Ok, I am a total birth-obsessed freak, but do you really know the WHOLE of it?
Where can I even begin? This is gonna be a long one, so grab some dark chocolate or make a raspberry tea.
Early, early memories of burrowing through medical texts, children's "our body" books, scouring through encyclopedias and even dictionaries for the parts about the fetus, the placenta, the 1st 2nd and 3rd stages of labor, the baby coming out, the umbilical cord...over other people's houses, at the library, anywhere.
Any and all television plots involving PREGNANT--oooh I was hooked.
My own mother telling me one late fall day after picking me up from nursery school that she had a big surprise, my teacher smiling knowingly after talking with my mom first, and hearing that I was going to be a big sister. Do you mean to tell me the fascinating thing that was PREGNANCY was about to transpire right in my house, in my very own Mom???? (didnt care that much about the new sibling, just about pregnant mom and growing belly and feel it kick and give birth and that kind of stuff)
My new neighbor expecting TWINS--holy bejeezus I was OBSESSED with this woman.
The same neighbor expecting her fifth baby a few years later---an official "big family"! Oh god! I love it! I hung on every word of gossip that I was privvy to--Were they "Catholic"? How much bread/milk/peanut butter do they buy each week? They need a big van now--the whole thing was so awesome--I hoped she would have five more.
Another friend whose mom was pregnant, who "found out it was gonna be a boy"---what was all this about? (mid 1980's not so many routine ultrasounds) I wanna SEE INSIDE A BELLY TO SEE THAT ITS A BOY, TOO! Totally thrilled and curious.
Me BEGGING and CRYING and writing OBSESSED LETTERS to my mom when I was around 8 years old asking her for another sibling. Her (understandably looking back) laughing in my face and saying, warmly, Hell No.
A few more friends whose moms had a few more new babies, and how I hung on the mom and ignored the friend and how that all didnt go over well socially but I didnt care.
Starting to feel like a perv for wanting to read so much and know so much about the Birth Part of all medical books, but it really wasnt about sex, they just kept putting it in that chapter! Wanting more actual pictures. No internet back then.
Barnes and Noble, age 18, 1993. Me perusing the parenting (!!) aisles again, like a fricking wierdo, seeing the title Spiritual Midwifery on a quaint little spine of a quaint little book, one copy left, and settling down in a secret chair in the back (lest my perversion be found out by other customers) and reading it, I kid you not, from cover to cover. I almost went blind from having my mind blown apart and from reading for that long.
Age 19, 1994-another book, Our Bodies, Ourselves, behind locked doors with my friend. My inner life that was pretty much changed forever by Spiritual Midiwfery was now completely changed, for good. Concepts such as the obstetrics industry being not what women need, and so, so much more were now all in the forefront of my mind.
After my own pregnancy and birth of my own baby, June 1997 (sadly, in the hospital, with an absolute cavalcade of interventions. Though I knew about homebirth, at 21/22 years of age I had absolutely not gotten to any kind of a headspace where I would even begin to know how to pursue this.)
It seemed like I had even more to say, was more obsessed, more aware, and felt keenly and purposefully responsible for helping other Mamas to not have episiotomies, to know that "birth plans" were complete bullshit, and that, yep, its all true, the hospital is a gigantic machine and when you enter into its cogs, you just come out the other end and thats about it.
Letting more women know all that could go wrong. Letting them know The Truth. Debunking Myths and dreams. Jumping and pouncing onto people who did not want me to. Embarassing myself.
1998, my sister in law is pregnant. The first new person to get pregnant in my life since I became a mother. I take it upon myself to handwrite her this huge, huge letter. (I so wish I could see it now, it is probably hilarious and strange) It is broken down into "Trimesters (!) and Post Partum". I never hear a word about it, like I never even wrote it. I feel so embarassed and it creates what I still feel to be a palpable rift between us.
2000, me and my close childhood friend both have a baby that summer. I actually do help her alot. She gets a fever and breast pain a few days postpartum and I help her through mastitis, latch issues, and family adjustment. She tells me later that I am the reason she nursed so long. Awesome!
