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Sunday, June 7

Birth Reflections

ETA: This post now has a sequel.

This morning I woke up at about four in the morning for reasons unknown. For a while I could not fall back asleep. My mind would not quiet. I was thinking about birth.

I had so many plans for Lucy's birth. I knew a home birth was not going to be an option no matter how badly I wanted one because, at the time, midwives were not covered by Alberta health care and Adam and I didn't feel that an unassisted childbirth was right for us. But I was still aiming for a natural birth. I had read about the risks of having an epidural, and devoured books about natural childbirth. I was in love with the magic of birth and was so excited for my own birthing experience. By the last bit of my pregnancy I had even moved beyond the fear that plagues so many first time moms. I had so many dreams and even predictions:

from my online due date club {click for larger version}

But life happens.

I've written about this before, sort of. But I haven't told the whole story, not really. See, as much as I like putting my life out there for all the Internet to see I don't actually tell you, my readers, too much about my feelings. When I do, I freshen them up with a nice coat of humor. And I don't write about my biggest fears, or my deep seated angers, or the things by which I'm embarrassed. Today I've decided that needs to change. My real stories need to be told because they're the ones worth telling. If, nearly six months after the fact, Lucy's birth is still able to keep me from sleeping, I think that means something. I think it has affected me in ways other than those I've mentioned. And I think other women could benefit from my being open and honest about the whole thing.

So I write.

When I talk about my birth experience I never just say I got an epidural. I say "I got an epidural after about thirty hours because I hadn't gotten any real sleep in nearly three days and I wasn't making any progress so they insisted on using pit and that hurts so much more than regular labor and I just wanted to be able to enjoy my birth again because I wasn't" (said in one big rush). To who am I defending myself? I know very few women in real life as gung-ho about natural child birth as me. None of my friends or family care that I got pain relief. Yet, I have to explain myself every time. Why?

I'm defending myself from me.

A part of me feels like I failed. And that's the part of me that can't let go. It's the part that keeps me up at night asking:

What if you had been in better shape, could you have had the strength to progress faster? Why didn't you at least try to go natural after they augmented your labor? It might not have been so bad. What if you and Adam hadn't tried to encourage Lucy to come? Would she have engaged better? What if...
I try to comfort myself by replying:
Well, the nurses were surprised they hadn't already c-sectioned me. It could have been so much worse. I went longer without the epidural than a lot of women spend in labor. So it's like I did it natural, right? That third degree tear probably would have hurt really bad if I hadn't had the epidural. I just wanted to be able to enjoy myself and I was so tired...it's hard to make decisions in those circumstances.
But it only helps a little. I still can't shake that feeling of failure. At the time I took for granted the idea that next time I could do things differently. But now I realize there may never be a next time. You see, Adam and I have been spending a lot of time discussing the size of our family. The dynamic of three feels so right to us. I've been reading up on what parents of only children, grown only children, and researchers have to say about families with one child. Add my ADD, the environment, and my hope to home school into the mix and there's a strong case for letting Lucy be our one and only. For now nothing is set in stone. We're moving forward with the plan for a family of three while allowing ourselves permission to change our minds and readdress the issue if needed.

That means, as I mentioned, that there may never be a next time.

No second chance to have a midwife attended home birth. No second chance to go natural all the way and finally get to see what birth (as opposed to just labor) feels like. No second chance to have a water birth. No second chance to catch my baby myself or have Adam catch him or her. No second chances because wanting a second chance is not the same as wanting a second child. Every child deserves to be wanted because he or she is, in fact, wanted. It would be supremely unfair to have a child because I want a second chance at birth.

Before, I could brush off all that went wrong with my birth; the failure to progress past four centimeters, the use of drugs, even the doctor who performed a very painful internal exam without permission and the other doctor who shamed me for standing up for myself. I could brush it all off by saying "well, things will be better next time." I used "next time" as an excuse not to face my sadness. But now it's caught up to me.

I have a beautiful, healthy daughter. I didn't die in childbirth. I didn't have a c-section. All in all things went well. And some times I feel ashamed for feeling grief for what I missed out on because I know so many women face much worse. But I do feel grief. I'm mourning the loss of something I had looked forward to with so much excitement and joy. I'm mourning the (possibly) one chance I had, the once in a lifetime opportunity to birth naturally.

