Well, as I learned yesterday, it might have to be!
As I prepare to deliver my fifth baby boy next Thursday, there is a possibility that I may not be able to receive that highly coveted epidural as I did with my other deliveries. You see, I have pregnancy-induced thrombocytopenia. This is when, only due to pregnancy, my blood platelet count is very low, putting me at excessive bleeding risk during delivery. Although there is some discrepancy at the cut-off point, at the hospital where I will deliver, epidurals are not given to women whose platelets are below 90,000; some anesthesiologists even consider 100,000 the cut-off point.
Mine are hovering at 95,000. Yikes!
I pretty much gave birth to Baby #3 Au naturale due to the fact that he came so fast, so I have an idea of how it might feel; but I do know this . . . it wasn't pleasant! It was much more pleasant to feel in control of the pain and of myself, and to not feel scared of what was happening. I know many women who have chosen natural childbirth would disagree, but the thought of birthing an 8-plus pound baby without pain control, when all my other babes have been much smaller, is truly anxiety inducing! So I set out to explore Web M.D. to see what some of my other options might be.
Everyone I know has given birth in a hospital, either with or without an epidural, and some by c-section, whether for emergency reasons or not. No one I know has chosen a home birth, which is only recommended for women with extremely low-risk pregnancies, healthy babies, and a strong support system. My friend was born at home in 1969, only because she was her mother's fourth baby and came so fast during a snowstorm that there wasn't time to make it to the hospital.
Many women these days are choosing birthing centers, which are staffed by certified nurse midwives, and also recommended for low-risk pregnancies and healthy babies. This is as close to a home birth as one can get, as there are no pain meds or epidurals offered, and usually the mom and baby go home right away.
There are also hospital birthing centers for women who just aren't sure if they can make it through without intervention. Midwives are available, but high tech-medical care is also nearby.
None of these would be an option for me. Being 41 years old automatically puts me in the high risk category, as do my gestational diabetes and thrombocytopenia. So high ho, high ho, it's off to the hospital I go. To ease my labor, though, my hospital does offer some of the latest techniques in pain control.
I always thought a water birth sounded like a crazy hippie idea; but the more I read about it, the more appealing it sounds. It is said to soothe and relax the mother and reduce her pain. Advocates of this type of birth say it is better for the baby to enter the world in a similar "womb-like" environment from whence he came, lessening birth trauma and experiencing a more pleasant start to life. Water birth babies are also known to have a lower rate of complications.
There is the silent birth that Scientologists Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise chose, the basis of which is that the mother, by going silently and deeply inside herself, is able to handle the pain of her own labor. Ummm, yeah . . . not for me. I might need to yell at someone.
An acquaintance of mine, who also has had thrombocytopenia, has used the Hypnobirth method. This method uses a series self-hypnosis techniques in order to control pain. Her father, a psychologist, taught her the methods which worked well for her, although they don't work for everyone. Plus, they need to be learned and practiced months in advance.
It's kind of late for me to be using some of these, but at least I know there will be a variety of other options I can try next Thursday, from good ole relaxation and breathing techniques the nurses are sure to know, to position changes such as squatting or being on hands and knees, or bouncing on a birth ball, which actually may feel good.
With as much anxiety as I have about the birth of this fifth little boy of mine, I am trying to keep an open mind, for there are two things of which I am sure about all labors - they can be and usually are a little unpredictable, and the baby is going to get here one way or another!