Summer 2000, realizing the true extent to which I was devastated by my rediculous c-section, I look online for some answers and hope. I find a (now defunct) website run by a very special chicky named MangoMama (anyone know whatever happened to her????) who discussed Unassisted birth, Homeschooling, Unschooling, Veganism, Family Bed, Homeopathy, and so on and my mind was blown apart for good for good for good. Continuum concept begins in our home, and there is already an understanding that our little 3 year old nursling and out little new baby ae not going to be shipped off to school when they are 5. Begin embarking on a whirlwind of family changes that really define us and shped where we have ended up today. Extremely transitional time for us.
2001, move to a new house, meet the new neighbor, who sees my copy of Choosing Waterbirth in my pile from the library and we strike up a discussion about homebirth and waterbirth, the first time I have ever discussed these things outloud with anyone but my husband. We both want to try to get pregnant again in the near future. She does right away, and I help her find a local midwife. I am present at her December 2002 home water birth, nauseous with my own little embryo of a Casey growing inside me as I videotape the birth for her. I didnt click with her midwife whatsoever, and for a time, had no idea who what where was going to go on with the birth of our new bean.
I start inadvertantly losing a few friends' and a few family members' "respect" out of my own burgeoning "radicalism", and feel ostracized and left out of mainstream parenting events and conversations. It is a powerful and scary feeling at first, like regretting a tattoo a few times a year, or wishing that, just for Christmas, your hair was not blue. I walked the line with my secret desires for home births, water births, unassisted births out of doors by moonlight in the salty ocean...and my desire to fit in and be regular and go to Babies R Us and fret about nursery decor with the regular girls. But the scale was tipping me away away away from those people....and it felt really really good....
We hire a direct-entry homebirth midwife during the 14th week of pregnancy with this 3rd child. So many videos, books, Mothering dot Commune, conversations, midwifery today webpages flood my life. Get a hold of a copy of Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, which was awesome and helpful.
We decide to lie to some of our family that we are using a "nurse midwife in a birthing center" (which we were for a couple of months, but all they saw me as was a "VBAC candidate" and not a person and I had to splitsville. When I told the Nurse Midwife that I would much rather birth in her parking lot than in their lame excuse for a birthing center, she admitted that perhaps I would be happier at home, although she could not officially encourage it) instead of telling them the truth about our upcoming planned homebirth with a lay midwife. Why? Thats complicated. Its hard not to blame them, because they were mildly-to-extremely unsupportive of many of our other "alternative" choices such as homeschool, extended breastfeeding, sleeping with babies, gentle discipline...and we did not seem to have the voice or the courage or the balls (ovaries?) to just say hey buggar off!, especially when we were still so tentative about whether we "could actually do it" or not, looking back, Id say that we just felt as a couple, completely incapable of defending this decision to attempt a homebirth out loud to our extended family members at that juncture.
We were convinced that they would inundate us daily with stories of death and despair, and that I could not be surrounded by those kind of vibes for any amount of time, let alone many months.
Its still no excuse, and lying is stupid and exhausting. Its not like telling them all these lies was so uplifting or encouraging, it was alienating and stressful. But its how we did it and what can you do now. Our friends knew what we were up to, and were mellow and curious.
I did end up telling my mom, in a letter, near the end of my pregnancy. She was worried but cool. It always blows my mind that people arent worried when you choose hospital care, but I digress. The rest of the family got a phone call the day after the baby was born, saying "ITS A BOY! WE ENDED UP HAVING HIM AT HOME! iT WAS AWESOME!" and strange as all hell, this made sense to them, and they were kind of like whatever wackos, that was a bad idea and you got lucky (or something like that)
So, yes, August 3rd, 2003, at 40 weeks and 5 days, after almost 4 days after my water broke (hindwaters, slow trickle) I gave birth at home. I sat in the bathtub buck naked without any water even drawn yet and called my Mom to tell her the news. It was her birthday, and we laughed and cried that it was another boy and that he weighed eleven pounds and that I did it. Highest Peaks of human experience, no question.
