A few months back, I started a series of posts (see here and here) about healing from previous birth trauma. The idea was to work my way up to today, Leslee’s birthday, and share her birth story. Unfortunately, I experienced a miscarriage at the end of March and basically lost my zest for a while. I did, however, spend last night working on her story so I could share it.
The story I’ve written is in chunks, bouncing back and forth between the events and my feelings about the events. After eleven years, I am surprised at how guilty I still feel for not doing better, for not changing my situation when I knew it wasn’t what I wanted, etc. So, while writing the story, I told myself what I would tell any of you feeling the same way about your children’s births:
You can be unhappy with the labor/birth part and still love your child like crazy.
You can speak about the negative parts. It’s okay. It doesn’t make your child any less loved, any less of a person.
It is your TRUTH. You are the only one who experienced it with your unique personality and your body.
There is no right or wrong.
Here we go!
from May 27, 1999
Well it’s 2:30am so I guess technically it’s my birthday. Now though, it may also be my baby’s birthday. The first signs of labor are present: bloody show, strong rushes, loss of appetite, loss of energy then bursts of energy and diarrhea. Now if only my water would break and speed things along. It’s very exciting to know that I am for sure so close having our baby in my arms. I am currently waiting for L to get home so I can tell him. The rushes or contractions are getting more intense, but they still feel only like cramps in the pain department. I try to time them but find it difficult. I called Sis about 2;30 and left a message on the machine. If things do get more intense, I’ll just keep calling until she picks up the phone. I’m debating about whether or not to call mom. I want to tell somebody, but she may want to come over and that’s probably not a very good idea. I think I’ll clean some more.
June 26, 1999
Well, I was in labor all day for my birthday but I didn’t have Leslee until the 28th at 12:32pm. I spent my birthday at Sis’ house trying to relax and stay calm. Then we went to L’s parents house for dinner. I didn’t eat dinner though, because my appetite had been gone for about three days. Sis came over around 8:30 and we finally went to the hospital around 2:30am. From there things started off slow, but once they got going they went fast.
May 28, 2010
I can’t believe my baby girl is 11 years old! I looked back in my journals, but I only wrote the morning before I had her and then a brief entry about a month later.
So, I think it’s time I write it out. I know there are probably some pieces I’ve forgotten and some feelings that have tempered with time. I also know that the reason I don’t talk about it very often and/or write about it is because she’s old enough now to understand the negativity of the story. I also feel bad talking about it when the result of that negative experience is a child I love dearly…isn’t it wrong to be sad or regretful about the experience? Of course not! I, of all people, know that. Yet I hesitate to tell the story.
I remember not getting much sleep starting about a week before my due date (May 29). By the time the 27th (my birthday) rolled around, I had been experiencing some of the more common pre-labor symptoms. I was having mild contractions. They were definitely there, but no pattern or pain had emerged by the late morning OB appointment.
While her hand was roughly maneuvering inside me, the OB told me that I most definitely was not in labor. My aunt, grandma and husband had all come to the office with me. As we prepared to leave, my aunt asked whether we should call if we wanted to “move things along”. The OB said that wouldn’t be necessary as she’d already stripped my membranes. I was angry at her complete disregard for the sanctity of MY body, but I wasn’t surprised. She openly regarded me as young and dumb.
I spent the day having various types of contractions. Sometimes they were intense and sometimes they were mild. They still had no trackable pattern, but they weren’t going away either. I tried to relax, but I was anxious to meet my baby and fearful of the unknown and the uncontrollable. So many emotions swirled around me that day. What if I wasn’t a good mom? I can have this baby! How can I have this baby? Will her dad and I be happier when she gets here? Will I be raising her by myself?
I wanted to believe in my body’s ability to give birth. I knew it was possible. I saw my mom do it. I saw her roar my brothers into this world like a warrior goddess. I knew many women who’d given birth triumphantly. I read Spiritual Midwifery at least a dozen times. I really “talked the talk”. On the other hand, I had spent the previous nine months in a stressful, unhappy relationship, surrounded daily by people who had a tendency to treat me as a leper, idiot, child or all three combined. My “care provider” undermined every thought I had about my baby and my body.
