Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Facing My Fears

As I approach my third and final trimester of this pregnancy, I find myself full of trepidation.
 I don't want week 27 to come. I don't want to admit that I am creeping toward the finish line. I don't feel prepared--in a number of ways!! Is this sounding familiar to anyone else?? I don't fear home birth, labor, contraction/rushes/waves, pushing, birth, breastfeeding, etc. but I am full of trepidation, nonetheless. I have explored myself and prayed long and hard about these feelings, asking God why I feel such reluctance to enter the final stages of pregnancy when I welcomed it with my oldest children. Finally, I have come to the realization that I fear my previous births and the person I was during the time surrounding them. 

I will begin by saying that I in no way mean to scare or frighten people. I know that my story is an unusual one, although there are plenty of women out there who have similar tales to tell. 

When I carried my oldest daughter, I was young and naive. I put full trust in my doctor and the stupid critically-acclaimed book they handed me at my doctor's office. I did no research of my own and allowed myself to be fully consumed with planning for what we would need/want for her once she had already arrived, rather than finding balance and planning for our journey in her arrival, as well. I knew that I wanted a natural birth and informed my doctor of this on our first visit. She wasn't pleased in the least. My husband supported me fully, but he was pretty much the extent of my support. My entire pregnancy, people would do what they could to convince me that I could not handle the pain of childbirth and that I *needed* the epidural. My resolve was strong until I started experiencing prodromal labor. I had no idea what prodromal labor was and merely thought that my body just couldn't or wouldn't labor correctly. I was tired. I was uninformed. I was emotional. After an especially long and frustrating bout of prodromal labor, I told my husband that I wanted our doctor to induce me, that my body was failing me. I was still two weeks from my estimated due date. A few days later at our appointment, the first words out of my doctor's mouth were, "You look exhausted. Let's induce you and get this over with." Those words sounded like relief at the time, but they would cause a downward spiral. 
A few days later, we excitedly arrived at the hospital, still determined that I would birth with no pain medication. I was given pitocin and AROM (artificial rupture of membranes) immediately upon arrival. I was treated very roughly and inhumanely, almost six years later, I still suffer pain in my right wrist from the violent way in which my iv was inserted. I was told that I would not be allowed to walk around, that I was not allowed to be in any position but laying almost flat on my back, and that I was expected to urinate *ON MYSELF*, rather than being permitted to use the restroom like a normal person would. My pregnancy was extremely low risk and both my daughter's and my vitals looked FANTASTIC on the monitors. There was no reason for this sort of treatment. After about six hours (?) I started to experience a great deal of back pain in relation to both baby's position and a previous tailbone injury. The nurses took advantage of this and pushed me from a sitting position (which was providing minor relief) to the reclined position again and pushing pain medication on me. I started to cave. I asked what my options were other than the dreaded epidural and was told that my only option was Staydol. I asked if it was like Demerol, stating that I would *NOT* allow the administration of a narcotic into my or my baby's bodies. I was lied to and told that it was NOTHING like Demerol and not a narcotic at all. For fifteen minutes it was bliss, I laughed hysterically over everything and nothing at all. After that was a nightmare. I experienced what I later learned is an allergic reaction and became so sleepy and lethargic that I could not remember to breathe. My terrified husband had to remind me to "breathe in, breathe out". Not once did a nurse come in to observe me, even when he alerted them of the situation. We were simply informed that it would wear off. Once I drew near transition, I was still experiencing some of the ill-effects of the Staydol and would black out entirely during a contraction. I begged for the epidural and my husband was relieved. This was not the labor we had expected, but we were too uninformed to realize that this was *NOT* how birth should be. Per protocol, my husband was made to leave the room while I got the epidural and all I could do was sob into the nurse's shoulder. She and the anesthesiologist were The ONLY kind souls that we experienced during labor and delivery and I only saw them once. I was a mess. My husband, my best friend, my rock was not in the room when I was facing one of my biggest fears. I was terrified. The epidural took effect and I wanted to try to sleep a little...they upped my pitocin above the legal limit. I don't know what the numbers were, I just remember someone saying that in hushed tones. I rocketed from five centimeters to ten in less than