Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Finding Peace in Parenthood after Labor Woes
I was getting anxious. My due date had come and gone. “It's okay, Dominique. This is your first baby... lots of women are late with their first baby.” At least that's what I heard time and time again. By my 8th month, I had already reached my breaking point. I was praying that my son, Major, would come early. Please, please, PLEASE, GOD! If he's healthy and fully formed, let this baby come early. In a moment of weakness, I even said, “God, it's okay if he's missing a fingernail or two... just get him out of me!” Of course I wasn't serious. I wanted my baby to have ten fingers and toes, and for those fingers and toes to all be dressed with tiny, perfect fingernails.
I was planning a home birth. "Planning" is a hilarious word when you're referring to anything related to pregnancy, labor or motherhood. Am I right, ladies? I can feel you nod in agreement as you read this. "Amen," we all say in unison.
But there I was, trying to plan. Now, let me make something very clear; I didn't go crazy with the idea of planning. I had educated myself on home births, water births, hospital births, c-sections, and ocean births. (Okay, I never considered an ocean birth although it's a REAL THING. YES, YES,YES IT IS! I mean, like, what if a crab crawled up there? Whoa.) No, I didn't go crazy with the planning. However, I knew what I wanted to experience. I knew the setting I wanted to be in, and I knew how I wanted to birth. So I made the decision of planning a home water birth. I hired an excellent midwife, an amazing doula and I took all the classes. This was the first parenthood decision I was making, and I felt great about it.
One night, after attending one of our birth classes, I started crying to my husband, “I don't know if I can do this! DID YOU SEE HOW THAT WOMAN WAS CRYING IN THE BIRTH VIDEO?! WHY DOES IT HAVE TO HURT SO BAD?! Also, I hate you.”
Being the good, kind husband that he is, he assured me that I CAN do this. We talked that night and I felt at ease. I made the decision in my mind that in any case, home birth, water birth or even transferring to the hospital, I would do this and I could do this. I started to think of my birth experience differently. I kept my confidence in birthing at home, but I left the pressure and fear of the unknown at the door. Home birth or no home birth, medication or no medication, I can do this... I can do this... I can do this. I watched natural labor videos, water labor videos, and epidural induced labor videos. Birth wasn't so scary anymore. Instead, the more I changed my mind about it, the less scary it was, and the more beautiful it became.
We arrived at (what I was hoping) would be my last appointment with my OB. She knew how I wanted to birth, and I felt comfortable telling her my birth hopes and plans. Like previous appointments, she would chat with me, check me and send me on my way. I loved my doctor. She was chill, to-the-point, and I never felt rushed.
She walked in. We chatted. She measured my stomach, and then she said, “Hmmm,” and checked again.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Well, you're measuring big,” she said.
“Oh” I said with relief, “Well, I've always measured big.” I looked at my husband, Chance, and shot him a smile, knowing that we were thinking the same thing. “He's a big boy!” I giggled.
“You've grown very quickly since last week. I need to send you to a specialist to have this baby checked out. I need to see how big he could be and we can discuss our options,” she said with concern.
I looked at Chance, but this time with a different expression. I was worried. I felt the fear come over me, that same fear I felt months before when I was crying in the car questioning if I could even do this without freaking the heck out.
We were sent to a specialist immediately. And after the appointment with the specialist, we were sent immediately back to our doctor. Our doctor kindly, but seriously advised us to have a c-section. She said we shouldn't wait another day because the baby was measuring very, very big.
Great. Here come the tears. Tears were pouring down my face as if I were a broken faucet. During the next three minutes, I lost enough snot to fill 1,000 tissues. I called my midwife and then my parents. I was balling all the way home. WHY?! I kept thinking. Why!!!!!???!!!
Some people will tell you that it doesn't matter how you birth because the ending is still a baby. But I do believe it matters how you birth. I believe that certain life experiences help us grow and evolve. I was looking forward to birth and thought it would help me become the mother I hoped to be -- strong, confident, and determined. It was going to be the first thing that I could give my son. And I wanted him to have the best birth possible.
My husband and I wrestled with the decision. Until a few minutes ago, a c-section was the last thing on our minds. I had read all about unnecessary c-sections and the reasons people have them. I thought I would never, EVER actually agree to one!! But suddenly a c-section was strongly recommended by my doctor. My head pounded as I frantically considered my limited options. I had to make this decision very quickly, but I didn't know what the right decision was. Should I go through with this surgery to have my baby? I'd been having contractions for weeks prior and didn't feel much pain at all. Should I try and go against my doctor's advice and give my son another few days to make his appearance? The pros and cons of both options made my head spin.
We made the decision to have a C-section. Was it the right decision? I still don't know. It was such an odd experience. Instead of pushing, breathing, and feeling my baby being born, I walked into an operating room. Instead of being one of the first to see or hold my baby, I was the 4th or 5th. We all know how cesareans go. You listen to the nurses talk about where they're going to go for dinner because this procedure is so common.
After all was said and done, I had so many questions. Did I really earn this? Can I still talk about labor like other women and feel like I have something to share? What if I decided against the c-section? What if my labor would have gone perfectly? Will I regret this surgery later in life? And most importantly, was I a bad mother for copping out?
Something was wrong. The downsides of the surgery were filling my mind. There I was, holding my brand new son and I was still in shock over my labor. I didn't transition well. My labor affected me more than I was prepared to admit. I was in love with this baby, but my “ending” wasn't just my baby. It was how he was born, too. Did I rob him of something? I kept asking myself. Did I rob us of something? Will we not bond the same now?
I came to the conclusion that the reason I was so concerned with my son's birth is because I wanted him to have the very best. And as I realized that fact, I realized also how much I had already loved my son. I was already thinking about his well-being and his story. I was longing to connect to him in anyway I could.
Later in the week, I was laying there holding my precious boy and pondering the last few months. In life, and as parents, we are forced to make decisions. Those decisions will shape us and our children. We don't know if they were always the right ones. We wrestle and struggle with pros and cons, but in the end, we still have to choose a road. We are constantly asking ourselves, "Which road will be best?"
The fact that I wanted to make the very best decision for my child brought me peace, because, you see, I was already desiring the best for him. Those insecurities I felt during my son's birth aren't lingering, because all I wanted from this was to be a good mom. Do I know if the c-section was my best option, medically speaking? No. Do I know if it was best for me emotionally? Nope. But I DO know that I love Major so much, and I don't take parenthood lightly. In the end, my son's birth story, as messy and confusing at it might be, was a blessing. It showed me that I was already a strong, confident and dedicated mother. It helped me take a very close look at my motives. And because of that, I'm going to be a damn good mom.