F THE NUMBERS IN BIRTH... SOME OF THEM, ANYWAY
In high school and college, I had straight As in math. I majored in Finance in college. My prior career was in real estate finance. I guess you could say that numbers were my jam.
There’s always an exact answer to a math problem. It’s black and white, with no space for grey uncertainty. Numbers provided a feeling of safety and clarity for me.
From the moment I found out that I was pregnant for the first time (early 2013), I became obsessed with the numbers in pregnancy and birth.
How many days since my last period? How many weeks along am I? What is the baby’s heart rate? How many pounds should I gain per week? In total? How big is my baby estimated to be? And so on.
Fast forward to my second pregnancy, and I added on the emotional toll of the numbers associated with planning my VBAC.
What is the rate of uterine rupture? What is my estimated VBAC success calculation? How dilated and effaced am I? How many weeks will my provider ‘let’ me go before scheduling a repeat Cesarean? And so on.
By my third pregnancy, I had the experience of both a Cesarean and a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) under my birthing belt. I realized that certain numbers were only messing with my head. So, I decided to say ‘f**k the numbers.’ Some of them, anyway.
I never knew my weight during this pregnancy.
I simply turned my head during that lovely part of my prenatal visits. Of course if there was a red flag with my weight gain (which can be a sign of serious conditions such as preeclampsia), my decision would have been different.
It’s not that I gave myself a green light to go wild, eating every eclair in sight (although I could have survived on eclairs for 40 weeks). It’s that I got out of my head and into loving on my body.
Rather than stressing over every pound, I shifted my focus to how I felt.
I nourished my body with nutritious food (and some ice cream, because balance).
I listened to my body daily, moving and exercising in tune with it, rather than forcing it.
For someone with a history of body image struggles, this was freeing AF.
My Baby’s Estimated Size
I asked not to be told my baby’s estimated size based on the ultrasound (unless, of course, there was a legitimate concern about our health & safety).
Why? Because size estimates can be off by 15% in either direction.
I decided not to stress myself about the ultrasound estimate. I’ve been there before, twice.
Here’s what I already knew…
I grow big babies - check!
I already birthed a big baby vaginally - check!
I can grow and birth another big baby - CHECK!
My husband peaked at the estimate and spilled the beans after the birth. They estimated my baby to be 9lb. 14oz.! I would have freaked TF out at the thought of pushing out a 10 pounder!
I know what you’re thinking… but Nichole, you already pushed out a 9lb. 4oz. baby... what’s another 10 ounces? I can’t rationalize my thought process. I can only tell you this is MY head here, worrying about MY vagina.
By the way, this baby was 8lb. 15oz. at birth. She was almost an entire pound smaller than the estimate. And she came out exactly as I envisioned… on our own terms, doing no damage to mama’s goods!
Induction at 41 Weeks
I declined the doctor’s suggested induction at 41 weeks.
I was aware of the risks for my situation:
I’m 35 years old (geriatric moms club member!).
Birth beyond 41 weeks increases chances of stillbirth (this is quite the mind f**k btw).
Rates of VBAC success decline past 41 weeks (you know how much I hate the word “success” in birth).
My decision was based on:
Confirming that baby had sufficient amniotic fluid and was healthy, movin’ and groovin’ in my belly.
Listening to my intuition and holding FAITH in my body and my baby.
My deep desire to give myself the best chance at a natural birth for the first time.
Note: There are certainly medical conditions that warrant an induction.
Cervical Exams - Dilation & Effacement
I turned down cervical exams during my pregnancy. I didn’t need to know how dilated and effaced I was (or wasn’t).
I believe in learning (& teaching) about the concepts of dilation and effacement; however, I know that it’s not an exact science. Our cervix is not a crystal ball. Dilation and effacement occur together, at a varying pace, unique to each woman and each birth.
I know myself well enough to know that these numbers would mess with my head towards the end of pregnancy and during birth. I needed to be as relaxed as possible, which meant no cervical exams for me.
This was liberating AF during labor, when I was able to listen to my body without stressing over dilation.
The importance of numbers isn’t lost on me. In pregnancy and birth, numbers...
… are important and can help us make informed decisions.
… can be the first indicator of a complication.
For me, for this pregnancy and for this birth - my weight, dilation, effacement and my baby’s size estimate were not great for my head space. An elective induction at 41 weeks in my healthy pregnancy felt opposite of everything that I so strongly wanted for this birth.
PS - Have you read my 3rd birth story?