I started this out as a response to a comment on my last post, but it was getting unruly, and I think it’s important to me to share this here, anyway. For the sake of discourse and all. Oh, and this is not particularly well written.
I’ve been thinking on what exactly to say to this, because I didn’t want to react–I want to respond. And, all I can keep coming back to is that I really just don’t agree with a lot of what you have said here. I can see where you are coming from, and I realize that you don’t intend to belittle my feelings. But, in a very real way, you have.
I don’t see mourning an idea as being less important than mourning something tangible. Even a baby is only an idea until it comes into being (whenever you believe that happens–I am not trying to go “there”), but for someone who is unable to become pregnant, mourning the idea of the baby she’ll never have is very real–by no means a meaningless delusion. It is our ability to have expectations and anticipate that makes us uniquely human. I do agree that, without Sadie, a home birth would have meant nothing. But you contradict yourself when you say that if I hadn’t attached myself to the idea of a home birth, I would never have felt bad about the c-section; because you start by mentioning that the hopes you never knew you had were crushed when you had a c-section, and you cried on the operating table. You hadn’t attached yourself to a nonsurgical birth, yet you hurt when it was no longer an option.
I also take issue with the idea that, just because my sadness is of my own making, it is less valid than another type of sadness. All sadness can be tied to the self, if you look at it from the right angle. And do you realize that you have called my feelings imaginary? I own my feelings, but I am careful not to let them own me. Yes, sometimes they can be overwhelming, but, because I am human, I have the capacity to recognize them for what they are, Name them–Sadness, Grief, Jealousy, Anger, Joy–and to set them aside when I am finished with them, even if they may resurface later.
As for what my c-section was…it was, indeed, an ugly thing that I had to suffer through. After over 24 hours of unmedicated labor–four hours of which was spent pushing at home, I arrived at the hospital. The doctor would not allow my midwives stay in the room with me while she assessed me, and she threatened not to allow my husband to stay. After determining that Sadie was posterior, she said that I had five minutes to decide if I was going to have the c-section there, or if I wanted to leave AMA and try another hospital. I was bullied into my c-section by a doctor who disrespected me the entire way. She would not even let Trevor and me be alone–forcing a nurse to stay in the room with us–while we figured out what to do. Some people would like to tell me that Sadie and I were in imminent danger. But we signed the consent forms for the c-section at 1:25 in the morning, and Sadie was not born until 3:59. That’s over two and a half hours between decision and delivery, and not the definition of emergent. The doctor never even told me when she was beginning surgery. I did not even know she’d started until the anesthesiologist told me they were pulling Sadie out. After Trevor left the room with Sadie–who had, by the way, Apgar scores of 8 and 10, the doctor, the anesthesiologist, and one of the nurses began to verbally abuse me about my decision to have a home birth. As in, using words like “stupid.” While I was still being operated on. And I’m not exaggerating here. One of the other nurses present informed someone on the Executive Committee about my treatment, and I was paid a visit by someone to assess, I’m assuming, the liability of the situation.
I don’t say all of this to make you feel bad for me, or to try to be impressive. I just want to make it clear that, yes, Sadie’s birth was a traumatic event for me. I understand that she is alive and well, and that I have to accept that the c-section was how it happened. But I was verbally abused by medical professionals while I was perhaps as vulnerable as a person can be. It was so much more than just not getting my crunchy granola home birth.
I never once expected to have a perfect delivery. In fact, I worked hard to keep my expectations vague. But they were realistic expectations. I had an impeccably healthy pregnancy. I had prepared for the home birth in so many ways–physically, emotionally, logistically. It was realistic of me to expect my body to deliver my baby in the safety and comfort of my home. Not easily, not perfectly, but realistically. My expectations matter, because they make me human. I think that, had I lucked into a better doctor who respects people as individuals, I would feel differently about the experience. Sure, I would be sad that I didn’t have the home birth I’d planned. But I wouldn’t have come home feeling shell-shocked. I wouldn’t have had such anguish over how Sadie came into the world.
And that brings me to another point–I think some people think it’s selfish to put so much value on having a home birth, or even a natural childbirth. Like it’s just some sort of goal I had so I could feel awesome about myself. And that’s a lot of crap. Yes, I was so looking forward to the visceral experience of pushing my baby out of my body. But so much of it also had to do with giving Sadie the birth she deserved. I wanted a nurturing, gentle birth for her. Instead, she had a violent one. Instead of being placed into her mother’s warm arms and allowed to breastfeed, she was suctioned and suctioned and suctioned by nurses. She had passed meconium, which I do realize is a sign that she was distressed during my labor, but had she been able to be pushed through the birth canal, I believe she might not have aspirated it, and she would not have had early breathing issues (which are common for c-section babies). She did not get to be held by her mother until she was six hours old. She did not get to breastfeed until she was more than 24 hours old. She spent her first few nights alive in an incubator having her breathing monitored and being watched for an infection she didn’t get. Am I thankful for medical technology? Yes. Do I sometimes worry that, had certain things gone differently during my labor, all of this could have been avoided? Yes. Is there any way of knowing for sure? No. Do I let myself dwell endlessly on these thoughts? No.
I appreciate your thoughts and your opinions and that you have been reading my blog. But I do hope that you do not often make it a habit of telling people that their feelings are unimportant. Because who are any of us to determine for another what is important? It is truly arrogant to think you can do so. Lying to convince yourself of something’s unimportance is not a healthy coping strategy.