Friday, May 7, 2010

Flashback to my Cesarean

So last night I had a strange dream. And stranger still, it was one of those dreams that you remember with such clarity that you wonder if it was really a dream at all. In this dream I went to the RD Regional Hospital "Birth Office" (that's how I knew it was a dream because I'm pretty sure that office doesn't actually exist). I sat down with the lady for an "interview" of sorts about my birth experience with the hospital.

What I told her (in my dream) went something like this:
"I was very disappointed with my birth experience with this hospital. I ended up with an unnecessary c-section. Truly. Even my doctor couldn't give me a good reason as to why I had it. My son was in the perfect position, wasn't overly large (6lbs 15oz to be precise), wasn't stuck, wasn't in distress. He just wasn't ready. I didn't appreciate having 10 people in the room trying to "diagnose" me. I didn't need to be diagnosed, I needed to be left alone so I could deliver my son. I didn't appreciate that the one nurse that understood had to leave because her shift was over. I hated being tied to that stupid fetal monitor in the most uncomfortable position. I didn't appreciate being "on the clock" while I was in labour. Apparently it was more important how long I was in the hospital and how long I was 10cm dilated than it was how comfortable I was or how I was feeling. I didn't like that you guys stuck me up to an IV for no good reason the whole time that I was in labour and "forgot" to take it out after I had my son. I hate that my birthing experience with my son was a medical procedure that was being done to me, instead of the natural, empowering journey that it should have been.
Did you know that your hospital had one of the highest c-section rates out of all the hospitals in the province? (Note: not sure if that's entirely true, I know theirs is higher than average but don't actually know where it stands in relation to the rest of the province) I am not satisfied with my birth experience in this hospital and I will recommend to all my friend to avoid giving birth here."

It may have gone on further but this is when I woke up (at 20 to 5am!). I started mulling over this dream and reviewing my birth experience (again) to see if there was anything I missed. I could have said so much more in this "interview." Like how I felt so out of control and that it wasn't fair that no one asked me what I wanted. I was never asked if I wanted the surgery. (I told them "I want it out" and they took that to mean surgery. I meant that I just wanted something to help move it along) Like the fact that despite my son having 9 and 9.5 on his two apgars (10 is perfect but nearly unheard of, so I've been told) they still felt the need to hold him in the neonatal nursery for an hour. The nurse there also felt the need to give him a bottle of formula, despite my instructions that he was not to receive any (my husband stopped her, thankfully). Or what about the fact that I got to see my son, hanging upside down, for about 2 seconds before he was whisked away to be weighed and wrapped all up. I got to touch his cheek, that's all. Or the fact that they pumped me so full of painkillers that I could hardly see straight. Or maybe I could have brought up the fact that the nurses (most of them anyway) wanted nothing more than to separate me from my baby during my whole hospital stay. They would come in and ask if they could take him so I could "get some sleep," or "eat my food" or just generally "have a break." (I only had him for about 2 hours before they thought I might need a break from motherhood!) And whenever they came in to check on him, they would swaddle him and put him into his bassinet. I kept having to unswaddle and pull him into bed so we could snuggle and breastfeed and have skin-to-skin time.

That was my introduction into motherhood. I came home and realized that I loved my son but didn't feel like a mother. Looking back, with the way that I was treated as a medical condition, it's not really a surprise. I felt like I had been through surgery and a hospital stay. I didn't feel like I had gone and had a baby. That part of the experience was very surreal to me and took a long time for me to accept. I asked my doctor at my two week check-up why I had the surgery. He hemmed and hawed for a bit and said "well maybe your pelvis was too small." Did I mention my son was only 6lbs 15oz? (And nearly a pound of that was water weight that he lost in the next day or two). The c-section was out of convenience. It was Sunday afternoon, I had been 10cm dilated since noon. It was 3pm and everyone just wanted me to be done so they could go home. Did you know that most "emergency" c-sections take place on the weekends and holidays? Coincidence?

I have always said the the only reason Caleb didn't come down (he never really dropped, even when I was 10cm) was because he just wasn't ready. It occurred to me this morning that this thought isn't entirely accurate. I think that the reason he didn't come was because I wasn't ready. I just remembered that he shifted at one point and I kind of panicked. I asked if he was coming and what should I do. Nobody told me to relax and that everything would be alright. I tensed up and probably prevented him from moving any further. I was afraid. Being in labour is a time when you really need to focus and connect with your "inner self" (for lack of a better term). If you don't know how to do that and don't have anyone guiding you to that place then It's going to be extremely difficult to deliver your child.

I'm glad that I have been able to learn so much from my experience with Caleb. I'm glad that I forced myself to bond with him, it would have been so easy to stay away and be only half the mother to him that I am now. Here's a few other things that I've learned about labour and delivery in a hospital, things I wish I knew then:
They time you: from the moment you check in you're on the clock. If you're not dilating as fast as they would like they assume something is wrong and (try to) medically intervene.
Fully dilated doesn't mean you have to push: I got to 10cm and they told me to push, so I did. But I never actually had the urge to bear down. Push when you feel the urge and ignore the "coaching" that doctors and nurses give you.
You have 3 hours: from the time that you at 10cm and pushing (which don't always happen at the same time, much to the doctors' dismay, hence the coaching) you only have 3 hours to push your baby out before you are considered "failure to progress" and they assume they need to take medical action.
Your birth plan doesn't mean jack: you can't just write a nice birth plan with your wishes and expect it to be followed. You (or more likely your labour support) will have to be proactive in making sure that you are being heard.
You can always say NO: you can say NO to any intervention they throw your way. You can say NO to the scare tactics they use (I was told "you could push for another 12 hours, this baby's not budging") and you can say NO to having a hundred people in your labour room "observing you" like you're some sort of animal in a zoo.

So my advice to expectant moms is to either avoid the hospital scene altogether by getting a midwife or having an unassisted homebirth, or to get a doula or a "been there done that mom" friend whose views on birth are similar to yours. Someone you trust will stand up for you in the midst of the chaos of the medical system. And if you do have an "unnecesaren" or any kind of traumatic birth experience (read as: bad feelings associated with your birth experience) then talk to someone. Get into a support group or find another mom who has been there and worked through it. And of course, pray pray pray about it. God is an amazing Healer and He won't tell you it's silly to feel the way you do. It's not just about having a healthy baby (although that is important and a great blessing) it's also about having a healthy, happy mama.