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Do You Think Your Body is a 'Lemon'?

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32w, 2d. I’m interrupting my plans to write about all the things I’ll miss about pregnancy (see this last post about the 21 things I won’t miss) because of something that happened yesterday during an ultrasound—and I wouldn’t bother to mention it, except for the fact that I think it’s part of something bigger.

To back up, I’ve been going for growth scans every four weeks during this pregnancy, as required by the maternal-fetal medicine specialist I’ve been seeing in conjunction with my homebirth midwives (all thanks to high blood pressure that made its debut early in pregnancy).  The idea behind the growth scans (where they take a bunch of measurements of the baby, including its head, abdomen and thigh bone) is to make sure that the baby is growing sufficiently because high blood pressure can impact how well the placenta grows and nourishes the baby. All was well, yet again, during yesterday’s scan—in fact instead of the baby measuring small for her gestational age, she measured two weeks bigger. Based on the sonographer’s calculations, she’s already weighing in at 5 lbs, 8 oz. The doctor I spoke with following the ultrasound said that that was fine—except [as he glanced me over, head to toe] that she might have a problem fitting “geometrically.”

Now, if I were a first-time mom—or if I hadn’t read all that I have about birth or have the supportive midwives I do—I might have been scared by that comment. Will she get stuck? Can I not give birth vaginally to this baby that still has another eight weeks to grow? Is she TOO big? Is there something wrong with my body? Luckily, I know just how wrong those size estimates can be—up to two pounds(!) in either direction by the time of the birth, I’ve read. And one of my midwives even took the time to tell me during a recent appointment that I should ignore any size estimates provided by the sonographer—that the most important thing was that the baby was growing, not how big they actually thought she might be. She reminded me that I’ve given birth vaginally (including once at home with no drugs) to two boys who have been just shy of eight pounds—and that women’s bodies, mine included, are designed to do this difficult work. Or, as Ina May Gaskin writes in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth:

Remember this, for it is as true and true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.” 

So, while I was annoyed that this doctor felt it necessary to imply that I might not be able to birth this baby girl on my own, to start doubt creeping in, to float the idea of the necessity of a c-section, I knew better. I could roll my eyes and shrug my shoulders and leave his office with no change in plans on my part—I remain committed to a natural birth because I believe my body and my baby were meant to work in tandem and do this. Yes, there are rare cases where a woman might have a tiny pelvis and a huge baby, but I have no reason to believe that this is one of those.

In addition to this doctor’s comment, I had someone else suggest to me this week that breastfeeding might not work this time around. “You never know!” she said—it just depends on the baby. The comment was part of an offer to help—a well-intentioned offer to bottle-feed the baby and allow me some rest after the birth—and I’m sure the commenter had no idea how detrimental such a remark could be. Again, I’ve breastfed two babies—one for 13 months and the other for 23 months. Yes, I know how hard it can be (I saw THREE lactation consultants the first time around!), but I also know that I trust my body to do the job it was designed to. I know my breasts can produce milk (heck, I’ve already got colostrum coming in!)—and I also know that there is a learning curve for babies (they’ve never done that work before!), but I also know that it’s the most natural form of nourishment for them—that’s why moms make milk. I fully acknowledge that breastfeeding doesn’t come easily for some women for a variety of reasons and I absolutely respect other women’s feeding choices (we supplemented with formula the first time around and were grateful to do so)—but to suggest to a woman who is about to have a baby or to one who has a newborn that her body might not have enough milk or that maybe things just won’t work out re: breastfeeding is a pretty horrible thing to say in my opinion. Why not just support the mother and believe in her—and allow her to believe in herself?

Because I know better, believe in my body, and choose to deal with things as they come instead of wasting my time worrying about all of the negative what-ifs, I’m brushing off these remarks and continuing to look forward to a natural birth and to a (hopefully) long and rewarding breastfeeding relationship. But it could so easily go the other way—worrying that I’ll need a c-section, that homebirth is no longer a safe choice to me, that I’ll fail at breastfeeding this time around… Have you heard negative remarks about your body’s ability to birth, breastfeed, carry a child to term, etc.? Have others suggested that maybe you won’t be able to do something and made you doubt yourself? Please share the gory details below—but know that I believe you can do it all.

Edited to add: One of my midwives called me this morning in response to an email I sent them about this last night, asking for reassurance that I was right to disregard this particular doctor's opinions re: the geometry of my pelvis vs. that of my baby. In her voicemail, she said, "Melanie, you will grow the perfect-sized child, and you know that. Don't let medical people scare you. Don't believe the hype." Reason #273 I love my midwives. May we all find awesome health care providers who support us and believe in the power of our bodies.

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