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Archive for the ‘Birth’ Category

I came across this in my Facebook feed this morning and promptly felt like poopoo:

Dr Sears asks moms their reactions after birth

Do you see all of those moments of instant connection there? Ya, that wasn’t me.

If there had been a camera in my (first) birthing room, it would not have recorded me getting all gooey eyed like these lucky ladies.  It would have caught me staring blankly at Little Man and it may have even picked up a single, barely audible word:

“Huh.”

Yup, that was my first reaction to my son.

Oh don’t get me wrong, he was a very wanted baby and everything.  We had both spent hours on the couch feeling (and trying to film) his kicks through my belly.  And I secretly didn’t hate the 13 ultrasounds our OBs put us through because I loved to watch him on the screen when we went.  I loved this kid.  But in the very first second after they put him on my chest and I looked at him it hit me: I actually had no clue who he was.  He was a stranger.

You see, when you’re bonding with your baby in utero, what you’re bonding with is a collection of limbs that poke out at you from within your own body.  You’re aware that they belong to someone else, but they’re still inside your body.  They’re yours in a way.  Then you push this little person into the world and suddenly he is exactly that – a whole other person.  You’ve never seen his face, or the shape of his toes.  You don’t know what colour his eyes really are or whether he’s got his dad’s chin.  He’s a totally new entity.  How do you love someone you don’t know?

And all of this is not to say that I didn’t bond with Little Man.  There was definitely bonding.  If not instantaneously, then at least by the time we put him to the breast.  That part was a no-brainer… literally.  It’s some sort of hybrid between a chemical reaction and an unconditioned reflex.  But it wasn’t love, per se, and it didn’t make me all sloppy.  That came later, slowly.  As I got to know him, memorized his voice and breathed him in, I fell totally in love… finally.

So was it just me?  Am I the only one who didn’t have that “Wow” feeling at the first moment?

 

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Welcome to the June 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Embracing Your Birth Experience

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about at least one part of their birth experience that they can hold up and cherish.

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My wish for both of my births was an unmedicated homebirth after spontaneous onset of labour.  The birth I envisioned in my head didn’t include wires, tubes or beeping of any kind.  In fact, my fantasy birth may not even have been a ‘home’ birth, so much as ‘backyard’ birth.  In other words what I wanted was completely and utterly primal, unencumbered and NATURAL.  That was categorically not what I got.

Both of my births were in the hospital, both included continuous monitoring, IVs and artificial membrane rupture.  I had an induction, pitocin and an epidural.  And in the course of two births, I was required to give 8 people entry visas to my ladyland, and viewing privileges to 14 others.

To say that none of that had featured in the scene I had created in my head – you know, the one in which I quietly pushed my darling babies onto a carpet of bluebells (daisies would be too banal, of course) next to an English cottage while my husband stroked my hair and our midwives brewed a pot of tea inside the house – is putting it mildly.  (The fact that we do not live in either a cottage or in England spells out just how ambitious ludicrous my birth goal really was.)  But I realized after my daughter was born that if you look closely, most of the elements I most desired were there in at least one of the births.

With our son we missed out on the happy, safe, empowering pregnancy that we ultimately had with our midwives the second time around, but after much (MUCH) discussion with our OBs, I did manage stave off induction and feel the excitement of going into labour on my own.  That turned out to be lucky because the next time around I would need to be induced on very short notice when my blood pressure shot up at the end of my pregnancy.

With both babies I got to spend my early labour at home which, although devoid of flowery meadows, did give me the sense of privacy, freedom and agency I so deeply desired.

For Little Man’s birth, going to the hospital was the undoing of whatever remained of the plan.  Hours in triage and a staff that believed I should adjust my behaviour to serve the limitations of the monitor meant I had no capacity to labour effectively.  Augmentation, more augmentation and drugs followed.  But with Lady Fair, I got those missing pieces back.  Our midwives protected our space and fiddled constantly with the machine while I moved freely, doing the work I needed to do.  Her birth didn’t start the way I wanted it to, but at least I got to progress on my own, feel my labour get more intense and feel her move through my body into the world.

So while neither birth was singly perfect, between the two of them, I can run down the natural birth checklist and tick off most of the boxes.

Having the perfect birth is a pretty narrow target to hit.  It becomes even harder when you see perfection as having to be linear – perfect from start to finish.  When I knew my second birth wasn’t going to start the way I wanted it to, after my first had ended so far off course, I felt as if my goals and hopes for birth had gone totally out the window.  But it turns out, that if you look at it moment by moment, you can fit the pieces together into a really great birth.  It might be a bit of a patchwork perfection, but it’s perfection nonetheless.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon June 12 with all the carnival links.)

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After 40 weeks and 5 days (or 39 weeks and 3 days, depending on who you believe) we welcomed our new baby girl on Friday, March 9.  Herein to be dubbed Lady Fair, our little one weighed 8lbs 1oz and was immediately adored by Little Man.

I’ll get out a real birth story soon(ish), but in the mean time, here’s a sneak peak:

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Can you guess what we’re going at again?  Uhuh, it’s baby #2 time for us!

