Thursday, 14 January 2010

and so it goes

as the days go by and the drugs and hormones of pregnancy wear off, I grow sad.

And I know this part of the process. I know this is a wave I must dive under. I must feel the tides push over me, forcing me down and washing over me with the gravity of the world, because if I don't give over to it, I will be swept under by surprise, against my will, and taken down to drown. I know this intuitively, and from experience.

I wish everyone else would let me be sad.

I know it is hard to watch people you love feel guilty or sad or regretful, especially when they should see what you see, how much they deserve to be happy, how silly they are being, all the reasons they shouldn't be sad, but it is not fair to ask people to be happy because their sadness makes you sad. It is not right to ask people to swallow their emotions and rationalize their feelings to make you feel more comfortable.

I need to be sad.

I need to mourn the loss of my birth story as I had it planned. I need to be allowed to feel like a failure, because I did fail. I failed to do what women are built to do. I failed to let my baby out of my body, for a second time. The circumstances are different, but this time I can't blame knowledge or understanding or education. I have only my own body to blame, another item on a mile long list of things to hate about my body.

I need to be allowed to vent this sadness to get past it so that I CAN invest my energy in being a better mom. I need to say it out loud and not be afraid that I am making other uncomfortable. I need to say...I hate myself for being so weak. I hate myself for not trying something else. I hate myself for giving in when maybe I was close. I hate myself for saddling my family with excess debt we cannot afford. I hate myself for all these reasons but mostly I hate that I am not the woman I want to be and I don't know what to do to be her. I hate that this is a problem I cannot solve. I hate that I am supposed to just accept that I am not who I want to be and I have to just suck it up.

I hate it.

It's not that millions of women have been fine after giving birth by C-section or that I think I have fucked up my kids by not pushing them through my vagina. It is that *I* couldn't do what *I* set out to do. It was my goal. It was my project. It was my body. It was my choice. and I failed.

I need to be sad about that for a while. Okay? I need to be sad.

She is perfect and I do feel I can begin to forgive myself for my birth with Benjamin, but now I have a whole new fish to fry.

I am not the picture of a mother or a woman I want to be for my children. I am not the role model I want to be. I am not the figure of strength and protection I want to be. I feel ill equipped to serve them the way they deserve to be served, and I don't know how to make it up to them or if I ever will.

I need to feel this.

I need to say this.

I need you to hear this.

The birth story

At the beginning of this pregnancy I soon realized that there were some emotional issues surrounding Benjamin's birth that I had never really faced up to. They began to haunt me. Why had I let them talk me into a C-section? Why hadn't I asked more questions, explored other options? Did I really need major surgery or did the Doctors just really want to enjoy their Easter break at the beach without a call from hospital? Had I even asked for a second opinion or did I just put my life and my baby into their hands and never even question what was right? I spent a good portion of the first trimester doing some pretty deep soul searching and I decided that this time I was going to do things differently. I was going to research more, ask more questions, and refuse unnecessary interventions. I was going to decide the course of my healthcare, rather than social pressure, or medical trends. I soon realized that if I really wanted to have this baby on my terms I was going to have to stay away from the hospital system as much as possible, and as long as possible. I began researching and preparing for a homebirth with a reputable team of midwives here in Costa Rica.

I met Marie and Rebecca and I knew they were the women who would bring me to a peaceful place mentally; they made me feel safe and cared for, like all the maternal women in my life rolled into two experienced birthing experts. I also began to realize that I might let my stubborn streak for proving something to myself and the world stop me from being aware of my safety or the safety of the baby inside me. I needed a mother figure there to help call quits if things didn't go according to the books, to God's design, to my ideal plan. I needed someone who would be willing to call uncle for me, and I trusted Marie and Rebecca would only do so if they were sure it was time, and that was a level of trust I simply never had with the hospital and insurance mechanisms that we are so encouraged to put our absolute faith in. I had read time and again that the more you trust your birth team, the more likely you are to have a safe healthy natural birth. So I made all the arrangements and felt safe and ready to have this baby in my home, surrounded by people who knew I could rather than a staff of people waiting for me to fail and to pick up the pieces.

