Monthly Archives: December 2009
I have to keep telling this story. With every telling, more of my psyche is healed. Feel free to skip if you’ve heard it before…
When I was in labor with Jonathan, I labored for 2 full days on my own strength before my body began to tire. Holding on to my “ideal birth”, I refused narcotics when they began Pitocin to strengthen my contractions. The pain was overwhelming and I couldn’t bear it anymore. I was literally strapped down to the bed by the monitors and wires, even though I desperately wanted to be up and moving around. Jonathan’s heart rate would drop to alarmingly low rates and then slowly rise. I was in agony. I finally asked for an epidural at 65 hours of labor. But this was late Sunday night, and the anesthesiologist was not in the hospital at the time, so I would have to wait. My nurse offered a narcotic to help me cope until he could arrive to give me the epidural. The drug, Stadol, was the worst possible part of my whole labor. Instead of “easing my pain”, like they promised, it made me sleepy, loopy and nightmarish. The only time that I would be myself was at the peak of the Pitocin-induced contractions, where I would writhe and scream in pain, only to pass out again into the scary fog. When the epidural was finally in place, I had to push for almost three hours before a very cone-headed Jonathan emerged.
It wasn’t until we got home two days afterwards that I was really able to acknowledge that I had a son. I mean, I knew I had him, but he wasn’t even a person to me until two days later. I learned how to breastfeed and that was great, but I felt so disconnected from him. I felt powerless… I couldn’t even do the one thing that defines motherhood: I couldn’t give birth to my child on my own. I had needed drugs and monitors and infusions to get him out. When I was told that my contractions weren’t strong enough and I needed Pitocin, that was when I started to feel like a failure. Then I couldn’t handle the pain. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t cope, and to top it all off, I was totally numb when it was time to push, so it almost seemed like an out-of-body experience to watch them pull Jonathan out… like I had nothing to do with it.
A lot of people don’t get it… “at least you and the baby are healthy”, they would say. OK, yes, that was true. And I felt guilty for being depressed about how the labor and birth went, because obviously the end result was just fine. But I wasn’t OK. I wasn’t diagnosed with postpartum depression, but I knew I wasn’t right. I obsessively began to study birth. I really think I could take the midwifery exam today and pass because of all that I’ve studied. I know that I let myself be bullied into things before I was ready. The doctor had been pushing for a c-section. I knew that I was not ready for that, so I compromised and agreed to an induction. But my body really was not ready to give birth! I know now, not to play good patient, but to stick to my knowledge of my body. I am, after all, an expert on myself.
I felt like I needed a “do-over”, and was so excited when I became pregnant with Hannah. My obsession continued, and my book collection on all things birth grew. I may have taken my knowledge of myself a little too far, in that we stayed home a little too long and ended up delivering Hannah at home by ourselves (not what we had planned). Although Anthony was totally freaked out, I felt like I was Mother Earth, the most powerful being in the universe (I realize that sounds pagan, my Christian friends, but I’m sure you’ll get over it: that’s really how I felt). I had brought forth life into the world without the help of any drugs or people telling me what to do or anything.
I felt validated. I had known that I could do it, and I was right. A huge part of me was healed.
Somehow, it just seems right to remind myself of this again and again…
I get into this entitlement mode a lot. It started with cleaning. I would bust my butt to get, say, the kitchen cleaned. And I would totally go for it, all the dishes, the fridge, sink, floors, microwave, stove, the whole bit. But then, I would be so exhausted from all my work, that I would feel entitled to not touch the kitchen (other than make meals in it) for a week. By then, the kitchen would be so messed up, that I would HAVE to do a deep clean that would then wipe me out… you get it.
I just realized last night that I’ve totally done this with my writing. I graduated in June, but spent most of the summer revising my senior project so that it could be perfect when I submitted it. I was so sick of writing by the time I turned it in, that I gave myself permission to stop writing for a while. OK, I’ve also had a few really good excuses (Jonathan, Hannah and the birth of Joshua), but still, if writing is going to be my profession, it would probably be a good idea for me to keep working on it, right?
Five minutes into “Julie/Julia” last night, I was crying my eyes out as I totally identified with Julie, the almost-30-year-old writer of half a novel (OK, I’d had a rough day, Josh had screamed every time I tried to put him down, and I had just drank a beer a little too fast). Anyways, in my identifying with this Julie character, I realized that her solution could work for me, too. If you haven’t seen the movie, basically, she decides to cook through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in a year. That’s not what I’m going to do (although Anthony thinks this would be a great idea). The second thing that she did was that she would blog every day about her cooking adventures. Every day, for a year, she sat down and wrote something. Hmmm.
When I was in Creative Writers at Cal Poly, one of the guest authors who talked with us mentioned a writing exercise that he had found helpful: he would set a timer for 15 minutes and write anything that came to his mind for that 15 minutes. Sometimes he would spend it on an actual story he was working on, and other times it would just be whatever he was thinking, but the point is, he would write.
Now, I’m a HUGE fan of timers. I use mine all the time (otherwise I’d totally forget the laundry in the garage until we were out of socks). I think I might have adult ADD, because as a flit through the house, intent on getting one chore completed, I get totally distracted by other things. But, if I decide to focus on one task, I set my timer and stick with it until I hear the buzzer. It’s a trick I’ve learned from the FlyLady; I can do anything for 15 minutes. Including writing.
I don’t currently have any stories to work on (I’m waiting for God to give me a Stephenie Meyer-type dream – you’ve read her inspiration story, right?), but I’m gonna start disciplining myself to write for 15 minutes a day. I probably won’t blog every episode (you’d probably not want to read all my ramblings everyday), but I certainly will be blogging more.
This has been day one!
When I was little, I gained huge satisfaction from my chore chart and school schedule. My chore chart had boxes that I got to check off (or put a sticker in, when we had them) as I fulfilled the chore for that particular day. School was more of the same. My mom would tell me how far in each book I needed to be by the end of the week, and I got to schedule how many pages of each subject I would do in a day. Drawing a big X through the completed pages gave me a thrill like no other (can you tell I’m a total nerd?).
When my mom began to teach me more grown up chores, I couldn’t just be told the information. I needed to have it written down step-by-step. I think this is why I’m such a great baker but a lousy cook. Baking is precise; you have to follow the directions perfectly to get perfect results. Cooking is like free-form art (both of which I’m terrible at); some days it takes 2 minutes to sauté onions, other times it takes 5. I never know, so usually Anthony takes over the cooking duties.
As an adult, I have my daily chore chart still. It’s morphed into a list on notebook paper that I’ve put inside a glossy sheet protector. Now, as I complete the chore, I can cross it out with a marker. At the end of the day, I have a page (or, since Joshua’s birth, half a page) of crossed-out chores that I can happily wipe clean for use the next morning. This makes me feel accomplished, and helps keep me on track.
However, it’s really hard when a new life situation arises that I have no idea how to handle. This morning, Anthony and I got some news that will most likely radically change the way we’ve been living. Right now, I want a list. I want step-by-step directions for how this is supposed to work in our world. How are we going to provide for our family, raise godly children, keep up with our social lives, the housework, and, oh yeah, our marriage, with this new dynamic thrown in?!? What’s the next step? What is the first thing I need to cross of my list?