Monday, August 18, 2008

The Baby Year

Note: I still want to write up and post a standard “birth story” about Bean’s arrival, but time flies. This post summarizes the adventure; it should probably be edited and posted in parts, but here goes. Maybe more later, if you’ll indulge me by reading. It’s a big topic!

Today could be considered my last official “pregnancy milestone"... one year since the day we found out that Bean was on the way! I want to mark the day with a posting, because it wraps up a great year of learning and growing for both me and the Bean. This was a rather conscious pregnancy. Earlier in my life, I wasn’t sure I’d ever be pregnant (by choice, not a health issue) and always felt a bit sad to think I might never know what it felt like to grow another human and feel that new person (!) kicking inside me.

Then, when I found myself happily and quickly pregnant as an older introspective person, I dove in wholeheartedly. We’re still not sure if we’ll try for more kids (we’re old, y’know), so I knew this might be my one chance to revel in pregnancy.

I was blessed to become part of a “birth community” in my town, a group of wise women who celebrate and teach about this amazing process. I read books, took natural birth classes, attended meetings and benefited from the services of great midwives and doulas. I kept a pregnancy journal, took belly pictures and even made a belly cast. I did specific stretches and generally trained for the big event of birth, trusting that my body knew what to do and could do it well. I felt good, if a bit tired and gigantic at the end!

When the big day (or days, in our case) came, it was indeed a grand adventure. Sure, it took over 40 hours and ended with a very much unwanted C-section, but I still had a great sense of accomplishment in what we did.

No pain meds during labor, just lots of chanting and breathing and moving. Not a quiet birth at a home, but a still a conscious birth, with good bonding time for WF and Bean while I was in surgery. Not immediate, naked nursing for a newborn Bean, but no pacifiers or formula, either, and no time spent in the nursery alone. We weren’t attended in labor mostly by my doula, but by a nurse who was surprised to be a part of “natural” labor and who was eventually won over by the effectiveness of the chanting; she could see positive effects on the monitors. (We all thought that the pitocin, tried after the first day of labor at my doula's home, would get us to the final, natural push). No rushed pressure from doctors: I was literally still standing (on the bed) when it came time to decide on surgery. Bean wasn’t “caught” by my midwife, but brought into the world by a respectful woman OB.

So, when people tell me they are sorry to hear about my “ordeal,” I find myself trying to explain that it wasn’t so bad! It’s like running a marathon, I think; ideally lots of training and anticipation before hand, then the actual marathon of labor. It may have some painful times and some exhilarating times, but a good result/accomplishment at the end. I chose to run this marathon; it just happened to take longer and ended differently than we expected. People don’t usually express sympathy to those who choose to run marathons, do they?

We did, of course, end up with a healthy, happy Bean from this whole process. He is the most important piece, but I’m grateful for the experience, as well. I still don’t really understand why my body did have some health issues and needed “modern” help in the end to get Bean out. My midwives say that perhaps I am one of the 5% who truly need a C-section (as opposed to the 35% of so who currently get them). Does that mean that we be dead if this was 100 years ago? Maybe. But we also suspect that I pushed myself a bit too hard during pregnancy, working through symptoms of pre-eclampsia, which eventually came on full-blown during labor.

Who knows. But the hospital ending was certainly NOT caused by our natural choices, and instead my preparation made me better able to handle the process of pitocin and eventual surgery. I still believe in natural birth. I would try for another home birth, given the chance. Pregnancy and birth are amazing, and opportunities to know your body’s power. It’s been a wild, wonderful year!

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