On Friday January 8th I began to feel contractions around 4:30 pm. They were pretty irregular, between 35 and 60 minutes apart, and pretty mild. Enough to keep me from sleeping soundly but not enough to call the Midwife. I was pretty sure this was that Prodromal labor everyone had been talking about but I never experienced with Benjamin. But by 10 am on the 9th I was feeling them every 20 minutes with increasing regularity. I had read that it was a good idea to just try and rest and go about your business, that I likely had at least 8 hours before they would go into active labor (5 mins apart or less) and I was still pretty convinced this was just a false alarm. I lost my mucous plug at about 1:30, but I have heard that just means you are effacing, no big deal. Nothing to panic over. I was still deeply nestled in my denial. So at 2:30 I went with Jamie and Benjamin to pick up my mom from the airport. By the time we got home at 4pm they were 15 minutes apart. I told Jamie to go ahead and go watch the semi finals for the superbowl at his friend's house. This was definitely not going to happen tonight, and if they picked up I'd call him.

By 9pm they were every 5-10 minutes and I was starting to think this might be it. So I called Jamie to tell him to come home, and we called the midwife, but her phone went to voicemail. Jamie panicked a bit and an hour later we got her on the phone. She came right over with all her equipment, poor thing had been at another birth all day and was so tired, but she came right over and checked me. My contractions were coming every 2-6 minutes then, and I thought I had felt my water break in the shower, so I was pretty sure I was getting close. Besides I hadn't slept in like 38 hours, so I was hopeful this was me getting close to the end.

Marie checked my cervix and I was a disappointing 1cm dilated. I thought, "Well no big deal, just keep going." Yes the contractions hurt. They did. But in a way that felt safe, good almost. I felt like I was pushing through something. I felt almost euphoric. But tired. A few more hours, on the ball, in the shower, on the bed, and still I was only 2 cm. I went back into the shower on the birthing ball for another 2 hours I think and they started coming fast and furious, really intense and with no break between. I thought this has to be transition. I must be opening up. I thought for sure I was close, that I could feel my cervix opening up and letting my baby through.

Two hours, of constant contractions, no break to rest, just wave after wave, and I thought I was going to collapse...I think I did collapse. I got out of the shower...I wanted her to check me, I was sure I was ready, I had to be ready.

I was only 3.5 cms. I started to cry in desperation "what is wrong with my fucking body?! Why can't I let my babies out!?" I felt so humiliated and exhausted, so so exhausted. Marie felt it was time to call the OB. I didn't want to hear it. I crawled in the tub and began to sob, half with relief that someone was going to put me out of my misery soon one way or the other and half with a deep sadness knowing that my body had failed to birth her babies on her own again. Surely there was something fundamentally wrong with me. Jamie held my hand as Marie told me the prognosis. "Dr. Paer could help, but he felt a C section was the best route." Marie stroked my hair and assured me that it really was time to give in, that I had done everything I could, and that in her 25 years of experience she had never seen anything like it...there was nothing left to do.

I gave in and climbed into the car and we went to the ER where Dr. Paer met us. They registered me, hooked me up to an IV. I remember the Nurse put this needle in my hand and I screeched in pain and she said "but it's not as bad as the contractions, is it?" And I remember looking at her thinking," You are a fucking moron. It's not the same thing. I can breathe through a contraction, and I know it will pass and I will be (or should be) one step closer to holding my tiny baby...that was a giant needle in my hand that will be a throbbing reminder of my failure and humiliation for the next 48 hours!" But all I said was "No es el mismo” It’s not the same thing.

