"But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure." Psalm 71:14-15

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Second Anniversary of the Worst Day of our Lives

Today is our son Levi's 2nd birthday.  Matt and I agree that he is the greatest blessing in our lives short of our marriage to each other.  He brings us so much joy, laughter, and pride.  Words cannot express the richness his presence adds to our lives.  We know that as parents we are extremely lucky to have such a happy, content, sweet, brilliant, healthy child.  We take none of this for granted.  There are so many couples who are not as lucky, and we know that.

However, neither one of us likes to reflect on the day our son was born.  It was not an enjoyable day. It did not go as we planned or desired in many ways.  When we do talk about that day, we aren't reminiscing about our first moments together as a family.  We are usually "processing" what happened to us in a therapeutic way.  In fact, I've been in therapy for some time now addressing my birth trauma.  I look back at this blog post and shake my head.  I was in such denial about my experience and feelings about it.  I was really trying to be ok with what happened to me.  I thought if I kept saying it over and over again that I would believe it.

But the truth is, what happened to me that day is very different from the story I told.  After much reflection, I realize the mistakes I made in agreeing to interventions that made my labor more painful, and the interventions we were coerced into when Matt and I were at our most vulnerable.  I've done a lot of reflecting on my labor itself and it's almost as if I had 2 different labors, one at home and one in the hospital.  At home, my labor was intense but I was relaxed.  I remember different things I did during the labor, but I don't remember many specific things and time passed very quickly for me.  I was even able to rest and snooze between some of my contractions.  The only reason we went to the hospital when we did was that there was quite a bit of blood (more than I expected) at one trip to the bathroom.  I flipped and thought about ruptured placentas, when actually it was just a few burst capillaries from my dilating cervix.  Oh how I wish we would have stayed at home longer, because my "emotional" labor cues were not telling me it was time to go to the hospital.  I went because I was afraid, and I was never able to relax and trust my body again after that.

My "second" labor in the hospital was chaotic, anxiety-filled, and much more intense, partly due to the hospital environment and procedures and partly due to the interventions.  Even though we had taken the time to "pre-register" and fill out all of the necessary paperwork, they INSIST on asking you all the same damn questions again when you arrive while you are having painful contractions and trying to relax.  ARGH.  Hospital policy states that you must wear a fetal monitor a minimum of 20 minutes every hour.  I had a mobile monitor, thankfully.  But instead of leaving it on, which might have been better in the long run, every hour my Labor and Delivery nurse was putting the thing on/adjusting it to keep the heartbeat as baby moved around/taking it off.  This constant touching me was extremely distracting and made my labor more painful.  Every time something broke my concentration, my pain was horrendous.  When I was able to stay in the zone and concentrate, Bradley doesn't lie, the pain is cut to a fraction.  Your body tensing up and fighting against the contraction is what makes labor so painful.  My labor became significantly more painful after they broke my water.  The bag of water helps to cushion your body from the contractions.  I believe I had so much back labor because Levi was having to rotate into position.  The ideal position for start of labor is head down with the baby's spine on the left side of your uterus.  That way the baby turns 1/4 clockwise turn to go down into the birth canal.  Levi was in this ideal position until about 37 or 38 weeks.  He rotated overnight to have his spine on the right side and never went back.  Instead of babies turning 1/4 turn counter-clockwise to come down, they have to spend much of the labor effort to turn 3/4 turn clockwise.  Having their skull pressing on your spine during this turning process is what causes such intense back labor.  If I had been thinking clearly (haha) I would have realized that breaking my water would make it more difficult for him to turn and make my labor more painful.  Hindsight really is 20/20.

But the most regrettable part (that we had any control over) was allowing my midwife to talk me into getting an epidural.  I had no idea at the time the emotional price I would pay for that decision, and the ripple affect it would have on my birth.  I knew how much I wanted a natural birth, had always wanted a natural birth.  I grew up with a mom who had a natural birth with me and went on to become a Lamaze instructor.  I said my whole life, "Women have been giving birth for thousands of years without any drugs, I don't need them either.  My mom did it, so can I."  When you get an epidural, you are forced to lay on your back.  A woman's pelvis is smallest when she is lying on her back.  The only reason this has become the birthing position of choice in modern hospitals is because it is most convenient for the care providers to see what is going on and "catch" the baby.  Apparently, it was just too taxing for a middle-aged male doctor to get down on the floor when a woman was giving birth, so they started strapping her to a table on her back.  But I digress.  Because of this unproductive birthing position, and the fact I couldn't feel what the heck I was doing when I was pushing, Levi never moved down past my pelvis.

