Thursday, February 27, 2014

Working Through Birth Trauma

So I'm a bit of a planner, okay?

And so I'm about ten steps ahead of myself, and worrying about how I will have to choose a medical provider to manage my pregnancy and delivery. You know, when I'm actually pregnant. And I'm not even TTC'ing yet.

But I'm worried about feeling rushed into a decision. And I'm feeling way more anxious about my choice this time around. I was pretty chill about it last time. Interviewed a couple people, got a couple recommendations (one from a friend, one from a midwife who doesn't deliver babies herself anymore), and picked. And it was all mostly fine, until the big day. And then it sucked. Horribly.

And everyone was fine. And I got my gorgeous girl. And I couldn't be happier with our lives together. So it feels awfully whiny to complain.

But if I could, I wish that I could have a more empowering experience the next time around. Whatever that would look like. I have no idea.

So today I called and made an appointment with a woman who teaches group classes for expectant and new parents, and also does one on one counseling. We are meeting in two weeks. She's not actually licensed as, you know, a social worker or therapist or anything. But has a huge reputation. So I'm going to give it a shot. But it's pricey, so I want to go in with established goals and relevant history to share. Hopefully one appointment will be sufficient for now. I may schedule another later on after, you know, I'm actually pregnant and facing an imminent delivery.

I really liked having a solo provider last time. I liked knowing exactly who would be with me on the big day, and having time to build a relationship with her. I can't imagine using a large practice, and getting  random person that I've only met once.

So I'd like to replicate that again, if possible. Of course, the potential downside is that she could have another client go into labor, and another midwife might end up with me. This is what happened with my doula. Of course, her back up was fabulous.

So here's a list of things that went wrong. Some of them are no one's fault. But these are the thing that left me with some baggage to work through.

1. My complaints of serious fatigue were brushed off during pregnancy -- I never got that mythical burst of energy in my second trimester because my anemia wasn't diagnosed for such a long time.

2. Time pressure to have the baby before my sister moved to Florida left me seriously stressed out over this giant event I couldn't control.

3. Taking Ambien (recommended by my midwife) to make me sleep after being admitted to the hospital for Cervadil (to ripen the uterus) for 24 hours but before the Pitocin was started.

I took the Ambien and woke up two hours later in active (back labor)... hallucinating. Alone in the dark in a hospital. My labor coach ninety minutes away -- she'd been kicked out because I was in Antepartum, not Labor and Delivery.

What was weird about this one was that the nurses kept questioning the order for the Ambien. They seemed very reluctant to give it to me. Kept saying, "Gosh, usually we give Stadol. Are you sure you want to take this?"

At the time, I just shrugged and said, "Well, I've never taken it before but the midwife thinks it's a good idea."

Hmm. A good reminder that nurses usually know best. But I'm not sure I would've done anything differently. What did I know about Ambien?

My memories of the next few hours are so strange. Blurry and not set in time properly.

4. Epidural not working properly. I had searing pain in my right sacrum for hours. I'm not so traumatized by this now. But it certainly sucked in the moment. I definitely hope this doesn't happen again.

5. Pushing. For four hours.

It felt so violent and scary. Like the frightening force of heaving while vomiting. Over and over and over again. Helpless to slow it down. Pressing on my epidural button over and over again, praying for relief, and getting none. Begging for a C-section, and being laughed at.

Feeling so spent and so frightened. (And after ten weeks of Kegeling every single night, and 41+ weeks of daily workouts, cheated -- weren't all these things supposed to help?)

6. Post partum hemorrhage. Losing 40% of my blood volume. Feeling so terribly dizzy and awful, and being afraid to admit it, for fear that they would take my baby away. Being too weak to make it to the bathroom by myself, even with a nurse practically carrying me. Needing weeks before I could successfully walk a city block without having to stop and rest. Not being able to take care of myself for several weeks.

7. And this. Feeling like my midwife was judging me. And finding me inadequate.

Number seven is the easiest thing to solve, in some ways. I need to find a midwife who is more of a cheerleader. I had two fabulous midwives visit me after Calliope was born, one in the hospital and one at home. They were both amazing. They spent plenty of time with me and seemed unhurried. That meant the world to me.

I haven't been able to find one, but I've located the other. I will meet with her, and tell her that I loved her kind attention, and would be happy to work with her.

Except for the fact that I'm terrified of having another vaginal delivery. And facing number five, the violent pushing. Even though I know it's unlikely that I will have to push for hours again. But my former midwife mentioned that she had a very hard time pushing her second out. And said about herself, "I was such a baby." Ouch. Such judgment.

So I worry about that. And then wonder if a planned C-section wouldn't be just the thing?

Except that I'm scared of going under the knife, too!

Anyway, I feel much more upbeat about all these issues now than I did when Calliope was tiny. I don't actually feel much in the way of trauma anymore. But I'd like to see what I can to make sure that these issues don't rear their ugly heads with round two, if I should be so lucky as to have a round two.

So I'm looking forward to doing a preemptive strike against birth trauma, round 2. I'm curious to see how it goes. Although it may be that I'm too anxious about actually getting pregnant to work ahead this far. I'll give it a few days and decide.


