Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I hope you are all enjoying a wonderful day, spending time with those you love, remembering our Savior's birth and His gift to us, and making fond memories.

I decided to share some of my memories.

Christmas 2005

This was the last Christmas that my family spent together with my parents having no grandchildren and no children-in-law. We spent the beginning of Christmas break helping my parents move into their new house. I was already dating Jeff, and things were looking serious. In fact, during Christmas break, Jeff met my family in Indiana, and I went down to Cincinnati and met his family. Actual Christmas day was spent with just the six Bolings in Michigan.

Christmas 2006

This was my first married Christmas. It was also spent in Michigan with all of my family as well as some Roses, because just three days after Christmas, my sister got married in Illinois! A new brother-in-law was a pretty great present!

Christmas 2007

This Christmas was spent with Jeff's family on a Caribbean cruise. Due to church missionary service, it was the first Christmas in six years that Laurie and Daryl had all of their sons together. (Jeff obviously missed the memo about wearing a black suit.) Spending Christmas on the beach reminded me of my Brazil Christmases! It was really wonderful to have all of the Colletts together with no distractions other than enjoying tropical paradises together. (And I am ashamed to admit that this is a scan of a professional print. I don't know how you go about compensating the photographer for the picture this many years later.)

Christmas 2008

The Boling family grew a lot since we last spent Christmas together! By now, all of Vickie and Phil's children were married. Amy (and Devin) and Peter (and Mindee) had their first children, and Dan's wife Rachel and I were both pregnant with our firsts. We all gathered together in Indiana, this time at Pete and Mindee's lovely home. We were lucky enough to have Jeannie with us (Rachel's twin sister). Jeannie has been adopted by all of the Boling grandchildren as an aunt. We always love having her join us.

Christmas 2009

This was our first Christmas as parents. It was spent in Cincinnati with Jeff's family, and by this Christmas we were done with school and living with Jeff's parents. Jeff had just started his first post-college job the month prior. From here on out, I failed at getting pictures of the large family groups and seem to only get pictures of my growing family.

Christmas 2010

I did not get a picture of everyone who spent this Christmas together, but we were able to spend it with both my family and Jeff's family. The week leading up to Christmas found us up at Wisconsin Dells with my parents, my maternal grandfather, my paternal grandmother, my sister and my sister's family. (Sadly neither of my brothers and their families could come due to work obligations.) It was a wonderful week, though, with lots of snow and fun winter activities at the resort.

Then the week right after Christmas found us back in Cincinnati celebrating with all of Jeff's family. All of the brothers were there, as well as Jason's wife Amy and Ryan's then-girlfriend-now-wife Cyanne.

You may be able to notice in the family picture with Jill, Jeff, and I, but I am pregnant with Danny this Christmas. Little did I know then that he was planning on coming only two short weeks later!

Christmas 2011

This Christmas was spent in Cincinnati with Jeff's family. It was Danny's first Christmas. Fun activities included having my mother come down and visit, as well as having Laurie take the children and me to the Newport Aquarium. Shortly after Christmas, Jeff, the children, and I drove out to Virginia to spend time with our good friends, the Bellows, and see how the DC area celebrated Christmas and the New Year. We had no idea then that just fourteen months later would find us moving there!

Christmas 2012

This one is a bit blurry, but perhaps I'll get a better picture on actual Christmas day. For the third Christmas now, I find myself pregnant on Christmas. We will be in Cincinnati again this year. Before the life altering decision to uproot our family and move to Virginia, we had talked about going up to Michigan to spend it with my family, but now there is just too much to be done. (We are planning on listing our home in the middle of January, Alice is due in February, and Jeff begins his new job in March.) My dad is driving down tomorrow and will spend a week helping us, so I will get to see him at least. And I'm sure I'll see my mom after the baby comes.

Here is another picture of the beautiful Christmas dresses that my mother-in-law Laurie made for me and Jill. (You can't see it, but Jill's has a big bow in the back made from the same gold fabric as my top and our ruffles. Her dress is also lined with taffeta (tulle? something fluffy . . .) under the skirt. Laurie is very talented! Jill LOVES her dress.

And Laurie did purchase the rights to these next photos, so I can include them without feeling guilty! The first one is from 2009. Enjoy. :)

And here is my annual recap of the year!

The biggest surprise of 2012 was the unexpected job offer Jeff received in October. He begins his new job in March as a contractor for the Department of State, specifically in Overseas Building Operations.

The greatest joy of 2012 is Mimi’s current pregnancy. We expect to welcome Alice Grace Collett into our family sometime near the end of February. Jill is very excited to have a little sister; it’s hard to determine whether Danny is excited or not.

Sometime between or around those two major life events, we will move from our beloved Cincinnati to somewhere in Virginia, near Washington DC.

Highlights of the year were two family reunions: The Colletts gathered in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and the Bolings gathered in Boyne City, Michigan. Both were fun resort towns surrounded by beautiful scenery and full of activities for us all to do.

Memorable events this year for Jill (3½) and Daniel (1¾) were most likely their swimming and gymnastics lessons. Jill loves Minnie Mouse, playing mommy, and building couch forts. Danny loves Mickey Mouse, making noise, and throwing toys. They’re both a delight—and occasionally a frustration—as only toddlers and preschoolers can be.

Merry Christmas from the Colletts!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Birth Fantasies

So . . . a lot of the birthing books I read mentioned creating birth plans for what you want to have happen during the birth.

(Interestingly, before my recent birthing journey I thought birth plans were a bad idea, because I thought it would make me seem like a bad patient who wanted to fight the system. Now I realize that I'm not in the hospital because I'm sick, so why shouldn't I have some say? I'm the one paying them. Technically, they're working for me. I'll accept their advice the way I would any other professional I hire, but until my labor turns into a life or death situation, why shouldn't I have what I've decided I wanted after taking their advice into consideration?)

Well, that ended up being a long parenthetical statement.

And then I thought birthing plans might be bad, because I read someone saying how women who had their birth plans written and had their hearts set on them but ended up not getting them are more likely to be disappointed later, or have trouble getting over it, or possibly become depressed.

Obviously I don't want to increase my chance for depression.

But as I continued to think about it and continued to read all of these experts recommending them, I came across one author who wrote, essentially, "what's the big deal about being disappointed?" The thought was "is disappointment really so horrible that you should avoid even thinking about what you would like to have?" I didn't think so; I decided that I am strong enough to overcome disappointment.

