Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A mother of a birth story - love and pain

As I begin to write, I am honestly not sure if I can remember all of the details. Sad as it is to say, the memory of my daughter's birth brings a rush of emotion: grief, shame, regret...yet also love for her and gratitude that from this life-changing event, many good things have flowered from the bad.

After our son's first birthday, I cautiously considered the hope of having another child. Back during the time of our infertility, I had often stated that I really thought that if I could only get pregnant once, my body would figure out how to do it again. Was it okay to greedily wish for another child? I pondered this and whether I had the guts to get back on the fertility roller coaster. I remember making a very conscious decision one day that, yes! my desire for another child was too great to be denied. I made an appointment to get a referral for the reproductive endocrinologist immediately. I believe I was actually one day pregnant the day of that visit. Lesson #1: My intuitions should be respected and that positive decisive thought is powerful .

I continued my prenatal care with my previous OB and once again enjoyed a delightful pregnancy. Co-workers lovingly informed me that I was "soo beautiful last time, this time, no". Apparently this was their kind way of suggesting this baby would be a girl. ???? It didn't matter, I felt beautiful. I also assumed that I would try again for a natural vaginal birth. Of course. At one of my later prenatal visits my doc asked me when I wanted to schedule the c-section. Literally my jaw dropped. That was completely out of left field in my reality. I had NO IDEA that vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) was even an official "thing" or that some hospitals or doctors were unsupportive. How the f did that escape my radar? After all, I do work in the maternal-child healthcare industry. I had already forced my husband to go to a refresher Bradley class and now I decided to look into a doula. I interviewed a newly practicing doula who was affordable. She was nice enough. I didn't know what I should be looking for but I knew I'd gone to the hospital much too soon last time and I wanted to avoid doing that again. I knew that I was a "wimp" about pain and that for sure the hard and fast labor from before wouldn't happen again. All labors are different. This time would go according to plan. Ugh. I didn't do ANY emotional work. Also late in our relationship my doula "disclosed" that she'd had a traumatic medical experience at the hospital I was going to deliver in (the same place as #1). This turned out to be a rather important factor. Lesson #2: Pay attention to that voice inside no matter how muffled she may sound and DO the emotional work, be ready for everything.

Two years to the day of my son's birth, I went into labor, 4 days before my due date. The labor came fast and hard. I called the doula. She arrived. I didn't know what to do, neither did she. We went to the hospital right away. The sun was blinding me as sharply as the labor pains on the way there. I arrived to the same Triage space, the nurse yelled at me to stop moaning, to get out of the bathroom, to wait on that damn cot and put the monitor on. I couldn't take it. It was the same day, it was the same. The same! I begged for the epidural. The doula looked frightened. I went to a labor room. Everyone left. A young doctor stabbed my back 20 times. A nurse yelled at me to "be still". I was in transition. "Stop trying to put the needle in my back, I want to push". "Be still!!!". Epidural finally in. Doctor on call checks me. 10 cm. Yeah. I'm numb. "PUSH". I can't feel anything. The doula is silent. We have to put in an internal monitor. Baby's heart rate is dropping a bit with contractions. "You can't do it". Consent to c-section. No rush to OR. Baby is born, apgars 9 and 9. Swaddled baby flashed in my face. "she's pretty". It's a girl? tsk, tsk, so much scar tissue.

The next few hours after that are lost to me. I just remember being in the maternity ward with my baby and trying to nurse her. She couldn't latch quite right, just like her brother. At one point a nurse came to give her a bath and despite my request to do so in the room with me, she took her out for the bath. An hour later I called to find out where my baby was. "Oh she was a bit cold so we put her under the warmer". ???? Please bring me my baby, I pleaded. Another hour later I threw a temper tantrum to get my daughter back. She still couldn't nurse, who knows, but I'm sure she got a bottle while she was gone. Suddenly, I was in excruciating pain. I called for the nurse who gave me serious pain meds. The on-call doctor who did the section came by and whispered to my husband, "I hope you don't plan on having any more children...lots of scar tissue". The pain continued to worsen so around midnight I was taken to radiology and a probe was placed in my back into my right kidney and snaked through to where my ureter was supposed to be. The ureter connects the kidney to the bladder. I was watching the probe on the x-ray monitor and could see the probe and barium progress through my kidney, through the upper part of my ureter to....nothing. Empty space. The doctors had told me that they suspected there was a "stitch" in my ureter. I could clearly see there was no stitch - it had been severed. But I played along with their "stitch" game. Went down for a horrible procedure to try and "unplug" the ureter by going through my urethra and bladder. No luck. duh. So a drain was placed in my back to keep my kidney from shutting down by allowing my urine to drain and collect into a plastic bag strapped to my thigh. I was also unable to nurse my daughter for 10 hours because of the barium.

