A Story of Births and Beliefs

The other night, I decided to watch a movie. I didn't know what I wanted to watch, so I clicked on the suggested movies of Netflix and let it help me decide. The Business of Being Born popped up, and it sounded fairly interesting, so I decided to watch it. I'd never heard of it before, but I figured there couldn't be a better subject for an expecting mother, right? I thought maybe I'd learn something I didn't already know.

I knew within 10 minutes that I'd made a mistake. Not because it was a terrible movie, but because it was going to be difficult for me to watch. Within a very short time, I was crying.

I cried because the story echoed over and over throughout the movie is similar to what happened to me when I gave birth to my first child. I cried because there was so much I didn't know then, so much that would have helped me make better decisions about the whole experience. I can't say for sure if things would have worked out differently if I had been more informed, but learning some of these things after the fact is like a sucker punch to the stomach.

When I was 36 weeks pregnant with my first son, I developed severe hypertension and borderline preeclampsia. The doctor kept reassuring me that my blood pressure wasn't so high that we needed to worry, and there wasn't much protein in my urine. But, to be safe, he sent me for a nonstress test to make sure my baby was doing ok. The test seemed to go fine; the nurse told me the baby looked like he was doing great. I left the hospital feeling absolutely relieved.

I didn't make it to my car before I got a phone call from my doctor's office.

"We need you to go back to the hospital. We're admitting you for further observation."

Apparently, although the baby was doing fine, they weren't so sure that I was. My blood pressure had increased, and they didn't want to risk it getting worse. So, my husband and I walked the 20 feet back in to the hospital and I was taken to the mothers and infants wing to spend the night.

The result of my overnight stay in the hospital was fairly inconclusive. My doctor ordered me home on bedrest, but he still didn't think there was too much need for concern. He thought if I stayed off my feet and relaxed, I'd be ok for the last few weeks of my pregnancy.

That was on a Friday. On Monday, I had another appointment. My blood pressure was still way too high, even though I very literally only got up to go to the bathroom the entire weekend (it was a very boring weekend at my house!). My doctor, still not seeming terribly concerned, gave me an option: take the risk of the blood pressure problem getting worse, or be induced?

It's hard to explain my decision making during this time. It was definitely altered by the fact that I was very excited to meet my new baby, and it was also altered by my ignorance about child birth. All I knew was that, even though he seemed calm, my doctor was paying me an inordinate amount of attention. And I was terrified about making the wrong decision. So, I consented to induction.

I hadn't dilated yet at all; my body was in no way ready to have a baby yet. I spent the night having suppositories to ripen my cervix (or something like that), and in the wee hours of the morning my water broke. So far, so good. Then, they brought on the Pitocin. I didn't want an epidural, so I tried to labor without any pain medication. The Pitocin contractions were horrible, and from subsequent conversations I've had with other mothers, I now know that they're not "natural." When you go in to labor on your own, the contractions start off slower and build in intensity. I went from nothing to full throttle in less than an hour. I was in terrible pain, and because they were monitoring my baby, I wasn't allowed to get out of the bed more than once an hour. I couldn't stretch or walk. I labored like this for 10 hours before I finally asked for an epidural; I had only dilated to 3cm.

A few minutes later, the nurses changed shift. My new nurse came in to introduce herself and look at my chart. She took one look at the fetal heart monitor and her eyes got huge. She asked my aunt to feel for the baby and rub my belly to help get his heartbeat up. Then she rushed off to find the doctor.

Again, my doctor didn't seem terribly concerned. Almost nonchalantly, he explained to me that my son's heartbeat was dropping dangerously low every time I had a contraction. Did I want to continue to labor, or just have a C-section?

I often wonder what kind of question this is to pose to a terrified woman in labor with her first child. Why didn't he offer any advice? Why was he treating this like routine? I broke down in tears, unable to answer. My husband answered for me. "If there's something wrong, do what you have to do." After a moment I concurred with my husband. If my baby was in danger, we should just do the C-section.

I've never gotten over the loss of a "normal" child birth. I feel like every intervention from doctors led me further down a path that inevitably led to a C-section. Could any of them have been avoided? Was I too scared to really think of the consequences of my choices? I'm not sure. But I do think there was definitely information I didn't have, that might have changed some of my decisions.

Ultimately, I know that it doesn't matter how my son was born. I love him just the same, and I'm happy to have him alive and healthy. But I still long for the experience of birthing a child.

On my doctor's strong suggestion ("It seems like you might have a small pelvis. You didn't make much progress while you were in labor last time. Better safe than sorry."), I opted for a repeat C-section the second time around. It is something I regret very deeply. I let myself get scared. My first birth experience was so full of scary moments that I didn't want to take any chances the second time.

Now, here I am, 16 weeks in to my third pregnancy. And from the moment I found out I was pregnant, I was very sure of one thing: I want to attempt a VBAC this time. I know there's a chance that something could go wrong. I know there's a 40% chance I'll have to have a C-section, anyway. But I want to try. And my doctor isn't terribly receptive to the idea. For now, he's humoring me, telling me there's a chance that I can. But his list of reasons I shouldn't keeps getting longer. I do trust my doctor's opinion, but I've also done a lot of self-education this time around. And I won't take no for an answer.