Now I think I am a high and mighty HomeBirthing Mama at this point, and I begin a rather embarassing phase of know it all-ness on Mothering dot Commune and probably on all the world's people who will listen. I am mortified looking back at that period. What should have been an all-womankind type of an experience turned me into more of a closed minded fool than anything else. "If you really want to give birth at home, you will"...etc
I am still not prepared to write all about our 4th baby, Charlie's birth in 2005, but heres some snippets:
I decided in labor to transfer to a hospital and "ended up with" a c-section. I wont say I was resigned to it when I walked in those doors, or that I didnt have some kind and friendly nurses, or that I didnt push for 3+ hours. But still, its no big surprise that I couldnt do it under those circumstances, the little bed, the straps, the flaps, the pins, the needles, the lights, the confusion, the epidural (yes, me! I had some funky transferred nerve-hip pain that was absolutely un bearable. Thats why I went in. I could not deal with a single contaction, nor get into any kind of headspace or position or anything even remotely resembling my labor pattern at home with Casey with that fricking hip pain. I got an epidural, got out of pain, tried to reclaim my power right there in a f-ing hospital bed, tried to summon all that Birthing From Within, and Ina May and everyone ever told me, showed me, and everything I thought I was all about, but, I tell ya, them epidurals work good when they work, and it worked and I was numb and even though Steve and the nurses SWORE I was pushing so well, Charlie didnt budge. They would dig and feel and dig their hands waaaaaaaay up and I could see it on their faces when they would whisper "still minus 3 station" and smile meekly at me...) and I could not push him out, not even close.
Could I have done it if I had ripped all that shit offa me, outta me? Could I have done it if we went home, went on a walk, got outta that sick little bed? Could I have done it if I had a doula, a jaccuzzi, a tub, accupuncture, music, massage, a slurpee, a hypnotic CD, a team of midwives, a gang of hippie ladies, a glimpse into what my future was about to become???????
Who knows. I choose not to be too haunted by that shit this time around, because I had too much on my plate, literally, once he was born.
So they carved me open and extracted my child early in the morning on November 1st, 2005. This time there was no shattering misunderstandings, no innocence lost, no horrific miscarriage of justice. I was tired, the staff was tired, and we all just said Goddamn thats a huge kid in there. How long do you want to keep pushing for? Sometimes they really, really don't fit. I was compliant and not coerced. I had been pregnant for 42 weeks and was beyond ready to see my baby. Thats all that was going on in my head when we agreed to the section. Oh, yeah, that and the fact that the epidural had worn off and that hip was back on fire, and I was literally seizing and talking in toungues and bellowing from the oain of having to lay on my back and it all needed to end, asap.
The doctors were super nice, (whatever that means, I guess not the insane demonic freaks that sectioned me in 2000?) I felt aware and excited, I felt no pain during the surgery except them smashing me and me puking and feeling certain I would drown, which is always a bit sucky....they said Its a Boy and I totally remember them holding him up, they said holy moley mom how much do you think he weighs and I said "12 pounds?" and they said yes! On the nose! and they had me sewed up and nursing the little pink piggyangel within 90 minutes. Soooooooo different from Mickeys nightmareish birth. ::same link as before::
Once he was born, things got f-ed up with our lives, quick. You see, us being the know it all fools that we were, thought that planning for anything other than homebirth would have been "bad vibes" (OH THE NAIVETE AT AGE 30, IT KILLS ME) so, other than having a plan in place for what and when we would transfer to hospital, we really really thought the baby would be born with in a few hours after me laboring all day Halloween Day, and that Steve taking his pre asked for week off would suffice, as it did when Casey was born.
I labored on monday, was carved on tuesday, and Steve got a phone call wednesday day saying "Come to work tomorrow or you're fired."
I was still in the hospital.
He went to work, and I spent my days in the hospital havung crying and screaming matches about legal rights and family and medical leave act with him, while my in-laws babysat my 3 confused children who thought mommy was gonna have the baby in the spare bedroom like last time.
Everytime I would get a phone call, and start crying, another nurse would come in and ask me about post partum depression. "did ja get like this last time, too, hun?"
Where do I begin? LAST TIME we were all home in bed nursing and watching old movies. All 5 of us.
