Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Trading in some baggage

I had a lot of baggage from my first birth. Prior to Myles, giving birth to Simone was simultaneously the best day and the worst day of my entire life. I had this 'terrible' birth. She came five weeks early, before my baby shower, before my birth plan, before I bought a single diaper. I said yes to induction (cytotec) which I now regret, my water was broken without my permission, the epidural was coerced, my doctor said she was going to give me an episiotomy no matter what (when I was 5cm). She was right about that. In addition to my 3rd degree episiotomy, my DD was born with forceps in a room off a NICU and she was whisked away. I didn't see her for an hour, didn't attempt nursing for four hours.

In hindsight, it was not any one intervention that upset me. It was the way I was treated; like an object. I was made to feel ashamed and scared and out of control. It was awful. As soon as it was over and I had my darling baby, it was pure love at first sight, but my initial reaction to the actual birth was that I wanted another try. I wanted to do it again, right that day (isn't that insane?).

It took me months to physically heal, I had lots of pain, and some problems with my stitches. Afterwards I was scared to death of my yearly physical (PTSD), so much so that I didn't go back for one for over two years after her birth. I was emotionally scarred, scars only another birth could heal.

This was my baggage. And when I went to my midwife (not the bitch OBGYN I had with Simone) for the first time after learning about my pregnancy with Myles, I bawled and unloaded all of it. I thought I had a lot, and I wanted to let it go. I had something to prove, to me, to myself, with his birth. Some might think that childbirth is just one day, and it is, but it is a day that you will never forget. A positive birth experience is a powerful thing, and a negative one, well, mine haunted me for years. Thus, I instantly saw my pregnancy with Myles as my second chance, perhaps my last chance, to get it right.

That dream was almost shattered when I went into preterm labor with Myles at 28 weeks. I didn't think there was anything worse than a premature birth, my son in the hospital for 10 weeks. My vision of a natural water birth was gone. My worst case scenario for Myles was premature birth, I never imagined anything worse was out there. I was so naive. But after many weeks of bed rest, battling depression, I achieved my dream. I made it to term. My water birth was once again in sight, and I was SO EXCITED to give birth to my dear son. I did hypnobirthing, and a big part of preparation was imagining and visualizing your perfect birth experience. Imagine I did.

Never did I imagine at 37 weeks to the day, that I would lose my son. Never did I imagine that his heartbeat would be there on a Tuesday and gone on a Friday. But Myles didn't leave without giving me a gift. I got my water birth, except for the most important piece (my sweet boy), it was everything I had ever dreamed and more. It hurt (there is no word adequate to describe the pain of childbirth) but I was surrounded by my loved ones; my caregivers were AMAZING, they wanted whatever I wanted. And I gave birth to my son in an hour, completely naturally, with everyone listening to me and honoring my body and my wishes.

So, Myles gave me the gift of healing. I was able to let go of the fears and worries and questions that haunted me from four long years before. But I didn't just drop off some baggage that day. I picked up some new baggage, baggage I never wanted to carry, baggage that no one should ever have to carry. It's a heavy load, though I've had some help here and there, it is for the most part my burden alone. And it is overwhelming. But the experience; to be simultaneously healed and scarred on the same day, to have my dream birth, and lose my dream baby. Well, it was the worst day and the best day of my entire life. It was the day I met and lost my son. It was the day I dropped off what I thought was some major baggage only to find out life had a much greater load waiting for me to haul around this world.

And now I realize, to be pregnant, to give birth, to have a child, is an amazing journey. It is an experience that takes place in that gray area between birth and death; it brings not only fear and immense heartache, but also love and healing and strength. I don't know if I will have another pregnancy, another birth, another baby. But I do know that it is all worth it. This is life, and it's cruel AND beautiful, and I'm not going to give up on the beautiful in order to avoid the cruel. So I want another baby, a hundred babies, because they are worth it a million times over. And I'll carry this baggage forever, losing my son will hurt me every day for the rest of my life, but maybe my next baby will help ease my load a little, and maybe (s)he'll have a new lesson for me as well.


charmedgirl said...

