Reflections on Motherhood and Life as a Doula

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Breastfeeding Guilt

Stephen was 15 months old when I found out I was pregnant with Delaney.  I was hoping to nurse Stephen until he was 2 years old.  When I did the math, and found out that Delaney was due just after Stephen's second birthday, I was concerned that I would have to deal with jealousy issues over the breast if Stephen was still nursing.  I always loved the idea of tandem nursing, but now that it could possibly happen, I was scared.  I was also stuck in a mindset that children shouldn't nurse past the age of two.

I shared my concern with my CNM at the time, and she agreed with me.  I was four months pregnant, my breasts felt like someone was stabbing me with a knife every time Stephen latched on, and there wasn't much time to wean him before the baby was here.  Our CNM suggested we get started on the process immediately.  She told us to switch up our bedtime routine - my husband, Mike, would put Stephen to bed instead of myself.  As my husband brought him into his bedroom, I sat out on the sofa, crying my eyes out and waiting to hear Stephen's cries.  They never came.  He went right to sleep.  And he slept good.  The next morning, he never asked for milk. 

Everyone was very happy about the successful weaning.  "He obviously was ready", was the common remark.  I wasn't ready.  It broke my heart that he so easily moved on without me.  I felt helpless and pathetic.

I learned to enjoy my new found freedom.  My body was entirely mine (if you don't count the baby growing in my belly) for a few months. 

Delaney was born and we began an amazing breastfeeding relationship within the first twenty minutes of her life.  I thought to myself that if Stephen were to ask for milk, that I would let him try it.  But now that she was here, he looked so big and so old.  He asked for milk - multiple times - and I said no.  The look on his face was heartbreaking.

Now, six weeks later, my hormones have settled (kinda) and I regret telling him no.  I know it is selfish, but I didn't get any closure with our breastfeeding relationship.  Now all I want him to do is ask for milk.  I'll be okay if he tries it and doesn't want anymore. 

But he doesn't ask anymore.  And it breaks my heart.

I want my babies to be babies forever.  I want to nurse my babies forever - it is the only part of mothering that I know I am doing right.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Birth knowledge: Generational Differences?

My mother had one vaginal birth (with a spinal) and two cesareans.  She has admitted multiple times that she never had a clue about what was happening to her body.  I'm pretty sure she falls underneath the category of women who didn't know where the babies came out until her first one actually came out.  If she had a cesarean for all three, I'm pretty sure she still wouldn't know where they come out of.  My mom's second pregnancy ended very quickly.  At about 26 weeks along, she started to cramp really bad.  She went to the bathroom and thought she had grown a penis.  She was delivering the umbilical cord - prolapse cord.  It is an absolute miracle that my brother survived, starting his life out at 2lb 2oz.  That experience for her was a TRUE emergency cesarean section.  Along comes me.  I was surprised to hear that her doctor "let" her labor with me.  After a long labor and slow dilation, he offered to let her continue or she could consent to another cesarean.  She took the cesarean.

My mom agrees that the recovery from a cesarean sucks.  She knows how much harder it is to care for a newborn when you are healing from a massive wound.  But my mom doesn't get why anyone would have to heal from a cesarean emotionally.  She liked it in comparison to her vaginal birth with my sister. 

Why do I know so many women from my mom's generation who have no regrets about their overly medical births, but just about every woman I know who has had a c-section from my generation, struggles to heal their hearts and minds and feels guilty about their children's violent births.  I know I feel this way.  What's the difference? 

My mom asked me the other day why my cesarean was such a big deal.  How do you answer a question like that? 
My hormonal blueprint was completely interrupted.  I have been taught what a woman's body was created to do, and then in so many words, I was told that my body had failed.  I watched my son enter the world, treated in an inhumane way, with horrible violence. 
How is this not a big deal?  Who can walk away from this feeling satisfied?
I explained to my mom how the smallest intervention interrupts nature's process.  I talked about what I had hoped for, what my dreams were. 
As I spoke of what I understood birth to be, my mom explained her lack of information she had going into being a mom.  She didn't ask questions, and no one offered her answers. 

I don't understand how someone can go through a pregnancy so clueless, and yet be so instinctual after giving birth (she breastfed and coslept).

Now that I have had my homebirth experience and my mom see's what an impact it has had on all of our lives emotionally and physically, I think she is starting to feel like maybe she missed out on something when she had her kids.  I feel very sad for her, but I love that she is becoming an advocate of homebirth just from watching her daughters do it. 

