Tuesday, February 20

A Work in Progress

I have been conversing via email with my midwife, just trying to work through the issues of my labor and birth. She has clarified for me that the main reason she recommended we go to the hospital is that DD had not descended, and she did not believe she was going to. She did not want to risk undue exhaustion and perhaps infection (which can be fatal) by staying home longer. That was helpful for me to know.

There are more issues at hand between us, but that is for us to work out, and I think she was doing what she thought was best. There is really no point in "what could've beens." After all, although there's the chance it could have been better, I acknowledge that it also could have been much worse.

Conversing with my midwife has brought out some issues in in my heart as I wrote to her. I realized they were not really about her, so I decided to write them here:

Three months later, I am happy that whatever happened, DD is a fine and wonderful baby with a very relaxed nature and a beautiful smile. I may not have had wonderful birth experiences (maybe I expected a little too much this go round), but I grow them well and strong! ;) She is a blessing to me in so many ways. The birth is important, but she is much more so. In the end, the days my babies were born were moments that changed my life so much for the better.

I do hope, someday, I can pass some strength on to other women, perhaps as a doula or a childbirth educator, or just as a friend, when their bodies can't or won't or are not allowed to do what they were "designed to do."

That is just a hard thing to come to terms with, that here you can be a mother of two, yet never have experienced that "magical birth." Society doesn't see c-section as a birth, I'm afraid, or maybe it's just in my mind. I don't want to be bitter, but it's so easy to feel like you didn't do what you were meant to do, that you couldn't cut it. It takes a lot of effort to work through all that, and it can be pretty painful (it's painful now but it was much more so in the hormonal aftermath of birth). Without the success of breastfeeding, I'm sure I'd feel like a complete failure with respect to my body's abilities.

I thought I had gotten over that after my miscarriage, but I guess life is always a work in progress.

Tuesday, February 13


My little flower was born November 5. She's already 3 months old. You can imagine how motherhood can keep you busy enough to make blogging difficult. However busy and happy I am being the mother of two (it really is its own identity, you know), it's not really what kept me from writing.

You see, my birth was not the great be-all-and-end-all that I was hoping for. I really am somewhat of a pragmatist so I am surprised that I was so disappointed by what happened.

I'll warn you now that there are some "graphic details" below, so stop now if that bothers you.

My water broke at about 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning, November 4, when I got up to use the bathroom. It was five days past my due date.

After trying to rest for a while, I waited, I walked, I waited, and I walked some more. I called my doula (MW) and the friend that was going to care for DS (RR). They came; they went. I gushed (my body kept producing more fluid to protect the baby). No labor. Some mild contractions, but nothing serious. Sometime late Saturday my midwife started talking about hospitals and getting things ready, just in case. This jump-started me past my reservations for self-intervention. A little intervention was much better than a cesarean, which I tried a cohosh blend in homeopathic form several times. Nothing. I tried a little nipple stimulation. A little but not enough.

The threat of the hospital was becoming more serious by Sunday morning, and I did feel threatened. I knew that walking into the hospital meant another c-section, major surgery, more risks for me and my baby (see my past post on homebirth after cesarean). My midwife had already been in contact with the area hospitals to see who was on call. I had already been reduced to tears more than once. Now, with almost any doctor, I admit, the c-section would have probably been done and gone by this point. They dislike waiting more than 24 hours after the water breaks because of fear of infection (which is actually much greater in the hospital). All the while, I was taking Vitamin C and checking my temperature (for signs of infection) and drinking plenty of fluids. I also kept making more "water" and was constantly leaking.

About 11 a.m. Sunday, as a last resort, I tried nipple stimulation again, with DH's help. Bingo! Before long, I was having contractions hard and fast. They were 30-60 seconds long and about 5 minutes apart. After an hour or so, I called the midwife. RR was already on her way back from 2 hours away to care for DS if we had to go to the hospital.

Yay! My labor continued with no abatements until about 5 or 6 in the evening. I walked all around the main floor of our house between contractions and called out to DH whenever I felt one coming. Then, I held on for dear life and tried not to swear (after all, DS was still around). The dogs couldn't figure out what was happening and even tried to jump on me at first to say, "Hey, Mom, what's going on?" I was laughing at them, at life, and moaning at the same time through the contractions. The pain was rejuvenating. I was so happy; it was almost time!

