Warning... this is long.
Our second boy (though we didn't know he was a he until he arrived) was "due" to be born March 6, 2016. His birthday (so when he was actually due), is April 1, 2016.
Do you have any idea what our culture... our medical system does to a woman like me? Ria was born 11 days "past dates," Kat 14 days, Tea 17 days, Jmy 5 days.... clearly, just based on averages, I take longer to finish my babies than the *system* deems necessary. GrA was born 3 weeks and 5 days "overdue". That's 26 days "past dates" yall.
Trust me. This is very pertinent.
Now, there's no way I can really adequately convey what I went through... or my feelings... so that you could actually understand. So I'm going to try to help you understand by telling you YOUR story. If you want to understand, you'll have to work with me and imagine... really try to imagine how you'd feel.
So... what is THE thing you have most anticipated in your life? It has to be something that had a firm *finish by* date. Imagine that experience as I tell this story. Maybe it was the birth of each of your children... just choose one anticipated birth or other experience and stick with it. I'm going to pretend it's the birth of a child because it most closely parallels this since this is about the birth of mine.
Begin Imagining NOW:
You're ready! Baby is *due* in 3 weeks and you have everything in place. Birth kit purchased and items in place and waiting for your fifth homebirth, yep. Baby blanket specially made by Mama, done. Baby space set up and waiting, definitely. Heart ready to welcome your sixth child, yessiree!
Your midwife has already started saying little things like, "You can legally have this baby at home now!"
You think, "I've told you for the last 13 + weeks about my previous births... you don't seriously think this baby is coming any time soon, do you?"
But even though you know what you know, you still feel a little pressure to *have the baby* sooner than later.
38 weeks. Baby is still super high, definitely not engaged. Everything else is just fine. Head down. Heart rate good. Blood pressure terrific.
Midwife says, "You can have this baby any time. My calendar is clear. I'm here for you."
You think and want to say something like, "Um... two weeks til we're going to see anything... are you trying to pressure me already? Sheesh." But you stay quiet believing that there's nothing more you can say than you've already said about the subject.
You feel more pressure and wonder if this baby will be like the last... who was also the first to be born on her due date. You feel hope that it might be so.
39 weeks. Same as last week. All stats good.
Midwife says, "You can start applying clary sage to your belly. It won't do anything unless baby is ready. I'm here whenever you need me. Just call."
You think something like, "Seriously? It's a whole week before my earliest arrived. It's not likely, lady! We can hope all we want, but let's consider history and figure the odds. I mean, really. Pressure much?"
You hope baby decides to come earlier than all the rest. It is possible, after-all. Anything is possible. Surely baby is finished in there... right? You feel ready to have baby in arms and want to be done dealing with the frustration of everyone expecting you to have the baby already!
40 weeks. Same as the two weeks before.
Midwife says, "What are you doing to try to get this baby here? We need to make a plan to have this baby."
You think something like, "Yeah... like anything I do will make a difference. I don't want to try to induce with homeopathics like I did with two of my homebirths! I also want to respect this baby and allow the birth process to happen on it's own. Surely I'm not broken. Surely if we just wait, this baby will come on its own."
People at church who you've never even told your due date ask, "You're STILL pregnant? Don't you want to have that baby? Aren't you going to have that baby sometime soon?" No. Not all from one person. But perhaps it's worse coming from multiple people.
And you think and once even have the nerve to say, "You don't even know when my due date is, for all you know the baby isn't supposed to be here yet." Technically it's potentially true since the 40 week day is Sunday. And the last Sunday you go to church while still preggie because of the following thoughts which torment you, "Maybe they are right... maybe I should have already had this baby. Maybe I'm broken. But I didn't tell them my due date precisely because of this kind of thing. Why do they think I should've already had the baby? Are they talking about me? Only two people in the whole Congregation know anything about this pregnancy. They've probably told others and then they told others.... why do people gossip? And about me! I'm not all that interesting!" And more and similar. It feels horrible!