So if you’ve been wondering at my absence the last few months, this is why.  In all honesty, I’ve been too tired to even think in full sentences, let alone type them out with commas and everything!  The tiredness has precipitated some changes around here that I will talk about another day.  I’ve also been somewhat queasy this time around – something I didn’t have last time.

Contrary to what my catchy title might suggest, we are indeed ready.  Baby #2, tentatively nicknamed The Sequel, was deliberately conceived and obviously, we’re pretty stoked.  He/she will be joining us some time around the middle of March, making our child spacing just shy of 2 years.

We were very lucky with this little one.  When I found out I didn’t get accepted to midwifery this year, I was bummed but simultaneously a little relieved.  For that plan to have worked, we would have been trying to conceive on a really tight timeline, so I could deliver at the start of summer holidays. I was quite stressed about it because I wasn’t sure of fertility status, having only had a couple of periods since Little Man.  And frankly, I had forgotten how tiring it is to be pregnant – way more tiring than having the infant here.  Re-entering the education system (after a 5-year absence) at the very beginning of my pregnancy while chasing a toddler…  Yikes.  So, we went on to plan B and so far I’m glad we did.

Oh ya, and the equally exciting news – we’re having midwives this time around!!

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Since the time to try for baby number two is upon us, memories of baby number one’s first 40-odd weeks on earth keep barging into my head.  We began our pregnancy, luckily enough, with a midwife.  But I knew it was iffy whether we’d be able to stay there since I’ve had mildly high blood pressure for all of my adult life and indeed, by week 13 we were transferred from our lovely midwives to an OB at a Calgary hospital.

When we arrived at the OB’s office for our very first meeting with her, we were immediately presented with a sheet of paper that described what I dubbed the Traveling Circus of maternity “care.”  It informed us that call shifts at the hospital were shared equally by no fewer than 13 obstetricians.  It also said that not only would the OB ‘in charge’ of me not come to the birth if it happened to fall in the 92% of those shifts which were not hers, but she likely would never be directly informed that it had taken place.  I would simply not show up for the next scheduled prenatal appointment and she would glean the truth from my absence.  How’s that for customer service?

You can imagine that shifting gears so quickly from the hope of a solid relationship with a pair of personable midwives to this complete anonymity had me reeling.  When I expressed that dismay to anyone (and especially to women who had given birth already), I got the most baffling, shocking, offensive response:

“It doesn’t matter.  When it’s happening, you won’t really care who the doctor is anyway.”

Huh?

How could I possibly NOT care that there is a stranger elbow-deep in my pelvis?

As the title suggests yes, when it was finally happening, I DID care whose hands were in my vagina.

It’s not that I was so upset that I stopped pushing, or tried to hold my breath and stomp my feet until my real doctor came.  I didn’t enjoy my baby any less in the moments afterward because he was tugged from my vagina by a stranger.  And it’s certainly not like my regular OB was a dear friend whose presence would have been meaningful to me.  I don’t feel like I was violated in any way either.  I did, after  all seek assistance from the hospital for the birth and the doctors were good at their jobs and behaved professionally.

It’s just that… I caredIt’s my vagina, after all.  Up until that day I had control over who could access it.  I had always been able to choose my sexual partners and my doctors and give express permission to them before they did anything to any part of my body.  Now suddenly, the doctor I had given permission to was nowhere to be found and I had no choice.  It felt undignified.  It felt cold.  It felt as though they’d forgotten that this birth is very deeply personal to me, that it involved parts of my body that I usually keep private and to which I attach very strong emotions.  To me it wasn’t just another Wednesday night at the office, but it was to them, and they made that abundantly clear on that piece of paper at the first appointment.

And I still care about it, by the way.  I could be sitting in a restaurant next to the resident who stuck a good portion of her arm into me in order to flip the baby and I would have no clue.  Nor would she for that matter, and that grates on me.  That day (I laboured at the hospital for a grand total of 25 hours) I had 6 nurses, 2 students, 3 residents, 4 obstetricians and 1 anesthetist – that I can remember.  And out of those 15 people, 4 gave me pelvic exams.  That may be what’s entailed in treatment, but it certainly doesn’t consitute “care”.  And I guess that’s the bottom line for me.

This time, even if we can’t have a midwife, we’ll be looking for a small practice of doctors who make an effort to provide continuity and, above all, care to their patients.  My vagina will not be hosting any more traveling circuses.

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Since writing my post the other day about trusting myself I’ve been thinking a lot about confidence as a mother, but also as an intelligent adult who is also a mother.

When I was pregnant we often experienced a difference of opinion and philosophy with our doctors.  Whenever I was recapping for family or friends, a recurring theme appeared in their reactions if I implied that I didn’t agree with the doctor.  How many times did someone say to  me “You know, doctors do know what they’re talking about, they did go to school after all.”  It seems benign enough at face value.  I mean, fair enough, they did go to school, they do have knowledge.  But the implication is actually quite insidious: because the doctor knows something, I must therefore know nothing.

