another birth story… again…

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…


About daniellaindie

I'm Anthony’s wife, and mother to Jonathan, Hannah, Joshua, and Isabella. When not making PBJs and cleaning, I like to write, immerse myself in a good book, play my piano, or plan epic couponing trips.

Posted on December 31, 2009, in Labor and Birth and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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