Wednesday, August 17, 2016

My Birth Testimony: A TOLAC Success Story - Part 1

NOTE: If you are currently expecting your first baby, you may want to use caution in proceeding with reading this. Just because I had a traumatic experience with my first birth does not mean you want to hear about it in this season of your life!

Did I have a second c-section? 

Was my TOLAC (Trial of Labor After Cesarean) successful? 

The two are not mutually exclusive. 

After my second birth, my doula pointed me to the Surrender Birth website. She encouraged me to write a birth testimony. 

Thing is, my birth testimony starts about three years ago, when we were newly pregnant with #1...

Birth #1 and My Heart

We found out we were pregnant with our little Poppyseed in May 2013. Hooray! 

Like many women, I started excitedly making plans. I figured I should probably get in to see a doctor soon, so I asked a few friends for recommendations and picked an OB who seemed good and was in my network. 

In retrospect, I wish I'd taken a lot more time to choose the right provider for me and my birth. Many OB's in the United States today are simply do not have the same birth philosophy I do. Or, perhaps a better way to say it is that most are in a different place on the natural birth/medical intervention spectrum than where I'm at on the spectrum. 

But I didn't know. I didn't know that provider and place make a HUGE difference in your birth experience.

Or I underestimated how important it would be to me to have a positive birth experience.

Or perhaps it was simply that I wasn't used to how very medical everything is when you are at the hospital... I just wasn't prepared for IV's, BP cuffs going every 15 minutes, nurses coming an and out every time I closed my eyes to rest...

There's so much more I could say than the following, but the story of birth #1 is as follows:

I had a very traumatic birth experience. I had wanted a completely natural, unmedicated, vaginal birth. Unfortunately, this dream of a natural birth was shattered. 

Worse, I did not often feel respected, valued, or genuinely cared for as a patient during my six days at the hospital. I truly believe that no one person, but rather the system in place, is at fault for this outcome.

After my water broke on January 27, 2014, we headed straight to the hospital to be induced (as instructed). After about 9-10 hours of laboring this way (which included sweet moments of God bringing Scripture to mind as I labored), I opted for an epidural (those nasty Pitocin contractions!). Around 36 hours after my water had broken, they told me I had been at 7cm for several hours. They thought I should have a c-section because "things weren't progressing." 

So I did what they said. Because I figured it's probably best to listen to the doctor. I didn't know there were other equally safe options. 

I hadn't written an "in case of c-section" birth plan. Because I didn't know there are different ways to do c-sections. They didn't cover that in the hospital birth class.

And I sobbed the whole way to the operating room.

Laying, cold, on a hard operating table.

In a fog, spiraling amidst bustling.

Then, baby cries!

No one said "It's a girl!" I had to ask. And ask. And ask. Repeatedly.

No snuggles.

No celebrating.

Just a brief glance.

And then whisking my baby away.

Then waiting over an hour before I got to see my husband or by baby.

In the following days...

Nurses waltzing into the bathroom talking on the phone while I'm peeing and would like privacy.

People making me look at paperwork while I'm attempting to nurse and bond with my new daughter.

Nurses asking me, without explanation to breathe into an incentive spirometer while I'm trying to talk with my doctor.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime event I'll remember all my life. 

And for them, it seems just another day in the grind. 
And I sobbed a lot for a long time afterward.

That week in the hospital was the most traumatic experience of my life. I wrote this to a friend about a month later. It gives a pretty accurate picture of how things were for me in the early days after that experience:
It's been a lot to process, because labor and delivery did not go at all how I wanted. I was writing in my journal the other day everything I could remember from my time there, and I realized that I'm angry, because I hardly remember what it was like to hold and feed my baby for the first time. And just the way things are run at hospitals, I felt like I couldn't just be together with my family and enjoy bonding with our new baby.
She really felt like a stranger at first. Our second night at home, I remember sitting on my husband's lap and just sobbing that I just wanted her to go away because she was an intruder and I just wanted to watch a movie with my husband and then go to bed and sleep all night like we'd always done. And then I felt like a terrible mother for thinking such terrible things about my baby.

But things have gotten better now. There was one day that I realized that, since I'm not just doing motherhood for my husband or for my daughter or for myself, but because it is what God has called me to do... that made it easier to do. I don't know if I could have the strength for it otherwise.
It's still hard sometimes. I'm actually sick with sinus stuff right now, so I'm really hoping the baby doesn't catch it. Yay for antibodies in breast milk :) Today was a hard day because my head hurt so much and was all in a fog, so I was not a very attentive mommy... but there was one sweet, cherishable moment when I looked at JM and said, "Sorry I'm being a lame mommy today, sweetie." And she looked at me and gave a big smile :) I'm really glad that happened today in particular.

Grieving it took a long time. I joined the local ICAN chapter. I realized I'm not the only one who has had a disappointing birth experience. I wrote letters to some of the doctors and nurses who were there for my labor and delivery. I met many friends who were grieving their births, too. And when I talked with them, they understood: I needed permission to grieve.

"You should be happy! You have a healthy baby!" Many say.

I may have a healthy baby. But that does not mean I don't have a loss to grieve.

Birth is something inherently part of who a woman is. 

This is something I'm supposed to be able to do! 

This is something women just do.

Why can't I?

I fought bitterness, anger, and feelings of failure for a long time.

I still do, a little bit.

(In retrospect, I've come to realize that I also may have had postpartum depression. I know now that PPD is more common after c-sections and is more common than you might think).


to be continued....  

(and don't worry; the story gets much happier from here — read Part 2 here)

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