How I Ensured Natural Childbirth for Myself, My Husband, and our Baby in Mexico September 2
When I was pregnant with our baby, I learned that if you want to have a natural childbirth, you need to find a doctor who is COMMITTED to natural childbirth.Â Â Before I give you tons of heartfelt advice, I want to remind you that I am not a doctor and not a midwife. The advice I share was gathered from the resources I found during the one time I was pregnant. The good news is that I delivered my son naturally and that the experience is a joyful memory for my husband an me.
I also want to say right up front, that my experiences in Mexico cannot be compared to those that I might haveÂ had in the US. I’ve only been pregnant once and I was nowhere near the US during this experience. Despite being quite “American” in lots of ways, I know nothing about pregnancy and delivery in the US.
What I learned inÂ MexicoÂ is that a lot of women who say they want a natural childbirth experience end up with caesarean deliveries. The more I learned about the situation, the more I came to view childbearing as a feminist issue. It appears that when childbirth is guided by women, with men in active support roles, births tended to be bonding, positive experiences for family units. On the other hand, when the birth process is in the hands of doctors, it becomes a medical procedure and womenâ€™s physical strength and emotional experience is negated.
Itâ€™s too bad we arenâ€™t in Europe. There are some places in Europe where the labour and delivery wards are designed to make women and their partners comfortable and to assist in a relaxed, natural delivery. They have cushions of different sizes, areas for stretching and hanging, accessible warm water showers, and dedicated staff. There are even beautiful water delivery options! Alas, that is not for us, but we can still have great labour experiences, if we take charge of our own options and surround ourselves with caring, knowledgeable people.
To find a doctor who is committed to natural childbirth, ask people about their doctors and delivery experiences. You have to compare stories. There were some doctors in our town who were well thought of, but most of the women that I talked to about their deliveries had caesareans…. Ask doctors what percentage of their deliveries are natural. WHO says that 20% of deliveries should end in caesarean. If the doctor says 80% of his/her deliveries are caesareans, you have not yet found your doctor.
In our town, La Lega de La Leche was a good source of information on local doctors and their tendencies, but there isn’t a group in every town. Another good source of information was our pre-natal class. We attended free trial sessions of two different classes to see which one we preferred. The one we chose really stood out to us. The instructor included the partners (mostly fathers, but other â€œcoachesâ€ were also made completely welcome. The instructorâ€™s objective was to give the mother full support during labour and delivery), rather than focusing only on the women â€“ she even had a special form for fathers to complete while registering.
By learning the stages of labour and pre-labour you and your partner are better prepared to set yourselves up for success and have a natural delivery â€“ even with a caesarean liking doctor. This class also included a small percentage of partners who chose home delivery. We were not considering delivering our baby at home, but that showed that it was a community of people who were dedicated to natural childbirth.
A strong indication of a doctor’s commitment to natural childbirth is if they charge the same no matter what kind of birth it is. The doctor I most preferred in our town was known to be committed to natural childbirth and she had only one fee – no matter which way the delivery occurred. Doctors who charge more for a caesarean are more likely to deliver that way. Itâ€™s a racket, really. They show you two prices, one for natural childbirth and one for caesarean. They tell you that there is â€œno reasonâ€ you shouldnâ€™t have a natural delivery. You like the lower cost of the natural delivery, so you feel like you are getting a deal. What you donâ€™t know is that by delivering caesarean, not only do they earn more money the process is more under their control. They don’t have to wait around for natural processes to unfold. They donâ€™t have to put in the hours of helping you relax, walk around, sit in a hot shower, etc, etc.
On the flip side, just by not doing these things, they make it more likely that you wonâ€™t be able to deliver naturally. (This is really a key point that first-time moms rarely take into consideration â€“ and doctors bank on it – literally.) Before we had our son, we heard lots of stories from other moms and I observed that even when parents were clear with their doctors that they â€œwantedâ€ a natural childbirth there would always be “something” and they’d end up with a caesarean (and convinced that they needed it, so donâ€™t let that be an indicator for you).
I think itâ€™s important to mention that at first our pre-natal class appeared to be overly expensive given our earnings and our usual spending habits in Mexico. I asked my husband to attend the free trial visit to the class before I would even tell him how much it would cost! In the end, we both thought it was worth every peso. I was shocked when my husband – who normally wonâ€™t even spring for pollo rostizado if we can make scrambled eggs at home, said so to his family and friends. It was lovely to hear him telling his BROTHER all about the stages of labour and how to help his wife during delivery. Both of us strongly advise first time parents to take a pre-natal class together (called clase psicoprofilactico in Spanish) â€“ and the more committed to couples and to natural childbirth the better. This class got us started on the path of parenthood as a united pair. Friends and family commented on how we were unusually relaxed as newbie parents. Not to mention that we had a dream delivery with our son, that is a sacred memory to both of us.
Here is the kind of story you are looking for when you are researching doctors. One of my friends delivered her baby before I did and she chose the same doctor I preferred. She told me that during transition (thatâ€™s when it hurts the most and most women end up getting an epidural, even if they didnâ€™t â€œplanâ€ one in their original birth plan) she asked for an epidural and the doctor told her, she would not give one because the baby would be born before it could even take effect. In the moment, my friend felt angry. After delivery she said she wanted to give the doctor a big kiss and hug for saying, â€œno.â€ She and her baby were both more alert and ready to begin nursing than they would have been if she had gotten an epidural â€“ not to mention that an epidural would have greatly slowed the process down, reduced my friendâ€™s experience of the actual delivery, and introduced unnecessary risk. She had her next two babies with this same doctor.
Maybe you can turn this into a question for doctors you are â€œinterviewing.â€ Something like, is there ever a point during labour that you would refuse a mother pain relief?
In my case, the first doctor we went with was highly recommended by a friend, so I was convinced that he was just the greatest gynaecologist in the world. Luckily for us, he chose to blatantly lie to us so that he could begin to steer us toward a caesarean. If he had been less bold, he might have kept us as clients. As it turns out, we had already started our prenatal class and when I told the teacher what my doctor had told us, she told me to get a second opinion. When I got the second opinion, his lie was exposed and we never went to see him again.
The short of it is that I had asked my doctor about a condition I thought I might have. He used that little bit of fear that I had to tell me that I needed a caesarean. He even had my husband look at my cervix through a special instrument so he could â€œseeâ€ how much I needed a caesarean. When I got the second opinion I was told that my cervix was completely normal and healthy looking. This other doctor probably knew that to any regular guy, like my husband, a normal cervix looks terrible. He literally banked on freaking my husband out. This is so unethical it makes my stomach ache! It is also not that uncommon. In a different context, I heard our prenatal class instructor say that doctors commonly manipulate the fathers into pushing for the caesareans by scaring them about the â€œconsequencesâ€ of not getting one. This is why it is so important that each expectant mother have a birth coach that attends the classes with her and can support her during labour.
You might also ask around and see if there are any professionally trained midwives or doulas in your town. Una “partera” can mean a lot of things in Mexico, so do your research well, but there is potential there for a lovely delivery experience. Even if you talk to a midwife or doula, but donâ€™t choose to deliver with her, she will likely know which doctors in town are committed to childbirth, which ones â€˜ride the fenceâ€™ and which ones have earned the nickname â€œDr. C-Section.â€
Once you find the right person, it will be lovely.
I’m so very glad I delivered in Mexico because our family had a beautiful natural birth and my husband was involved in every stage. He was my hero all of the way through, providing pain relief with acupressure, coaching, encouraging, and caring for me. He will never forget seeing his son born. Also, Mexico is a wonderful place to have little children.