My encounter with pre-eclampsia with my first pregnancy gave me a strong dose of respect for obstetricians. The only cure for pre-eclampsia is getting the baby out, and my body was not anywhere near going into labor on its own. I am convinced that modern medicine and interventions saved my life at that point. Could I have prevented having pre-eclampsia? Possibly, but I had no way to know I was going to have it, and once I had it, there was no cure (other than having the baby born). So obviously I am very grateful that I am alive and that Jill is alive and subsequently that Danny is alive since I was alive to have him and that soon Alice will be born. Thank you, doctor and medical staff.

That experience has given me the perspective that should another scenario occur, then I am completely fine with throwing my birth plan out the window and allow the doctor and nurses to save my life or my baby's life. In fact, I'm more than fine with it—I'm ecstatic that it's possible. What are the possible scenarios, you may wonder. They are complications like my water breaking at 33 weeks, placenta previa, triplets (wouldn't that be a surprise?!), actively laboring for over 36 hours (or however long) to the point of exhaustion and inability to push, pre-eclampsia again, fetal bradycardia, umbilical cord compression/prolapse, footling or kneeling breech (but not automatically for a frank or complete breech). Bottom line: I recognize that there are possibilities that would decimate the importance of my birth plan. And I can handle that. When true emergencies arise, I will do what I have to do, or rather I will allow to have done to me what needs to be done.

The flip side of that, of course, is that in a low-risk, unmedicated birth, the mother should have lots of options. I've have read many articles, interviewed many doctors, and read (some—obviously not all) ACOG guidelines, and I am now aware that a lot of what I assumed was sacrosanct is actually opinion. One OB in good standing will allow a woman 24 hours to wait for her labor to begin spontaneously after her membranes rupture. Some OBs in good standing immediately begin augmenting her labor with Pitocin. Those are their opinions, their preferences, coming in to play. And since it is my body, and my baby, and I will be the one living with the consequences, I think that my opinions and preferences should come into play as well. That's why I interviewed so many practitioners before I found my ideal providers. I discovered that a lot of the "rules" were actually just preferences and that there are a lot of studies proving and disproving both.

So all of this got me thinking about a birth plan. I think one of my favorite aspects of a birth plan is that Jeff won't have to remember everything, and I won't have to be bothered with decision making. I'll make all of the decisions that I can think of ahead of time, share them with Jeff, and write them down. Then when we're in the moment, Jeff can either remember what my (and, in some cases, our) decision was or he can refer to my birth plan. Sounds pretty nice, doesn't it?

Well, one book introduced me to the idea of a birth fantasy. If a birth plan is pretty nice, then a birth fantasy is like the most awesome ever!!

It is the process of writing down your complete fantasy no matter how far fetched or even impossible it is (like having a relative present who is already deceased or being in a completely different country). Then after going through that process, review what you've written and then determine what those desires really mean and translate as many as possible into realistic possibilities to put in your birth plan.

Creating the birth fantasy is a pretty fun writing and psychological exercise.

So, without further ado, I present my fantasy!

Early labor will last a while, giving me a nice slow warm up and time to realize that birth was going to happen in the near future. I would have certain loved ones with me: Jeff, Jill, Danny, my mom, my sister, my dad, a few other family members and some best girl friends. We'd be in some forested area with hills and very comfortable weather with warm sunshine but not hot enough to be sweaty. I would spend my early labor walking through the gorgeous forest with people I loved. Marveling at waterfalls, admiring rock formations, gasping over beautiful vistas, enjoying a delicious outdoor picnic. It would all be a great distraction from the contractions/surges that are slowly gaining in intensity.

Someplace like this would be perfectly acceptable.
(This is a picture I took during my summer in Maine.)

As I ramp up to active labor, I am magically teleported to a sandy beach. Fewer people are with me now, but I still have my core family group. Jill and Danny are playing in the sand being lovingly cared for by their amazing father and my amazing father. My sister, mother, and I are standing in the warm ocean water with the sun shining brightly down on us. We dance in the waves like silly little girls. As the contractions/surges increase in intensity, my mom and sister stand on either side of me, supporting me, as we allow the waves to pound our bodies on the outside while my muscles are working steadily constricting and relaxing to slowly move sweet Alice down. If it gets too hard to stand, then I may sit on the sand near the edge of the waves, slightly reclined, and continuing to allow the waves to roll over me.

A place like this would be acceptable, except in my fantasy, there wouldn't be strangers there.
(This is a picture from our Myrtle Beach vacation.)

As I reach transition, I am now in my fabulous birthing center in their fantastic birthing tub. Jeff is in the tub, too, and I am leaning on him in whatever position feels most comfortable (perhaps squatting, dangling, or semi reclining). My doula, nurse, and obstetrician are also present, as well as my mother and sister. Jeff is providing me with the physical support I will desperately need, and the others are providing the verbal support to get me through this—the toughest part of labor. I will remain completely relaxed. A vanilla candle (or flameless scent maker) will fill the room with one of my favorite aromas. My children will be present and excited to be some of the first to see Alice. I will gently breathe my baby out as I allow my muscles to do what they know how to do. I will immediately hold Alice, and Jeff will immediately hold me and Alice as we wait for her umbilical cord to stop pulsating and then cut the final physical tie connecting her to me. I'll climb into my comfortable queen-sized bed with my husband and children around me as Alice and I figure out nursing and eventually my placenta will be delivered.

And then . . . *drum roll please* a unicorn will appear. Along with the unicorn, my in-laws, siblings, and Jeff's siblings will come and see our new baby. My parents or Jeff's parents (or both) will take Jill and Danny away, so Alice and I can rest.

Doesn't that sound fantastic?

So now I get to turn that into a plausible reality.

I will labor at home with my children as long as feasible. I will dance with my children. I will let them help me bake a birthday cake for us to celebrate Alice's actual birth day. I will read to them. I may call my mother-in-law or a friend to come over to talk to me and distract me. (If this begins at night, I will just try to sleep as much as possible. If I can't sleep, I might watch Sense and Sensibility and Hello, Dolly! When it seems like I'm done with early labor, I will meet up with my doula at some point, and she, Jeff, and I will drive up to the birthing center. If it is during the day, then my kids will come, too. If it is during the night, then I'll let them come the next morning when they wake up.