In the evening, I had birthday dinner with my in-laws. I came home to find my aunt reading a book on my porch. She’d heard the edge in my voice when we spoke earlier and thought I might need company. I did.
My next memory is of her massaging my legs. I’m not sure how long she did this, but I’m fairly certain it was several hours. As she kneaded the muscles, I felt her love for me and my baby seep through my skin. Her fingers must have been sore, but she was silent. At one point, there were three of us in the bed. L was asleep, then me, then my aunt squished between me and the wall.
Sometime in the middle of the night I decided it was time to go to the hospital. I was so tired. I felt like I had been going forever and was hoping I was getting close to the end. I still wasn’t in a lot of pain. I was, however, incredibly uncomfortable. When we got to the hospital, I was dismayed to hear my dilation was not really much further than it had been the previous morning when the OB checked. The nurse suggested I get something to “take the edge off” so I could get some sleep. I consented, thinking that if I could just sleep for a bit I would be able to do better. When she came back, she said the OB told her I wouldn’t want anything and not to give it to me. (I later found out she asked my aunt what I had done to be “punished” by this OB) The back and forth went on for what seemed like forever. Eventually, though, I was given some demerol. It worked for me, at least for a while. I slept in between contractions until they got to the point where I couldn’t. They started coming right on top of the other. I was scared. This was not how I thought it was going to be. Where were the breaks in between to let me catch my breath? Was it supposed to hurt this bad?
From this point on, the memories are little bits. I remember eating some carrots my aunt snuck in. I was sooo hungry! I wanted and need some food. I threw up those carrots, all over myself. The nurse walked in as soon as it happened and said “Who gave her food?!”. She was angry. I was confused as to why she would be angry….the mess was on me, not her.
I remember the OB coming in to “discuss” the epidural. I had requested it. I was caught off guard by the intensity of the never-ending contractions. The waves kept knocking me off my feet and I didn’t have time to even breathe before the next wave came. Was it supposed to be like this? I’m really having a baby…there’s no turning back now! She scowled at my tears. As I spoke out loud my fears…I’m not strong enough to do this without help (drugs), what if the baby’s not okay, how can I not be strong enough, I failed my child before she’s even born….she gruffly told me to get on with it. She knew I couldn’t do it. I felt her disgust with me, my desire to birth my baby without interventions, my fears.
The anesthesiologist came in. At first, he was gentle and consoling. He told me my baby would be okay and everything would be fine. Then he told me I had to curl in a ball and NOT MOVE. I was crying and shaking and moaning and hurting. It hurt so bad and all I wanted to do was move. Can I move yet? Please let me move. It hurts. And then, fuzzy clouds and sleepiness. But wait, the pain is still there. Oh no! It really hurts but I can’t seem to tell anyone. Everything is strange. I can’t think, I can’t speak, but I can FEEL THE PAIN. The waves are bowling me over still, but I don’t care. I fade in and out. People are telling me things, but I don’t really know what’s going on.
It’s time to push. There’s something on my face…I can’t really see what’s going on. Someone moves it around and I can see a little. I’m being yelled at to push. I say I am and she says I’m not doing it right. But I can’t feel myself pushing. I’m numb to any sensation except for pain. Pain is all I can feel. “PUSH!” “You have to PUSH!! You’re doing it wrong!” I see scissors. I hear lots of things. I don’t really understand what’s going on. I only know I’m woozy and not pushing right, I’m failing again and again.
And then I see her. She’s here. The most beautiful being I’ve ever seen. Everything else disappears. It’s just me and her. I know she wasn’t there the whole time. I know she was taken over to the other end of the room, but everything is a blur. There’s only her.
Searing pain. The OB is mashing down on my uterus. Her hand is inside of me. Why is her hand inside me?? Why is there so much pain now? My baby is here? Where is my baby? I see the look of disgust again. I hear something about birth control, needing to get up and walk, getting a shot.
And then I have her again. My sweet baby girl. Someone put a bow in her hair. I soak her in. I fall in love, again and again.
11 years later, I can’t imagine my life without my girl. She is the reason I became a mother, a doula, a someday-midwife. She is the reason I knew I could be a better person. She changed me and helped me find my place in the world.