Friday, June 12, 2009

same soup, different bowl

I don’t know when the birth story is going to come. I’ve written down most of what I can remember, but I seem to be lacking the strength or motivation required to finish it. I gave myself a deadline of Elliot’s three month “birthday” but that’s two days away and it’s not looking good.

The honest truth is that I hate thinking about Elliot’s birth. It makes me feel moody and sad and angry. It wasn’t like that at first. Initially I felt really in touch with that whole “a birth plan is destined to change and you have to be flexible because the only thing that matters at the end is a healthy baby” business, and I was also too consumed by caring for our distinctly unhealthy baby (thanks to the birth from hell) to feel much more than gratitude that he was alive. Now that our lives have settled down and our little family is moving through days and weeks and months together, I’m finding myself stuck. I’m just not getting over it the way I want and need to.

My bitterness about my birth experience seems to have picked up right where my bitterness about my infertility left off and the cumulative effect is killing me. First, I couldn’t get pregnant on my own and I had to find a place for all of the shame and anger associated with that, all the while watching others around me sail right through without a hitch. (I know there isn’t supposed to be shame in infertility. Whatever. If you’re reading this blog, I suspect you understand that – right or wrong – that is one of infertility’s core contributions to the human spirit.) Then, in the space of a couple of days, I had everything I dreamed and hoped and planned for in a birth experience taken away from me, one chip at a time until there was nothing left except for that healthy baby, and I didn’t get that right away either. Elliot was born at 4:48am and I didn’t even get to see him (for more than 30 seconds and without a post-surgical haze) until that afternoon, and then he was so covered with tubes and wires I couldn’t even tell what he looked like. Just writing about that day has me tearing up right now.

Reading others’ birth stories brings about a physical response not unlike the one I used to have when reading about someone else’s BFP. My chest tightens and I’m flooded with the same mixture of sadness and jealousy. When I was off work waiting for Elliot to come, I watched 2-3 hours of those silly TLC and Discovery birth shows a day. I haven’t watched a single one since he was born. Not one. Just seeing their titles as I’m scrolling through the program guide causes my blood pressure to increase. I feel like my own birth experience has robbed me of the joy of celebrating others’ in the same way my infertility prevented me from feeling unqualified joy at others’ pregnancy announcements. One of my closest friends is pregnant and due in a couple of months and I’m already bracing myself for the hurt I’ll feel when she has the uncomplicated, unmedicated, vaginal birth I’m positive she’s destined for. And once again, I’m mad that I can’t simply be happy for someone I care so much about. Once again, I’m mad that a past experience holds so much power over my emotions and keeps me from being the person I want to be.

I know I’m supposed to be able to let go of the route and be grateful for the outcome but I just can’t do it. Not yet, at least. I’m the girl with the horror story. Again. Always. I was a TTCer long enough that I should know not to expect fairness but I’m going to say it anyway: It’s just not fair. M and I took the hypn.obirthing classes, handpicked birth companions and a doula, and reserved a birthing tub. I dutifully practiced the relaxations every night and we did perineal massage. I spent days crafting my perfect iPod playlist and packed the most well-equipped hospital bag this side of the Mississippi. And you know how much all of that mattered? I ended up with a 52 hour labor, every intervention under the sun, a uterine infection, and a frigging C-se.ction at the end of it all. No wait, there’s more: I can’t even remember the second half of my labor because I was delirious from pain, hunger and exhaustion, and our baby still spent the first week of his life in the special care nursery due to birth injuries. I’ll be grateful for my amazing son, but I’m also claiming my right to be mad as hell about the rest of it.

*Deep breath.*

I’m going to finish the birth story. It may have been a complete disaster, but it’s my disaster and it’s all I have. I don’t know when it will happen. I’m still flirting with the idea of getting my medical records and maybe that will help, if I do. I’d like to finish it sooner rather than later. I just don’t know how to do it at the moment.


Laurie said...

I wish so much that the birth would have been more of what you had hoped for. Hopefully time will slowly ease the emotions tied to the experience. I think it's good that you're taking your time to share the birth story. When the time is right, you will know. And we will all be here to support you.

anofferingoflove said...

thank you for sharing these emotions with us, this was such a moving post. im so sorry you didn't get the birth you planned and you are left dealing with its aftermath.

tbean said...