At the birthing center, I'll stay relaxed and try all the techniques they throw at me. I'll utilize the squatting bar, the shower, the birthing balls, walking the halls, counter-pressure, massage, dancing, singing, and eventually the birthing tub. If my children seem happy and fine, then they'll stay. If seeing me like this is freaking them out, then they'll leave. I don't need them there if they aren't enjoying it.

I imagine the actual birth will happen pretty close to how I described it in my fantasy, minus the unicorn and relatives who live too far away to be there. But it will include freshly baked bread!

So there you have it: my fantasy and my loosely outlined plan.

Note: The birth plan I am actually going to use is more detailed in case I end up in the labor & delivery department instead of the birthing center. If you are curious what I deemed important enough to write out, just say so, and I'll eventually e-mail you a copy. It is still a work in progress right now as I research and learn about different options and procedures, and it includes more details on what I want to have happen to Alice after she is born.

So there you have it! My fantasy and plan. Won't it be interesting to see what really happens?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Life is better with people who love you

So about two weeks ago, I was going through this intense amount of stress stemming from move, house, and baby woes. I was pretty much just falling apart. Crying. Worrying about irrational things. Stressing over things I can't control. Overwhelmed by everything that needed to get done in time. I was not a very fun person to be around (or be, for that matter).

Jeff and a friend gave me a blessing of comfort, and immediately thereafter I had two thoughts. The first was that I needed to write down everything in my life that was causing me stress, worry, or guilt and then release it. Just let it go. Send it off (to my sister, mother, father, and husband), and then just let it go. The second was that I needed to ask for help, that I did not need to do everything alone.

So that is what I did. I e-mailed the family members I listed above a very long list. I hadn't looked at it since sending it, but I was curious for the sake of this post as to how long it was, so I looked at it to count them. I had twenty-three bullet points. That's a lot of guilt, worry, and stress—in my opinion at least. And some of them were completely contradictory, so I couldn't win either way. Like worrying that my baby will come early with complications (like Jill) or premature (like Danny), but then also worrying that if I make it to 40 weeks, my baby will be too big and hurt me. See? Completely ridiculous. And counter productive. And don't worry, my doula and my obstetrician both have made me feel completely not worried about either of those anymore. I just gave it as an example to see what kind of craziness I was up to. Worried about something and its opposite happening.

I received some great responses from my family. Here are some of my favorite excerpts, because this post is about how blessed I feel to be in my family and to have the friends I have.

"You are a better person, wife, and mom than you give yourself credit for."

"Loving where you live is a blessing, and you may not always be so fortunate. You spent money on a home and gained many good memories. What else is the purpose of money but to be spent so you and your family can be happy and healthy? There are no guarantees in real estate." "Don't think of the money 'lost' on the house as lost. It is just an expense, a 'cost of living.' Let it go and don't dwell on it."

"Ask for help with the cleaning. Don't clean 'beyond' clean. Stop at good enough."

"About hurting Alice . . . have faith, calm down, and only do as much as a pregnant woman should be doing. You ARE pregnant. So act like it."

"You are not Superwoman. You are Mimi. You are human. You are pregnant with 2 small children. You are moving to a large metropolitan area. Your husband is starting a new job. This is not a job for Superwoman. This is a job for Mimi. Mimi—Wife of Jeff and Mom of Jill, Danny, and Alice. You've got all the love you need to be who you are. But, really, settle down and be a pregnant woman. Alice is your top priority. EVERYTHING else someone else can do."

"I am not surprised that you are finding the going so tough; I was told a long time ago that moving is as stressful as dealing with a death and my experience has found that to be surprisingly truthful."

"Seriously, girlfriend, I want you to get a bowl of ice cream and sit down, right now. Just kidding, you don't have to do that. Unless you want to, and you have ice cream."

"You should be doing as much as you feel like you can do. Listen to your body. When it is too much, call your RS president, or your VT, or your mother-in-law, and say, 'Come help me, now. Please.' And they will be blessed immeasurably for giving you service, and you will be blessed for providing someone with the opportunity to lift another. Be a General Conference talk, Meems. How often do you get to live one of those?"

"Houses always have problems; people know that. There is no such thing as a 'perfect, problem-free' house.  Anyone who says differently is lying to themselves or to you. Caveat emptor, and all that. You can't control what will happen in the house in the future, no matter how hard you try to make it perfect now. So, obviously you should make it as nice as you can, but there is only so much you can do, and let the rest go."

"If anyone can sell belongings, it is you and Jeff, Craigslist masters. There should be an official title for that."

"I don't know what your moving situation will end up being, obviously you don't either, so I don't know what to tell you on that one, but I do know that it will work out. LIfe works out. Sometimes it's hard, and sometimes it is messy, but it works out. And you'll be fine because you are a tough woman, no matter what you think about yourself right now."

"You could make a cave look nice, Meems. You'll be fine."

"I love you, and I hope my responses didn't make you feel more stressed, or upset. I just want you to know that I know that you can do all these things, that everything in your life that you have gone through before has prepared you for dealing with this situation right now, and that you will rise to the occasion."

"You are so strong."

I think it's pretty obvious how awesome and supportive my family members are. I think the point that really hit me, and that they both made in different ways, is that I don't have to be Superwoman; I just have to be me, and I can do this, and I should ask for help. I loved my sister's line line about being a General Conference talk.

So, I followed through with their advice and the second prompting that I had received, and I asked for help.

It is kind of amazing how wonderful my friends have been. Not that it is surprising, because I obviously think my friends are amazing, but it has just really touched me. Their help has made this transition a lot easier and a lot harder. Easier, because they're helping me. And harder, because it makes me not want to leave them!

I listed the areas in which I felt I needed help. I needed childcare, so that I could get things done without my kids undoing everything I had done or just watching hours upon hours of television every day. I needed help packing and lifting, and I needed help cleaning. I sometimes wonder if my pre-eclampsia with Jill was caused in part by the fact that we were moving, and I was doing a lot. And I sometimes wonder if Daniel's premature arrival was caused in part by the fact that I don't rest as much as I should. Maybe I exercise too much. Pick up too many heavy things. And just really never stop going. Anyway, so I took my mom's advice about how only I can carry and deliver Alice. Everything else on my long to-do checklist can be done by someone else, but only I can have my daughter.

I e-mailed my friends about watching my kids, and the response was overwhelming. (Now I'm crying out of gratitude for my friends rather than crying because I'm drowning in stress and worry.) Nine different friends and my mother-in-law are all taking turns watching my kids this month and next, for two to three hours at a time, once a day, so I can have a block of time where I don't have to feel like I am neglecting them by working on the house. And, as any mother with a 3 year old and a 1 year old can attest to, I am much more productive without them.

