Monthly Archives: May 2012

the unfettered ability to lie

So a colleague who’s not my favorite of the bunch asked me at a lunch today how I’d been feeling. I said, “Fine.” He said, “Really? Was your other pregnancy easy too?” Noting in my head that I’d said I felt fine, not that anything was easy, I continued, “Oh you know, it was a pregnancy, it was fine.” He said, “Well, you know not all women have easy pregnancies. For some it’s hard.” I said, “Yeah, I know,” and picked up my water glass and said something to someone else. Should I have revealed more? Should I have identified myself with these other nameless “not all women.” He has a wife and two adult children, perhaps she’s one of them. But I didn’t feel like it.

Something I’ve learned over the past five years–I don’t have to out myself among everyone everywhere. I can keep my shell on when and where and with whom I want to and that’s okay. Sometimes I tell a random stranger we have a dead child. Sometimes I tell them I’ve spent a year and a half of my life essentially alone looking at ceilings and/or computer screens. Sometimes I don’t. If he brings it up again, I’m going to look him in the eyes and tell him, “If at the end of the pregnancy, both the baby and I are alive, I call that a good one.”

Someone else might tell him I’ve been on partial bed rest all semester. It might come up. And then I suppose he’ll wonder why I didn’t tell him. And I don’t care at all.

the endgame: birth “choices”

So I suppose I am 36 weeks today. I am not cheerful. I’m hot and anxious and my belly has been itching something terrible. Really terribly. I’ve tried every solution, and they help temporarily but the second I get a little warm, the itching starts again. Argh. Stupid sensitive dry skin.

I remember from last time that these weeks were tough. Although I am ostensibly a normal pregnant woman now that we’re approaching term, I know too much about what can happen to really relax. That’s the minus part of the pluses and minuses to having blogged extensively during my pregnancy with Samuel. Back then, I knew bloggers who’d experienced every variety of infant death and pregnancy loss, and sometimes had multiple seemingly unrelated heartbreaks. And since I’ve been gifted again with an anterior placenta, kick counting is not a fulfilling endeavor.

Assuming we make it to the birth day without tragedy and mishap, I’ve been thinking about delivery. Last time with Samuel was so healing in so many ways. With no complications other than it taking FOREVER, and the need for a short burst of pitocin (which was my choice after contractions stalled and I began to have some intense anxiety), I had what I look back on as a pretty simple, easy and joyful experience. We worked with a supportive hospital and nursing staff and a doctor I trusted in Michigan. None of them rushed me or really displayed any of the traits I hear about from critics of hospital birth.

I’ve chosen the best doctor I can in town, but the hospital policies and culture make me nervous. I’ve heard, for example, multiple times that the hospital does not want women to walk around after their water breaks. I also know the hospital has a high c-section rate. I intend to talk to my doctor about this this week–I know I should have done it earlier. But frankly, I cannot talk normal labor before such a thing seems possible.  Cannot do it. I am very efficient and confident in discussing options for preventing pre-term labor at any point, but have to hold onto this one until the end. Now, a living baby is our priority, clearly. Yet I would seriously like to avoid a c-section. I also want to avoid an epidural, because I am at risk for complications with it because of my platelet issues–not a large risk but one nonetheless. I certainly feel it wasn’t random that I had a spinal headache after my cerclage (which involved a spinal block). I am also afraid that whereas using pitocin last time didn’t turn into a slippery slope of interventions, that it won’t work the same this time, in this place.

I have a hell of a time, however, communicating with people here before I’ve had many interactions with them, and there’s no guarantee I’ll have my OB with me at delivery. Part of me thinks, I’m a rather good advocate for myself and no one’s going to TIE me to a bed if I don’t want to lay down. But then another part of me thinks, I had to YELL at the nurses and hand the phone to my husband to get attention for my headache. So when my “Yankee” self shows up in the hospital, I really hope we get a genuinely nice and not fake-nice paternalistic group of nurses and doctors who will listen to me.

With this in mind, I bought a book recently. It’s called Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds, by Cynthia Gabriel. I was excited that it was written by a doula from Ann Arbor, because of the connection. The book has some good strategies, but as so often happens when I read and talk about birth, I felt marginalized. She describes the many reasons a woman hoping for an unmedicated child birth can end up having a c-section. As part of this discussion, she includes “previous trauma” as a contributing factor (and all the obvious medical and physical complications). I entirely believe that. I massively panicked during my labor with Samuel. Although my reason steps in here and says–I more than massively panicked with Natan and that didn’t stop a thing. Of course, in that situation no doctors were eager to get things moving.

Anyway with Samuel, we got it under control pretty quickly, but I worry that my reduced faith in the nurses and hospital here are going to be a factor. What bothered me in this book though, were the types of trauma she listed: disappointment in earlier labors, miscarriage, sexual abuse, and other types of pain and loss. Not included ANYWHERE in the book that I could find: labor/birth trauma that resulted in a baby’s death.

Fighting for days upon days to stop my labor with Natan was hideous–excruciatingly difficult and painful. He was premature, but he didn’t die just because of that, he died because his cord prolapsed. My body made things progress too quickly to remedy it.

I keep my mouth shut when women describe labor pains as rewarding or something your body is “meant” to do. In real life, I sympathize with and let them have their victories. But I get pissed off at being excluded from the birth experience by books like this one, which still is in many ways so much better than The Business of Being Born.

Books and movies that treat labor as something your body “knows” how to do are only telling a partial truth. It’s utterly natural for babies and women to die, too. Science and medicine, not women’s knowledge and synchronicity with their bodies, make  it possible for the authors and producers of birth materials to brush over our experiences by calling them so rare. I’ve said this before. It sucks to be invisible. It sucks to feel like my bad experience has to be hidden so that others can more fully enjoy their good ones. I’m still looking for strategies for avoiding panic during this next labor, but every time I search out some method–breathing, massage, hypnosis–something in the literature or philosophy runs up against reason and my experience.