Friday, February 24, 2012

Letting Go of My Ideal Birth

I think I have PTBD: post traumatic birth disorder. When I close my eyes and think about those two days, I cringe. Now, let me preface the rest of this post by saying that regardless of how big of a disaster my labor and birth was, I love my little guy (oh that’s right—I forgot to tell y’all! It’s a boy!) and once I looked at him all of the anxiety and pain that infiltrated my mind and body over the 25 hour period to get him out vanished completely. He is my everything.

H, that’s what we’ll call him, was two weeks late. On xmas day my mucus plug came out but my contractions were still just 10 minutes apart and very inconsistent. The day after xmas, we decided to tempt fate and bought tickets to a Wizard’s game and during half time my contractions got more intense so decided to leave the game. Then, that night I woke up because the contractions were a lot more intense and bouncing between 5 and 6 minutes apart. I lingered back and forth between the bed and the shower and this went on for hours.  Once my midwife came, she charged me with walking around my house constantly and even doing squats to speed up the labor. Hours passed. Hours and hours of walking, squatting, puking, not being able to eat much other than ice, drinking Gatorade, and bracing myself against my hubby. Once my midwife manually ruptured the amniotic sac, everything went into overdrive—the contractions became almost unbearable, I began puking more and more as if it was the only way for my body to reject the pain.  Hubby tried to get me to summon what we had learned in hypnobirthing but I couldn’t think clearly enough to bring myself to that calm space.  Hypnobirthing went out the window. I found myself straddling the toilet with my mom’s fists digging into my lower back to try to alleviate the pain. Finally, I was able to get into the birthing tub (don’t get me started on the drama of running out of hot water and the two hours that it took to fill the tub with boiling water so that I could get in.) The tub definitely helped but my midwife didn’t want me to stay in—apparently if you get too relaxed it can slow your labor down. When we broke my sac, there was a bit of meconium present and we decided to keep an eye on it.  But, before I knew it, I was told that there was more meconium and that I had to eat and drink a substantial amount of fluid in a mere thirty minutes or else we would have to go to the hospital. Apparently, H was posterior which my midwife didn’t come right out and tell me. So, fast forward a few hours and we wound up in the hospital.  I graciously accepted the epidural and in three hours I was ready to push.  I pushed and pushed, and the nurses gave me more and more pitocin. The pain became unbearable.  Pitocin-induced contractions are NOTHING like the contractions your body produces on its own.  They are unforgiving, gut-wrenching and had me on the verge of blacking out.

This is where I get super anxious—thinking about those pitocin-induced contractions and how they forced me to thrash about on the hospital bed.  My hubby, mom and best friend were all in the room watching me contort myself to try to relieve the pain...watching my face get hard and red as I pushed and cried and pushed...they could see the hair on the baby’s head in the depths of my vagina, but watched it stay there and not move forward despite my every effort to thrust him out. The nurses gave me more pitocin and then told me I had one more hour to push before I would have to get a c-section. The doc came in and put their hands deep inside of me (which really pissed me off...had I been coordinated enough, I would have kicked her in the face) and said because he was posterior and because of the shape of my pubic bone, it was likely he wouldn’t come out.  They said I could try for another hour but I gave up. I gave in to the crazy-fucking-pitocin which was doing more to ravage my muscles than get them to work to push out the baby. I told them to go ahead with the c-section. Actually, I think I yelled that I wanted the c-section.  Why on earth would I keep pushing and enduring that indescribable pain for another hour when we all knew what the result would be—surgery. I had so many thoughts running through my mind. I wanted the pain to stop. I wanted to meet my baby. But I felt defeated. The birth that I had always envisioned since I was a young girl, the one at home in a birth tub with candles and my closest friends and family members, was gone.

By the time they rolled me into the room for the surgery, I was in a daze. In addition to the drugs coursing through my veins, the sheer exhaustion from being awake and going through the most physically exhausting event of my life were finally taking their toll and it was all I could do not to fall asleep while they were cutting me open.

Before I knew it, hubby was bringing me my little boy. He was and still is beyond perfect: 8lbs 12 oz and 22 inches long. I was in awe as I looked into those brand-new eyes and I instantly fell in love.

It took days for the drugs to wear off for me to have time to really think about what happened.  Everyone keeps telling me that it doesn’t matter how it happened, it just matters that I have a healthy baby. Of course I am happy that H is safe and healthy, but I don’t for one second want to invalidate my experience.  Large portions of that 25 hour period are like a nightmare. A few weeks ago I came across an article written by a midwife on babies that present in the posterior position.  Everything it said, from the description of the agony the mothers experience (back labor is the devil) to the ways that a midwife can try to turn the baby early on in labor made me so angry. By the end of the article I was crying hysterically.

Despite all of my research and preparations, my birth plan went to shit. I craved, and fantasized about my perfect labor and birth. I knew there could be problems but I didn’t expect Why didn’t my midwife try to turn H early on? Why did the hospital insist on giving me so much pitocin when they thought the baby wasn’t going to come out vaginally anyways? I keep retracing the events to think if there is anything I could have done. I feel like I’m just another statistic that people will use to promote homebirth, and even with all of my knowledge of the system and what could go wrong, I still wound up under the scalpel. I can’t even begin to tell you how the c-section screwed with me once I got home. I’m a pretty independent person and I could hardly walk and it hurt to stand up holding my baby. 

The first few days at home I cried constantly. I felt like I lost.  Yes, I know this all sounds selfish but I wanted my body to be in some sort of control over this event happening within it--not a medically-controlled labor, but something more authentic. Sadly it got to a point where there was no control.  I felt helpless. When they took H out of my belly, he had to be rushed to the NICU folks in the room who had to check and see if he ingested any of the meconium. Then they gave him to my hubby who then brought him over to me.  I couldn’t touch him with my hands.  We just touched faces, my tears pouring over his fresh baby skin.

My husband compared it to me having three different labors—I experienced a home labor for 17 hours, then a hospital labor and then a c-section. The one good thing was having my mom, my bestie and my hubby there to support me. I was completely in my own zone and I know they did a lot more than I had the brain capacity to notice.

So that’s it. I am still sorting through all of the foggy memories (it’s amazing how extreme pain can affect your memory) and I am sure I will amend this story, and my feelings at some point. For now, I am still anxious and emotional thinking about my labor and birth experience.  Luckily, all I have to do to forget it is look into H’s eyes.