I e-mailed another group of friends about helping me pack, lift, and clean. I gave them a list of days and asked them to choose one day they could help me. Many of them choose multiple days, and one friend even wrote every single day on her calendar!

My father is going to use an entire week of his vacation to come down here and help me with my small things and Jeff with his big projects of home improvement.

I have created 56 craigslist postings (1. because I expect to lose about 600 square feet when we move into our new house, so I want fewer possessions, and 2. just to have more money for the closing costs, actual move, and baby—those are a lot of costs all at once). I have been selling some items to strangers, but I have been surprised and overwhelmed—in a good way—by friends who have taken the time to look up my postings and offer to buy my items from me. Even friends far away who offer to pay for the shipping, too. It makes me feel a bit guilty for not just giving these things to them, but it also makes me feel really loved that they are helping me out in this way. Jeff will have a higher salary in Virginia, but I am still completely unsure as to what to expect with the cost of living difference. Milk for over $4 a gallon?! I'll miss you, Midwest.

My mother-in-law and father-in-law are welcoming us into their home, so we can put our house on the market empty and so I don't have to deal with the stress of showing a house that has two toddlers in it.

The parents of some of our best friends have offered to let us stay in their home in Virginia for a short while in between our leaving here and finding a place to live there. (Other friends have made similar offers, as well.)

And many friends have given me the names and contact information of people they know who live in the DC area, and those friends and strangers have provided invaluable advice.

All in all, it just really makes a girl feel like she can never repay everyone, and it is so beautiful to know that they aren't doing it to be paid. They just love me and my kids. And I love them.

Thank you.

And because I felt like every post needs some pictures, here are a few.

An apple pie that Jeff, Jill, and Danny helped me make for Thanksgiving. Delicious.

We got to spend time with my brother Peter's family and meet his new son, Boston McKay Boling.

Danny at gymnastics: He loves having a place to run and jump freely.

Jill at gymnastics: She is really starting to impress me on the beam and bars (for her age).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Life can be surprising

I seriously don't know where autumn has gone. I wrote "August" by accident last week instead of November. I chuckle to myself when I hear some women talk about how their pregnancies have dragged on forever (and I'm not doubting that it feels that way to them), but mine seriously seem to fly. Although if I ever learn what 42 weeks feels like (or heck even what 39 weeks feels like!), then maybe I will agree. But for now, time has seriously been flying.

Part of that has to do with some recent upheaval in my life.

If you had asked me prior to the first week of October, I would have told you that Jeff and I were going to live in or near the Cincinnati area for the rest of our lives. I love this city. I love being close to his family. I love our friends. I love our ward (church congregation). I love the seasons. I love being close enough to go on roadtrips to visit my friends and family. I love the Ohio River. I love that my great-grandparents lived and died here. I love that my grandpa proposed to my grandma here. I love the Zoo, the Reds, the Newport Aquarium, Kings Island, the Cyclones, EnterTRAINment Junction, Ault ParkB&B Riverboats, the LM&M Railroad, Krohn Conservatory, Skyline, and Graeter's. I'm sure there are other things I haven't though of to list, but I really like it here.

I have moved a lot in my life. In fact, I've lived in fourteen different homes in six different states, and even two countries. Granted, one of those homes I'm counting only lasted for one month, but it was the only home I had at the time, so I'm counting it.

I remember earlier in my marriage having a conversation with Jeff that went something like this:

Mimi: "Well, when we move—"
Jeff: "Why would we move?"
Mimi: "Well, um, I don't really know . . ."

I grew up moving around. I can't count all the homes my mom has lived in, but prior to marrying my dad and not counting her eighteen month long church mission, she lived in at least four different states and multiple homes in some of those states. My dad lived in four different states, with multiple homes, before going to college and serving his mission. My dad's parents both moved three times during their childhoods and then as a married couple lived in at least four different states and five different countries (counting the US). So, the point I'm trying to make is that moving is nothing new to my life experience, background, and expectations.

My husband, on the other hand, moved to the Cincinnati area when he was around five years old. His parents still live in that same house. So it was a rather foreign idea and unnecessary to him: "why would we move?"

And to a woman who never knew quite what to say when someone casually asked "where are you from?," the idea of having a permanent hometown was pretty appealing.

Well, we are now planning on moving.

At the beginning of October, Jeff received notification of a job opening with the Foreign Service (a part of the Department of State). We discussed it a lot, prayed about it, pondered it, talked to friends who are in the Foreign Service, and decided to apply for the position. (We won't find out for a while whether Jeff has made it through to the next round of interviews. I have no idea how intense the competition is either, so it's a complete unknown whether that will be in our future.)

In the process of completing the very long application for the position (lots of multiple choice questions, college transcripts, three essays, and one multiple page biographical narrative), Jeff communicated regularly with a State Department recruiter. This recruiter was apparently impressed by Jeff's phone and e-mail communications, because before Jeff even finished his Foreign Service application, the recruiter sent on to his boss the information Jeff had given him.

The next day Jeff had a job offer from a man he had never spoken to for a position he had not applied for.

Sounds crazy, right?

Well, it really threw us for a loop.

The Foreign Service takes a long time, so I was preparing myself for the possibility (merely the possibility) of leaving Cincinnati in 2014.

Now we were presented with the opportunity to leave Cincinnati very soon. They wrote that they wanted Jeff as soon as "tomorrow," but they obviously understood it takes longer than that to figure out what to do with your house, to receive top secret security clearance, and for the wife to have a baby.

Well, we stewed over that for about two weeks, and ultimately we said yes.

The few people that I've told always ask me how I feel about it.

That's a hard question to answer, because I am experiencing a lot of emotions. (Thank you for intensifying them, pregnancy hormones!)

The nomad in me loves the idea: starting fresh with people who haven't witnessed any of my flaws (yet), meeting new people, turning a new house into a home, exploring a new city. The wife in me is completely gratified that someone other than myself recognized how amazing my husband is. I'm really excited about this job opportunity for him. It is to be a Facility Management contractor for the Department of State's Overseas Building Operations, and it will involve foreign travel to embassies and consulates. And the crazy part of me just loves a challenge, and this will definitely be one.

