Monday, March 09, 2009

The Birth Story (For Reals This Time)

I've been having some nigglings recently as the Prawn's second birthday approaches. The feeling in the air is the same as it was two years ago or something; the smell of spring. And it's stirred up an uncomfortableness that I've been having a hard time shaking.

The Prawn and I have been occasionally watching baby shows on Discovery Home and Health. I try not to traumatize her with "Home Birth Diaries" as this particular show often involves a lot of unmedicated screaming. (WHICH IS TOTALLY FINE, HOME BIRTH ADVOCATES, but I think it might kind of scare the crap out of my toddler.) However, there are a few that show much calmer births which don't seem to phase her at all. ("Baby coming out of mummy! Hello, baby!")

I've been looking at these natural births (both medicated and unmedicated) in envy recently and realized that the source of my discomfort has been stemming from my really quite shitty birth experience. It seems ungrateful, really, to class a birth experience as totally shitty since both the Prawn and I got to come home in one piece (albeit, I had a whopping great stitched up hole in my belly) but it's occurred to me more and more lately that a lot of the problems I had (and sometimes still have) relating to my daughter probably had their seeds in her birth.

Soon afterwards, I wrote the rather sanitized version. Long, but pithy enough to play down the serious trauma that I was feeling at the time. The only allusion to the unpleasantness of the whole affair were two sentences.

"Here is where I need to process. Two more days on the wards followed that I would sincerely like to forget about."

Well, I suppose two years is enough processing time.

I think the biggest thing for me was the sheer amount of time that I was left alone, both before and after the birth. I'd always imagined that I'd be able to labor with my husband beside me. This was not the case. I spent the majority of the time while I was having contractions completely by myself. I assumed that I'd be treated gently and with understanding. This was not the case either. Apart from 2 midwives who I had only the briefest time with, without exception, everyone that I dealt with seemed harassed and in no mood to deal with pregnant women. I felt TOTALLY alone.

After 3 days previous spent in labor on the ward, I was hovering on the edge of Bat Country by the time the Prawn showed up; I was THAT exhausted. While most women on the post natal ward had been admitted the night before, by the time the Prawn actually arrived, I was on my 4th night of lots of pain and no sleep. Of course, Mr. DD was ordered off the ward at 10pm, leaving me in the care of more surly midwives who were grievously over extended.

Thursday night (I went into the hospital on Sunday) was undoubtedly the low point of my then 32 years of life. The Prawn wasn't feeding well; my milk hadn't come in and she was positively screaming of hunger, keeping awake the 3 other women and babies on the ward (Don't get me started on the ward system, because my head will literally fall off.) which was yet another source of stress. (It's MY child keeping everyone awake) On a 4 day sleep jag, the walls were literally beginning to melt, so I hobbled down the hallway with the bassinet. I asked a nurse on duty (who was doing nothing but reading a magazine, I assure you) if she could pretty please cup feed the Prawn so that I could literally have 15 minutes of sleep. She said of course, so I went back and collapsed.

Two hours later, I woke up in a panic as the bassinet by my bed was still empty. I padded down the hall to the nurses station only to hear a conversation going on inside.

"She said she was tired."

"Bloody hell, she thinks she's tired now, just wait til she gets this little one home! What the hell does she think she's going to do then, pass her off to someone else?"

I'm not a paranoid person by nature, but even I realized that the two women inside were talking about me, so I walked straight in and have never seen two people come closer to pissing their pants.

The one who'd made the last unpleasant comment brightly said, "Alright love? You feeling better?"

"Give me my daughter." I told her. I wish now that I'd added, "and go straight to hell."

The next morning, during the consultants rounds, I told the doctor in no uncertain terms that if she didn't see fit to release me this afternoon, that I was walking out with my baby and she and everyone else could just sit and spin. Although they weren't happy about releasing a Cesarean patient a day early, (and they were right, too. The night I went home, I suffered a major drop in blood pressure) I think they could see the crazy starting to emerge from cracks in my facade.

As soon as I got in the car, I cried all the way home. I have never been so grateful to leave ANYWHERE in my life.

That covers me. But the Prawn was another matter.