I'd like to be allowed to pick my baby up when it's born. I'd like to be able to walk up the stairs of my house and put my baby in its crib and (maybe) sleep comfortably in my own bed. I'd rather have the soreness and discomfort that comes with vaginal birth than the painful open wound in my abdomen that comes with a C-section. And I would like to know that my body can birth a baby on its own, without a long list of medical interventions.

Wish me luck...this is going to be a bumpy road.


Six Word Fridays: Favorite Things

From Making Things Up

Pumpkin spices in my morning coffee

Snuggling before getting out of bed

The Beatles, and some other classic rockers

Monty Python's Flying Circus (Argument Sketch)

Seeing my children learn something new

Fresh challah, straight from the oven

Weekly playdates with my best friend

A clean house by week's end

Cake (the band; sometimes the food)

Reading a good book without interruptions

Dancing (when no one is looking)

The list could surely go on

Stopping, for the sake of time...


Weariness and Worry

It's not quite 5 am yet this morning, and here I am, staring at my computer screen. I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately, mostly due to an overactive bladder (thanks, baby #3), but for some reason this morning I just couldn't make myself go back to sleep. My mind was racing, and I let myself start to worry. Why does worrying always creep up on me in the middle of the night when I should be sleeping? I always try to tell myself that I should wait until morning to worry, because there isn't much you can do about it in the middle of the night, anyway. But I still find myself staring at the ceiling pondering my troubles on a pretty regular basis.

What I worry about changes, although there are certainly themes. Most often I worry about money: did I pay all the bills? Can I pay all the bills?! How can I earn some money to make this easier? These questions plague me, and sadly I often don't have the answers. I used to be really good with money, but now it makes my stomach turn and I feel like hyperventilating. There's too little of it no matter how I try to stretch a dollar.

I also worry a lot about how I'm doing as a parent. What do I need to work on? Did I do enough with them today? How can I be better? I toss and turn, thinking about my failures, the things that I don't even want to talk about out loud because I feel bad about them. I let them watch too much TV. I let them stay up too late. I'm not good at disciplining them. The list goes on, always exaggerated by my sleepy, overactive brain.

Sometimes I feel worried and I don't know why. Furthermore, I'm afraid to think too hard about why I'm worried, because then I'll probably remember some lurking worry that I've managed to push to the back of my brain. Ever find yourself fretting and you're not even sure why? I think I might have a disease or something. My Gram would probably tell me it's just part of being an adult.

Most of the things I worry about have solutions. They're just not solutions that I can implement at 3 am when my brain decides to overload me with them. And that makes me feel helpless. In the morning, I can at least begin to focus on my problems with a clear, well rested body and mind. But that's only possible if I can manage to get back to sleep first. It's a vicious cycle.

I'll keep working on my worries during the day, and I will keep trying to calm myself in to peaceful sleep during the night. But in the meantime, if you ever find yourself awake in the wee hours, worrying about something you can't even begin to change until a more decent hour, remember me. I'm probably wide-eyed and weary in my own bed, worrying too.


Six Word Fridays: Fantasy

I'm curled up on the couch.
My husband offered to cook dinner!
The kids are playing quietly alone.
Bills are paid (all on time)!
Later, I'll read in the bath.
(And no one will interrupt me).


A Confession

I've been absolutely struggling with a way to pick up this blog where I left off in August. Way back then, my last post was about how devastated I was to be leaving my children home for a week while I went adventuring on the Alaska Highway with my good friend. I intended to tell you all about my trip when I came back.

That trip took more out of me than I expected. While it was exciting to see a new place, and it was in some ways relaxing to have a whole week with no children, I still missed them terribly. Every new thing I saw, I wished that they and my husband could be there to share it with me. To make matters worse, while I was gone all three of them were terribly sick. They spent the entire week inside, noses running, heads stuffy, being miserable. I was already feeling guilty and this took me right over the top. In short, I couldn't get my mind far enough separated from life back home to really enjoy myself.

That was a hard thing to admit. When I came home, of course everyone expected to hear stories of how awesome my trip was. And I tried to oblige. No one wants to hear my whine about how much I missed my family. This was an amazing opportunity, not something to cry about!

So, every time I sat down here at my computer to write in this blog, I hit a wall. I just couldn't recount my happy adventure to Alaska. Because as great as some parts of it were, I just can't get over the guilt of not having enjoyed it that much. I thought about just skipping right back in to day-to-day life, but that didn't seem right, either.

Maybe I'm just a hopeless homebody. Maybe my hormones are just EXTRA out of control. But I don't think I could ever take a trip like that again, without my family. I love my friend and I love the adventure we shared, but it will always be slightly marred by the heartache I experienced while I was gone from home. My younger son still gets anxious now when he can't find me, and he throws his arms around me and says, "Mama, I missed you," even if I was just in the bathroom. I can't help feeling like I wasn't the only one who hasn't gotten over my vacation yet.

Sorry for staying away for so long. Happy to be writing again!