I'm nervous that dealing with a move close to my due date is what possibly triggered the pre-eclampsia I experienced with Jill. Can stress cause high blood pressure? I'm worried about having a brand new baby, packing up a house, driving across half of the country, and settling into a new place all within a month's time. I'm stressed out about losing money selling our house or deciding to rent it out and then dealing with problems with renters. I'm nervous about the cost of living where we're going, because I hear it's astronomically different than the Midwest (and the housing websites we've been looking at definitely support that).

As I mentioned before, I really love it here. I feel guilty about taking my children away from their home, their friends, and especially their grandparents. Jeff's mother is very involved in their lives, and I know they are going to miss her a lot, and she them. I have made a lot of wonderful friends here, and I am sad that we're going to fade into facebook-commenter-and-Christmas-card-receiver relationships. And this may sound silly, but I have planted so many beautiful flowers in my yard and I was really looking forward to seeing them bloom. Some of them were even transplanted from my parents' and grandparents' homes. And while Jeff did not have a lot of room to grow with his current company, he has been working with and for some amazing people, so we will be sad to leave them.

At any given moment of any given day, you will find me wallowing or exulting in any of those three emotions.

I guess I should say where we are going: We are going somewhere in the Washington DC/Maryland/Virginia area. It is looking like we will probably end up in Virginia. I am looking forward to living in the nation's capital, having so many historical monuments near by, visiting the Smithsonians, having a free zoo, riding the metro, living closer to an LDS temple, having a Distribution Center near by, and just finding out what the East Coast is like.

Oh, and Jeff will be starting work either the first or second week of March.

And yes, Alice's due date is February 24.

So for about three weeks recently, I've just been somewhat in a state of shock.

Here is a conversation from the other day.

Jeff: "Jill, will you move with us when we leave this house?"
Jill: "Yes, Daddy, I'll move with you. . . . but I won't go to work with you. I want to stay home with Mommy."

We've been talking to the kids about the move, but I don't know how much they're really grasping. So wish me luck as I . . .

  • prepare my kids for a new baby and a new house,
  • sort through my belongings,
  • stay relaxed and healthy,
  • pack up what we're keeping,
  • decide whether to sell or rent our house, 
  • endeavor to restore my house to pristine conditions for either renters or buyers, and
  • grieve for what we're leaving behind.

And if someone calls you asking questions about Jeff Collett, now you know why. I hear they are pretty thorough when processing someone for security clearance, and Jeff's job will require top security clearance.

Which makes me wonder . . . is someone from the clearance check reading my blog right now?

In that possible case, I'd better end this post with some cute pictures of our kids.

We've had a lovely autumn.

Oh, and I would be remiss if I did not mention my gratitude for all of the advice and help people who live in or have lived in or have relatives living in the DC/VA/MD area have been providing us. Thank you!! Your enthusiasm and love for that area of the country have definitely improved my attitude and decreased my fears.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

My Birthing Journey

Warning: this is a seriously long post. It may be obvious to many of you due to the title of this post being my birthing journey, but I want to get it out of the way now that I am not attempting to insult any birthing choices you have made by sharing the ones I have made. It is a very personal decision, and I cannot even begin to grasp all of the factors that came into play when you decided what would be right for you, your baby, and your family. So just because I may have gone a different route should not in any way make you feel like I am trying to invalidate what you did.

A large portion of my life right now has been consumed with my current pregnancy. To explain why, I'll have to go back to my pregnancy with Jill. Jill's pregnancy began in 2008. I was very excited about having a baby and pretty intimidated about giving birth. I was pretty sure it was going to be painful, going to be more painful than anything that I had ever experienced. I was scared, but since the baby would have to come out eventually, I tried to not really think about it at all. My gynecologist of the past three years was also an obstetrician, so it made sense to stay with him. He didn't rotate with another doctor, and his office was attached to the hospital facility, so I was already familiar with the hospital as well. I felt comfortable there. The hospital was very small, and all they did was deliver babies and perform out patient surgery. (It was one of three hospitals that were within fifteen/twenty minutes of where I was living at the time, so I definitely had options.) I read the only pregnancy book I had ever heard of at that time, What to Expect When You're Expecting, along with two other publications (a book and a magazine) that my OB gave me. I felt somewhat prepared, as prepared as you can be for a terrifying possibly deadly event. (Keep in mind that this is what I felt then, not necessarily now.)

I thought about taking a birthing class, but we decided we didn't need to spend money to go to a class that talked about something women had been doing successfully for thousands of years. We did the hospital orientation tour, where I learned that some women preferred cesarean sections, which had previously never occurred to me, but the nurse leading the tour had a few different reasons why you might.

Also going on in my life was the declining health of my grandmother half a country away and Jeff's last year of school. Jill's due date was May 8. My last day of work was April 24. That was also Jeff's graduation day, a ceremony which he chose to forego. Jeff was planning on quitting his job a few weeks later, and then we were going to pack up our belongings and move across the country with no job in sight to live in his parents' basement. (Thank you, Daryl and Laurie!) So along with the uncertainty of birth, there was also insecurity due to both of us leaving our jobs, big projects and tests to finish school, packing and cleaning our apartment, and moving to a different state. There was a lot going on.

I had a sister-in-law give me Husband-Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth and recommend I read it. I asked my OB about it, and he told me that he wouldn't advise against it per say, but he warned me that if I told the labor and delivery nurses that I was a Bradley mom they would think that I viewed them as the enemies. I certainly didn't want that, so on that alone, I decided not to read it. (And don't let this past opinion of mine be your guiding factor on whether or not to investigate the Bradley Method further. It has worked great for women that I know now.)

I was generally healthy. I often walked to work, and I felt great. On April 24, I went to the doctor's office.  My doctor told me he was a bit concerned about my blood pressure (which had always been low before) and my urine sample (which had some protein in it). He gave me a list of physical reactions to pay attention to and advised what would be worthy of coming to the hospital immediately.

After the doctor's visit and my last day at work, Jeff and I babysat for two children, and I noticed the symptoms my doctor had mentioned. I had a headache lasting for hours that was not responding to drugs. My ankles were swelling severely; when I pressed down on the swelling, my skin stayed indented. My vision was a little bit off. And I just didn't feel very good. It was night time, and we drove over to a pharmacy to use their blood pressure machine. Red lights went off, and the machine announced that my blood pressure was very, very dangerous. I took it two or three more times to really make sure (possibly even went to a second drug store, I can't remember), and each time my blood pressure had risen from the previous check.

Jeff called one of his good friends from high school who was in medical school and asked him his opinion, and his opinion was to go to the hospital. All of the signs combined, we decided this was a good idea.

