Sunday, April 18, 2010

BIRTH STORY: The Night We Were Born

(written by Abby Weingarten, about the birth of Miranda Skye, born 05.29.09)

It’s almost been a year since Miranda Skye Nodeen entered the world at 9:44 p.m. Fri. May 29, 2009 at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, into the capable hands of Dr. Kelly Hamel.

There are so many inexplicably wonderful things I feel daily for this being that descended from heaven and came through me. There are also things I keep to myself about how she arrived – things I feel guilty for feeling, and things about which I don’t quite know how to feel.

When emergencies happen and the participants emerge unscathed, onlookers always say, “You’re safe. You’re alive. That’s all that matters.” They are absolutely correct. That doesn’t change the fact that an emergency occurred.

If a ship sinks and everyone on it lives, the ship still went down without forewarning, and there were events leading up to the sinking that will forever remain in the psyches of its survivors. I don’t deign to know how such people felt, but there is a part of me that needs to crawl out of my own smaller-scale shellshock.

On the morning of the 29th, I awoke with a stomachache. A half-hour later, my water broke. Eighteen hours later, I’d dilated a mere three centimeters and wouldn’t progress even after drinking cups of tinctures, squatting and climbing up and down stairs in-between every contraction.

I would delve into the details between the awareness of this standstill and Miranda’s actual birth, but it is a period of time that is shrouded in mystery, which no Google search or medical hypothesis can conclusively answer. The clock was ticking, the baby’s heart rate was slowing, her distress was increasing and medical technology was imperative.

Some may say none of these circumstances matter, as Miranda soldiered onto this planet like a champ and has proved to be a gloriously happy, healthy miracle. In my mind, my own petty emotions stopped being a priority once she joined the picture. How dare I whine about stupid specifics with this beautiful baby in my arms? It continues to be nearly impossible to be in a bad mood in her presence.

So I have taken the time to shut the door to my office tonight as she sleeps in her nursery, and permit the tears to flow for the first time.

I spent nine months blindly idealizing Miranda’s birth – and not once did I imagine it taking place while my arms were strapped onto a gurney and she was pulled through my abdomen behind a blue curtain. I always assumed it would be more like a spiritual vision quest, when I would come face to face with God on an elevated plane. I was under the impression that it was my decision how she would be born, when in the end, it was Spirit’s judgment call.

God and Dr. Hamel saved my baby’s life and mine, and without modern-day medical innovations, we wouldn’t be here. Could there have been another way? Could it have been prevented if there had been more investigation, more tests or more herbs to take? We will never know. At the moment of truth, when it was ultimately do or die, we had to do. So we did.

When I think of the thousands of women a century ago that died from complications in childbirth, I can’t help but consider my own fate. These days, no one talks about this notion, and those who even think momentarily about it are made out to be fools. What does it mean that my body responded to birth in the way it did? What does it say about me? What does it say about God? And why was I chosen?

I come from a lineage of survivors, and with that DNA comes a mentality of “You’re alive. You have no reason to complain about anything.” The problem with that philosophy is that it doesn’t allow for any real emotional growth; it demands repression. Feelings bubble under the surface, slowly turning into resentment, guardedness and an inability to be vulnerable. I have held my tears in check for 10 1/2 months behind a bulging internal dam. They deserve to be liberated, and so do I.

No, I have no reason to complain. Yes, I have a million reasons to rejoice. But I also have every right to remember, to ruminate and to wonder. I have a right to grieve the loss of the many fragile hopes I cultivated (not just in those nine months but in my entire 28 years), the loss of the omniscience I deluded myself into thinking I had, and most importantly, the loss of my pride.

Instead of being the fearless, strong, impermeable mother I so desperately wanted to be in the moment my baby was born, I got to be the child. It turns out that was exactly what I spent my life needing and never got. Spirit proved once again to be the mother that “knows best,” no matter how much I may have thought I had all the answers.

Miranda and I were born concurrently at 9:44 p.m. Fri. May 29, 2009 and now, we’re on this unassuming journey together. Today, I have infinitely more to teach her than I might have if the cosmic tables had never turned.

Lesson number one: Believe.

Lesson two: ?

5 comments:

  1. So beautiful and so true! Thank you for telling your story--it means so much to all of us who have had similar feelings. Blessings on you and your family!

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  2. Heidi the MidwifeApril 19, 2010 at 5:01 AM

    http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/what_is_trauma.htm

    I will quote them here:

    "Who gets Birth Trauma?

    Birth trauma is in the eye of the beholder’
    Cheryl Beck (Nursing Research January/February 2004 Vol 53, No.1)

    It is clear that some women experience events during childbirth (as well as in pregnancy or immediately after birth) that would traumatise any normal person.

    For other women, it is not always the sensational or dramatic events that trigger childbirth trauma but other factors such as loss of control, loss of dignity, the hostile or difficult attitudes of the people around them, feelings of not being heard or the absence of informed consent to medical procedures.