I went home with the kidney drain, a constantly leaking urine bag on my leg, the c-section wound, a dislocated tailbone (somehow I popped my tailbone out during one of the really strong contractions), a small, barely nursing baby, a two-year old and the promise of another major abdominal surgery in 6 weeks to repair my ureter.

I was determined to nurse my baby and we worked diligently at it for 4 weeks before she was able to do it very well. At six weeks, I went to a different hospital for the repair. I insisted on taking and keeping my baby with me. I had to check and double check many times to make sure that all medications given would be compatible with breast feeding. Nurses admonished me for bringing "that" baby into a dirty hospital, pain and discomfort was the norm but I was determined in a way I had never been before. For the first time in my life I didn't' give a DAMN what anyone else thought or wanted. After that surgery I had to have a catheter in my bladder (much worse than a drain in my back) for another 4 weeks. I was enormously depressed and in constant pain from my tailbone long after the other wounds healed. Through it all my daughter was the most lovely and quiet baby. It makes me cry in fear that she was like that because she couldn't afford to be all fussy and demanding. A sacrificial offering to her mommy. I told her one day a few months after I felt better, "honey you can cry and wail now if you want. Mommy feels better now". She just smiled and cooed gently. Unbelievably, I went back to work after 12 weeks of leave. I was nowhere near ready to do so physically or emotionally. Lesson #3: Be selfish, be determined, be good and kind to yourself - it's not selfish after all. You and your baby deserve a whole and healthy mommy.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A mother of a birth story - The first cut

After the miraculous conception of my first child, which is a whole fantastic story as well, I enjoyed a fabulous pregnancy. Yes, I am that woman. No morning sickness, just the right weight gain, no problems. Besides, I LOVED being pregnant. I loved the smiles of passing strangers, the belly rubs, my changing body, everything. I could have done without the horror birth stories but I didn't pay them any mind. I was going to have a natural birth. And those nightmares of my child dying in childbirth from my fear? I was quick to suppress those thoughts whenever that came to mind.

My husband and I went to Bradley classes. This should have been a red flag at some point but I was extremely anxious about his overall interest, or lack thereof I should say. He honestly couldn't figure out what I was worried about. His mother had 8 children, himself a vaginal footling breech delivery. "What's the big deal"? Umph. Wish I had shared that sentiment back then too.

I was so...stupid. I knew nothing about birth. I loved my OB who'd been my reproductive endocrinologist as well. He was and is a very compassionate and caring man. What I didn't know is that he believes that babies should be born at 36 weeks, ideally. (cringe) The hospital I was to deliver at had an alternative birthing center which was actually a room down the hall from the labor ward with a queen size bed and a dorm-room refrigerator. When I went for the tour, I asked the nurse about the space. "Oh you won't want to go THERE. You are going to want an epidural". I chuckled at her simplistic view and said jokingly, "well you won't MAKE me have one will you"? Ha! ha! ha...

