovered the shape of my uterus is abnormal. One of the problems associated with this abnormality is failure to dilate. It doesn’t happen to all women, but it did to me. And it wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t due to the need to “just relax”-which isn’t easy when you’re in labor regardless. She wasn’t coming “when she wanted to”.
So, I say this: Let’s all support each other. If we offer advice, make sure it is solicited and coming from a place of support and love (and actually scientifically-backed via systematic reviews, meta-analysis, or randomized-controlled trials, not just what you think you observed, or what worked for you-that’s called anecdotal evidence), not from a place of “one-upping”. Offer to bring a meal or help with chores. Simply say “I am here for you.” Hold her hand. Moms have enough guilt. Let’s work together on supporting each other through one of the most beautiful, but difficult processes women go through. Bonus points if you bring coffee.