Monday, 10 January 2011

Reflections on a labour gone awry

This has been stewing in my brain for a while now.  I knew going in to this pregnancy that Zachariah was likely to be a big baby.  I knew that a c-section was a possible outcome.  Why, then should it bother me so much that I had a c section?  The answer is, perhaps, more complicated than you might think.

The entire time I was pregnant, there was an underlying theme among most of my mom friends: "You should give a midwife a try."  I have two close friends who were pregnant at the same time that I was, and both of them had successful homebirths.  Several of my other friends asked me if I had looked into midwives in the area.  Why then, despite these urgings, did I never even consider it?  You would think that the cloth-diapering, homeschooling, lactivist, hospital-phobic mom would seriously look into a homebirth, or at the very least, check out the nearest birthing centre.  Maybe it was the underlying anger of the moms on my birth board that were birthing with a midwife.  (For the record people, be it politics, religion, or medical care; anger, fear-mongering and hatred is not the way to get your point across.)  Perhaps, it was a loyalty to my OB, who I absolutely LOVE.  Most likely, it was fear.  Fear that I couldn't do it.  Fear that I couldn't handle the pain.  Fear that something could go wrong.  Fear.  Whatever the reason, I never even googled it.  And I've been kicking myself for the last three months.

In preparation for labour, Jonathan and I took a hospital tour and childbirth classes.  Both of these experiences assured us that I would be delivering at a hospital that recognised a woman's ability to birth a baby naturally.  That is, after all what our bodies are designed to do.  Women managed without major medical intervention for hundreds of years.  The day I checked into the hospital for my induction, I was paired with an older nurse.  I don't remember her name, so we'll just call her "Helga the nurse from Hell".  Can you see where this is going?  This woman had me literally in tears before I was even in my hospital gown.  I had a similar experience when I had Celestia, and I swore that I would never again allow a labour and delivery nurse to attend to me if she was going to treat me that way.  I was going to kick them out of the room and demand another nurse.  Why didn't I do that?  Because I was nervous.  I was wound up.  I was about to have a pitocin drip and I knew it was going to be uncomfortable.  Simply put, I wasn't in any sort of mental state to make decisions for myself at that point.  I really needed someone else to do it for me.  I should have discussed the possibility of a rotten nurse with Jonathan beforehand.  Because I didn't, he went with the flow.  I had done this before, and he took his cues from me.  And I was too nervous to tell her to get out of my room.  Despite all the hospital's grandiose policies, I was confined to a bed once again.  The only time this woman allowed me out of bed at all was to sit in a rocking chair, and the only reason she let me do that was because I asked when my OB was in the room.  I have no doubt that if my OB had not been in the room, that she would not have let me out of that bed at all.  Not only did this nurse not adhere to the hospital's policies of allowing a labouring mother out of bed, she was extremely condescending.  When she started cleaning off my arm in a very strange spot, I asked her if that was where she was going to put the hep-lock.  She very rudely informed me that I wasn't getting a hep-lock, I was getting an IV.  Well excuse me, Helga, I had a hep-lock with my other pregnancies.  She blew that vein, by the way.  Only blown vein I've ever had.  She continued to treat me in this manner for my entire labour.  Long before my doctor was willing to concede that I was no longer progressing, this nurse was pushing for a c-section.  I was an annoyance to this woman.  She wanted me to have the baby and get out of her hair, and she wasn't afraid to show it.  Previously, I really believed that the reason my L&D nurse with Celestia treated me so poorly was because I was 18.  All she saw lying in that bed was a statistic.  That was how everyone in the hospital (with the exception of my OB) treated me when I had her.  I certainly did not expect a similar experience as a happily married, 31-year-old, experienced momma.