Two contractions later (they had spaced out significantly now, and I almost thought for a minute...maybe I can still do this! but I was too tired to say a thing) they finally wheeled me into the OR. The epidural was awful. They come at you with this giant needle into your spine and say "hold still" and you know if you don't you could be paralyzed for life, but it's a GIANT NEEDLE going into your central nervous system (between contractions this time, so yeah, not fun) and my body has instincts, it flinches from pain, and things it thinks might cause I bolt up as the needle goes in and they yell at me, "Calm down, Rebekah!" The nurse is on my side, I can hear her say "go easy she's exhausted!" and I just shout "FUCK OFF I'm having a contraction and it's a giant needle in my back!" they restrain me, I look to my left and I see Jamie in scrubs with the most terrified look on his face, and I am so relieved they will let him in, they try a second time and I bite the male nurse's arm to try and stay still, but I move again...shit!...I apologized, I didn't mean to bite him...they try a third time to get it right and this time I bite my thumb instead. They lay me down, and I am soon numb, but for my shoulders which suddenly ache like I have been lifting heavy boxes all day.

The rest is sort of blurry, lots of gas and pain killers, they let Jamie tell me the sex, which was nice, they show me the placenta, and I am wheeled off to recovery. An hour later they bring me to my room and Jamie comes in with the baby, a baby girl,3.6 kilos, (about 8 pounds) and 48 cm (you do the math on that one). She is beautiful. It is almost 9am on the tenth of January. I am tired, but also sort of high and excited to hold this wee girl. She latches on perfectly and goes to town on my colostrum. Then she just passes out, satiated for the moment, and I breathe a sigh of relief and look to Jamie. He seems so happy and in love. They let him hold her the whole time I was in recovery, so at least she was not alone. I feel a great sense of relief. It is over, and we are safe, and I do not feel the humiliation I felt last night. I only feel lucky and loved and in love. I used the doctors for what they are meant to be used for. As Dr Paer told me at our first meeting "I don't know anything about natural childbirth. My job is to help when something goes wrong." and he did. He really did.

I may never know what went wrong, why my cervix doesn't work like other women's cervices do. Nevertheless, this experience was incredibly healing for me. Emily Ava Young was my chance at self forgiveness and redemption from the jury that sits in my heart and judges my mistakes. She was a sort of rainbow baby for my heart and my fears. And as such it was fitting that as we left CIMA hospital there, right in front of us as we drive out of the parking lot, just over the Fischels Pharmacy sign on the other side of the autopista, was a fat, brightly glowing rainbow and it seemed to say, "You are good, Rebekah, you ARE good." And I think I believe it.

Emily Ava is home now; currently sleeping with her dad...he has a magic way with babies I tell you! And we are resting and Benjamin is so cute, he runs into every time she cries to make sure she is okay. For now we are enjoying our little cocoon and snuggling lots and enjoying the sleepy milky smiles of our beautiful baby girl

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Pregnancy, homebirth, and fear

So, I am 38 weeks and four days pregnant with baby #2. I am riddled with fear and anxiety. I am researching every possible complication and what my choices are to be fully informed and it's like trying to fish at the bottom of an abyss with a pencil and a gob of gum.

In my research I came across this site:

And I tried the exercise and I feel compelled to publish it here.

I believe childbirth is something I never got to do, I was just handed motherhood without the right to experience the most important part, and it’s my fault for not asking more questions, for trusting untrustworthy doctors and for not educating myself.

I believe it is the measure of a woman’s worth in so many ways. Her ability to do it gracefully and without shedding tears or expressing needs or fears are held up by the men in her life as a measure of her coolness, her ability to fit in with the boys and as such her right to be loved. Her ability to just sit back and do her time as deemed by nature or god or whatever higher power determines these things with a smile on her face and no demands of her partner, or special requests from her employer, is lorded over her like a guillotine ready to dice her into pieces should she ask someone for empathy or companionship along the road.

It is a test of the greatest kind, and it seems there is no way of passing it without total selfless martyrdom, the fertile soil of resentment and emotional hermitage, where icy frigid souls grow out of the ashes of once warm and caring hearts that believed they were worth more than their ability to grow an egg into a child. And I am failing.