Hopefully, by sharing this, I can begin to truly heal and move on instead of masking the pain with "next time." And hopefully someone can benefit from reading this by knowing they are not alone in feeling frustration, anger, shame, and sadness over a birth that didn't happen how it was planned. The truth, the raw truth, is that I regret my decision to get an epidural. I regret how my birthing experience panned out. I know I'm not the only woman who feels regret. But if we all stay silent about it, if I stay silent about it, then we all suffer alone.

How do you feel about your birth experience?

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9 Stubborn Stains:

Laura said...

I have a cyber hug for you here. I'm sorry about your disappointment. I can see why you would mourn that loss. We moms can find all sorts of ways to beat ourselves up, can't we?

You have a beautiful, healthy daughter, which was the point of the birth--bringing her into the world, which YOU DID!! You are her fabulous mom.

I beat myself up too occasionally. I'm guilty of it. I'm just telling you not to do it because it's unproductive, damaging, not fully truthful, and if done too much really self indulgent...

Hugs again, mama. Enjoy your babe.

CrystalHW said...

I can definitely see how that would be upsetting and hard to take. I did not have any big plans other than enjoying the child once it arrived. I am hoping that things work out how I want with the next one because I DO have plans for its birth because of what happened with the last one. I too will be posting about it today as now I feel it is alright to get it off my chest.

Morgan said...

I feel okay with my last 3 birth experiences. A part of me would like to try a natural birth, but another part of me is okay with excepting what I would 99.9999% likely have if I have a 5th. baby- another c-section.

I had an epidural with my first baby after 10 or so hours of labor (on pitocin), and like you, I feel like I need to add in how long I went without the epidural just to justify myself a bit. I didn't dialate past a 2 until I had the epidural (then I made it to a whopping 5 and never past that), but I do totally regret being induced. Without a doubt, I wish I hadn't been induced. I'm pretty sure I would still have had a c-section, but it would have been cool to go into spontaneous labor and not know the day of my baby's birth. I will always miss that element of surprise. :(

Holly Noelle @ Domestic Dork said...

Thanks for your comment Morgan! I'm planning another post on this topic {birth dissatisfaction} and what I've learned that's helped me move on. I hope to post it this week so check back if you get a chance!

Nina said...

What an amazing post. After having my 2 babies I think any woman who gives birth (however it happens) deserves so much praise and a huge medel.

Rambling Rachel said...

I remember how long it took me to deal with my c-section with my first. I remember sitting in my rocking chair, holding my newborn reliving the memories. I really wanted to stop them and just enjoy holding my newborn. But I knew it was important for healing. After two years, I felt ready to get pregnant.

After successfully having a VBAC, I hardly thought about my birth. I was elated! What a difference.

The only part about my birth I regret and wonder if it could have been different is choosing to have the narcotic. When I think I about my labor I remember the moments in the dark, sitting on the ball. I remember walking circles with my husband, joking. But I do remember clinging to him telling him how bad it felt, telling him I couldn't take it and him telling me it was OK to take the drug.

And oddly enough, I sometimes hold back the fact that I labored so long during my first induced labor without pain killers or that I labored for 14 hours the second time before getting a narcotic. A woman said to me, "You're more woman than me." I felt bad. That's not what natural childbirth is about.

My birth story: http://www.rachelsramblings.com/2008/03/annas-birth-on-tuesday-march-18-i-went.html

Rae Ann said...

I completely understand where you are coming from. My first birth mostly went as planned, but I was still bummed about parts of it. I ended up having to be induced because of my blood pressure. When they said 'induce' what I heard was 'emergency c-section'. In the end, I managed to stay narcotic-free - but only just barely. And I had to go under general anesthesia the next morning to repair a blood vessel the doc nicked while sewing up my tearing. Sigh.

Holly Noelle @ Domestic Dork said...

Oh Rae Ann, I can not imagine a more unpleasant time to have to undergo general anesthesia than the first day getting to bond with a new baby. Many {hugs}, mama!

sailorblog said...

i'm so sorry that you are disappointed about lucy's birth...i seem to have had a very similiar "wish list" when i had my daughter. my mom is a midwife, but i had to go to hospital for her birth because of a positive strep b test. just for the record: i didn't have an epidural, although i was asking for one, even though i was dead-set against it BEFORE labor. my labor was just too fast to get it done. know that special feeling you're supposed to have when they put the baby on your tummy after she's born? i didn't get that, and i didn't get it later that day, either, because i was so relieved to be out of the mind-blowing pain i couldn't care even a little bit about anything else. the pain was so intense that my heart rhythm was screwy and they gave me an echo. next baby: epidural!!!! i will feel like a failure, but that's more than i felt when i did it naturally. hope you might feel a little better hearing that.

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