As a result of the midwife and others statements and questions you feel something like, "Maybe I am broken. There is no sign of this baby being born. Aside from the prodromal labor that's been happening many nights for the last couple weeks. Nothing is going anywhere, that's for sure. Maybe I am broken."
41 weeks. Same as before.
Midwife says, "We only have one more week. I won't be able to help you have this baby if you go any longer than 42 weeks. We have to get this baby here by 42 weeks."
You think and want to say something like, "This isn't helping! I feel like a watched pot! Can't we just let the baby be born when the baby needs to be born? What's wrong with THAT?!! I want this baby to come . Why won't this baby come?"
You feel something like, "I'm broken. Surely I am. I can't seem to have my babies really even around their due date... except for the last one. Why did it work with that one and none of the others? What's wrong with me?"
And well-meaning, caring, loving friends and family are asking about the baby. You can't help but wonder if they think you just won't tell anyone when the baby is born.... Do they just think you're leaving them out of the good news? You think things like, "Don't they understand that I want to have this baby as much as they want to know about it? Don't they realize they aren't the only one asking... can't they imagine how much pressure and angst their questions compound? Why can't I have this baby like a normal woman???"
During the process of this week, you lose all confidence in yourself and your ability to have this baby like a regular human woman because your midwife and husband seem to have teamed up to *make* the baby come... Midwife suggests something and husband is the enforcer. Nothing works. You feel like you are more broken than normal... surely that's why the baby won't come. And you feel sure that's what everyone else thinks about you, too. That's why they keep calling and writing and asking, isn't it? You KNOW that's not the case. You really do. But the feeling... so many horrible thoughts and feelings about you running through your head. You know those bad thoughts need to be ignored and something better put on the stage of your mind... but they feel so true. And each time someone calls, or asks....
Most nights during this hellacious week, you wake with contractions. A few times you even begin timing them hoping beyond hope that this is it. You go back to sleep thinking that it'll get more serious and real labor will establish itself and wake you up. Then you wake in the morning feeling tremendous pangs of anxiety and panic because you slept SO well through the rest of the night. No more labor. And your children, Mom, and husband look at you with such expectation. And you just want to cry. And sometimes do. And each day you feel increasingly broken... if that's even possible. It is, because that's what you feel!
By the end of the week you've tried it all.
Nipple stimulation? Yep. Manual AND breast pump.
Spicy food? Yes.
Herbal stuff? Yes. Two kinds.
Essential oils? Uh-huh.
Won't do castor oil. Causes Mama to poop. Wouldn't it cause baby to poop, too? And if baby isn't born right away... can't that cause baby problems? Nothing else has worked, castor oil is just a ridiculous long shot. There's no way I'm endangering my baby because my midwife and husband are afraid.
During this week you realize that both your baby and your husband (knew about the husband, but have actually felt it now) are afraid and you're feeling the waves of fear from both of them as well as battling your own fear-mongering thoughts.
You start to meditate to release fears for self and baby. It helps. Lots. Probably especially for the baby. You feel fewer waves of fear radiating from your belly. You still struggle with your own thoughts of brokenness and continue to wonder if you lack the ability to be a normal woman... especially since you already know you're not just based on how "overdue" you are.
Husband has been reduced to tears over this at least once that you've seen. You have cried daily at one time or another.
You seriously think you might die, so you start doing things to feel less fear about that potential outcome. You record yourself singing hymns and children's songs for your family. You write everyone a letter telling them how wonderful you think they are and how much you love them. You pray that you'll just be able to have a healthy live baby and be alive after baby is born. You still pray for a successful homebirth... you really do want it, but more than anything you want to live beyond the birth and for your baby to live.
If you slept through the night, you wake up crying because you didn't go into labor. If you had labor and then slept, you wake up in a panic attack because it didn't keep going. You cry off and on almost all day by the end of the week because nothing is happening that will result in the baby moving into your arms. But you try to take yourself away from everyone when you cry because you don't want them to worry more than they already do.