    Research into the area is limited and, to date, it has largely focused on the importance of the type of delivery. It is clear however, that there are risk factors for Post Natal PTSD which include a very complicated mix of objective (e.g. the type of delivery) and subjective (e.g. feelings of loss of control) factors. They include:

    -Lengthy labour or short and very painful labour
    -Induction
    -Poor pain relief
    -Feelings of loss of control
    -High levels of medical intervention
    -Traumatic or emergency deliveries, e.g. emergency caesarean section
    -Impersonal treatment or problems with the staff attitudes
    -Not being listened to
    -Lack of information or explanation
    -Lack of privacy and dignity
    -Fear for baby's safety
    -Baby’s stay in SCBU/NICU
    -Poor postnatal care
    -Previous trauma (for example, in childhood, with a previous birth or domestic violence)

    In addition, many women who do not have PTSD, suffer from some of the symptoms of PTSD after undergoing difficult birth experiences and this can cause them genuine and long-lasting distress. These women are also in need of support.

    Finally, men who witness their partner’s traumatic childbirth experience may also feel traumatised as a result. Please see our ‘partners’ section"

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  3. Heidi the MidwifeApril 19, 2010 at 5:01 AM

    A birth is a deep physical, emotional, spiritual experience for the woman. Growing a child and going through a birth is a big deal and of course how it happens affects you deeply. It is not enough that the baby is okay, the mother must be okay, and that means on every level. How you feel matters. In the chaos of becoming a parent, of getting to know a baby, it is often a year or more before you have the space to sit, be with it, and feel what there is to feel about the birth. It is normal for it to surface, and normal to have tears, regret, fears, anger, gratitude, love, and confusion all in turns. Go there. It is okay, there is so much to be learned, and the pain and loss of a birth that did not go the way you hoped is a real loss. You must go through stages of grieving like for any loss. This is not selfish, narcissistic, or childish to have feelings about how your birth experience was. It is normal and healthy. If it rained on your wedding day, or you were in an accident on the way to the ceremony and suffered bodily harm but ended up okay, no one would say 'At least you are married, that is for life, and that is what really matters!' Birth is a rite of passage and this was hers, but also yours. Your entrance into parenthood. Your body, your heart was opened on the table. Of course you have feelings about that. International Cesarean Awareness Network has egroups and forums to help process birth stories, and look at the UK Birth Trauma Association website. I will link to it and post info about it below. You are far from alone. You are a brave mother. You are strong. And look at you sharing here, you are fearless too.

    Healing from a unexpected birth story can be done and is worth doing. Mine the experience for all the self knowledge you can. Birth is a a body level experience, stuff from it can stick around in your body unless worked with.

    Writing, sharing, telling the whole story many times, therapy, energy work, acupuncture for recovery and trauma release, and many modalities can help. Sarasota has so many wonderful resources, and you can ask your midwife for suggestions. Mostly, ask your wise self what path you should take.

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  4. Heidi the MidwifeApril 19, 2010 at 5:07 AM

    Also a good read http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121789883018612223.html

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  5. Heidi the MidwifeApril 19, 2010 at 5:43 AM

    I always have lots to say, forgive me for commenting as long as your original post!! I wanted to add, you can love your baby and hate your birth experience! Even if just for a moment, as hate is such a strong word. But sometimes it is the right word for the regret and pain of grieving some feel after a difficult birth. You may wonder why oh why did I not just get the 4 hour easy home waterbirth instead of this mess for a birth? ! You can even feel resentful or jealous of those you get those births at times, but never think less of yourself for the experience you had. This is your story now. It is important to know how you feel about the birth and the baby are two different things all together. That distinction can give you the freedom to go to the dark places you may need to go to let it go.

    Also, if you had a difficult birth and planned an out of hospital birth, you get a double whammy in that all the people who doubted your plans and thought you were so naive to think birth can be great get to be 'right' when things go wrong. So instead of recognizing your loss and feelings, family members that were not 100% behind you in the first place can make things worse by saying it was bad idea to plan your birth as you did in the first place, and they are so glad you ended up in a real hospital with real doctors etc. Then you have the bad experience, the loss of your hopes, and all their stuff compounding your feelings. Talk talk talk about it, but only to people who can handle the story and let you decide for yourself how you feel about it all. The feelings go through stages and will burn or soften, depending on where you are in the process. Your partner had their difficult birth and entrance to parenthood, their own loss, too, so they are not always able to hold the space for you to process all the levels and there is nothing wrong with needing more people to talk to than the ones that were actually there. It is not a bad idea to do a reflective listening exercise and each of you tell the whole birth story from your different perspectives to each other start to finish, one partner listening with no interuptions at all. Take turns. Do it before the first birthday if you can, which I see is soon, so when the day comes it can be about your daughter. First birthdays, or any birthday can be hard as it is the anniversary of your trauma as well as the birth day of your joyful baby daughter, and the like I said, these were two distant and valid experiences you may have wildly different feelings about.

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