MW had come in the meantime when I realized that I needed someone to put pressure on my back while I held DH in the front. The hot rice pack she brought was just heavenly, and the counterpressure helped so much.

My labor slowed down a little bit as I started to tire in the evening. It was then we realized that I hadn't really eaten since labor started. While I showered with DH, the midwife and MW made made me a fruit and yogurt smoothie. Shortly after, my midwife said she wanted to check me (do an internal exam) to see how things were progressing. She had tried earlier but had trouble finding my cervix. I sat on the birth ball in my bedroom and leaned back on DH while she checked me between contractions. The news was not good. She said I was just "fingertipping," that my cervix was open less than 1 centimeter.

The pressure to go to the hospital was back. My midwife expressed that in her experience, if labor did not start spontaneously that it was likely to be long and exhausting and irregular. It seemed she was telling us that we needed to go to the hospital now because I would have to go later anyway, and by then, I would be even more exhausted, which could negatively affect the outcomes for both myself and DD. She also wanted to go to the hospital before there were signs of infection, before there was a problem, and before DD or myself was actually in trouble. There was also a "friendly" doctor on call, someone we could trust to receive us without ridiculing us because I had been planning to have my baby at home.

I talked with DH and RR and MW. They all seemed to think that I was okay, and so did I. Everything about my body and my baby felt right. I wanted to rest. I had read frequently about women resting in labor and then doing better later. My midwife did not seem convinced. When DH and I asked her what she thought of letting me rest for a while, she reiterated that she thought it would be a long and exhausting labor; she seemed very concerned about my progress and worried about the chance of infection. She conceded to an hour in the tub, and when I was no further dilated at that point, it seemed we had a choice: go to the hospital or do this without her.

I want to make clear that she never said she would actually leave, but when we asked her straight out, she wouldn't answer us directly. To us, it felt like one and the same. It was from this and from the pressure to go to the hospital what felt like so soon to us that a lot of hurt and anger and disappointment arose in me toward my midwife. I still love her as a friend and respect her, but there are definitely some issues that I hope we can work out between us in time. I would like to remain friends as we were throughout the pregnancy. (She came to the hospital with us and was there until after DD was born, as was MW.)

So, feeling like we had no other choice if we didn't want to go it alone without a birth professional present, we got ready to go to the hospital. I cried, told my son that RR would be staying with him, and called my mother to let her know what was going on. DH called his parents as well. Meanwhile, my labor had picked back up.

The hospital was an hour away, partly up and over a small mountain pass. We followed the midwife and MW. I labored there in the dark beside my husband, grabbing the hand bar since I couldn't hold him through each contraction and grieving for my lost birth experience. My body didn't know that it wasn't going to be able to finish what it started. What had felt exhilarating before now felt futile and pointless.

My experience at the hospital was a bittersweet mix of emotions. I was not myself. I was not feeling polite. I was feeling bitter, angry, and terrified. What I needed most, to have my husband beside me and to hold, they took when they could. He had to fill out paperwork, and no, he couldn't fill it out in my room. He had to get ready to go into the operating room WHILE they took me there first and they administered the spinal. At least he was allowed there during the actual delivery.

The contractions I had during this time were particularly hard. I had to change and get hooked up to the ever-holy monitor. "Oops, don't move during your contractions like that! It makes the belt slip!" How do women do this?

I had to grab onto my midwife and MW when DH was filling out the paperwork, but I needed his solidity. I love my women friends and am glad I was not completely alone, but right then, I needed DH's strength and solidity. I needed to know that I could grab on and squeeze as hard as I could, which I only felt comfortable doing with him. He was my rock. I am fortunate that he was there for me throughout most of the labor.

The doctor came and was very pleasant. Yes, I understood that I would not be allowed to labor anymore, that I would be having a cesarean. He did check me, though, and I was 2 centimeters. I was making some progress, but it didn't matter any more.

The last of the labor took place in the operating room, while they administered the spinal and got me prepped for surgery. I had wondered if they would give me meds to stop the contractions, but they didn't. I thought the contractions were so powerful, enough to disrupt any cutting, but I guess they only feel that way. "This is the last contraction you'll feel."