One of my worst fears for the labor and birth is that the baby will die and I am my ego will be the only ones to blame.

When I talk about giving birth with other people I get defensive and emotionally flustered. I try to retain my idealism and optimism, but every story I read about premature labor or sudden emergency c-sections, I think: all this work, all this research, all this time invested in making sure I don’t let myself be manipulated or terrorized into unnecessary interventions again and what if it’s all for naught, what if I do all of this and I still wind up hospitalized and treated like an empty vessel for someone else’s right to be…what about my right to be, to be the mother I want to be, the woman I want to be, the person I want to be.

And I think; “Why do I feel so alone in this fear?” Why does it seem Jamie’s and in fact anyone's only fear is if someone dies -- a healthy baby and a living mother is all he wants for. There are worse things than dying in childbirth, and there is more than one kind of death that can happen…and what if I can never resurrect the person I sold to the slaughterhouse when my son was born, the once fearless woman I sold in exchange for some cheap sense of security that I had done the most sacrificial thing to save my child. What if all the babies in the world passing through my cunt never ever takes away the mistakes I’ve made. What if I am just broken forever and then I wind up alone and saddled with two children that I can’t help but love but whom I’ll always know I’ll never be able to protect by myself.

I always feel like less of a woman compared to women who gave birth vaginally. My mother, my step-mother, my mother-in-law, my sister and sister-in-law, they all have something I don’t: the knowledge of their power, their strength and ability. I feel weak and small next to them. I want to believe having this baby at home on MY terms will change everything, and I do believe that if I can’t I will always be half the person I should be, and it strikes at the core of my confidence and I shudder to think how I will shrink further into invisibility and self-deemd irrelevance if I can’t make this happen.

I have concerns about giving birth because I might not be able to do it. And then who am I? What good am I to anyone?

What fears arise from your mother's retelling of your birth? That because I was born by C-section all my babies will be too. I took away her right to birth me naturally, and I don't deserve to have a natural birth because of it. I fear my baby girl is going to be born to a mother who has no right to be a mother.

What fears arise from previous experiences at birth? That I am not built to have babies. That my body can’t do it. That I might hate my children for proving to me what a sad pathetic excuse for a woman I really am.

What fears arise from the anticipation of being out of control? Every fear I have ever had comes out of this one thing. How can I give over to my nature and my instincts and a higher purpose if I can’t let go, but how can I trust anything I am not in control of?

What fears arise from the expectation of pain associated with labor? None. I am not afraid of the pain. I believe the pain will be the only thing that saves me.

What fears arise from the understanding you are becoming a mother (again)? That I will be doing this mentally and emotionally alone because my husband does not want to share this with me. That he sees how broken I am and he will leave me for a life of freedom and easy choices and that I am unfit to do it alone. That I will let my children down, or grow to hate myself and everyone else trying not to. That if it is a girl I will make her neurotic and crazy trying to live up to my failed expectations for myself, and that she will grow up never knowing how amazing she is just in her own precious right to BE.

What fears arise from the anticipation of the physical process of labor? Tearing scares me, and that I might never regain my prenatal shape. I also fear I won’t go into labor…that everyone will say it is time and my stupid body won’t be able to do what it needs to do and it will be my fault, for abusing and hating my body for so long throughout my life. Maybe I broke something and it can’t be fixed. Maybe I’m the only one to blame for being such a failure at the only thing I should be able to do right.

What fears arise from the anticipation of being "watched" and meeting expectations? I might let my mother or husband’s judgments stop me from doing what I need to do. That seeing me labor will make my husband feel disgusted with me forever.

What fears arise from the anticipation of breastfeeding? None. Milk, I can do.

What fears arise from comments made by family or friends? If I can’t do it at home, naturally, I will feel like a buffoon. That they are secretly rooting for me to fail, even my husband.

If I felt strong and powerful, I'd like to give birth to my baby completely alone, in my bathroom or my closet, with no one around but my heart and my baby.

There it is. Not pretty. I have so many scabs to pick at and scars to heal.