42 weeks + 1 day. You let our midwife know you no longer expect her to come for the birth. She was going to tell you basically the same thing, anyway. It's the law! Next day you receive a certified letter in which she is releasing you as clients. So... now you and your husband are really on your own. And although you're basically okay with that, your husband really isn't. The horrible thoughts come more fiercely and frequently.Questions. Fears. Horrible thoughts of dying or baby dying during the birth plague you. One day will be peaceful and wonderful... happy and good. The next will feel like the world is ending and there is nothing good to be seen. The bad days usually begin with someone writing a text or calling to ask about the baby and whether it's been born or not yet. Thankfully the midwife isn't calling or texting every day now. The burden of that daily check was just way too heavy! You and your husband pretty much just don't talk to folks at this point, but you know why they are calling and writing. You are grateful for their love, care, and concern. It's just that the pain of being so abnormal is almost a physical discomfort for you now.
43 weeks. Baby is still moving regularly and strongly. Surely that means everything is fine in there.
One of your children asking if you had any labor the night before causes you to start sobbing uncontrollably. You feel like a freak. You just want to have the baby, but nothing is happening. You comfort yourself with every uncomfy kick you feel. Rejoicing that baby is telling you via the pain in your body that he or she is still alive.
43 weeks +1 through +3 is a repeat of the first day of the week. You meditate and pray and sing with your whole heart. Seeking with every moment of focused effort to focus on the light so that the darkness will fade. It works. But then you receive another text. Or a phone call. Or hear someone talking about you and the baby. *Freak. Weirdo. You're not normal. You can't have this baby. You're going to die!* Versions of that and more torment your waking hours.
43 weeks +4 days. Lots of labor stuff. But you don't tell your husband, your Mom (who has been living with you for almost a month now so that she could be there to help during your labor and after the baby is born... she's due to leave tomorrow and there's still no baby), any of your children, or anyone else because it could stop and then everyone will be disappointed... and you'd be responsible because you didn't have to tell anyone.
43 weeks +4.5 days. Labor still happening, but barely. It's just like all the other prodromal stuff... but there was a little pink when you used the potty. Could it be? Won't tell anyone. Don't want them to be disappointed, too, if it's not.
43 weeks +4.75 days. Labor is probably happening. You tell your husband about bloody show because you've had it a few times. Contractions are totally manageable. Definitely like a beginning, but you really do think it's likely to stick this time.
Labor is totally manageable. It's not really painful. It's just hard work. Focused work. Praying and reading affirmations through each contraction and you feel the work of it, but none of the pain that existed in the previous five labors.
Around 4 hours into active labor waters break and there is meconium. Pushing afterward results in late decelerations (of the baby's heart). That's happened with other births... but you've had someone with you who would help you if stuff went wrong. Your midwives have had oxygen tanks and other emergency sort of equipment. This time it's just you, God, your husband, and your Mom....
God feels very near. But you feel very confused. The fears that have plagued you are just as present as the feeling of Father comforting you. You don't know what to do because you can see the fear your husband feels. It's in his body and all over his face. Before this point at which you hear that you can't hear the baby's heart strong and sure... You've felt like pushing wasn't working. Something just feels WRONG. Now, after each push, baby's heartbeat is more and more difficult to find until you can't find it after the last effort to push... you don't want to kill your baby trying to get him/her out at home!All urge to push vanishes. You don't even feel contractions any more.
You and your husband decide to go to the hospital. As soon as you make that decision, the confusion abates and the comfort of the Lord is all you can feel. You feel one contraction during the drive. Once you arrive, to the hospital, you sorta feel contractions, but they aren't very painful... except when you feel the fear that bangs at the edges of your mind. As they rush you down the hall in the wheelchair, you cry out from the fear more than any physical pain. The fear welcomed you in the stern unkindness of the nurse that greeted you at the emergency room door.