two hours and was forced almost flat on my back again so I could "push effectively". I was not elated or excited, I was almost entirely numb and was falling asleep during contractions from the sheer exhaustion. After about forty-five minutes of pushing, my doctor gave me an episiotomy. Then a second one. Kirsten was born screaming and perfect at 11:37 pm. I was never told her APGAR scores, but I am sure they were both nines or tens. She pinked up almost instantly and didn't stop screaming until her father spoke to her while she rested on my chest. She moved easily and with strength, a very healthy girl. Our doctor did not abide our wishes to allow her umbilical cord to stop pulsating before clamping and cutting, she clamped it even before placing Kirsten on my chest. After a few moments, the awful nurse put Kirsten in the warmer because I "had to deliver the placenta". But I was not given the chance to be natural there, either. No. My doctor forcibly *PULLED* the placenta from my uterus. I could not feel my extremities in the slightest, but that felt like someone had a blow torch inside of me. Family was ushered in and my baby was passed around. Then she was escorted to the nursery for a bath before I was allowed to nurse her. My husband was not permitted to accompany her. Their reason for both? It was "too late at night". We were taken to recovery, but the nurse threw a fit because I could not move myself into the next bed. I still couldn't feel anything and they mentioned that I had lost "a lot" of blood, but I was never told how much. My husband was made to leave the hospital, as we were given the only shared room in the maternity ward. Again, I was left without my rock, but what he witnessed was worse. He promised to check on Kirsten in the nursery on his way out and was denied access to her because a nurse was screaming about a baby being blue. As the door was shoved closed in his face, he saw that it was *OUR* baby. He drove home exhausted and terrified, alone to pray until the next morning. 
At 4:30am, I was woken up by a gruff nurse who demanded that I use the restroom. My legs and feet were still barely functional and I was very dizzy. She left me on the toilet and the last thing I remember is blood clots leaving my body and blood flowing freely into the toilet bowl as I looked at that string that is labeled "pull in the case of emergency". I must have pulled it. I awoke slumped against the wall with a kind nurse patting my hand and telling me that I had been passed out for more than ten minutes. There were four other nurses with her. She helped me gently back to my bed and I began to inquire about my child. She suggested as she tucked me in that we call the nursery, so she dialed the number and handed me the phone. I was informed that my baby "stopped breathing for a bit, but is fine now".  **WHAT?!?!?!** I started to bawl as the nursery nurse told me that I could not see her and they didn't know when I could, then proceeded to hang up. I don't remember the kind nurse leaving, I just remember praying as I drifted in and out of consciousness for the rest of the night, feeling helpless and alone. At 7:30am, I called my husband bawling my eyes out and begging him to come immediately, describing the situation with our baby. He jumped into the shower and headed straight over. As I hung up the phone, a nurse came in with a bassinet. She told me that she had my baby. I teared up again, saying that I had been told that my baby wasn't able to leave the nursery. She took the baby out of the bassinet and began handing it to me without checking our wristband numbers or asking me the "password" of the day. She told me that she didn't see why not, he was hungry. *HE?!* I drew my outstretched arms back and told her that I had a *girl*. She asked if I was sure. I said that I was VERY sure and she replaced the baby in the bassinet, hurrying from the room. I laid against my pillow and prayed for that poor baby and his mama, that his nurse would check wristbands before delivering Ny more babies to their parents! When my husband came, my nurse told us that I was too weak to go to the nursery, but my husband could visit her. He brought back pictures. I was allowed to visit her when she was 12 hours old. I sat on a pillow in a wheelchair and he took me to the nursery. She had iv's and was hooked up to monitors, I was allowed to touch her foot. After a few minutes with her, I started blacking out and had to be taken back to my bed. Four hours later, they brought  her to me and I was allowed to Breastfeed for the first time. She was sixteen hours old. Things began to improve from this point, but it was never a pleasant experience and we had to stay for four days. We were never told details of her "episode", or given a diagnosis. They behaved as if it never happened. It has taken me almost six years to realize that my experience was an abusive one. I pray that it was unusual, but I know that there are lots of women like me who have similar stories. Gradually, I came to realize that birth could be different and knew that the birth of our second child almost four years later would be different indeed. 

To be continued...

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