ANYHOO, it was a fricking joke. I had to stay until Saturday because my hemoglobin was 4.8, I kid you not, and I had a blood transfusion. Surgery is bloody and I lost a ton of it, probably splashed all over the floors and down the halls when they filleted me. My in laws, who both work, somehow watched the kids thursday and friday, too. So NOONE was with me, again. I sat there alone, all day, me and Charlie. I sat there all night, alone, me and Charlie.
I couldnt nurse him, change him, reach the phone, reach the remote, reach my food or drink or pain killers or creams without a nurse. they come when they can.
I couldnt pee or clean myself or take care of my various wounds without a nurse.
There was a tiny little shower head that raised up to 4 feet high and trickled out cool water. I could not properly wash myself and that really made things so horrible. they also left me alone in the shower, 3 days in a row, with baby Charlie SCREAMING bloody murder in his plastic box and I had to just crouch in the cold shower with my mini bar of Dial and try to ignore him. My hair was matted to my head, my swollen feet were 4 times their normal size and when I was admonished for walking the halls barefoot, I wept when I tried to explain that even my Birkenstocks wouldnt fit on. Then I get more people asking me if I am depressed. Ummmm yes i guess-if being destroyed physically and mentally and then abused and left to literally die for a week is depressed then sure.
Charlie wouldnt nurse, for real, and I was quite surprised and worried. I had lactation consultants coming in talking to me about renting pumps for home and I thought about being home with my entire body cut in half, trying to run a breast pump with a 12 pound newborn screaming and a 2 year old eating drano and a 5 and an 8 year old staring at my boobs in some machine, and i cried. they suggested that breastfeeding isnt for everyone, especially if I was depressed and I shut them all out. Epidurals and c sections can mess up a baby's nursing reflexes. Luckily (?) c-sections and the like can cause your milk to not come in as soon as it would have, so i had a day or two where engorgement wasnt too too bad.
My beloved family doctor came to see me (!!!!) I was shocked, and she and I tried and tried to get him to latch in but he seemed bored and annoyed by it. She knew how much I did not want him on a bottle, so we fed him with a little cup! We fed him colostrum and some formula. I had a 2 year old who was still nursing full time at home, so I just wasnt too wigged about milk supply. I had been nursing since 1997, but I did want the baby Charlie to learn how to drink from me and not a rubber nipple. He drank from his little cup, enough to keep him alive and hydrated, while I kept on trying to get him to nurse.
anyone who has tried and struggled with a baby who wont nurse knows the burning exhausting frustration of it all, the sheer defeat and the constant nudity and the horrible clumsiness of it all---but try it alone. No husband, no mom. Try it when you are in so much pain you cant move or shift or lift or adjust or even cough or take a deep breath. Try it when you are going to get in trouble if you cry. Try it when you cant reach your water. Try it when you need to not sit on your catheter and not sit on your hemmoroid and --dont drop the baby by the way.
GOD it sucked!!!!
But it sucked more once I was home. Heres what I went home with:
12 gas pills
one 2 year old
one 5 year old
one eight year old
two flaming watermelons with which to feed the baby
one huge incision with infected staples and oozing and redness
8 band aids on the arms from transfusions and ivs
ELEVEN black poke holes in my spine from where they couldnt get the epidural in
two huge purple feet
an "I pushed for 3 hours" bottom
Tucks pads that I couldnt use cuz I couldnt reach cuz I was too stiff and sore to turn my body.
bleeding to death
spots before my eyes
pale yellow face
last 3 hour chunk of sleep was in October.
The scariest time of my my life was that first week home with those 4 kids after surgery like that. My recovery took a full year.
So, where am I now?
I have a sister who is pregnant, I have a friend who is trying to conceive. I am more cautious when I feel like my opinions are wanted, and I spend alot of energy online and in writing, rather than attacking pregos on the streets. But I have so much to offer, and can help so much. So its wierd. its wierd trying to convince someone that I am the One who can save them from untold misery, I am the one who can help them not be in hell. I want to help moms, and yet I cannot enter any kind of a career at this time. I have my own babies right now, and my homeschool and my marriage and my own plate is full.
I hope my blog can help someone, somewhere to think about stuff in a new way, or to hear my voice as one of sanity or truth or goodness or humor or even wisdom. I am not a professional, nor liscensed in anything, but this is my career and my reality, so for now, maybe all I can do is write.