The nature of the Prawn's birth made me feel assaulted by her presence. Watching natural births and even planned Cesarean births has made me realize beyond a shadow of a doubt that I did NOT have the kind of experience that was conducive to bonding with a baby. In the hospital and even for months after, she was a duty; this thing that appeared in my life that I was now responsible for and although I didn't resent her, I also didn't really feel much of anything whatsoever. Mr. DD spent a lot of time with her in those early months while I recuperated and processed and I truly wonder sometimes if that's why she sometimes shuns me now in favor of her father. Ironic, isn't it? Now that I AM head over heels in love with her, she wants little to do with me. While I know that it's a phase that she'll hopefully grow out of, it doesn't hurt any less when she shoves me aside, knowing that it's my own bloody fault.

Unfortunately, should this pregnancy come to term, I will be admitted to the very same hospital on the very same ward. I have experience on my side this time, and also the knowledge that the baby will be born on a specific date. I know that some women who end up with a traumatic Cesarean experience desperately want to experience a natural birth, but I am not one of these women. I don't feel like I "missed" anything. I'm not excited by the idea of a second Cesarean birth, but at least I'll feel ready for it. (although hopefully this time, the blasted epidural will last for the ENTIRETY of the operation.)

The Prawn, has of late, begun to understand what "love" means. Driving her to the indoor playground the other day, she began singing, "I love Mummy!" over and over again and grinning her most brilliant grin.

It almost makes it all go away.


Molly said...

Wow. I had no idea it had been so tough. I would have totally called those nurses on their assery though. "Oh, I'm sorry, am I interrupting your session of sitting around and insulting me? Pardon!"

Hopefully this time things will all work out. You've got one hell of an adorable famiy.

Anonymous said...

I hesitate to comment because, as you know, my birth and hospital experiences were both very good; I had no idea what you went through and I am really shocked by the behaviour of the hospital staff. But, perhaps it may help to know that despite the really good birth experience I had with my baby, he still seems to be much more excited about his father than about me. 'Daddy' is one of his (still very small) stock of identifiable words. He screams with pleasure when his Dad comes through the door and in the morning (I'm the one who gets up early) he can't wait for the moment he'll be allowed to go through to our room and jump on his poor sleepy Dad. 'Mama', on the other hand, is still his all-purpose noise for 'there's something I want'. It's hard not to be jealous, especially as my husband currently does more of the childcare than I do, and frankly I am jealous. But I think little kids often do take their mums for granted. In a way that's good: it's a sign they feel completely secure. They take for granted that we'll always be there, mopping things up and loving them no matter what. (Though my devotion definitely wobbled when Hugh chucked my brand-new phone in the bin with all the vegetable peelings.)


MsPrufrock said...

I laboured alone for pretty much the entire latter stages. I didn't know I was so close to delivery, neither did my midwife, as evidenced by the final exam in which she said, "Oh. Wow. You're ready to have this baby. I HAD NO IDEA YOU WERE THIS CLOSE." Sigh.

You know, overall, my labour and birth experience wasn't that bad. However, I kind of wished there was a US-style nursery within the ward to which the babies could be taken so mothers could get some blessed sleep. As for those bitches at your hospital, you manage at home because you have help. At the hospital, you suddenly have a baby, and at night you're the only one to look after them. It is immensely different once you're home. Bitches, bitches, bitches.

I'm all upset on your behalf. You know, two years later.

rockmama said...

Like I said in my original birth post, "whoever decided that women who have just experienced major, traumatic surgery should also have to spend the night looking after a newborn DESPITE the fact that they are, in fact, unable to get out of bed due to various medical apparatus attached to them AND surrounded by other women with newborns, should be repeatedly kicked in the head and then set on fire."

Sarahbchicago said...

Thanks for writing about your very painful experience. I wish you and your family a very different experience the next time around. I have a daughter close to Prawn's age, and I'm finding myself thinking a lot about her birth and the rough few months that followed (post-partum depression) as she is about to turn two and I gear up for another round of fertility treatments.

lisalou said...

First of all Nothing is your "fault".
Baby's are crazy and the start of it all is nuts- even with out the shit deal that you got dealt. I swear if I lived there I'd run down to that ward and shove my boot up those nurses' vajuddys for you.