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Showing posts with label labour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label labour. Show all posts

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Reminiscing about my imperfect, completely unnatural birth

I have posted about this before (see McKenna's Birth Story), but the past couple of months, it has been weighing heavily on my mind. I had a shitty birth experience. I am not alone in having a less-than-ideal birth experience, and mine certainly wasn't as bad as some stories I have heard. But it is my experience, and one that I am still struggling with.

I am tired of hearing people say "well, your baby's healthy, that's all that matters", because that's a lie. Of course it is important to have a healthy baby, but that doesn't mean that the birth experience is nothing more than a means to an end. For some people the birth process is incredibly important. I was one of those women. I had read all the books, hired a doula, practiced mindful birthing and self-hypnosis. I couldn't wait to finally meet my daughter, but I was also excited for the experience of birthing her. No other moment in my life has been, or will be, as monumental as giving birth. And then came the news: She was breech, and I was not a candidate to try and birth her naturally because my body was "inexperienced". My heart stopped (metaphorically, of course). Never had I considered the possibility that my daughter would quite literally be ripped from my uterus. I had envisioned this peaceful, quiet, serene experience, where I would lie back in the tub while sipping Gatorade and munching on granola bars to keep my energy up. Never had I considered that I might be paralysed from the chest down (the scariest feeling ever!), strapped to a table, and deprived of seeing my daughter's first breath. I wasn't the first one to hold her, I didn't get to supervise her newborn exam, and I wasn't able to emotionally bond with her right away. Thinking about that night still brings me to tears.

Has it harmed our relationship? Probably not - I was able to nurse her within the first hour of her birth, we co-slept from a very early age, and our bond is as strong as it could possibly be. But I have not been able to move past it. Sometimes I think about having another baby, not because I am ready for another child, but so that I can have a do-over, so that maybe this time around I can experience the "real thing". I listen with thinly-veiled jealousy to friends speak of their birth experiences, no matter how painful or uncomfortable they might have been. I gaze longingly at photos of homebirthing couples, trying to recall feeling some of the wonder and joy that I see in their faces. But it was never there. There was nothing magical, joyful, or remotely peaceful about the way that McKenna entered into the world. No amount of reading could have prepared me for the trauma of having to be a helpless, passive observer in the birth of my child.

It has been nearly 14 months since my precious girl made her appearance, and I am still struggling with the circumstances of her birth. When and how I am to move past this experience are questions that I still don't have the answers to. Hopefully someday soon I will.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

McKenna's Birth Story

My initial plan was to have a homebirth with McKenna. Because I am young, and in pretty good health, I didn't see the need for a dramatic, medicalized hospital birth. I wanted to labour quietly at home with my partner, our dogs, and in familiar surroundings. However, this was not to be, so I found a family physician who was willing to follow me throughout the pregnancy, and ultimately, help me bring my baby into the world. I also hired a doula to help my partner and I prepare for the experience of childbirth. Although I still did not relish the idea of a hospital birth, I felt like I had done my best to ensure that my birth experience would be as natural as possible, given the limitations of giving birth in the hospital. My birth plan clearly stated that I did not want to be offered any pain medications, that I did not want any routine interventions, basically, that I wanted to be left alone to have my baby in peace. I imagined soaking in the tub, walking the halls, and snacking as needed to help me get through what would likely be a long labour.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED...

My water broke with McKenna at around 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 15th, her due date. It was quite a surprise to me, as I knew that it is not very common for your water to break before labour has started, so it hadn't even crossed my mind that it could happen. But it did, and the contractions soon followed.

My partner had gone out with a friend, so I called him and told him he should probably finish up, and head on home. Fortunately, my mother was staying with us, so I wasn't alone when it happened. I couldn't remember the protocol for what to do if your water breaks, so I called into the Case Room to see what I should do. They advised that I head in right away. Unsatisfied, I called my doula and asked her if I really needed to go in right away, or could I stay at home as long as possible. She too advised that I go straight there as soon as I was ready. Knowing that it was probably going to be a very long night, I took my time getting showered, had something to eat, and made sure my bags were ready to go.

On the way to the hospital, I was still pretty much in shock. It hadn't really hit me yet that I was not going to be leaving there until I had had this baby. Upon arriving, triage was really full, so we ended up waiting there for a good two hours because there were no delivery rooms available at the time. At my first check, my doctor informed me that I was only a few centimeters dilated, and that she could see some hair in the membranes. "Good, my baby will have some hair", I thought. However, when she went to check the heartbeat, she couldn't find it for the longest time. Finally she located it over on my left side, near the top of my ribcage (i.e., not where it should have been). After a lengthy ultrasound it was confirmed - my baby was breech. Only two days before, at my last check-up, she had been perfectly head-down and ready to go, but somewhere between that appointment and labour starting, she must have turned.

Because my water had broken hours before, trying to turn her manually was not an option. I was told that the only way she could come out was via a c-section. Now, anyone who knows me will attest to my fear of needles, blood, operations, anything surgical or injury-related. So the idea of having to undergo surgery was not at the top of my list of fun things to do on a Thursday night. I didn't know anything about having a c-section, other than the basics. I didn't read up on it at all during the pregnancy, and walked out of the prenatal class when it came time to show the c-section video. I was completely unprepared.

I was told that I would have to wait about an hour because of the snack that I had eaten prior to coming into the hospital. After a good cry, the nurse came in to prep me for surgery, I had a chance to speak briefly with the anesthesiologist, and I was escorted down the hall to the OR. Oh, and I sent my doula home. There was no need for anyone else to lose sleep over what was happening.

Minutes after birth
The c-section itself was over pretty quickly. All in all, I would guess it took about 40 minutes. McKenna was born at 3:30 a.m., and placed on my chest for a few minutes, before being whisked away to be cleaned up. Apparently, the first thing I said after they told me I had delivered a baby girl was "when can I eat?" I was still in shock over the whole thing, and nothing felt real at that point.  It would be days before she felt like mine, before I felt like I had even given birth. I felt like a passive observer, rather than an active participant in the birth of my baby girl. While it spared me some short-term pain, in the days after, I just felt numb. I saw a cute baby, but not my baby. That instant connection that a mother is supposed to feel with her baby just wasn't there. When people asked how I was feeling about the section, my automatic reply was something akin to "well, she's here and she's healthy, so that's all that matters". But I didn't believe that. Something was definitely missing. I felt like I had been cheated. I didn't get to feel my baby come into the world, didn't get to see her as she emerged. I was numb, not only physically, but emotionally as well. While I was hurting inside, I felt like it was selfish to mourn my loss when I had this perfect little baby in my arms.

Nine weeks later, I am still coming to terms with how McKenna came into the world. While I am overjoyed that she is here, and that she is healthy and happy, I still feel as though I missed out on her birth. I feel some guilt over not being more "present" during the c-section, and not being able to really bond with her in the days after she was born. The "ideal" birth that I had envisioned turned out to be anything but. I spent a great deal of time thinking about the birth in the months leading up to it, and for me, the birth experience was so very important. I was excited for the process of giving birth, not just the end result.

My doula asked me to think of the c-section as just another form of delivery. It may not have been my ideal, she said, but in the end, I still delivered my baby. And I guess she's right. So I'm trying.