Thursday, December 22, 2011

Birth Stories, part I

I know in the mom blog world it is fairly customary to blog about one's childbirth experiences and I never shared anything about Jack's birth because by the time I started this blog, he was already close to a year old.  Besides that, his birth was not a happy experience with the only exception being his arrival into the world.

Basically, Jack was the only good thing that happened the day he was born.

I hate to even say that, but the fact is that the 24 hours leading up to his birth were awful for me.  I was treated like a bystander...worse, a bystander who knew nothing about anything.  I was treated with little or no respect and nurses were rude and impatient with me for wanting a natural childbirth.  They made it clear that this was, in their estimation, not going to happen.  The OB we were working with was subtly threatning me every time he came in the room.  He looked at his watch constantly, counted down the hours until we would have no choices (as though we ever really had any). He flat-out lied to us several times.

You see, my water had broken before my labor really started.  For that hospital and that doctor, that meant I had exactly 12 hours to produce my son before they would be hooking me up to everything they could and getting him out as fast as possible.

They knew from my birth plan that c-section was the last option for me, and they used that to threaten me into pitocin.  When the pitocin kicked in and hit me like a ton of bricks, I had an epidural before I knew what was happening (and, incidentally, I believe I had started to handle the contractions pretty well by the time the anestesiologist showed up so I wish I had put my foot down and said no).

Once the epidural was in place, magically the nurses stopped coming in every 20 minutes.  Suddenly, I didn't need so many cervical checks (or, as it turns out, any).  Did I mention that when the pitocin kicked in good, one nurse forcably checked my cervix in the middle of my contraction?  She solicited consent from my husband by scaring him.  She told him if I was in that much pain, I must be ready to push.  Then she told us that no, I was not dilated at all and informed my husband that I couldn't handle natural birth.  Nice, huh?

I spent the next few hours crying quietly in my hospital bed.  Sleep?  Forget it.  The numb feeling from the epidural drove me crazy.  I wanted to cut my legs off.  And someone came in every so often and turned me over, increased the medications, and took my blood pressure.  Not sure who could sleep through that.  I was also freezing cold.  When I started feeling contractions again, they informed me that I was almost ready to push.  My husband woke up and before I knew it, I was pushing with my husband on one side, a nurse on the other, and the absolute terror that the OB wouldn't get there in time.

The nurse informed me that all the nurses had delivered babies, so I shouldn't worry.  That just made me wonder why I needed an OB at all.  But he did show up, just in time to catch Jack, deliver the placenta, and stitch me up.

And Jack was beautiful.  He was quiet - didn't even cry for his bath.  I recall holding him on my belly, and then having him taken away for apgar, bath, etc.  So important to get his weight and length as soon as possible...then, suddenly, my husband had him.  He was all swaddled and pink and they looked so beautiful together that it took me a while to realize that I was supposed to want to hold him.

I was supposed to.  It isn't that I didn't want to hold him.  I just felt no connection to what was going on around me.  When I asked for him back, my husband handed him over and I remember being so amazed that he was really here.  There really had been a baby boy inside me all those months and now I was finally holding him in my arms and yet...something was missing.  I felt no rush of love.  I knew, intellectually, that I loved my son.  I had loved him from the moment I saw two blue lines and through all the morning sickness that had me dry heaving at night and left me almost 15 lbs under my pre-pregnancy weight before I could eat again and began to gain.  I loved feeling him kick and tumble around, a little acrobat in my belly constantly reminding me of his presence.  But I felt like an outsider in that delivery room.

Then they took him away, claimed his heartrate was too high and he needed monitoring.  Well, no wonder.  He was drugged up on pitocin and the epidural.  It was hours before I saw him again.  And the next two weeks were a blur of pumping milk for my newborn, who wouldn't latch, crying, nipple shields, more crying, and feeling completely inept at this whole parenting thing.  I thought it must have been a mistake.  That we shouldn't have been given this lovely little being if we couldn't decode his cries and what kind of mother can't find a way to get her son to latch on and drink her milk?

We did get the whole nursing thing sorted out and it didn't take me long after that to feel so completely head over heels in love with my son that I could barely remember that detachment I felt the moment of his bith.  But not a day has gone by in his 2.5 years that I didn't think about his birth with sadness.  Yes, my son was healthy and I should be greatful.  But I kind of find that line of thought demeaning to women.  Yes, I am eternally greatful to have a healthy baby, especially when I hear stories of less fortunate parents and children.  But that doesn't take away my need to have a safe, healthy birth and be treated with respect.

So when I found out last spring that I was pregnant, I knew I needed something different.  We had just moved and I was pleased to learn about a group of midwives and a speacial place inside the labor and delivery unit of a nearby hospital where these midwives assisted with natural, normal childbirth.  I knew I wanted to welcome this child into the world at the midwifery, in the peaceful and loving atmosphere where women's bodies are respected for all that they can do, and labor is considered something a woman does, not something that happens to her.

I made an appointment that day, before I even told my husband I was pregnant.  I also started looking for doulas.  I was leaving nothing to chance.  I knew that my husband, scared and overwhelmed at our first labor and birth, would be more confident.  But I also knew I wanted someone who had a lot of experience with natural birth to be there for us, help guide us on a journey that would be very different from our previous experience.  We found and hired an amazing doula, took a real childbirth class, and eagerly awaited the arrival of our little girl.

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