Warning: I am so happy today, but this is not a happy post. Like everyone, I’m capable of having multiple ongoing conversations with myself, and I really want to get this one out before it fades. It’s a big part of these further records and I may lose my nerve or get distracted. This post is about the parallels between Natan’s and Jonah’s labor, so it may be really hard to read. Happy Jonah posts soon, I promise.
Thanks to all who commented on my last post. A dear friend said to me, upon hearing the story of my labor yesterday, that it must have been especially frightening for me given Natan’s delivery. That is so true. And that’s why I’m especially grateful that she also told me that her third delivery was somewhat similar. Several friends have told me that, here, personally, on Facebook, and I cannot tell you how much I needed to hear that.
Because, here’s the thing. Five and a half years later, my emotional response to yesterday, plus thoughts I try so hard to keep pushed to the side, tells me I’m not done blaming myself for his death. All rational thought aside, my deepest self believes I killed our first born son, and that I could easily do it again. I don’t believe I did it on purpose, but more rather that I was just too weak and narcissistic in the worse sense to have bothered stopping it.
The physical sensation of labor is hard to describe. Before yesterday, I had had two experiences. I have never understood why I couldn’t stop myself from delivering him. He didn’t “fall out” in the way sources describing incompetent cervix describe. It’s been clear to me since the moment I first mentioned “contractions” in the fall of 2006 that doctors were/are/have been divided as to whether I really had them, which came first. There came a point with Natan in those last hours where I felt like my body was pushing, shoving him out. The nurse on duty convinced me that perhaps I needed to have a bowel movement. The doctors had given me all the tocolytics my body would take–my blood pressure is normally 90/60, so rather low to start with. I can’t remember the numbers–I just remember feeling seriously weird and them telling Josh and me that my blood pressure was too low for me to be given anymore. They offered me pain medication, but I refused to take it. I was so committed to a perfect pregnancy. That promise ripped away, I wasn’t going to be forced to do anything “unnecessary.”
I regret that decision, by the way. My refusal of pain medication had no effect on Natan’s survival, but I often in my worst moments fear that pain took away my control of my self. I know that’s not true, but when I’m in my darkest moments, I can tell myself anything that will help me hate me.
So there I was, in hideously awful and scary pain, thinking I needed to have a bowel movement. Wham, suddenly my water broke, and although we didn’t know it then, it was all over within what felt like both minutes and a lifetime. Labor rocketed to an end. Natan was born and died.
Your muscles behave strangely in labor, and it feels very different without an epidural. I took an epidural with Samuel when the pain got to the uncontrollable level, because as I’ve said here before, I couldn’t stop thinking about Natan and I wanted to be there for Samuel’s birth. I felt so in control of my labor with Samuel. It slowed down at that point and I had a few hours to savor how well he was taking labor, and then was coached through pushing that I could feel–I negotiated with myself that I would not press the button to increase my epidural dose myself and they turned it down or off for pushing anyway.
I tried to make that same decision with Jonah, but either it being my third labor, or simply the way it was induced, I made it too late. I was left to have a very similar physical experience as I had with Natan, only in very different circumstances. I was the only one freaked out. I was the only terrified the baby was going to die. In both labors, I felt like I wasn’t choosing to push, but it was happening anyway. I did obviously have to consciously push Jonah out, he being full term, but Natan was so tiny. His feet shot into my vagina, his cord prolapsed under his bottom, while I was trying to get through the pain.
I thought yesterday, though, that something very similar was going to happen to Jonah. He was head first, he was term, I didn’t have complete thoughts about what would happen, but all I could think while the nurse was trying to get me to wait for the doctor was, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I stop this? Do I WANT to shoot this baby out of me when it’s not safe, when it could hurt or kill him?” I felt an urge to push, but I didn’t want to, but it felt like it was happening anyway and like I OUGHT to be able to stop it if only my brain would command a little harder. It would not.
I am so angry with myself, even as my rational mind realizes I should not be. But I think that in addition to bringing me Jonah, yesterday brought me to the brink of an utter breakdown–one that might ultimately be good for me.
I certainly don’t think other women who deliver in taxi cabs or accidentally at home or while waiting for a doctor or midwife to get there to catch their babies simply think, “Oh, screw waiting, why not just do it right now?” So why would I think that of myself? Why would I think I simply didn’t stop it, when I could have? Am I that evil? That self possessed. That in no way matches the actual physical and emotional work I’ve put into getting my children here live.
On some level there was a desire to push. I didn’t want to, but pushing happened. I fought it as hard as I could, and a doctor arrived yesterday in time to release me from that battle. Jonah may very well have been okay even had he not because really most of the focus was on guiding him out in a way that would tear me and injure us less. Note I can say I fought as hard as I could. Thing is, I believe two contradictory things about myself, because I can’t seem to reconcile the physical urge, the willpower I expended to resist it, and the fact that it happened anyway. I think I tried not to push, and I think I ignored the fact that it was a bad idea and willfully did it anyway simply because I put my desire to be rid of the pain above the life or quality of life of my children. When I’m in control and fully sane, I know that’s not true. But in my lowest moments, I really think I wanted to not hurt more than I wanted to save my son.
That’s nuts. I need to work on that.