my first birth was to triplets, so obviously not what i had planned for years (homebirth). i grieved having three seperate pregnancies and also the non-technical birth, from the moment i learned it was triplets. when we were surprised with another pregnancy, i thought i had a chance to heal those parts of myself as well. when we learned she was dead.....i was EXTREMELY glad, at first, that it would be a c-section. but soon after, i grieved again that i couldn't take that journey with her, even dead, like i'd planned.

i am an atheist. i know for a fact that every theist i know has a much harder time reconciling my baby's death...all the "whys" that i don't have. i, too, believe in the beauty of life AND death; i remember being in the hospital after the c-sec saying that death is also beautiful in its own way and now i have to live my beliefs. it's been hell, but it's also life.

this is a beautiful post.

anarchist mom said...

I find that too, that my atheism has shielded me from pain and questioning that theists seem to dwell on. My father is religious, and I was surprised how hard he has taken this. Unfortunately, he wanted to talk religion while I was in the hospita still! I think he just wanted to share that he 'lost' god after his divorce from my mom, and it's taken along time to get it his faith back, and now that I think about it, I think he was trying to communicate to me that this had made him lose it again. And that makes me sad for him.

I don't think anyone should become an atheist out of hurt or anger. Just like I wouldn't become religious because of loss. I don't think it should be an emotional response (probably why I am an atheist) but a long organic self relflective and thoughtful process.

Anyway, I'm letting my DD find her own way in religion. But what I've told her after we lost our beloved dog last spring (glad that happened before Myles, we had lots of discussions about death before his loss so it wasn't a new concept) is that everything that lives must die someday. And that that is what makes life SOOOOO special. You can't have one without the other, and we shouldn't wish it any other way.

vixanne wigg said...

It's sort of weird that I just found your blog and then you posted this. I have a lot of complicated feelings about natural childbirth/homebirth because I've felt that these desires for the "perfect" birth are a result of naivete...that if you know what could happen you would never really care about how you gave birth. I also think the movement (How many Business of Being Born e-mails do I have to get?) promote ideals of feminism yet ultimately can scar women who either don't choose to participate or who can't because of physical reasons beyond their control. I also see a lot of the "trust birth" stuff as being magical thinking not unlike religion. If I just believe that my body can do this enough, it will.

But then I've found people like you online who clearly disprove my beliefs (probably my one lingering prejudice from my loss). Which is good for me, I think.

I took part of a Birthing From Within class during my pregnancy with Baby Wigg and ended up leaving horrified. The other couples kept talking about how they wanted their perfect births and the whole class I kept poking my stomach because I was convinced my baby was dead inside me.

And yet! Whether it's just because I've internalized things I've read or listened to friends describe their ecstatic birth experiences, there is a part of me that wants to get pregnant again just to "do it right." (My husband says...You did it right. The kid's alive, right?)

Anyway...just interesting to talk about this with someone with a similar experience who comes at this from a different perspective.

anarchist mom said...

Well, I think unerealistic expectations accompanied by unsupportive people is what leaves many women as distraught as I was with my first birth. I see the feminist push back as understandable, 50 years ago women were knocked out with ether and all babies were born with forceps (that's how all of my grandma's boys were born, she doesn't remember any of their births).

In the same sense, I think perhaps I did have unrealistic expectations with my first (thanks to my feminist leanings), and that is at least a part of it. I certainly internalized the virtues of natural child birth and home birth. OTOH, just some care and compassion by my OB would've helped, as I've described, I was treated like crap.

In my birth plan for Myles, I made clear that I simply wanted to be listened to, and respected, and treated like a human being. I thought natural was better for me and baby, but we all know how quickly plans must change in a birth given circumstances, so I didn't want to set myself up for diappointment. The way I saw it is as long as I was included in the decision making and treated like a person, then even with a c-section, I would've had a perfect birth.

The day after giving birth to Myles, my schtick was (I had to use humor to cope) was that I was no longer a proponent of natural child birth having for the first time experienced it, LOL. It's a joke, though, as I would want the same if I ever wind up pregnant again.

At the same time, if at a point in future births I felt like I wanted pain relief, you better believe I'd go for some nubain and even an epidural. It's not a moral decision, it's not a policy decision, it's a personal autonomy decision; listening to ones body and doing what is best for you.