A Dream, A Do Over

A week or so ago, I had a strange dream. In the dream, I went into labor. I then woke up in the dream, not having been aware of having gone to sleep or been anesthetized, and someone brought me a fat baby to hold. I was confused, because I didn’t remember having given birth to him and he looked odd to me. Odd because he seemed very big and very fat – full term, in other words. I understood he was my son, and felt very happy yet at the same time detached. I kept wanting to ask someone where my other one was – the other son. I knew though that they wouldn’t understand the question. So I began to breast feed and felt much love for the baby, tinged though by a feeling of emptiness.

The issues in the dream are obvious. The sense that a new birth – one with a happy ending – while something I very much want on its own terms, will also be something of a do over. Not everyone, I know, shares the latter feeling. It’s not a very admirable one, either. And of course it’s impossible. I will never shed the pain and emptiness left by Natan’s death. Yet I have to admit that I want to know that I can give birth safely. That I can have a healthy birth.

The other night I actually managed to go out with friends. One friend, who I’ve called Beecher before, mentioned that he has a friend who’s pregnant and will be having her baby “at home in a tub.” Another friend responded, “That’s so cool.” But the third friend said in shock, “Ew. How can that be safe?” Quickly though, Beecher and friend three looked at me rather horrified.* I just said, “It can be safe as long as everything goes well.” That’s stating the obvious, I suppose. I know this, practically. Most births are normal & interventions requiring the presence of oh, a perinatologist, are rarely needed.

Back to the at-home water birth. I’m sure if it all goes well for the family, it will be a “cool” experience. It’s my issue that it makes me feel inadequate to not even have the option of rejecting it. It would be immeasurably awesome to go into pregnancy, labor, and childbirth with the idea that it’s an experience to be designed according to personal preference. And to feel like I have a place at all in the narrative.**

If I go to term, I will be a “normal” birther in the technical sense. The doctors and anesthesiologists can handle the “red flag” on my file re: extreme reactions to medication, under calm birthing conditions. There’s absolutely no reason to think that without the extreme stress of preterm labor and a reaction to a tocolytic, the situation will be anything but that. Yet I don’t know that birth will ever be anything I can enjoy discussing.

I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something horribly wrong with me. I don’t want anymore fear, anymore pain, anymore panicky calls to doctors or drives to the hospital. More than anything, I just want November/December to get here and for this to be over, happily.


*No need to ream any of them for insensitivity. There were many beers gone between them and children/family life are still very outside their experience. Beecher finds all things womanly sort of incomprehensible and yucky (good thing he’s gay). I remember him pointing sort of speechlessly and mortified when a tampon fell out of my bag a few years ago – you’d have thought it was used.

**If anyone takes this as an opportunity to chime in on a “home” v. hospital birth debate, I’ll delete it instantly. I have no problem with being Orwellian. Take it elsewhere.

16 responses to “A Dream, A Do Over

  1. We all have our dreams. Some are achievable and some aren’t. I’m trying to categorize them into important and unimportant categories so that the disappointment will have some perspective (vaginal birth is not an option for me anymore with living babies).

    Without getting into the taboo debate, I personally hate the thought that the feeling of “normal” smacks of “right” and “wrong.” The “acceptable birth experience” seems to swing on a pendulum from one extreme to the other. But in the end, only WE can decide what matters to each of us…individually…without judgment. For me, the only thing that matters is a living baby. But that does not discount what someone else may wish for.

  2. Right, Catherine. I hate that feeling too – I just can never engage with it in conversation with most people. You’re right about the pendulum – and how poorly it acknowledges & welcomes diversity. How the healthy birth experience for me and you can involve different routes to the same goal. But that goal is where the focus should be.

  3. When I miscarried, the MW told me her inspiring story of a client who had two miscarriages then went on the to have two healthy boys AT HOME. It was her triumphant emphasis on those last words that just made me realize she isn’t for me. For her, the “at home” seemed to be the goal as much as the “two healthy boys.”

  4. In spite of my extremely preterm delivery of twins, my subsequent pregnancy was not viewed as terribly high risk. They went ahead and monitored me closely, just in case, but I often felt as though everyone was just pacifying me and didn’t really feel any concern. There was every reason to believe I could carry and deliver a singleton pregnancy uneventfully, and of course, I did. But, no matter how much that might have been true, I never felt “normal” during that entire pregnancy. I didn’t care if my loss was most likely an anomaly. I knew what it was like to be “abnormal”, I knew how quickly normalcy can turn on a dime, and I didn’t want that experience ever again. But, like you, I did not enjoy at all the feeling of being “abnormal.” I wanted to believe all of the positive things the doctors were telling me, but was afraid to.

    I wish I could give you the gift of feeling completely and totally ordinary and normal again. I really wish I could.

  5. Beruriah,

    I often feel that this is a do-over pregnancy as well. I also will never get over the pain of losing Jimmy. I hope you are successful in achieving your natural birth. I understand why you would want to feel “connected” to this birth. And if I had those re-actions to meds, I probably wouldn’t want them either. A friend of a friend is doing a home-birth. I hope everything works out for her, but I worry for her. I’d love to do that, but given my loss, I don’t think it would ever be an option for me.

  6. I think that for many women, even those who have relatively “good” births, each subsequent birth is a “do-over” situation. So this makes a lot of sense to me. I know that my second birth was a healing opportunity for my previous cesarean birth.

    I think that you are making great decisions that will enable you to birth in the manner and place of your choosing and I think THAT is a great birth. And that’s what I wish for you — a great birth and lots of peace and love with your little baby.