I was not feeling any contractions and was not dilated, but Jill was dropped at least. We were escorted to triage where they took samples of my urine and blood. Everything was pretty calm and relaxed. Then all of a sudden the nurses came back, rushed me into a room, and informed me that I had to give birth within twenty-four hours or I would have a cesarean section.

Many delightful occurrences followed: magnesium sulfate, prostaglandins, membrane rupturing, Pitocin, urinary catheter, continuous external electronic fetal monitoring, epidural, internal electronic fetal monitoring, ultrasound, forceps, tearing, the birth of a healthy Jill, placenta delivery, and suturing.

It was not a comfortable birth. I was hooked up to so many different machines. I felt very pressured by the clock that was ticking away toward a cesarean section, which I did not want. I am very grateful to the doctor and hospital staff for saving my and Jill's lives, because severe preeclampsia is very serious.

To this day, I don't know why I had preeclampsia. I don't know if it was caused by stress, or a poor diet, or if it was just something that happened to me.

Continuing this history, it is now 2010. Jeff and I are hoping for another baby. I start bleeding in February and bleed daily until almost a month later in the middle of March. I learned that I had been pregnant and miscarried. I am grateful that I did not require a D&C. A few months pass, and I am pregnant again. Daniel's due date is February 7, 2011.

Again during this pregnancy, I felt great. I read the literature given to me by my women's health care provider. I choose the hospital located across the street from their office. I was now rotated between five different obstetricians. (For checkups, I also occasionally saw the nurse practitioner or one of the four midwives as well.) I was exercising regularly and was excited about having another baby. I knew it was unlikely for me to have preeclampsia again (because while always rare, it is more common in first time moms), but I was still afraid of preeclampsia. I really wanted to have my child naturally this time, and I worried that I might not be able to.

On January 7, I woke up wet. At first I thought I had wet the bed, but since I was pregnant, I also wondered if my water had broken. It was around 4:30 or so in the morning, so I quietly went to the bathroom and tried to determine whether I had lost all control of my bladder as the fluid continued trickling out or whether perhaps my membranes had indeed ruptured. I decided it was unlikely that I would just be peeing slowly and continuously like that, but by the time I decided that, I knew Jeff's alarm would go off soon, so when he woke up, I was sitting on some towels half naked, facebooking. His reaction was definitely one of "what in the world are you doing?" I informed him that I was pretty sure my water had broken. We woke up his mother, and she came over to be there for Jill, and we went to the hospital. Four tests later, they agreed that my water had broken, and I was admitted to the hospital.

Due to my ignorance, I did not ask if I could go home and come back in when I was actually feeling contractions. (Although since I wasn't term yet, I don't know what the doctors would have allowed.) For a second time, I was admitted to a hospital with no contractions and no dilation. I also knew no ways to manage contractions. I tensed my entire body with each one. I don't think I received prostaglandins this time, and obviously my water was already broken, but they did hook me up to Pitocin, and due to risk of infection I was again under a strict clock for when I needed to have the baby.  At some point I asked for an epidural, which required me to be hooked up to the electronic fetal monitor and to lay on my bed. Daniel was born that same day, late in the evening. Blessedly, he was just as healthy as his sister, and only a few ounces lighter.

So, Daniel was born at 35 1/2 weeks, and Jill was born 1 day past 38 weeks.

Now, my history has finally brought me to 2012. I am obviously pregnant again. Alice is due to arrive on February 24.

During the last few years, I have been influenced by a few people. One is my sister. She has had three babies without being induced in any manner or having an epidural for pain management. Another is a friend who had a home birth. Another is a friend who, like my sister, had a natural birth in a hospital. This friend is actually a nurse and married to a doctor, so I found her reasons for going natural to be very interesting. (And I am sorry if the word natural makes you feel like I am implying that your medically managed birth or my previous two births were unnatural. That is just the current term for not having any interventions. The only other way I've heard it described with one word is a pure birth, but that seems to imply a medically managed birth is impure, so I choose to use the word natural.)

And since embarking on this new path, I have learned of other friends who have had babies without epidurals, or used the Bradley method, or used the Hypnobirthing method, or had doulas present.

These "counter-culture"/natural birthing experiences of my friends and sister made me envious. When I look back on the birth of my two children, these are the words that pop into my head: "glad to be alive," "grateful for a healthy baby," "not in my control," "pressured against a clock," and "managed."

When I hear my friends describe their natural birthing experiences, some of the words they use are the same: "difficult," "exhausting," and "painful." But they also use words that are completely out of place with my experiences: "in control," "empowered," "ecstatic," "exciting," and "guilt free."

I have never felt in control of either of my births. Granted, I'm aware that having severe preeclampsia and having my water break at 35 1/2 weeks eliminates a lot of the control that any woman can have over her labor and birthing, but I see no reason to plan on having either of those occur again. Statistically, it is not very likely that either will, so I'd rather deal with disappointment if it does end up being out of control than not prepare myself to have the best possible experience.

In my quest to discover what is my personal "best possible experience," I have traveled far, slain many dragons, and rescued many a knight. Okay, that was just random. :) I have watched documentaries and online videos, read many books, and interviewed many people.

I watched The Business of Being Born, More Business of Being Born, and Gentle Birth Choices. I won't list all the youtube videos, but if you're curious, just let me know, and I can send you some. I read  Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin, Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Hooper, Hypno Birthing: A Celebration of Life by Marie Mongan, Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds by Cynthia Gabriel, The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer, and Birth Your Way: Choosing Birth at Home or in a Birthing Center by Sheila Kitzinger. I still have more books to read, but I only have so much time to give to reading!

The books (and movies) have been fascinating. I had not really realized before how much variance of opinion existed in the pregnancy, labor, and delivery community. Once I discovered that two care providers could have completely different opinions and methods, I realized that it would be worth my time to find a provider who had viewpoints most closely aligned to what I hold dear. That would make it the most likely that I will have a birth I want.

I live in Cincinnati, so I began to research the climate here. I called the two hospitals nearest me (and spoke to women who had delivered at other hospitals further away). I called the hospitals on more than one occasion and spoke to different nurses and asked questions about their common procedures, intervention statistics, and what was available there for laboring women. I asked friends and looked into online forums to try and find which providers I should interview. I interviewed/met four home birth midwives, one hospital delivering midwife, three obstetricians, and seven doulas (if you don't know what a doula is, she is a support giver rather than a care provider—click here to learn more about doulas).

