Thursday, 14 January 2010

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

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