I posted this article on my personal Facebook yesterday, with this statement, "Such a healing article. I have a difficult time in allowing myself any credit, but this was so validating to read. The mere minutes I had to make the decision, I was the bravest I have ever been. Since then, I have had to become the strongest I have ever been. And I can also say that I am now the most blessed I have ever been. Happy 10 months, Bean!"
A distant friend, who is/was a nurse (and who I don't think knows my story), responded with this, "It doesn't matter how a baby is born. My rule is always healthy mom healthy baby. I love birth plan mamas. They just have to remember I'm not the enemy!"
At first, it hurt and I jumped on the defensive. Of course it matters! I was absolutely not healthy! I was in excruciating pain and drugged so hard I barely remember the first week of my son's life! I have PTSD and post-partum anxiety!
But then, I thought... She has a point. I can see her side. Her job is to make sure that both mom and baby stay alive. Her, and the other nurses and doctors, have that responsibility to the mothers and babies. The issue that I am trying to work against is when their convenience becomes a hindrance to birthing mothers, such has restricted movement, birthing on the back, unnecessarily scheduled inductions/cesareans etc. But OBs and nurses are not automatically evil. In fact, I’ve met the OB that I plan to have a hospital birth with once I’m pregnant with #2. She is incredibly supportive of VBaCs (vaginal birth after cesarean), and even gave me statistics supporting VBACs at our initial meeting! Several of my mama friends have or are planning to birth with her, and have given her the highest praise. I feel comfortable with the thought of her providing my prenatal care and assisting me in the birth of my next child.
To me, it did matter how Bean was born. Imagine telling a girl who has planned her dream wedding all her life, has all the vendors paid for, and is getting ready to walk down the aisle, that she has to go to the courthouse and give up everything she has dreamed of, planned on, and paid for. In the end, she is still marrying the love of her life, but what was planned to be a pivotal day in her life has been reduced to almost nothing, comparatively, with none of the memories that she hoped for. For anyone who has not had a similar experience, this is the closest analogy I was able to come up with. In the end, though, we did both come out alive, and for that I am eternally grateful for.
Her statement, “I love birth plan mamas,” got me thinking a lot, though. I was a birth plan mama. Most of my friends are birth plan mamas. In fact, I sat on a pretty high horse with my birth plan. I was literally so set in my birth plan that I scoffed and rolled my eyes while filling out the paperwork required in case of a transfer. I whined to Bear about having to fill it out, and put it off as long as possible. I had a healthy pregnancy, why shouldn’t I have a healthy, normal, natural birth, like women have been having for eons? Isn’t that what the natural birth community preaches, that we were made for this? My mantra, like so many others, was, “I grew this baby, I can birth this baby.” Until I couldn’t.
Coming off of my high horse, the fall was hard. It left me breathless, bruised, and sore. I am grateful, in a way, though, because it opened my eyes. Namely, if I had not been so set on having a home birth, if my mind and heart had been more open to the possibility of something ending up differently, maybe I wouldn’t have suffered so much when plans did change. Perhaps my PTSD/anxiety would have been less, or even non-existent. If the Natural Birthing Community was more open to necessary medical interventions (as my midwife was), perhaps my friends who have had to have them in order to birth vaginally would not be so ashamed to admit so. Is there a chance that the natural birth community and modern medicine could live in harmony, rather than pitted against each other? Working together, maybe an outcome of “healthy mama, healthy baby” would become more often a reality, rather than a distant dream, as it is for so many. To the doctors and nurses and midwives and doulas who really do care about that, thank you. I appreciate you beyond what words can express.
On Facebook, my response was that I was not healthy, I had PTSD and anxiety due to my birth experience, which was met kindly by my nurse friend, but spurred another response which nearly broke my heart and has left me crying all morning.
A distant family member, who I doubt knows the story of Bean’s birth, made the joke that knowing birth could bring on “the same PTSD that soldiers come home from war with” was good birth control.
Oh. My. Heart.
I have PTSD, not because of birth, and, I think, even very little has to do with it ending in a c-section over a vaginal birth. It is from the situation surrounding Bean’s birth. To quote a previous blog post,
"In a matter of minutes, we went from our midwife telling Bear to get ready to catch his baby to our baby being born in a room full of strangers, with the only person in the room who loved him out cold on the table. If that is not traumatic, I don't know what is.”
My experience is rare, and shared in the hopes of 1) finding and offering solidarity with and to other women who have been through similar experiences and 2) to educate people who have not been. The last thing I want is for my experience to be used as something to scare women away from having children. Even though it was said in jest, I have been in tears over that statement since I logged into Facebook this morning. I will be honest and say that statements like these are what make me not want to share anything about my experience, but also spur me to do it. I would not change what I have been through for the world, and I am grateful every day that such a great blessing as Bean came out of what occurred. Despite this “joke”, I will continue to share and be vulnerable, even if I only reach one other person for the good with my experience.
Mama Bear of one Baby Bear, Bean, who both love Papa Bear, and live in a crafty, gluten-free cozy den.