How law school taught me how to give birth

eleanor-chung-generation-jdI had my first son just before law school.  I had my second son 1L Summer. The first birth was harrowing. The second was great.

For the birth of my first son, I wanted only my husband with me to take part in what I foresaw being an intimate and spiritual moment. I thought that my physicians and nurses were the most experienced and therefore the best people to make decisions about how the birth should progress, so I yielded to their judgement.

Man, did that backfire.

The second time around, my education in advocacy led to a much safer and more comfortable birth.

I brought copies. For the birth of my second son, I came prepared with 20 copies of my birth plan. A birth plan is like a prison visit request. You hand one out, it’s promptly lost, and then the ever-changing rotation of personnel forget about your appointment/desire to have an epidural. Then you’re stuck in intake/having terrible contractions for a day.

Bringing many copies of the visit request and the birth plan is therefore imperative. For my second birth, I brought lots of copies and handed them out like a politician —“Nice to meet you!  Here’s my plan!” Anyone who entered my suite knew how I wanted the birth to progress.

I came with advocates. For the second birth, I expanded my advocacy team, enlisting my mother’s help. Both my mother and husband were instructed to communicate my birth plan to my health care practitioners when I inevitably became too fatigued to properly advocate for myself. Having an advocacy team is imperative, because the birthing process lasts a couple days, and your advocates must tag team, as they occasionally need to eat and sleep.

I ignored irrelevant language. For example, I heard something like this before both of my children’s births:

Birth 1 (Before law school)

Nurse: We don’t usually follow birth plans; we try to be responsive to your labor.

Me: OK.

Birth 2 (After law school)

Nurse: We don’t usually follow birth plans; we try to be responsive to your labor.

Me:  I’m extremely sensitive to Pitocin and would like an epidural before its administration. Here’s a copy of my birth plan.

Sans a statement like “It’s hospital policy not to follow birth plans,” I exercised my prerogative.

I told ‘em once, then I told ‘em again — and then I told ‘em again. My oral advocacy class was great preparation for communicating with my health care team. I never assumed that anyone remembered what I wanted. And to assuage my worry that my plan had been forgotten, I asked questions. Not to the point of cross-examination, but definitely in the style of the Socratic method.

“As I am sensitive to Pitocin, when will you administer the epidural?”

The question sounds condescending on paper, but in the fast-paced world of shift rotation, where practitioners are responsible for the care of many patients, it’s not.

For me, the intimate and spiritual experience of childbirth took place at home. The birth was business, and a skill that I improved upon, thanks to my legal education.