I was terrified...scared out of my mind. More so than with DS. I knew more about the risks this time. Part of me was very afraid I was going to die, that I was going to leave DS without a mother.

I tried to talk myself out of this state of mind. I was not going to let fear cause a problem that was not already there. I talked to the staff in the operating room as they prepped me. I asked tons of questions and made comments. I let them know I was informed. It helped that the anesthesiologist was in the room humming and impersonating Elvis. My sense of humor was still in my mind enough to notice and be amused.

Then, DH was there, and the surgery began. As with DS, DD was born quickly, and the closing up and suturing is what took longest.

She was born at 11:59 p.m. on November 5. As I requested, the doctor held her up over the barrier for me as soon as she was born so I could see her face as soon as I could. It brings tears to my eyes just to remember that sweet little face above me, mouth wide open in a newborn scream. It made every minute worth it, now and then.

DH stood with her while they did the newborn exam in the operating room as the doctors finished me up. She was healthy and strong at 8 pounds 3 ounces. They held her to me cheek to cheek as I asked; the same as the other hospital did with DS when he was born.

We were now a family of four!

They took us back to the room. Everything was done there; the bath and measurements, etc. I felt fortunate that this hospital had a true rooming-in policy and accommodated as many of my wishes as they could, even when they went against hospital policy, although not all. I had the shakes and terrible itchiness from the anesthesia, but they were just a bother in light of my new beautiful baby. Soon, DD was having her first taste of mama milk, skin-to-skin, and her first bowel movement at the same time. :) My midwife gently cleaned her while I held her and nursed her.

She is and was beautiful. There is nothing I wouldn't have gone through to bring her into this world safe and happy. It's funny how you can be so sad about how something went down and still feel like the result of it was one of the best things to ever happen to you.

Welcome, little bird. You are my flower, my sweet little girl, another sun in my blessed life.

"She is born, and Earth will never be the same."

(from She is Born: A Celebration of Daughers by Virginia Kroll)

The Best of All Worlds, part 2

New mommyhood really scrambles your brain, you know? Even when it's good!

So to finish my thought and inspiration for the title of my last post...

When DS was born 6 years ago, I also had a babymoon, but it was just the three of us. I was a first-time mom in a new state with only one (non-mom) friend nearby. I spent the first 10 months of DS's life with many, many moments of loneliness. After all, as supportive as he was, how could DH ever understand what it was like to be transformed into a 24-hour all-you-can eat bed and breakfast and comfort giver? How could he know what it was like to have your personal identity totally subsumed by another being?

At 10 months, that all changed when I attended my first LLL meeting. I met some other moms; I joined their playgroup. I found my tribe.

So, here I am years later. I moved a couple of hours away from those women for financial reasons, but they are still there for me. They threw me a fabulous blessingway and still think of me often, as I do of them.

Through LLL, I've also met other mothers close by, so even though I am not as close to them, I still don't feel alone.

So, it's the best of all worlds because I have this wonderful babymoon to cherish. I may feel like staying home a lot, but I know that my tribe is out there just a phone call, an email, an IM, or a drive away.

Thanks, gals. You're irreplaceable!

Monday, February 12

The Best of All Worlds

Here I am in my so-called "babymoon." I don't know how long it's supposed to last, but I just gotta say I'm loving life with my newborn (she's 3 months old already!). Me, the run-around/drive-everywhere-and-get-stuff done one, is enjoying just staying home with the kids. We actually get homeschool done. We actually keep the house fairly clean. I actually cook meals. I actually get time to play with DS. He gets to run around all day in his skivvies. DH has been working a lot lately, but he's at home, so I still get to see him, too. I do like staying home at a lot right now. I don't think I'd appreciate DD's babyhood near as much if I didn't. And after years of waiting for another baby, I'm really trying to savor the fact that I now have KIDS with an S. :)

When I do go out for groceries or for an LLL meeting, I get a little stressed just trying to keep up with all the "stuff" (thank goodness I'm breastfeeding or there'd be even more!) and make sure DD gets enough sleep, etc. It used to be the joy of running around outweighed any stress; now, it's a little different.

Oh, I'm sure as DD gets a little older, we'll be getting out more. I'm sure my "itchy feet" will come back some day, but I am for once enjoying the "stay at home" part of being a stay-at-home mom.