What will it take to get women to start asking questions?  Stop asking the doctors, but asking powerful women with positive experiences!  Women need to be confident and instinctual and we need to help them get there. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Comparing Births - Part 2 - Delaney's Entrance

I had planned to go with the same group of midwives when I found out I was pregnant again.  I had ordered all of my medical records to find out exactly what had happened during my cesarean section because I really wanted a homebirth, but Mike did not seem like he was on board.  For the first six months I went to my original midwife for prenatal appointments and walked away disappointed every time.  The odds of me having a successful VBAC were not good enough in my eyes.  I wanted to give my body the best chance at delivering vaginally and naturally. 

My second to last appointment with my midwife, I confessed that my heart was truly set on a homebirth.  She got very quiet and told me that she is not allowed to support me in that decision, but that she personally believed that it would be the safest, best option for me if I wanted to birth vaginally.  She gave me the name and number of a woman named Trisha who had had a similar first birth experience and went on to have a VBAC at home with her second child.  She told me that if I was going to choose homebirth, that I wasn't allowed to tell her because she would have to put it in her records and then she would no longer be able to see me.  I called Trisha and she was very reassuring that I was making the right decision.  She gave me the name and number of her midwife - who was also the midwife my sister used.  My next step was to talk to Mike and see if I could change his mind about the location of the birth.

When I sat down with Mike to tell him how I had been feeling, he seemed very supportive.  His biggest concerns were that we had a back up plan if there were any problems, and that the midwife had the "right" answers to his questions.  I called Pam, the midwife, and we scheduled a consultation with her.  I remember pulling up the driveway to her beautiful home and walking up the pathway to her front door.  An immediate peacefulness came over me and my thoughts.  I didn't even have to see her to know that it was meant to be.  She answered the door and greeted us with such warmth and love.  Mike and I sat down on her sofa and began to discuss our history and what we hoped for, for the future.  I asked about her "statistics" and results of the births she had done.  She was very honest and informed.  As the meeting went on, I noticed that Mike was not asking any questions.  I was concerned that he was not interested in hiring her as our caretaker.  She left the room at one point to get some paperwork for us, and I took advantage of our alone time and asked Mike why he hadn't drilled her with his questions.  He told me that the moment he walked in, he knew he trusted her and that she would be the one.  I was so relieved and so very happy that she agreed to take us on as clients.

I enjoyed just about every aspect of my pregnancy.  I was enjoying it as a process and not just an end result.  We took birth classes with Trisha and learned everything we could about the spiritual and emotional side of birth.  Everything was so different than when I was pregnant with Stephen.  I felt powerful and beautiful!  As our due date came closer, I became more and more excited about what our experience would be like, but I never wished my baby out.  I was so happy and comfortable being pregnant - even as our due date came and went. 

Five days past our EDD, Mike and I put Stephen to bed and sat down to watch some TV before we went to bed for the night.  I stood up to go to the bathroom at one point, and felt a small gush of warm fluid between my legs.  It had begun!  My water had broken!  We stayed very calm this time and began to pull out our birth supplies and such in preparation for the delivery.  After I caught my breath and got over the initial excitement, I called Pam to let her know that the waters had broken.  I went to bed right after to make sure I would get the best rest possible.  Contractions began almost immediately, but were weak and far apart.  Throughout the night I would wake up with some really strong ones, but they were few and far between.