It seems like you feel fear until just before a contraction and then it fades to the edges. So, there is only pain when there is no contraction. There is no urge to push with the contractions. Something is WRONG. This is not like me at all. Normally I feel urgency to push. I feel a comfort and enjoyment in pushing.
The doctor has really horrible bedside manners. He probably thinks you're an idiot homebirther who couldn't do it.... like most of them (in his estimation). He doesn't know you had a natural hospital birth with the first and four successful homebirths after that. He tries to get you to push and you do try, but it's not working. Something is wrong. It's not working. It just feels wrong.
After maybe about an hour at the hospital, you're taken to the operating room for a c-section. Everything feels surreal. Yet even though you feel otherworldly, you feel the Peace that surpasses all understanding. You feel comfortable even in horribly uncomfortable circumstances. Why isn't it working this time? You've given birth naturally five times. The last four of those at home. What's wrong?
The baby is a boy. He is, all of his face that you can see, beautiful! You send your husband away to stay with the baby. The doctors tug and pull... and sew you up. Everything went fine. They take you to your room where baby and your husband are waiting. It's less than an hour between finishing in the operating room and holding your baby... you receive your baby joyfully and he latches on like he's been doing it forever! What a nursing champ!
You nurse your baby for about four hours. He is doing well, it seems. You are tired and realize you've dozed off a few times only when you wake up. Baby was born just after 2:30am, so surely that's normal. You're really glad you have pillows supporting your arms or you would've dropped your baby. During that 4hours some machine or another goes off a few times. No one comes to check on it. You've been sweating and it seems to be getting worse. Your hair is wet with sweat and you feel like it's dripping whenever you run your fingers through it. You've already asked your husband to turn the AC down and now you're worried about keeping your baby warm because you can tell the room is very cool... maybe even cold, but you feel ridiculously hot and keep sweating. Your husband has asked about the alarms, but two or three nurses say it's fine without checking the monitors.
When the day nurse comes in at shift change, she bustles around doing something or other and introduces herself and her trainee. She seems nice. Before she leaves your room she asks something. You answer and then you to ask about what is bothering you. You start with the way you're sweating... wondering if it's because of the spinal during the c-section. She offers to turn the air down. You refuse telling her it's already been done and you're worried about keeping your baby warm. Then ask about the monitor that's been alarming... what is it for? Should someone do something about it? What is the noise supposed to tell us?
As she looks at the monitor thing, she seems to become alarmed. It's around then that you fall asleep again. When you wake up, your nurse asks if you just passed out. "No, I just fell asleep like I have been since I got in here." She seems even more alarmed. Your husband tells you later that she removed the pad under you and it was alarmingly full of blood.
The doctor comes back. He palpates and looked very concerned.
A portable ultrasound with accompanying tech comes speeding in. There is a huge hematoma.... Doctor rushes out (apparently to get paperwork for you to sign). You're not exactly sure what's happening, but when he tells you he must take you for surgery and that he might have to remove your uterus, you know it's really serious. He has you sign papers and you're alarmed that you can't keep your name along the line... you've never had a probably keeping words straight. Yet even though you are aware of great concern in those around you, you feel absolute Peace and comfort of an otherworldly sort.
Watching the lights move by as you're wheeled to the room for surgery, you feel the first discomfort and concern since you arrived. You talk to God and tell him, "I just want to live. I still want those twin girls you showed me all those years ago, but if my uterus is taken, I'll take that as an indication that I'm not responsible for them any more. Please let me live. Let me see my sweet new baby again. Please let me raise my children!"You live. You wake up in recovery and feel so strange. It's very cold, but feels good. They take you to ICU. Melissa as your sweet nurse. You like her a lot. She's funny. You sleep a lot... like a baby. Many wakings, but falling asleep just as easily as waking.
Over time, you learn that you received 4 units of blood and before you leave ICU you will have received 2 units of plasma. You lost a lot of your own blood, it would seem. You still have all your own parts, though. The biggest part of you rejoices to learn that you still have your uterus. A small and very big-feeling part of you shivers and shakes at the thought of getting pregnant and giving birth again. Surely the twins you've wished for since long before you first found out you were preggie with your first child won't be angry if you can't do it....
