You can already see where this is going.
So, I had a baby last week. And it was so incredibly different than the last one, that I have to give some background.
Even though I realized at the time that T's birth was somewhat traumatic and maybe unusual and definitely crazy, it wasn't until this past year that we really began to see all of the implications from it. I won't go into every detail, but I actually ended up being formally diagnosed with PTSD relatively recently. This made me feel silly and ashamed, because I've never been abused or assaulted -- I simply gave birth -- something that billions of women have done before. But the nightmares, flashbacks, and anxiety were very real, and the thought of giving birth again felt out of the question. The decision to expand our family was based on our strong desire that T not be an only child, but it was made with fear and dread.
For the first six months of my pregnancy, I was a classic case of denial (despite the fact that it was a planned pregnancy). I didn't want to think about or plan for the baby, because that meant confronting the fact that I'd have to give birth again, and I simply couldn't go there. Because I'm such a believer in natural childbirth, I planned again to deliver naturally, but this time with the assistance of midwives (in a hospital) instead of a doctor since I wanted a completely different experience. At about 35 weeks, we discovered that the midwives were not fully covered by our insurance, which sent us looking for an alternative. This almost sent me over the edge, since I was already so nervous about birth. But my friend recommended her OB, Dr. Jan Rydfors, sang his praises over and over, and, despite the fact that he's ridiculously difficult to get into, his clinic agreed to take me.
You guys, there are not words to emphasize just how wonderful this doctor is. He has the most calming presence, sits and listens, asks questions like, "What can I do for you? What keeps you awake at 3 in the morning?", and is supportive of any type of birth. I thought my friends whose babies he had delivered must have been exaggerating about how wonderful he was -- doctors are simply too busy to be personable or compassionate or unrushed. But this doctor has the rare gift of making each patient feel as if she is his only concern. Which is exactly what I needed.
Fast forward to the week of my due date. My anxiety was mounting like it never had before. I don't mean to be dramatic, but just the act of visualizing the birth sent me into a panic attack. The idea of feeling the kind of loss of control I had with T's birth left me feeling powerless and afraid. Two of my sisters had been planning on flying in for the birth, and so I spent a long time talking with them and with Ty about my fears and options. I could tell everyone wanted to be very respectful of my birth plan, but finally one of my sisters gingerly suggested I consider an epidural. You guys. I don't know why it took me three years to give myself permission to even consider pain management, but for the first time, I did -- I just couldn't handle the anxiety anymore. I went in for my last doctor's appointment, two days after my due date, and told him that I was considering an epidural, but that I was still nervous about how fast my labor could potentially progress, given my own history and my family history. I told him I wanted as much control as possible, and, throughout the course of the conversation, suddenly found myself asking him if he would induce me. And just like that, in less than 24 hours, I went from planning a natural birth that literally sent me into anxiety attacks, to planning an induction with an epidural that left me feeling like we were planning a birthday party, complete with streamers and kazoos.
So, I had an induction. And an epidural. Two things that I spend quite a bit of time feeling pretty personally opposed to.
Let me be clear -- I don't think either thing is bad or dangerous in and of itself. I also fiercely believe that each woman should make informed decisions based on what is best for her, and never be made to feel guilty for those decisions. But I happen to live near a hospital where both of these interventions are used so routinely and sometimes inappropriately, and result so often in unnecessary c-sections, that I have felt the need to "fight the institution" in my own choices. Girls will go in who aren't even due yet, get induced with pitocin when their bodies are clearly not ready, spend however many hours laboring on their backs since they're hooked up to things that don't allow them to move freely, and then we all wonder why the baby doesn't respond appropriately, and we applaud the doctor for saving the day with a c-section! Ah!!
But I was already 3 cm dilated and 90% effaced when I went in for my appointment, and at this point, it was pretty much a psychological/psychiatric issue, and so I went against everything I had believed in (and I flicked the little Ina May Gaskin angel off my shoulder), and asked to be induced. And didn't look back.
Here it has taken me this entire time just to give you back story, and I haven't even gotten to the meat of it yet. Sheesh. Congrats if you're still with me.
|5:45 AM, leaving our apartment|
We laughed! We chatted! I napped on and off, smiled a whole heck of a lot, marveled at how different this experience was from T's crazy birth, and spent a fair amount of time food fantasizing on Yelp about what I wanted my first post-birth meal to be (I chose an enormous sandwich). No one told me I couldn't eat, but I definitely didn't feel like eating during "labor" (can I even call it that??) because I threw up during T's birth, but ironically not during this one. Dr. Rydfors gave Ty his personal cell phone number and told him that if Ty thought he should come right now, or that the nurses weren't picking up on something, to call him right away. It tells you what kind of doctor he is that, when Ty wasn't calling because nothing was happening, Dr. Rydfors called him twice to check on me. I swear we almost named the baby after him. There's a very sacred place in my heart for this doctor.
The nurse checked me at 11:40, and I was at a 7. The doctor came right away -- like, immediately -- and I was complete and pushing about 10 minutes later. Apparently that is really how my body (and each of my sisters' bodies) does it -- fast and furious at the end. Except this time there was no panic, because there was no pain. Happy dance!
Let me give you some context. Here I am during the pushing phase of T's birth almost three years ago. And yes, the room was really that dark and dreary. Lovely, isn't it?
And here I am during this one. Woo hoo! Am I doing this right? Can't feel a thing, guys!