Fast forward to week 38, my OB suggested I get induced by week 40 if the baby hadn't come yet. I at least knew enough at that point that I was not willing to even talk about induction. I went into labor at 41 weeks, 3 days while shopping at Costco. Contractions were about 15 minutes apart and pretty intense but I kept shopping. My mom was coming that afternoon and I just HAD to everything ready. (shrug) I went home to my husband who was busy re-building our back porch. If you've ever seen Chicago city porches, you know this is a massive project akin to removing the entire back half of your home and rebuilding. We had to have electrical service discontinued for him to do the work and he was in a panic to get it all done before "baby" came.
I took a shower and called my doctor who told me to call when the contractions were 2 minutes a part. I called back a minute later because they were 1 minute apart and painful! On the way to the hospital my husband stopped at Wendy's and asked if I wanted "anything" as I writhed in pain on the passenger side of the car. If you've ever seen that episode of "Family Guy" where something similar happens, that was us. It really makes me laugh to remember it. "I figured this could take awhile and I'm hungry", he said. Really, he had a point.

I got to the hospital and was put into Hell. They called it "Triage". Put in a tiny cubicle, strapped up to a bunch of wires and told constantly, a laboring women with nonstop contractions, to "settle down" on the stupid cot and guess what happened? I lost it. There weren't any labor rooms available and I was only 1cm. That freaked me out. Based on my Bradley class, these contractions had to mean I was in f'ing transition!!! Of course 2 hours later, in Hell, I find out that the labor rooms weren't available not because they were in use, no, there weren't any CLEAN ones available. "I'll clean the damn room myself"! I shouted. In the meantime I let them give me a HALF dose of Stadol. That was horrible. Now I felt all of the misery but was looped out so that I couldn't bother anyone with my complaints. Finally they got me into a room but now I felt dizzy and nauseous and just wanted to go sit on the toilet. Oh no! I was dizzy and therefore "un-safe" to walk 4 feet to the bathroom with my nice husband at my side. (I am completely skipping the part where my wonderful husband was texting and ignoring me as I reached out for his help while in Triage. "You were only 1cm, I figured it was going to take awhile", thanks.)

Just for the record, I want everyone to know that it is anatomically impossible to pee on a bedpan while on your back and having serious contractions. I had to sneak to the bathroom when the nurse left the room. My good friend, Ann-Marie in the meantime had gone to pick up my mom from the airport and they arrived at about that time. Their empathetic, frightened faces were a great comfort. Really! Husband, exit stage right. ??? I don't remember seeing him again until we were in the OR.

Of course I'd begged for the epidural by this point but first we had to wait for the room, then we had to wait another 4 hours for an anesthesiologist. ??? Mean nurse and doc kicked my family out of the room to torture my into an impossible position and yelled at me to sit still. I'm sorry but constant contractions make sitting still kind of difficult. Finally the epidural was in and I was SO relieved. My OB came by right after that and told me that my cervix had swelled and that I was still at 5cm and regressing. I would "need" a cesarean. At that point I would have agreed to anything. My friend left and I was prepped for surgery. My poor mother was threatened with expulsion if she did not agree to stay off the unit as it was past visiting hours and she was not "allowed" near the surgical suite.

As we prepped for the surgery, I was calm and ready to see my baby. That changed when my OB literally sat on my chest to pull my son's head out of the birth canal. He'd wedged himself in there with one hand over his head. (For almost the whole last half of the pregnancy I kept saying I could feel his hand tickling my cervix). That scared the hell out of me and I thought for sure that he was going to die. Finally I heard him cry and instantly I knew he was okay. I didn't get to see him right away but he was somewhere close by with my husband as they closed me up.

In the recovery room I held him and tried to nurse. He wasn't interested at all and suddenly a big, anciently old nurse wisked him away to "bathe" him. I asked her to at least do it near me so I could see him. Poor little guy, what a traumatic event when you are less than an hour old!! I was so powerless to ask for anything that was important to me. I had shunned the idea of a birth plan because I figured everything would be just fine.

My son was born at 11:50pm and by the time I got into a room, it was really late. My husband took my mom home for the night. I've never felt so lonely in my whole life! Swollen from the surgery, in pain and barely able to do anything for my baby. At first he was placed in a bassinet at the foot of my bed. How was I supposed to get him from down there? Hello? I just had major surgery?! Finally I got the nurse to hand him to me and I didn't let him go the rest of the time. Nursing was really hard at first, frustrating for us both as he had a hard time latching for the first 36 hours. I pumped my colostrum and fed him with a spoon when we were both crying and exhausted; eventually we got the hang of it. The one bright spot was that the maternity ward nursing staff was very supportive of breastfeeding although one nurse the first night wanted to check his blood sugar, "just to make sure" he was okay with the few drops we'd managed.

Physically I recovered well. Honestly the surgery barely slowed me down. Coming home to a heat wave and no electricity for a week was a real bummer but we got through that and I just figured if we were lucky enough to ever have another baby, that I'd have a natural birth the next time.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A mother of a birth story - the prologue

At some point on Christmas Eve, 1965, my mother and father made their way to the hospital (St. Lukes in KCMO). Was it snowing and peaceful as they drove the short distance through the Plaza with the famous Christmas lights twinkling against a crisp winter sky? I don't know. All I know is that my mother and father were separated and that my father spent the evening in a smoke-filled waiting room with several other expectant fathers in various stages of panic. My mother was told that she wouldn't want to experience the birth of her first born child and she was anesthetized so that the doctors could literally pull me out of her womb. When she became conscious she had a beautiful little daughter all wrapped up in a christmas stocking. Isn't that cute? (bleck). I know my mom breast fed me for at least 3 weeks, but without any support or information, she gave up when I hit that 3-week growth spurt and needed to suckle more. She, like so many women, even today, thought that her milk supply was low or wasn't good enough and turned to the handy, high-class formula on hand. She didn't know any better and she wishes she had known. She was an excellent mother and very nurturing despite a remarkably un-nurtured childhood of her own.
The stories of my own birth impacted my eventual journey to motherhood PROFOUNDLY! "Birth must be so horrible that you have to be knocked out and your partner wouldn't even want to see such a gross thing" This was the sub-conscious message I received. That message fueled recurring dreams throughout my adolescence in which I would find out I was pregnant and the baby would die directly related to my fear of childbirth pain. !!!! Hello, anyone notice some foreshadowing???? Not me. Although I did attribute this "fear" and dream as playing a part in my struggle with infertility. Unfortunately I didn't give enough attention to that inkling of awareness well enough.

A mother of a birth story

This one is for Krista whose virtual admonitions ring in my head. "Dude, just write it". I know, I know, but I feel like I have to start at the beginning, the way-back beginning - my own birth. I guess I better make this an epic blog in parts....

Monday, May 10, 2010

I did it!

My stomach was "tied in rows" (as in one of my favorite songs, guess which one?)as I summoned up the courage to tell my colleague that I was planning my big move into a new job in addition to going to graduate school. It was a big suprise for her. I felt horrible that she was so overwhelmed and sad. It will be a difficult transition for us. On a brighter note, when I told my boss she was amazing! Very supportive and excited for me to pursue my degree. She's letting me keep a small percentage of my position so that I can still be a NIDCAP Trainer and help out on special projects as needed. This is GREAT news. One of the best aspects of my current job is when I get to share the amazing insights of how a tiny baby "speaks" to us with his/her behavior. Helping other NICU professionals use this knowledge to support families and babies in increasingly sensitive ways is a real joy!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Before a new beginning, there has to be an end

So, tomorrow is the big day. The day my life changes. Okay, so I'm fairly dramatic. I'm like that. But seriously, tomorrow I'm giving notice to my employer. I've done amazing things there, with amazing people. Why leave? I'm starting grad school in the Fall at the wonderful Erikson Institute. Twenty-three years after graduating college, I am finally making this leap to get on the path towards a PhD. A lot has led up to this moment and I'm amazingly excited and overjoyed to start. But that's not why I'm leaving my current job. On the other hand, the job is the reason for the education. I want to be the BEST advocate and create the change I KNOW can be achieved for families who must endure the challenge of a prematurely born baby. Respectful maternal and child care is my personal and professional passion. At any rate, I am leaving my job to go to school and to work at the same Erikson Institute with the fabulous Fussy Baby Network. I'll be sharing lots about that and my journey as a "mature" graduate student along with plenty of thoughts on cesarean awareness, vaginal birth after cesarean (had my own after 2 c/s in 2006), breastfeeding, brain development, attachment theory, peaceful parenting and the ethological aspects of human attachment and development. That should keep us busy for awhile. :-)