  7. I’ve never commented before but our stories share many similarities. My son F was born at 24 weeks due to IC. He passed away after two weeks in the NICU. I did have a successful cerclage pregnancy later on – fraught with emotional trauma; it did end happily with a full term delivery. I won’t go into birth stories, but I did want to say that my unmedicated 37 week delivery was less painful and so much easier than at 24 weeks on mag sulfate. All the time, the stretching of ligaments and tissues, it makes a huge difference. I thought having a “large” (read: not 1.5 lb.) baby would be excruciating and dreaded the pain, but it was entirely different. While pregnant with #2, I had friends and family assume that I would opt for a c-section, which I never wanted or considered. I did want a “do over” in that sense – I wanted to experience birth the way it was supposed to be with F, and have my husband there for it (he was in the car 100 miles away when I delivered F). We ended up getting the ideal birthing experience, and I was able to savor it, for which I am exceedingly grateful. And I felt like it redeemed my body’s failures by actually performing properly. Anyway, I feel like I could say quite a bit more in agreement to your post, because I felt a lot of those things too, but I should wrap it up. I will hope for you that you get to have the ideal experience, and I wish you the best.

  8. It’s okay to want more. Wanting a healthy baby and a good experience is perfectly legitimate, and frankly ALWAYS possible. It drives me crazy when doctors and on-lookers act like it’s a zero-sum game, and that all good things in life can only be obtained by suffering and terror.

    There is this strange idea out there that c-sections are safer, for example. But in reality, evidence shows that it’s not true. C-sections are only safe when medically needed. Can they be needed? Absolutely! But that doesn’t make them good for every single mom and baby. Same with most interventions.

    A c-section or a vaginal birth can be a gentle and calm experiences, it’s not the medical procedures that matter, it’s the attitude of the professionals around them. My fave hospital tries to do that, because they know that many patients can be traumatized by things like bright lights and anger, yelling, noise and unnecessary medical interventions, or in fact just being in the presence of a stressed out doctor, midwife or nurse.

    Talk to your doctor and ask for what you want, but make it clear that you want everyone around you to try and be gentle with you and Josh. Even in an emergency c-section, it can be done.

    As for the epidural, I’m just going to say that the way an epidural works is dramatically different than a general or a local. I have anesthesia issues as well, but I’ve never had a problem with an epidural. ask for a consult with the anesthesia department. They can review your records and make a plan just in case. There are several different types of epidurals and medications used. One might be better than the other. Or you might find out that every one of them is safe for you.

  9. Thanks all. I hope my choices will result in a happier experience.

    It’s interesting. I’ve now heard multiple times that delivering preterm was more much painful and difficult physically than a full-term birth. That’s definitely reassuring. Dr. K has suggested something similar before, but I thought she was just referring to the emotional aspects and also trying to boost my confidence.

    I’m so sorry, MeganC, to hear about your son. But I’m so glad your subsequent pregnancy was successful. Thank you for sharing – it always helps to know I’m not alone, and especially to hear that similar stories can have, well, there’s no totally happy ending now, but at least a happier one than I imagined possible months ago.

    Aurelia, At some point, I think, we are supposed to have a consult with the anesthesia department. I haven’t thought about when to do that since it’s so against my week-to-week plan, but I guess we’re getting there…..

  10. That is true about delivering preterm. Nicolas was 34 weeks and even that was much more painful than 37-38.

    I had an unmedicated vaginal (hospital) birth with Chloe, so it is certainly possible after loss. I do suggest some kind of birthing technique for handling the pain — i can lend you my Bradley book if you like. Classes are difficult to deal with obviously but you should think about something.

  11. Ack – I need to work.

    I guess the body does to lots to prepare in those last weeks. I have a Bradley book, but I can’t do the squatting exercises to prepare. Do you think it would help otherwise? And yeah, definitely no classes. A friend of ours who lost a son – but just had another baby last week! – attended just one class and found it miserable. Even though the teacher knew her experience, she didn’t do anything to acknowledge or help her and I’m just too frightened to encounter that.

  12. In some ways, my case is different because I did have an unmedicated full term birth with Monkey. With A, I opted for drugs specifically because it was an induction and I had no idea how long or grueling it was going to turn out to be, and I wanted my head with me when he was born, since I knew I would only get that little bit of time with him. What I found out is that once I get to 4cm, it’s birthing express from there to delivery regardless of how the labor started, so unless I will be needing a c-section, I now know that I don’t need drugs. The full-term birth thing is not too bad. I found that sitting on that birthing ball helped me a lot, but, of course, YMMV. I think if you feel calm and in control it will already be a lot better.
    I don’t yet know how a subsequent pregnancy feels, but I do imagine your dream is a natural thing– our children are not replaceable and we want them all, always.

  13. I keep thinking that, if I’m lucky enough to get there, that none of these issues surrounding the birth will arise for me, since I won’t be the one making the choices. After reading the post and the comments, I feel a little better about that.

  14. Oh, they have individual classes for some parents, like just you and Josh and the teacher/doula. Ask your OB, they may be covered by your insurance in light of the situation. (And some hospitals provide this for free or very cheap for pregnancies after loss.)

    And yes, I know that you are taking it week to week, but just like having conversations about how to handle the birth, c-section vs. vaginal, this about your health, not your emotions. Go see anaesthesia, just in case, please.

  15. Oh my gosh, so much to think about here. Everyone has really great suggestions and because I have never really thought about this, I’m afraid I can’t offer even a glimmer of insight!

    I think I’ll come back and read this over in a few weeks time (or months, hopefully).

  16. Well Niobe I’m glad my blogging about my experience is helping someone besides myself!

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