Now, the fact remains that I was diagnosed with Cephalopelvic Disproportion.  The question is, then, do I really believe that? Honestly?  No.  Yes, Zachariah was a 9 pound baby, but Tatiana definitely had a bigger head, and I was able to have her.  Yes, it took me longer to push an 8 pound 7.5 ounce baby than it did to push a 6 pound 8 ounce baby, but I did it.  Frankly, I really feel that given the opportunity to try, I could have done the same with Zachariah.  So what went wrong?  I probably shouldn't have chosen to induce.  There, I said it.  Because both of my other labours involved pitocin, I expected this one to need it, too.  I didn't have confidence in my body to do what it's supposed to do.  I had a rotten nurse.  It's no secret that stress in labour can cause a woman not to progress.  I was afraid.  I was afraid that he would be too big.  I was afraid when I checked into the hospital that I would have to have a c-section.  It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So now what?  I want more babies.  I've always wanted four.  What I don't want is another c-section.  It was horrible.  I'm still feeling the effects.  Yes, three months later it still hurts.  My clothes irritate the incision.  I can feel my muscles pulling when I drive.  It's uncomfortable to hold my stomach in when I stand up straight.  I'm giving you fair warning that the next person who tells me that I should be completely recovered is going to get an earful.  Scar tissue takes a year to completely form, and some women experience discomfort for that entire year.  So don't tell me that you were scrubbing your house from top to bottom two weeks after your c-section.  Don't tell me that I should be completely healed.  I'm sick of hearing it.  I'm not.  Out of three labours, I had one nurse treat me like a human being.  That's a 66.67% chance of having a rotten L&D nurse.  And they're the ones who really make or break your labour.  Not your OB.  So, I'm done.  Now what?  Now I research labour the way I researched sleeping arrangements and cloth diapering.  I've already located one birthing centre that accepts VBAC moms as long as they've only had one c-section.  I have some other friends who have had successful VBAC homebirths.  Unless I have to transfer, I have no intentions of having another child in a hospital, because hospitals are for sick people.  Hospitals have bully L&D nurses who have forgotten that women are at their most vulnerable when they're in labour.  Hospitals have nurses that poke and prod on you every hour after you've had a baby.  Hospitals have horrible, uncomfortable beds, and an awful smell.  Next time, I will be prepared not only to take care of the baby, but of myself.  That was where I went wrong.  I spent so much time focusing on what would be best for the baby that I forgot to think about what would be best for me.  And that is a mistake that I won't make again.

As a footnote, I would just like to add that I do not consider myself a victim of anything but a poor choice made by myself.  My c-section was nothing more than a result of my decision to have a pitocin-enduced hospital birth.  A choice that as a lover of all things natural, I should have known better than to make.  My amazing village of mommas that I am a part of (I love you all so much!!!) have all loved on me and shared their experiences, and assured me that anger is a normal feeling for someone who had an unexpected c-section.  Yes, I am thankful to have a healthy baby.  That's not the point.  The point is that I have this baggage now.  I am still healing, both physically and emotionally, and forever after I have had a c-section.  I will have to either have a repeat c, or a VBAC.   Not something I ever wanted to face.  I am writing this as a way to work through my feelings.  As a way to share my experience with other mothers.  Maybe one who has had a c-section and doesn't have the awesome momma village that I have.  Maybe that mom needs to hear that it's normal to be angry.  Maybe a momma is reading this who has never had a c-section and doesn't understand what all the fuss is about.  To that mom, give us c-section moms a break.  I need you also to hear that feelings of failure and anger are very real, and completely normal.  We're not looking for a pity party, just trying to work through it.  If any of you have gotten to the end of this, thanks for listening.  Love you all lots!


JMe said...

Fantastic post and I feel every word. My first c-section happened because I was vulnerable and way too trusting. I had just lost my mom and was willing to go with whatever my dr. said. Oh if I could go back and do it again.......but I can't so I fully intend to educate my daughters that their bodies were made to give birth and they don't need anybody or anything to make that happen. My mother always stressed breastfeeding and told me that it was difficult but that you had to believe it was the only option and trust your body and stick it out and it would be amazing---- and she was right. It was hard. sometimes it did suck (parden the pun) but it was amazing. I will do the same thing with my girls but not just about breastfeeding but also natural childbirth (and the wonders of baby wearing and cloth diapering and other attachment parenting fun). Can you tell I have a lot of cesearn baggage too ;p sorry for the babble comment much love and empathy here

Cristi said...

Wondering if you have ever heard of a doula? A friend of mine is one. That would have been perfect for you. Doulas are there to be a birthing coach in a sense but also to be your voice in a situation like that. They would be able to speak up for you as far as getting out of the bed, and hospital rules, laws... so maybe in the future you could check into having a doula. Just something else for you to research. said...

I am so proud of you for writing this. Please become my friend on will find lots of support. You can have a vbac!!!!! Don't let anyone scare you into thinking that you can't!
carla hartley (trust birth)

Mary and Jerry Bradshaw said...

I am so glad you posted this. I have thought a lot of these thoughts, but felt as your mother I should not express them. I have prayed for your recovery from major surgery and told you not to expect so much of yourself. I love you so much!