I learned that Cincinnati used to have one obstetrician who would come to your home to deliver your baby and back up home birth midwives, but that he had retired quite a while ago. Since then, two more obstetricians in the area are willing to provide hospital back up to home birth midwives (of whom they approve). I learned that Ohio is not an ideal state for home birth. No hospital midwives will deliver at home, and no home birth midwives can deliver at the hospital, so if a transfer were necessary, your care provider would have to change as well. I learned that Cincinnati's only birth center closed six or seven years ago and despite interest in the area, nothing has replaced it here. I learned that all hospitals in the area require a HEP lock and that while some will allow you to labor in water, none will let you birth in water. I also learned that none of the Cincinnati hospitals allow you to eat while laboring, although some will let you sneak it on the side and avert their eyes. I also learned that the natural delivery percentage in Cincinnati is very low; somewhere less than 10% of women birthing in Cincinnati have no interventions. And no OB practice, that I heard of or found at least, did not rotate between providers. None let you pick who you wanted to have be there and who actually would most likely be there unless something very unlikely occurred. (I do not claim to have done an exhaustive search. I definitely did not contact every single hospital and care provider in Cincinnati. I had to stop searching at some point and just pick, since I was already pregnant.)

I thought about a home birth for a while. It appeals to me in many ways, but at the end of the day, I couldn't shake the fact that if something occurred like it did for my previous two pregnancies, I would have been required to deliver in a hospital anyway and the midwife who had offered me care for all the preceding months would not be able to follow me there and provide my care. And knowing my personality, I think I would worry the whole time that my house wasn't clean enough or tidy enough. And I really didn't want to worry about dishes in the sink or crumbs on the carpet while I was laboring. It did appeal to me to have the heightened level of prenatal care that you receive from a midwife. You choose who will be at your birth, and you know it will be her (unless some unforeseen reason occurs, which is not very common). She provides all of the postnatal care at your home. She spends a lot more time with you and is more likely to notice warning signs before they become high risk, because she is very well acquainted with your living conditions, diet, exercise, relationships, and stresses. You're not just numbers: gestational age, mother's age, blood pressure, + weight. You're a whole person, so she's able to diagnose much more accurately whether you are high or low risk. She is able to feel with her hands things that OBs are simply not taught in medical school. She has pain management techniques to offer you that do not involve drugs. She will be by your side for your whole labor, rather than just the last pushing part. She will never have a shift change and leave. It would be really easy for my children to be present as much as they want, because they could walk in and out of the room and leave and play as they desired.

It is possible that you have heard horror stories about home births. When I talk about the midwives I was choosing between, I am not discussing quacks or dangerous, ignorant women. I am talking about very intelligent, wise, experienced women who the OB was willing to backup, who were recommended by other mothers they'd help deliver, and who were recommended by doulas who had been present at their births. I am talking about women who know how to resuscitate babies and stop hemorrhaging. (Although, statistically, it is much less common to have a baby have breathing problems or for a mother to hemorrhage when there have been no interventions.) When you have a qualified, knowledgeable midwife, home birth is just as safe as birth ever is. Some people will disagree with me on that, and that's fine. Write an article on your blog or website with your opinion. :)

So, I decided against a home birth, but I did not want to deliver in any of the Cincinnati hospitals. That is when I decided to look more into the Family Beginnings option up at Dayton, connected to the Miami Valley Hospital. It was mentioned in one of the books I had read as an example of a real birthing center, not just a labor & delivery unit with redecorating and a new name.

Jeff and I went through the orientation session, and it offered everything I wanted. A queen-size delivery bed. No HEP lock required. A large Jacuzzi tub for labor and birth. Dimmed lighting. One patient assigned per nurse. Nurses versed in natural pain management techniques. Squatting bars. Ten different shapes and sizes of birthing balls. No induction or analgesic drugs available. A private living room for your children, and children welcome at the birth. No "tummy pummeling" to deliver the placenta. Delayed cord clamping. Breast feeding support. Assumption that the baby will stay with you in your room. Possible early release, if desired, with signed paper from pediatrician. Eating and drinking are encouraged to keep up your stamina. (When I say eating, don't think of like pizza or huge sandwiches. Think of high energy snacks, like what a marathon runner might eat to ensure stamina.) And probably much more that I'm not thinking of.

And if I fall into the small category of women who do have problems, they'll put me in a skinnier bed (because theirs are queen sized) and wheel me across the walkway over to the actual hospital's labor and delivery unit. Or my baby will be taken to the hospital's nursery, which includes a Level 3 NICU. Of course, if I fall in with the majority, then nothing will go wrong, and I'll stay on the Family Beginnings side of the campus.

I looked into doctors and midwives who delivered at Family Beginnings, and I have found a practice that I love. They rotate only three obstetricians, so I will have an opportunity to know them better than practices with five or seven! And they are completely in line (based on their verbal responses to my questions and the reviews of other people who have gone there) with my natural hopes. I seriously fall in love with them more each time I go. I'm very happy.

The downside to Family Beginnings? It is seventy minutes from my house. And Jill and Danny don't have bedrooms there, so if I am laboring or birthing in the middle of the night, they won't be present, but I decided that both of those issues were not as important as all of the benefits.

Here's one plus, the nurses bake bread while you labor, so right after you deliver, it's hot and fresh whenever you want it! And you get to smell it baking while you labor. They have different flavors of bread you can choose from. How random and nice!

I looked into different methods of natural childbirth, and the one that appealed the most to me was Hypno Birthing. I used to think it was really weird, like is someone else controlling you under hypnosis? But I've since learned that it is really just you teaching yourself how to deeply relax and how to go to a "happy place" almost where you can handle what your body is doing.

I also hired a doula who makes me feel very at ease. She has over thirty years of experience and just exudes calmness. She knows all of the tricks I can try, and while the nurse assigned to me will know what to do, she will still be a complete stranger. But my doula has been to my house, and I've gone to hers, and we email and call frequently. We have a relationship, and that trust will be very important during the end of labor. She will also be able to take pictures and video of any part that I want, so Jeff will be free to continue to support me.

My sister is also making some recordings for me to listen to while I labor that I am thrilled to hear!

So to sum everything up, I have always been excited to have a new baby, but for the first time I am actually excited to deliver the baby. I am looking forward to the discomfort and pain of contractions/surges. I am looking forward to discovering how strong my body is. I trust that since my body knows how to create a baby from almost nothing, it will also know how to get that baby out of me. I'm viewing the whole process differently, and it is so different from how I felt for my first and second when I knew basically nothing.

