The idea of inducing labor has terrorized me since the birth of my son. It’s synonymous with what I still consider my biggest failure—not allowing Noah to be born on his terms, instead trying to schedule him into my life.
I wish I could return to the weeks leading up to Noah’s birth. I’d do more research on inducing labor ahead of my due date, and I’d say “No, thanks” to my doctor’s suggestion to induce for the sake of getting it done.
I induced for two reasons:
- My OB-GYN had suggested it, and I trusted her. She was warm, laid-back and I believe she had my best interests in mind, not those of the big pharmaceutical companies. I still believe that.
- I was terrified of childbirth. Inducing sounded like a safe way to introduce order to chaos.
In seeking a tidy ending to my uneventful pregnancy, I was trying to stay in control of my body and the baby. It seems I wasn’t alone in my quest for convenience. “No one goes into spontaneous labor anymore,” an obstetric anesthesiologist at one of Boston’s largest and most respected hospitals, told me this week on background (which means he did not want to be quoted on the record). “We induce them. They like it that way. It’s more convenient,” writes author Jennifer Margulis on the Facebook page for her book, The Business of Baby: What Doctors Don’t Tell You, What Corporations Try to Sell You and How to Put Your Pregnancy, Childbirth and Baby Before Their Bottom Line.
The convenience factor has been in play for at least a few years. According to a February 2008 article in Medical News Today, convenience was “one of the more common reasons for induction.” The story explains, “Allowing labor to start on its own reduces the possibility of complications, including a vacuum or forceps-assisted birth, fetal heart rate changes, babies with low birth weight or jaundice, and cesarean surgery. Studies consistently show that inducing labor almost doubles a woman’s chance of having cesarean surgery.”
Inducing labor can be a lifesaver, the article points out, if it’s riskier for baby to stay inside mom than to be born, based on guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
I wish I’d read the MNT story before Noah was born. Shame on me. I’m used to doing extensive research as a reporter. I have no excuse for slacking, particularly regarding the life of my unborn child and my own well-being. I believe that induction ought to be reserved for high-risk situations or emergencies. Childbirth is not convenient, nor is motherhood. I suspect the message of “Just induce—it’s so convenient” succeeds in America because we’re bred and badgered to believe that we can have it our way, no matter what “it” is.
The birth of my second child was natural, spontaneous, and one of the best events in my life. I refused Pitocin. I pressed on for as long as possible without painkillers, and opted for conservative doses. I knew better, so I did better.
That same principle applies to the lessons I’m learning today, with a 4-year-old and a 21-month-old. Noah is teaching me, and I’m doing better by him, and by Syma. Parents may strive to raise their children right. But children raise their parents, too—to new levels of awareness, love and humility.