What's wrong with this graph?

I really started wondering why knowledge is assumed to fluctuate; to increase or diminish based on factors outside of ourselves, based on the intellect of the person you’re speaking to, for instance. Or based on the novelty of the situation you’re in.

Motherhood seems to be an excellent case study for this kind of thinking.  How often do we hear mothers termed as ‘new mothers’ or ‘first-time mothers’?  I even mentioned it in my previous post – in fact, I qualified myself that way.  This seems to be just as insidious as the previous statement.  Sure, it’s true my body had never built a human being from scratch before and I’ve never raised that particular human being before.  But does that mean I have no experience?  I do, after all, have three decades of accumulated knowledge about a lot of things to work from.  Was that all for naught? Does all of that suddenly vanish into thin air when I enter motherhood?

If (when, fingers crossed) I have a second baby, that baby will be unique.  It won’t be the same experience all over again.  I’ll be a new mother to that baby, but no one will call me a new mother.  They’ll assume I know what I’m doing because I have a couple of years of experience with my first child.  I will, of course, have experience with my first child but do I really think that will trump all of the other experience and knowledge I have independent of the first child?

And how often do we hear mothers talk about all of the things they’ll do differently with their second baby because ‘now they know’?  I find that so belittling.  But what is even worse is that those mothers are complicit in their own belittlement.  They bought into that idea that no matter how smart they were as an individual before their babies were born, they then became blank slates.  So rather than figuring the journey out for themselves, using their own intellect and transferable skills, they did what others told them to do (whether that be mom or doctors or books).  Now they realize with baby #2 that there is a different, better (for them) approach to take.  Maybe if they had trusted themselves more, counted their knowledge as real and valuable, they would have been able to find that better (for them) approach the first time around.

But let’s get back to those doctors for a minute, because that was a real sticking point for so many people in my own situation.  My doctors were very good at their trade, there’s no doubt about that.  But guess what?  I’m a trained molecular biologist.  I did cutting edge research at some of the foremost labs in my field IN THE WORLD.  I breeze through science journals like a lawyer through a contract.  So when the topic is the biology of my own body, I may not be an obstetrician, but I’m certainly no dummy.  Yet I was told to dismiss myself, to discount what I knew in the face of what someone else knew.

I wasn’t about to belittle myself that way.  I claimed my own knowledge for, well, for my own.  It’s great that my doctors also had a lot of knowledge but I took the attitude that mine was cumulative to theirs, not inversely proportional to it.

Ironically, my doctors took that seriously.  They even wrote in my chart that I intended to be a midwife so when new residents were handling my appointments, they mentioned it.  One told me it was always nice to work with patients who are ‘in the business’.  At our last visit, at 40 week +5 days, our main doctor told me that anyone else in my situation would have been induced already.  She hadn’t pushed it earlier only because she was confident in my understanding and my ability to gauge if my health changed.

The lesson?  I was right to value myself.  My knowledge depends only on me and it is very real.  My baby and I were healthier and happier for it.  And I should try to remind myself, and all of the other mamas, of that more often.

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My Little Man is a whole year old today.  I’m still trying to figure out how it managed to happen so quickly. I just hope it’s been a good year for him, that I’ve done my job well and that he’s happy here with us.  As I write this he’s making mud pies in the front garden, singing to himself and licking dirt off of the artichoke heart he’s been clasping for an hour.  I can’t help but think that he is happy.  But really, all it’s taken until now is a lot of love, and a lot of ‘boobie action’ as we call it.  The hardest parts have yet to come.  So today, I’d like to lay out a little game plan for those hard parts, in the form of a few promises to my beautiful little man.

Little Man, 12-ish minutes old

  • I promise to make mistakes.  I might as well just put this one up front and centre, because there’s no avoiding it.  I will screw up.  Repeatedly.  Sometimes in a big way.  I’m sorry about that.  BUT:
  • I promise that thoughtlessness will not be one of my mistakes.  Just because babies don’t come with an instruction manual, doesn’t mean that our choices don’t matter.  I will always put my best effort into considering how I parent you and if the choices that I make turn out to be the wrong ones, I hope you will know I believed them to be best when I made them.
  • The mistakes I make will be my own.  I promise not to repeat something I know to be wrong simply because someone else did or does it.  The cycles break here and the status quo stays at the door.
  • I promise to respect you.  You are your own person, even though you’re still a small one.  Your body is your own even though I have to pinch hit for all of the things it hasn’t learned to do yet.  Your needs are legitimate, even though you can’t put them in a sentence yet.  I will protect that autonomy until you can exert it yourself and I will still respect it once you can.
  • I promise not to hold you back.  I want you to become the most you possibly can be, and if you surpass me in any way (or every way) I’ll know I did my job well.
  • I promise to be the best example I can.  It’s not always easy to live your values, but for your sake I will do the best I possibly can.  I want you to see that you can make your dreams come true.  You can be two (or more!) things at once.  You can make a difference in the world.  You can find someone to love, and you can love them for the rest of your life.  You can.

I love you Little Man.  xxoo

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