But what I've realized since his birth is that coercing me into an epidural was totally unnecessary, medically anyway.  The only person that intervention attempted to serve was my midwife.  Once I took a job as a medical social worker it hit me: if she doesn't see patients, she doesn't get paid.  She had a full day of patients scheduled on Monday.  She approached me about getting an epidural at 1am in an attempt to speed my labor along so that she wouldn't miss billing for any patients the next day.  I thought it was odd that she never missed any of my scheduled appointments in 9 months from attending a birth.  **RED FLAG THAT YOUR MIDWIFE IS NOT REALLY SUPPORTIVE OF THE NATURAL LABOR PROCESS**  Levi was never in any distress.  His heart rate never faltered, not even once.  There was never a medical reason to intervene.  I even told them, in as many words as I could muster, that I was starting to feel him in my bottom.  That is the tale-tell sign that the baby is moving down into the birth canal and it is time to push.  I was almost there, but instead I trusted that my provider was acting in MY best interest instead of hers.  That is not a mistake I will ever make again.  She knew my birth plan.  She knew what I wanted.  And she came to me in the most painful part of labor, after I had been in transition for 3 hours and in labor for nearly 24, and told me "I don't think you can dilate the rest of the way without an epidural."  In my world, I needed someone to tell me that I COULD do this, to remind me that God created my body to do this, because I wasn't so sure.  Instead, she told me in so many words that she didn't think I could do it.  And that crushed my spirit.  That was the end for me.  Matt was terrified by how much pain I had been in and how difficult it was for him to watch.  He just wanted it to be over.  He said it was my decision, and so I quit.  I will regret it for the rest of my life.  That decision was the biggest factor in not giving our family the best birth we could have.  That was the reason that my first time holding my son looked like this:

instead of like this (9 hours later):

You might be wondering what my midwife could have done differently.  Well, she was hardly in the room at all except to check my progress what I can only assume was every hour.   She never suggested any natural remedies to help with dilation, such as changing labor positions.  She only suggested unwanted interventions, such as breaking my water and an epidural.  She's the midwife and I'm a first time mom, she should have suggestions of what might be helpful since this wasn't her first rodeo.  I've learned that laboring on the toilet can help open up the pelvis and bring the baby down to put more pressure on the cervix to dilate.  That might have helped.  In stead of suggesting a C-section right away after 2 hours, she could have given me the option of turning off the epidural and letting the feeling come back in my legs to change positions for pushing.  I didn't know that I could ask to turn off the epidural once I had it.  I was never given the option.  As much as I would have hated going back to feeling contractions, I would have done it to avoid surgery.

My C-section was nothing short of what I would term "medical rape" because of how I was coerced into interventions I didn't want, the reasoning behind the coercion (non-medical reasons), and the actual process of the surgery.  I had a strong reaction to the epidural drugs.  They made me shake and shiver violently, even before I began pushing.  The rate at which they have to increase it to perform surgery, I shook so violently I questioned whether they should be cutting into my abdomen.  I went from a dark labor room where I was experiencing all the natural, primal, protective hormones of a birthing woman, to a stark, bright, sterile operating room strapped down with my arms out like I was on a cross.  I was no longer able to instinctively protect myself and my baby, and it was terrifying.  All I wanted to do was feel him on my chest, to smell him, to kiss him, to nurse him.  Instead they brought him all wrapped up like a burrito so that I could barely touch him.  He was terrified as well.  He was so scared, you could tell by his cry.  He couldn't feel me or hear me.  Instead of entering this world slowly and peacefully, he was jerked and pulled out by his head and neck.  Have you ever seen a C-section?  I have, and it's a horrible way to be born.  Don't get me wrong, they are necessary in some cases to save lives.  But mine was not.  Mine was the outcome of undesired interventions and a greedy care provider who wanted to make money off of my birth and a full day of patients.  And I don't think the emotional trauma I have suffered or the price I paid with low milk supply, trouble breastfeeding, postpartum depression, and marital stress was worth her rescheduling a few appointments.

But that's only part of our story.  Matt hates that I didn't get the birth I desired, the pain it has caused, and the situation that caused it.  But for him Levi's birthday is about a different experience.  For him it was "waking up" in an ambulance with the realization that he had had a seizure and was on his way to a hospital across town from his wife and new baby.  For him it was appreciating the suggestion of the EMT to take a picture of him holding his new son with his phone, because when he woke up he couldn't remember the birth (he does now).  For him it was texting me to ask what time Levi was born, how much he weighed, and how long he was, because he couldn't remember.  For him it was knowing that he wouldn't be able to drive for six months, and that he would have to take anti-seizure meds for the rest of his life.  For Matt and for me, thinking about Levi's birth means acknowledging that this moment,

our first moment together as a family, happened 9 hours after Levi was born.  And that is NOT how a family should be born.

But on this day, Levi's 2nd Birthday, we focus on him.  We celebrate who he is, and dream of who he will become.  On this day, we celebrate our precious, handsome, bright, funny, verbose, book-loving, kiss-giving, amazing little boy.  We celebrate where he is now, and we try not to think of how he got here.  At the end of the day, we both admit that for a moment our thoughts turned to the events of 4/4/11.  We hope that some day the bad memories will become foggy and the precious memories will remain.  Until then, we celebrate TODAY.

***Regular therapy with a trained counselor and finding a supportive group of women who understand has been key to helping me cope.  I found the support I needed in my local chapter of ICAN.  If you are dealing with birth trauma of any kind or finding it difficult to recover emotionally from a C-section, I encourage you to seek out a chapter near you.


lahancock27 said...

Jill-this is heartbreaking to me for both you and your husband. Thank you for sharing. I pray that one day you experience a very different kind of birth.

Beth said...

Thanks for sharing, Jill.

The Laney Family said...

Jill, I am so sorry that you feel this way! All 3 of mine were born via csection. breech babies that wouldn't turn. I have just had to remind myself that I am just to focus on the fact that they are here, and they are healthy.... no matter HOW it happened... God knew the reasons! love you, friend!

Heather said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Jill! My name is Heather and I was hoping you could answer my quick question about your blog! My email is Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com :-)