I have been a little nervous writing this, because I am worried that someone might feel that I am belittling the birth she has chosen, and that is not my intention. I also remember that I used to think that home birth was dangerous, that water birth was weird, and that hypnobirthing was really weird. But, I really am excited to have this baby, and I wanted to share with you why.

This Monday marks 26 weeks along in this pregnancy: Hello Third Trimester!

What I've really learned through all of this is that your best experience will be birthing in a location where you feel safe and comfortable (whether that be home, hospital, birthing center, or general practitioner unit) with a care provider who is qualified and cooperative of your birth vision.

The rest of this post is excerpts from the books I've read so far.

"If you don't know your options, you don't have any."
by Diana Korte and Roberta Scaer

"Whether birth is difficult or easy, painful or pain-free, long-drawn-out or brief, it need not be a medical event. It should never be conducted as if it were no more than a tooth extraction. For childbirth has much deeper significance than the removal of a baby like a decayed molar from a woman's body. The dawning of consciousness in a human being who is opening eyes for the first time on our world is packed with meaning for the mother and father, as it can be for everyone who shares in this greatest adventure of all.

At least, that is how many women see birth. Not all of us, of course. There are women who think too much fuss is made about the birth experience. They simply want it to be painless and over with as soon as possible so that they can get on with their lives. That is a valid point of view. Some women are happy to accept induction, an epidural, and a forceps delivery, or a planned cesarean section, and feel more secure knowing that childbirth is being managed by a top obstetrician with skills to augment or replace the natural process. I believe that women should be able to have what they choose in childbirth. It is our bodies to which this is happening, and other people should not make decisions for us or make us feel guilty because they would have chosen a different way." Birth Your Way: Choosing Birth at Home or in a Birthing Center by Sheila Kitzinger

"Labor will hurt. Probably a lot. But whether this is negative is another matter. Pain and suffering differ, as anyone who engages in activities demanding strength and endurance can tell you. A laboring woman can be in a great deal of pain, yet feel loved and supported and exhilarated by the power of the creative forces flowing through her body and her ability to meet labor's challenges." The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer

"Why do American women so seldom experience natural hospital birth? Why can't American women endure the pain of labor? While many birth researchers blame doctors and a century of medicalized childbirth, I have a different idea. I answer this question as an anthropologist. Two aspects of our culture seem particularly vital. The first is structural. We all live with constraints imposed on us by the structures of our health-care system, the insurance business, and laws regarding liability. (Obstetricians are the most-sued doctors in the United States. Russian doctors and midwives are paid by the government; Russia has virtually no insurance companies; and none of the Russian doctors whom I interviewed had ever been sued by a patient.) The second aspect is related to our cultural values: Simply put, our culture does not honor birth pain.

Here in the United States and Canada, our culture doesn't teach us that birth pain leads to something valuable. Our society fails to recognize the merit of most pain, not just birth pain, and we go to great lengths to avoid unpleasant feelings. So many North American women have experienced the pain of labor, and then an epidural, that our collective memory about birth is now full of hurt but is missing the feelings of ecstasy and success that natural birth provides. In Russia, by contrast, suffering is considered an admirable pathway to becoming a better person. Russians from all walks of life can speak eloquently about positive transformation through pain. Russia is not unique. Most other cultures in the world provide a lifelong message to girls and women that the physical labor of birth is not just valuable, it is heroic. To embrace the pain of labor, we must reclaim its value." 
Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds by Cynthia Gabriel

"The HypnoBirthing philosophy differs vastly from all . . . [other] views. HypnoBirthing is predicated on the belief that as a woman, you can experience birth through your own natural birthing instincts—serenely, comfortably, with dignity, and with as little medical intervention as possible. The program teaches you to go with the natural flow and rhythm of your laboring body; to release your birthing over to your mind and body; and to trust your body to function as it was intended to, thereby alleviating pain. HypnoBirthing teaches you and your birthing companion to work with natural relaxation techniques, so that your body can work with complete neuromuscular harmony, assisting rather than resisting." Hypno Birthing: A Celebration of Life by Marie Mongan

"The United States offers the most technically advanced obstetrical care in the world. Ninety-eight percent of all births in the United States take place in hospitals, and the majority of them are attended by physicians. Yet when this country is compared worldwide, it ranks only thirty-first in maternal and infant mortality and morbidity rates, with 6.63 newborn deaths for every 1,000 live births. (Mortality reflects the number of deaths and morbidity reflects the number of illnesses associated with birth.) Every single European nation has better maternal and infant outcomes than the United States. As of 2004 one of the safest countries in the world in which to have a baby was Sweden, with only 2.7 deaths per 1,000 births. The majority of the industrialized nations that have good statistics have one thing in common that the United States lacks—midwives, and lots of them, who see birth as normal and natural and are the gatekeepers for all pregnant women." Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Hooper

"Birth pain is different from other pain. The women at The Farm know that birth usually hurts—at least the first time you do it—but they know it as a different kind of pain from the pain of injury. When you are injured and feel pain, its message is 'Run away!' or 'Fight! You are being damaged!' This is survival information. The pain of labor and birth has an entirely different message. It says: 'Relax your pelvic muscles. Let go. Surrender. Go with the flow. Don't fight this. It's bigger than you.' This is far different from the message of 'Protect yourself!' or 'Run away!' that accompanies injury.

Yet many women react to labor pain in the same way they react to the kind of pain they experience when wounded. They think of medicating it and see no gain from experiencing labor without medication. They don't know that a change of position, of attitude, of atmosphere in the birth room, and a host of other factors can utterly change the inner sensations of labor. They usually aren't aware of the extent to which you can ease your own tense reaction by declining to think in terms of 'uterine contractions' and thinking instead of 'interesting sensations that require all of your attention.'

Some have characterized giving birth without painkilling drugs as some sort of 'extreme sport.' Women who choose natural birth have been derided as martyrs or superwomen exhibiting some demented female version of machismo. This is caricature, not reality. In fact, many women who choose to labor without medication do so because they fear the consequences of unnecessary interventions.

Please realize that I'm not promising you an orgasm or a completely painless labor if you refuse pain medication in labor. No one can make such promises. I just know that when I was facing my childbearing years, I wanted to be aware of all of the possibilities of women's responses to labor."  Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin