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.

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