My daughter's birth was certainly not as horrible as it could have been, nor as traumatic as other women's experiences, but was still far from what it should have been. I knew deep down that I was not happy with her birth, but for a long time I claimed everything went great. I mean, after all, a healthy baby is the only thing that determines whether a birth went well or not, right? It wasn't until I started learning more about natural living, breastfeeding, pregnancy, and birth that I finally acknowledged why I tried to never think about her birth. Hopefully after writing all of this down, I can think about our first face to face meeting with a little less guilt and anger. This won't be stellar writing (not that I ever write well) as the memories are very choppy.
So we left off with us going to check into the hospital the morning after my water broke. We got there, checked in, and were put in a room. I was told to change into a gown and they started making the calls necessary to get my records from my doctor. I was terrified. I had not given much thought to birthing our daughter. I figured we would just take it one step at a time and never researched into anything. ANYTHING. So when they handed me a pill and told me they needed to induce me, even though I was having contractions and labor was clearly beginning (though slowly), I did what they told me. It wasn't until over a year later that I learned that what they gave me, Cytotec, is not only not approved by the FDA for inducing labor, but has been linked to uterine rupture and the deaths of the mother and/or child. There is no standard dosage which means doctors are just guessing. It says in my chart that they went over the risks and the fact that this was an off-label use of the drug, but my husband and I have no memory of this. Even if they had, I don't personally believe that informed consent of this kind can take place while in labor when the one offering the drug is in a position of authority. It infuriates me that they experimented on both me and my child and risked both our lives simply because they were too impatient to wait for my body to do what it needed to do.
About a half hour after taking the Cytotec, the contractions started hard. Really hard. I panicked. I called the nurse and told her how much pain I was in. She just shrugged and said that's how it starts. I felt stupid. I felt ashamed that I could not even handle the BEGINNING of labor. And I agreed to the epidural. I didn't see any other option. I was clearly a wimp. I was already confined to the bed with all the monitors, so having zero use of my legs didn't seem to matter much. When the anesthesiologist came in to give me the epidural, I was beyond pain and I became convinced he was going to paralyze me. My husband tried to calm me down and keep me still, but I was freaking out and crying. I sometimes wonder if the Cytotec made me a bit paranoid as well. And then the pain was gone. And I started getting loopy. Cracking jokes, feeling funny. I had become completely disconnected from my daughter's birth.
My husband went to get something to eat where the poor man cried as he tried to deal with the stress of having lost his grandfather and his wife having his first child. That's a lot to handle. A lot. While he was gone, I started feeling pain again. Lots of pain. I had to start breathing through contractions again, but I didn't want to up the epidural level. My husband returned, the nurse checked me, informed us I was complete, and they wheeled all the equipment in. I had gone from 4/5 cm to complete in about 15-20 minutes. The epidural dosage was low enough that I could still feel and push (which I am so grateful for!). They, of course, had me do forced pushing: pushing for 10 seconds/3 times every contraction. My husband counted to 10 probably a thousand times in those three hours. It didn't feel like 3 hours to either of us though. In fact, up until my current doctor informed me a few months ago that I had pushed that long, we were both convinced I only pushed for an hour and a half at the most.
It turned out Little Miss was face up and pushing on my back, which hurt like crazy, especially when I was confined to a bed ON MY BACK!! I had a bruised tailbone for months. She rotated on her own though in the birth canal and was born face down. Unfortunately she dragged her little arm up by her face and did a little more tearing that I would've liked.
I remember the doctor asking me if I wanted to touch her head with all its hair as she was crowning and I promptly refused. I think I was only thinking of the current pushing and forgot completely what it was I was striving for. Little Miss did not seem to be my goal, if that makes sense. And I was disgusted with the whole birthing process. I felt so exposed and ashamed, I just wanted it over with.
She was born at 3:05pm on Monday, June 1st, 2009 and my first thought when they put her on my chest was "Eww, couldn't they have cleaned her off first?" That makes me sad. I didn't feel that excited. I didn't really care. They took her again, poked, prodded, and nearly got decked by my husband. He went instantly into protect mode and still struggles with not stopping how rough they were with her. One happy memory I have is of my husband saying something and Little Miss lifting her head to look at him. She must have recognized that voice! They took her away after the poking and prodding to give her a bath and such and my husband went with. All I could think was that I barely got to see her. They could bring me back a completely different baby and I would never know! I had nightmares for a long time that I couldn't recognize my own child. I'm not sure how long they were gone and I have no memory of her being brought back or even of nursing her, though I know I did right when she returned. I know mentally that she latched on strong and well, but I can't picture the moment. And I have no emotion attached with seeing her again.
I think that's what bothers me most about her birth: the sterility of it all. The drugs, the matter of factness, the lack of emotions from those attending as well as myself and the fact that I just flat out can't remember so many things that should be etched in my mind as life altering. I feel like I had those memories stolen from me and I will never get them back.
The next few days in the hospital were rough. My back hurt from both the back labor and the epidural placement and I struggled to even walk. One of my legs continued to feel tingly for at least a month which freaked me out to no end. And I still struggled with being apathetic to the fact that I now had a beautiful, wonderful baby girl. I was now a mother, but I just didn't seem to care. I still felt very ashamed of the birth and the lack of dignity I was allowed. I remember a nurse walking in on me while I was going to the bathroom and asking me questions. I was so embarrassed and it only added to my sense of shame and lack of personhood within the hospital walls.
And then there was breastfeeding. Even though they said I was doing great, Little Miss had a good latch, and my milk seemed to have come in, they said my daughter was starving and needed formula. I refused the first time or so, but when a nurse kept telling me my baby was "so hungry" I eventually gave my permission. They forced more than 4 oz into her tiny stomach (barely the size of a walnut) which she promptly threw up everywhere. And they continued to do that repeatedly during my stay. I'm crying now just thinking that I allowed that to happen. They kept saying she wasn't getting enough, never enough. I would nurse her for 45 minutes or so and then they insisted she get a bottle on top of that. We did that until she was 10 days old when I finally put my foot down and said NO MORE. I knew that's not what I wanted and I was determined to make breastfeeding work. I still think the formula played a role in why she was so colicky. I had allowed her gut flora to be sabotaged and her digestion wasn't working the way it was supposed to. She spit up a lot during those months. And it just breaks my heart that she suffered so much in her first few days, weeks, and months.
We recovered physically. We bonded. We exclusively breastfed from Day 10 to 7 months. And we're still breastfeeding at 23 months. And she is amazing. And I can barely stand to be away from her for more than a few hours because I just miss that cutie pie! I've done the best I can to make up for those first few days and weeks, but I don't know if I'll ever stop feeling guilty for what I allowed to happen. I could say I just didn't know any better, but that's the point. We, who have access to information more than any other generation in the world, should know better. I plan everything. I'm a list maker. I research things to no end. But I didn't research with pregnancy or birth. At all. I picked the wrong people to trust and I deserved what happened to me. But my daughter did not. She should have been brought into the world better than the way I gave her. She should have been protected better than I protected. And she should have been loved better than I loved.
The only way I've been able to console myself in this is knowing our God is sovereign. Because of how her birth went, we made changes in our lives. Our lifestyles have changed drastically and we've done the research for this next child's birth. God is good. If her birth had been natural and perfect, I can pretty much guarantee we would not have made many of the changes we've made. I can also guarantee that there would be a lot more arrogance in my attitudes towards those struggling with their birth or breastfeeding experiences. I still will grieve over her birth, but can at least move forward knowing that God is in control, even when it feels like everything else is so out of control.