K--thanks for writing what you did. FWIW, I really think traumatic births should be honored for the scarring experiences that they are (both physically and emotionally) and I know our society tends to dismiss them with a swift: "The baby is healthy and that's all that matters."
I hope you will share the birth story here one day. Not because it's what mom's do on their blogs, document their birth stories, but so that you can process it with us and we can bear witness to your suffering and the loss of your hopes and dreams for that experience. I think maybe it could even be healing.
I also think, the infertility metaphor is a particularly apt one. I have caught myself many times recently assuming that I'll get my "dream birth" or a "complication-free pregnancy" because I am OWED it after all the shit I have to go through to get there in the first place. And even though we all know the world doesn't work that way, parts of us will never stop wishing it did.
Hugs to you.

Lizzie said...

Big hugs and so much love. I hate that it's not fair.

tireegal68 said...

Dear K,
thank you so much for sharing your painful feelings and letting us be the witnesses to all that you are going through.
It is not fair, I agree, and I know all of us wish you had got that beautiful birth that you prepared so diligently for.
I hope it's okay if I share a couple of thoughts with you that came to me while I was reading.
I was thinking that in order to deal with this and move forward through and past this daily and misery you are going through, it might perhaps be helpful if you have the energy ( I know you probably are exhausted with working and taking care of Elliot) to really grab it by the horns and work with it. I mean see a therapist ( if you have one that you trust - I would not do this with a new therapist unless you really know she is good) and really explore this - the birth, both the one you wanted and the one you had. It sounds like you are already doing that, I know, but just wanted to emphasize it's importance. My experience with difficult feelings ( and of course it's just mine) is that they continue to be very painful and enduring unless we pay attention to them. The attention paying is very painful but it is part of integrating the painful and horrible experience into our understanding of how we are going to make sense of something that does not make sense. I think writing about it and exploring it and getting your medical records and being outraged about it is all part of that. When me and my partner went through a horrible experience of medical abuse and neglect with one of her family members she and I were only able to integrate it because we paid attention to it, were angry, outraged, upset, cried, wrote about it, talked about it in therapy. etc etc. People did not want to know about it or hear us talk about it because they thought we were "too angry" or "too emotional". If we had had a blog then I think that would have helped a lot. I can't begin to imagine what it is like to experience what you went through, but I do know that when I came up against the fact that bad things really can and do happen to very very good people and there is sometimes no justice in the world, it was a very painful and difficult place to be and to find any kind of acceptance of what happened took time. I hesitated to write more than a message of support because I know that advice giving is fraught with difficulty and I don't want to make you feel any worse than you already do. But I say this all with love and respect for your process and for your own wisdom about how best to wrestle with these demons.
I know that it is your process and you have probably already thought of all these things, but I just wanted you to know what I was thinking of you and that I wish you healing from these very hard times.
sending you wishes for hope and healing,

motherwilling said...

K, thank you for writing this amazingly honest post. I think it's especially helpful for readers that have not gotten to the birth part of their journeys yet. There are so many things that cannot be controlled and so many outcomes that are unfair, if not completely traumatic, as yours was.

Another option, in addition to Tireegal's suggestions of therapy, is ICAN (or another birth trauma support group), both online and in person (if you have a group in your area). Sharing of/by/with others that have gone through similar birth experiences in an environment of love and support is, for many people, very beneficial. ((hugs))

babypants said...

I am so sorry your birth is so difficult for you to write about and talk about. I worry I am going to feel this way too - esp once the wonder of our boy rubs off a bit. I wish we lived in the same city - I would love to sit and talk out all these feeling with you. xoxo L.

1invermillion said...

Your feelings and pain make so much sense. I still resent taking 10 weeks of Bradley classes with a focus on non-intervention, only to watch my wife suffer a 48-hour labor, narcotics, pictocin, epidural, and vaccuum delivery. It sucks. But it does help to write it out and really feel the emotions again, to get them out. We cried many times while writing our story.