The next day, Mike and I ran up to the store to stock the fridge with food and drinks for labor, and food for after the delivery.  We went to the Perry Family Restaurant for lunch and were just enjoying our day together as a family.  My contractions had died down quite a bit.  They were pretty weak coming about every 10-15 minutes.  Later that day, my friend drove out to be with me.  I had asked her earlier on in the pregnancy if she wanted to be present at the birth and take pictures for us.  I was so happy when she agreed because I knew she would act as our doula.  After she arrived, the contractions started to get stronger and remained around 10 minutes apart.  We spent the evening having good conversation and took some time to hike the baby out down by the river.  I notified Pam that night of my "little" progress and went to bed.  Once again, throughout the night I was woken by really strong contractions.  About 4am, I got out of bed because I could no longer sleep.  Contractions were getting stronger and were coming about 6 minutes apart at this point.  Throughout the day they remained the same.  Pam called in the morning to make sure we were going to be home, because she wanted to come out and check on the baby and me.  Mike and I decided to take Stephen to his Grandma's house - she had air conditioning and our house was melting us - and stop out at Target to pick up a broom (don't ask, I was nesting like crazy) and another fan for the house before Pam got to our house.  The contractions were horrible to have in the car and I had a few good ones while out in public.  They were getting so strong that I was starting to get really vocal with each one.  After our trip, Pam got to our house and I remember getting nervous.  I was afraid to have a contraction in front of her because I thought that I was doing it wrong or maybe I wasn't even feeling real contractions.  I was really embarrassed.  Because of my emotional change, my labor slowed down and contractions became week and were coming really far apart.  We had an unexpected visitor shortly after Pam arrived and I was disgusted and angry that he would randomly stop over without calling, knowing that I was in labor.  My husband told him that it wasn't a good time, and he proceeded to pace our front porch, talking on his cell phone and smoking cigarettes.  My labor completely stopped and I felt like a wolf protecting my birth space.  I felt my face turn red with fury and I was ready to attack.  Luckily my husband stepped in before I did and made him leave.  I could not get my labor going again and I was so exhausted.  Pam offered me an herbal supplement to help me get some rest.  She told me to take the herbs, drink a beer and go to bed.  I went outside and drank a beer after taking the herbs.  I went right to bed and fell asleep immediately.  Twenty minutes later I awoke with an incredibly strong contraction and it lasted so long.  I fell back to sleep and woke up another twenty minutes later with the same sensation.  I tried to lay down again, but they suddenly came on fast and strong.  I was growling and rocking back and forth with each one.  Mike called Pam to let her know and said we would call when they got closer together.  About five minutes after that phone call, he called her back again to let her know it was time.

I got in the shower to see if the water would help ease the pain.  I thought it had slowed the labor, so I turned off the water and was hit with an even stronger one.  I tried sitting on the toilet to help move the baby down and thought that I would never be able to get off the toilet.  They were coming one after another with hardly any break in between.  Finally, Mike was able to pull me off of the toilet and I made my way into the bedroom.  I kneeled on the floor and leaned on the bed for each contraction.  I started to panic.  The sensations were so intense that I was sure I wouldn't be able to go on.  At certain points I thought I was dying.  Nobody could say anything to calm me down.  I kept repeating the advise my sister had given - "Relax.  It won't make the pain go away, but it will make it go faster.  Just ride each wave."  Pam got to the house and put her hand on my back and suddenly I knew everything would be okay.

All of a sudden, it happened.  I felt myself open up completely and felt my baby move down inside my body.  I know I screamed because it hurt more than anything, but it was AMAZING to feel my baby moving down inside of me.  Immediately I felt the urge to push.  Pam coerced me into getting onto the bed.  She threw my yoga ball underneath me and I started pushing.  The ball was perfect for resting on and perfect for rocking into each push.  I hated pushing at first.  I kept yelling that I couldn't do it.  Pam told me to stop saying I can't, and to say "I can".  I truly didn't believe that I could do it, so instead I started to tell the baby that "you can do this".  Eventually it became "we can do this".  I knew at that moment we were going to do it together.  Even though the contractions were painful and it was the hardest work ever, pushing became pleasurable and I enjoyed pushing her down further and further. 

It came to the point where I finally understood why everyone called it the ring of fire.  I felt her crown and I wanted so badly to push her out so hard and fast to get rid of the burning.  Pam did everything she could to make me hold it so I wouldn't tear - especially because I had already had the episiotomy with my first birth.  She finally gave me the okay to "grunt" her out.  I felt her head come out and very soon after, felt the rest of the body slide out with ease.  Immediately a baby was passed between my legs and looking right up at me with the healthiest cry ever.  I picked her up without even checking the sex and placed her to my chest.  I laid there for a while, admiring this amazing being that I just gave birth to.  Finally my mother in law asked what the sex was.  I was so sure she was a boy, but I picked up the towel and saw that I had been wrong all along.  It was such a joyous moment.

I waited very patiently for Delaney's placenta to come out.  I was very interested and amazed by this organ and was excited to finally see what kept my beautiful baby girl alive.  We kept the cord attatched for a few hours until I was comfortable with separating her from her lifesource.  Mike ceremoniously cut the cord. 

Pam treated me like a goddess.  I handed Delaney to Mike and she put me in the shower to clean up.  When I got out, she dried me off and helped me dress.  I didn't have to lift a finger.  Once I was comfortable and back in bed, she weighed and measured Delaney right in front of us and immediately handed her back so I could continue nursing.  My house was put back together and if I hadn't been there for the birth, I would've never known it had happened. 

What a beautiful thing; to push out a baby and roll over and be in your own bed.  We went to sleep as a family and woke up as a family.  It was Perfect.