287: A Surprisingly Pleasant Birth Experience

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Happy Monday!

Not much new this week, so let's hop right into it.

A Surprisingly Pleasant Birth Experience

Cosette gave birth to our daughter just over two weeks ago. And the best way I can describe her whole pregnancy, including labor and delivery, is "surprisingly pleasant."

We both went into pregnancy and birth with many of the same negative assumptions I think most people have. But, in reality, it really wasn't a negative experience at all. It's not just me saying that too, Cosette helped write this Medley!

It feels like on social media you only hear the stories about how hard and awful it is. So for anyone out there who hasn't had a kid yet and who has those same assumptions in their head, here's another story to consider.

Pregnancy

Cosette felt great throughout her whole pregnancy. She had two moments of nausea total, never had bad mood swings, didn't feel all that uncomfortable, and generally felt quite a bit better than she expected throughout.

She was able to continue exercising the entire time, and honestly the fact that she did continue to exercise the whole time was probably a decent part of why she felt so good.

She did a mix of lifting, running, biking, pickleball, and a weekly Barry's class. She did her last Barry's class at 39 weeks and 2 days, which was by far the most impressive thing she maintained. She also ran 3 miles on her due date and went into early labor that same evening.

Food was probably the other big factor that helped her feel so good. We cook quite a bit, and we're pretty high maintenance about the ingredient quality we try to buy. Whenever possible we get whatever's in season from local farms, or the heirloom and organic varieties of things like flour. Meat is a big focus for us too, considering how sick most cows, pigs, and chickens are, we're always willing to pay quite a bit more for really high-quality meat. She also supplemented additional collagen.

We tried to avoid seed oils and processed sugar as much as possible, and I think did a rather good job. Obviously, we gave in and ordered Shake Shack sometimes, but 80-90% compliance is good enough to me.

Hydration was the other thing she was meticulous about. She used a habit tracker to make sure she was getting a gallon or more per day, which probably helped a lot with feeling well and sleeping well.

Not only did she end up feeling really good throughout pregnancy, but her body also handled it really well. She gained about 25lbs, which she's already lost 20 of in the past 2 weeks, and she didn't get any stretch marks.

So pregnancy was a lot better than expected. Is eating really clean, exercising, and drinking tons of water guaranteed to have this good of a pregnancy? No, but I can't imagine any of those things hurting. She definitely had a much better experience than she expected, and it sounds like better than the norm.

And then there was the birth.

Birth

The first part of our plan was to do it in a birthing center. I didn't know about these places beforehand but a birthing center is kinda in-between a home birth and a hospital. It still feels like a home bedroom, but they have all the different beds, chairs, stools, bathtubs, and other things you might want for the most comfortable birth possible. And you do it with a midwife instead of a doctor.

We decided to do this for a few reasons. One, assuming you aren't high risk, there's no reason you need to be in a hospital. And unfortunately being in a hospital often increases your chance of complications, since they're so eager to  speed things along with Pitocin, epidurals, and other interventions. We especially wanted to avoid a C-section as much as possible. And if we did end up in a situation where we needed a hospital, it was only six minutes away.

Two, we assumed (and I think were right) that it would really reframe the experience. Instead of going into a hospital and being hooked up to monitors and feeling monitored and rushed by nurses and doctors, we got to do it in a cozy environment with a midwife we'd gotten to know over the last few months. Instead of going to the place for sick or dying people, we got to go to grandma's house.

I should also mention that throughout pregnancy and birth we had a Doula with us as well. A Doula is kinda like a birth coach and a therapist rolled into one person and I couldn't recommend hiring one highly enough. We did four or five sessions with her before birth to plan for all the different things that could happen, to make sure we knew what to expect, and to just get closer since she was going to help out during a pretty intimate experience.

The other big part of the birth plan was that Cosette wanted to do it naturally and without medication. The thinking here was, well, it's basically the most important thing your body is designed to do. So it should be doable without medication. It wouldn't necessarily be easy, but like running a marathon or another big physical challenge it would definitely be doable with the right preparation. Medication can also unfortunately increase the chance of complications and C-sections quite a bit and makes recovery more difficult, so at least trying to do it unmedicated would reduce the risk of negative outcomes or a long recovery time.

So how did it all go? We basically ended up doing everything according to plan. Cosette went into active labor Friday night, and baby arrived on Saturday in the late afternoon. We did the whole thing in the birth center, with our midwife and doula, and she did it without any medication or intervention.

The only bump we ran into is Cosette got really dehydrated without us noticing, and that seemed to stall her labor for a few hours. She wasn't making progress and we realized she hadn't been drinking enough water, so our midwife gave her 3 IV bags full of hydration fluids over the course of an hour or so. Almost immediately after that, she felt exponentially better and she started pushing shortly after. So if you have a birth coming up... stay hydrated!

The last part that I like to tell since it's kinda badass is that Cosette ended up giving birth standing up at the top of a staircase. She was getting near the end and the midwife suggested she try walking up the stairs to give the baby the last bit of jostling she needed to get out, and, well, it worked! This is another issue with the normal hospital birth, lying on your back with your legs up is an awful position to give birth in. It's only convenient for the doctors.

Recovery

Here's the last part that was surprisingly pleasant: recovery.

One nice thing about a birthing center is they let you go home almost right away. Cosette gave birth at 4:30, and we left around 7:30. Part of being able to go home so quickly is there's no medication you have to wait to wear off, and you often do less damage to yourself when you can feel what you're doing. So the recovery is often easier for unmedicated births.

That was absolutely the case for Cosette. We walked out of the birthing center at 7:30pm, and went to coffee with friends the next afternoon. We were out with our daughter 16 hours after birth, which is not what you normally hear. We'd been told time and time again that Cosette would be confined to our bed for a week or two, but she felt fine to start being a little mobile almost right away.

Two weeks later she feels great, and we've been taking our daughter out to coffee, restaurants, friends houses, or wherever every day. I suspect it won't always be this way, but so far, baby life has been easier than we expected too.

Results May Vary

Everyone's pregnancy and birth experience will be different, but I thought it was important to share what a great experience Cosette had throughout the whole thing.

For anyone debating pursuing a similar birth plan, I can't recommend it highly enough. It was a really wonderful experience, and we would definitely do it this way again.

Have a great week!
Nat

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