Don’t call us, we’ll call you

April 29, 2010

Final reflections on my birth experience

And by final, I mean constantly evolving . . .

  • Neal was INCREDIBLE.  A couple weeks later, he told me how even after going through childbirth once, he doesn’t think it would be any less nerve-wracking the second time; that it freaked him out; that it was so hard to see me in more pain than he had ever, ever seen before; that if we ever do this again, part of him wishes that I would just choose to get an epidural as soon as possible so that we could just relax together, watch movies while we wait; that he ultimately felt a little bit guilty that he kept encouraging me and didn’t tell me to get an epidural sooner, as if he prolonged my pain . . . and a million other complex reactions.  But, you know, that day and night, he was so present for me that I honestly didn’t even feel like he was nervous.  I guess it is a true testament to how much he rose above his own fears and emotions because I kind of didn’t realize he had any in the moment.  He never showed it.
  • Although Neal never actually read one of the scripts that we had practiced during labor, and in fact, it seemed at the time like it would have been an incredibly odd thing to do, they helped us enormously.  We had practiced so much that literally when Neal or Melissa or Krisell told me to relax, it triggered a chain reaction where I would go through my face, shoulders, neck, arms, legs, and just relax everything.  Melissa said that it was obvious to her from the first few minutes that we had practiced a lot because of how quickly I could respond to the suggestion to relax.  Who knew relaxing could be such a learned behavior?  I should have started learning it years ago!
  • This is one of my most vivid memories of the whole experience: when the anesthesiologist came in to give me that epidural, they made Melissa and Krisell sit down on the couch.  Only Neal could stay with me to help me get through the contractions.  I think everyone was a little nervous about what would happen because I was not really able to control my body through the aforementioned pushing/spasms.  So Neal had the job of trying to get me to stay completely still while the doctor inserted the needle.  Neal was standing right in front of me, his face just inches away from mine.  He kept telling me to look at his eyes.  Every time I looked away or closed my eyes, he would tell me to open them and keep staring into his eyes.  Out of the corner of my eye I could still see Melissa and Krisell, and I could hear Melissa quietly telling Krisell to watch what a great job Neal was doing, how he was keeping me focused so that I would stay still.  I can’t imagine anyone being a better birth coach than my Neal was.
  • I think there are two things that I’m most proud of about how I handled things: first, I never (not once) got short or snappy with Neal.  This was one of my fears because although Neal had read all the books reminding him not to take comments from a laboring woman personally, there is literally nothing that shuts Neal down faster than a harsh tone or phrase.  He just kind of withdraws when addressed in that way.  Second, I stayed focused and worked hard the whole time.  I think in the end I just felt really prepared because of the process that we went through.  When Heather dropped the c-section possibility, I was not really phased even though that had initially been one of my biggest fears.  I think we were as ready as we could be for any direction that things could take.
  • In case anyone is in doubt, I am very pro-doula!  We paid $440 for childbirth classes and the labor/delivery with Melissa ($350-400 is typical for a doula in this area), and feel like it was worth. every. penny.  I remember at one point when Heather was recommending an intervention that I did not want, I turned to Melissa and asked, “Remind me why we didn’t want to do that . . .”  There was just no way that I could keep everything in my head at a time like that; thank goodness Melissa could talk us through each decision point.  Not only was she great during the actual process, she called to check up on me multiple times postpartum to make sure my depression was under control, I was feeling okay about the delivery, breastfeeding was established, etc.  It was wonderful to have such an understanding and experienced person available to me to talk through things before, during, and after such a huge event.
  • Right after I received the epidural, Melissa said something really funny.  She said, “You know, you went through every part of labor unmedicated: active, transition, pushing, and everything else.  It just doesn’t work as well when you do it out of order.”  I guess I’m just really glad that even after some of the most challenging hours of my life, my sense of humor was in tact and there was a fairly light mood in the room.
  • In one of our follow-up phone calls, Melissa told me that she wouldn’t even really count it as me having an epidural.  She said that no one has an epidural for like one hour and then delivers their baby.  And from the way I was pushing it was clear that I was feeling things down there.  The great thing is that I honestly don’t care either way.  Even though the to-epidural-or-not-to-epidural is one of the key distinguishing factors between so-called natural childbirth or not, I knew that it wasn’t just all about that.  My preparation process was about so much more than that: wanting to be well-informed, to make good decisions, to stay calm, to stay kind.  Really, to try and exert some sense of control over a pregnancy that always seemed to be spinning just outside my control.  In the end, having the epidural was one of those good decisions.  And although it did cross my mind how much pain I went through when I could have had an epidural sooner (!), I know I would make the same choices again because some of the additional risks of the epidural were diminished by the brevity of it.
  • On my midwife Heather: I honestly don’t hold ill feelings toward her.  In fact, we had a nice chat a few days after the birth when I went in because of my bladder and uterine infections.  That encounter really underscored for me that 1) she must have been very tired during my delivery because her bedside manner was much better at the office visit and 2) she is a perfectly nice person with a very different birthing philosophy than I have.  Through a couple of different channels, I have since found out that she went to midwifery school about 10 years ago, but then spent her whole career working with obstetricians.  From the perspective of one midwife that went to school with her, she had a strong desire to be accepted within the OBGYN community and consequently, changed her mind about a lot of common elements of midwifery practice.  In particular, she gets annoyed by “birth plans,” especially birth plans like mine, no doubt.  We also learned that the other midwives at the clinic would have allowed me to get in the tub or shower, so she wasn’t being completely honest about the back-up doctor forbidding it.  There are a few other things, but in the end, it all just underscores for me the importance of knowing everyone at a particular clinic or practice that could possibly deliver your baby.  I’m just a little sorry that Sarah (who I loved) was replaced with her just a few weeks before my delivery.
  • I really wish I had a picture of the way Neal transformed our living room into my own personal laboring room (but I was a little busy at the time ;)).  It was so cute.  Picture a shower curtain spread out on the floor.  Towels on top of that.  Then the birthing ball.  Another towel draped over the top.  Nearby, the crockpot with warm washcloths.  A couple of water bottles within arms reach of the ball.  Our birthing materials on the coffee table.  He tried to think of everything for my comfort (and the cleanliness of the carpet :)).  I’ll always remember that.
  • Probably the best pregnancy/delivery/baby decision we made was having Neal take a very light load during Winter semester.  This gave us a lot of extra time together to prepare and practice for the labor, as well as lots of help for me afterward.  We have a comparatively easy baby (I am well aware of this!) and I feel like I barely survived having a newborn.  I have no idea where I would be if I didn’t have a true partner, in things big and small, in Neal.

And also, don’t you just love rainbow colors?!

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3 Comments »

  1. At first I thought you were on something when you mentioned the rainbow colors, then I realized it was the lovely text you were refering to 🙂 I can’t wait to hang out with your little family at the end of June

    Comment by Jolene — May 1, 2010 @ 12:25 am

  2. As always, thanks for sharing your personal experiences. I’m too tired and emotional to make a meaningful comment, but know I appreciate it!

    Comment by Vickie Blanchard — May 3, 2010 @ 3:45 pm

  3. Thanks for sharing, Linds.

    Comment by holly — May 6, 2010 @ 2:02 pm


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