And so it goes. The beginning of the horrible thoughts on this side of the experience. Why couldn't I do it? Why didn't I do it? What's wrong with me? I've always been a good pusher... but this time I just couldn't push. Why is that? And so many more horrible thoughts.
I talked with my sister. She's 6 earth-years younger than me... but you wouldn't know it to hear the words of wisdom she speaks. She spoke light, hope, and peace to my heart and mind very soon after GrA's birth. Her words did God's work in my mind to enable me to ask Him the right question. I honestly don't remember which question I asked that brought the revelation, but it came!
Heavenly Father showed me that no matter how or where GrA was born, this birth experience included (as an inescapable part of it) hemorrhaging. If it happened at home, I would have gotten closer to death than I did... or maybe died during the trip to the hospital. If I'd accomplished vaginal birth in the hospital, it would've been as bad or worse because I probably wouldn't have been hooked up to monitors and I would've explained away the "symptoms" of the problem (just as I did even with the monitors). In one of the ways it could've played out, GrA died. Basically, I came to understand that as much as c-section is not my ideal birthing method, in this case it was my life-saver. Not before or during the fact... but simply by virtue of being hooked up to monitors afterward that a nurse could check and see that I wasn't doing well.
After this personal revelation, I have felt a return of the absolute peace I felt almost the entire time at the hospital. The only time that the blanket of peace was pierced was during my prayer about my twins on the way to emergency surgery. That should've told me a huge bit afterward... but I was focused on beating myself up overmuch.
So... that's the long of the long of it. I apologize for not writing to each person who has asked me about stuff. I would like to talk to you individually if you would like to talk to me after reading this if you have more questions. I simply felt unable to share this story to each person in a more personal way. Although I know things worked out the very best way they could, there is a lot of trauma for me to work through. Feelings about certain aspects of the story that I haven't related. Writing about it this way has been cathartic for me and I appreciate the time you have invested in reading my experience as your own. Even now it has been difficult... cathartic, surely. But very difficult to write. I have cried. I will probably yet cry. If you would like to share your thoughts about this story with me, I will appreciate it more than I can convey. It will provide affirmation that I year for, yet feel rather foolish in seeking in any direct way.
Even at over six weeks postpartum, my recovery is still in progress. I had nightmares about giving birth until after I wrote this. That's totally new and very upsetting for me. I'm working to figure out what I need to do to regain confidence in myself and trust in birth because I have felt people missing from my family (two little girls, specifically). I feel them. Mostly when I'm trying to make sure everyone is with me... I feel an absence. You know it. The one you feel when someone has one of your children for an activity.... I feel that often and randomly when all my children are with me. I've felt this feeling after the birth of the last few of my children. I'm grateful for it. I know I need to get to work so I can be a happy home for them to grow in.
I know God carried me through all of everything both birth related and the difficulties we've had since GrA joined us. I can see it so clearly... like the single set of footprints in the sand. God is so awesome! I felt the carrying at times while I was being carried, too... I just wasn't focused enough to feel it the whole while.If you have some suggestions for me, do share. I need to heal. The rather upsetting (now) thing to me is that while I was still preggie I kept feeling like the twins would come sooner than some of my others (they have mostly come two years and some-odd months after the one before them).... so I feel a need to work myself into mental, emotional, and physical shape more than I have after any of the others. I feel like my spiritual fortifications are going along pretty well. I just don't feel a really clear direction on how to improve my belief in birth (and self) currently. So, help in that regard would be great!
I do have Birthing From Within and have started to read through it recently.
I've had a couple experiences with realizing trauma that seems less related to the birth, but is totally connected in my heart/mind. I want to write about them right now, but I feel concerned that this is overlong. So, I'll hopefully share about that really soon.
If you made it this far, thank you so much for caring!