  1. I think it's great to do a little consulting before TTC. That's what I did and found it very comforting. Had I had the $$ I definitely would have invested in some therapy, too. It's great that you have a very concise list of "grievances" to work with - I bet many if not all of those issues can and will be addressed with the right provider!

  2. I think it's really smart to be thinking about your providers now. Though you'll also have plenty of time after finding out you are pregnant... I took several weeks after knowing I was pregnant at 5 weeks to deciding. I hope my experience can be encouraging. My pregnancy was worse (more uncomfortable/sick) with #2, and my labor and delivery (2 WEEKS prodromal labor followed by same lack of progression I'd had with #1, same pitocin, and eventually emergency c-section (while with #1 I'd at least managed to deliver vaginally). Anyways all that is to say my experience giving birth the 2nd time was WHOLLY better because my expectations of myself (an "I am open to what comes" attitude) and my midwife/nurses and eventually ob/surgeon were met. The midwife and nurses -at a different hospital- were wonderful and communicative and the postpartum care for 4 days in hospital was lovely. It made ALL the difference in an equally "bad" scenario of birth events. Well good luck with TTC, I do believe you can and will have a better experience the 2nd time around!

    1. This is really helpful to hear. Because at the end of the day, really, what I can work on is my expectations of myself. I can't control the outcome. And my providers might change at the last minute.

      I hope you are right that I have a better experience!

  3. I had a wonderful midwife for my delivery, and I think she and the nurses made SUCH a difference in getting me through what was a very intense labor. I also had the 4-5 hours of pushing (my pelvic floor was TOO strong, they said!), which is very daunting when I think about going through everything a second time. I think the thing I fear the most is that I do have fear now. I was very calm about labor the first time around because I didn't know what was coming. I expected it to be hard, but I never expected the pushing, exhausting part to last so long. I found Hypnobabies to be really helpful in eliminating fear during my pregnancy (it didn't work during labor), so I hope it can work its magic if I ever do it all again!

    1. I also used Hypnobabies during pregnancy but because I went into labor while totally drugged and alone, it all went out the window. Totally forgot about it. I'm not sure I have the stomach to do all that prep again. Though I tried the methods for less painful things and found them effective. So maybe.

      I feel the same way, that I have the fear to contend with that I didn't have the first time around.

  4. I am so sorry you clearly had SUCH an awful time the first time around. I had a vaginal unmedicated birth the first time - and am seriously considering a scheduled C section for the second! Wouldn't it be amazing to have everything planned, you could be ready for the birth on the day of your choice, with the people you have chosen to be there and your home cooked frozen meals ready to go at home!
    Have you considered looking into Hypnobirthing - I am going to a hypnotherapist who does this too and it is proving extremely helpful!

    1. I'd love to hear about it if you do decide to schedule an elective C-section. I'm not sure I'd actually go through with it because I do think there are health benefits to the baby in "going through the chute" but there's a lot that appeals about it!

      As I mentioned to the PP, I prepared for labor with Hypnobabies, but going into labor alone and drugged, I forgot all about it.

  5. IMO, your experience with pushing would be a better one with a better, more supportive (less judgemental) midwife or doula or nurse or whomever you chose. I pushed for 3 hours but the 2 midwife students & 2 Med students who spoke calmly & supportively to me the whole time made it seem like less than an hour.

    Thinking about these things now will make a world of difference once you're pregnant. You'll be better equipped to speak up for yourself this time.

  6. You know, I also had serious birth trauma but never really talked about it. It was awful. Both times. For completely different but equally different reasons. Okay, this is not what you want to hear. I'm sorry. BUT I just want you to know I can completely empathize with your list and you shouldn't let anyone minimize your feelings/memories over this. (That's what I would have wanted someone to say to me a few years ago.)

  7. sorry --"completely different but equally awful"

  8. Well, you know my birth story. I feel (and felt) your pain. It's the only thing that gives me pause about T42. Pregnancy was amazing, but hey, how do I get this kid out of my body when I don't like the 2 options I have to deliver? I think it's great that you are meeting with someone. As you know, I met with a therapist (she was officially a "spiritual leader," or something like that, but had been a doula in the past, taught yoga and hypnobirthing,etc, so she was familiar with birth). It was not what I expected but yet so so helpful. I planned on doing more than one session but never went back. Likely because it was enough. So, I applaud you thinking ahead and doing it.

    1. I thought a lot about you and Wottadoll when writing my post. It's so hard to feel so out of control. I remember reading your bosts before S was born and hoping that you would have the experience you had hoped for, but feeling unsurprised that you didn't. I think I recognized a lot of myself i your experience. Unfortunately, it just seems hard for us strong women to have the experience we hope for. And I don't think it's all about what's wrong with us!

      I hope I will find the counseling as helpful as you did.

    2. PS I will say that tincture of time has helped me a lot with the fear. At six months out, there's no way I could think about it. Now, after two and a half years, it's easier. So if you are worried about how this will impact your T42 hopes and dreams... it may get easier with time. Though for me, it took more time than I think you want to wait.

  9. It’s great to hear about this preemptive plan. I guess it would be easier for you this time, since you’re already aware of what to expect. Yes, the fear is kind of an inevitable part of it. After all, we’re talking about childbirth and going under the knife here. Well, I hope everything worked out the way you intended them to be. Good luck, and take care!

    Sabrina Craig @ The Law Offices of Joseph M. Lichtenstein