Monday, April 23, 2012

A Few More Thoughts...

Well, today Eric is back at work after his paternity leave, so it's just me, Ellie and the pup hanging out at home today. However, tomorrow my dad is coming to visit and staying until Friday, and then next week my mom is coming. So we still have lots to look forward to!

In the meantime, now that my birth story has been told in its (exceptionally long) entirety, I just wanted to make note of a few additional thoughts that either didn't come up during the birth story proper, or simply warrant mentioning again. It was an experience that I won't soon forget, and it's a very emotionally charged memory. I've been working hard to process everything that happened, before, during and after the birth, and so I just wanted to record a few more of my thoughts, if you don't mind.

My Preparations for the Birth

As I have mentioned on here, Eric and I did do some preparing before the birth to try to set ourselves up to have the best chance possible for the birth we wanted: an intervention-free natural birth. I didn't want to be induced, I didn't want an epidural, I definitely didn't want a cesarean section. I wanted a med-free vaginal birth, I wanted the baby put on my chest for skin-to-skin contact as soon as she was born, I wanted delayed cord clamping, I wanted all newborn procedures delayed until breastfeeding was established in the first hour after birth. Of course I knew that birth is unpredictable and not something you can plan for (OBVIOUSLY, and if I didn't know that before, I certainly do now), but I wanted to do the best I could to try for my ideal experience.

Of the two of us, Eric was the reader. He read tons of books about pregnancy, labor, being a good birth partner, and parenting. I didn't read to nearly the extent that he did (he has the advantage of being able to read on the train during his commute without getting motion sick, unlike me), but having one of us be really knowledgeable about what we may encounter was invaluable. We had lots of decisions to make as the labor wore on, and Eric was so well-informed, he was able to be an excellent advocate for me and help make sure we were making the right decisions for us. (His favorite book was The Birth Partner, if you are expecting and looking for some reading!)

One thing we did together was the Hypnobabies Home Study Course. As I mentioned in the past, this course was excellent for keeping me relaxed in the last couple of months of my pregnancy. I loved the daily affirmations, which helped me feel very positive and confident. I did all the other hypnosis tracks before bed each night and I largely credit them with my ability to fall right to sleep each night. I'm usually the type who stays awake at night worrying about things, but that was never a problem for me, I think because I was so relaxed. Honestly, those feelings of confidence and calm were well worth the cost of the program to me. However, as far as actually helping me during labor, I can't say that it did anything for me. Granted, I didn't have your standard labor. Maybe if things had played out along a more normal timeline, it might have helped a bit more. But really, I didn't use much of what I learned during labor. Far more helpful to me was my doula...

My Doula

Jess, my doula, massaging my back during a contraction

Jess was AMAZING. I can't imagine what my labor experience would have been like without her. Could Eric and I have done it without her? Sure, we can do anything, and all that. But I wouldn't have wanted to do that, that's for sure.

Probably the best preparation for labor for me was my prenatal meetings with Jess, and more specifically, the breathing techniques she practiced with us as well as talking through my hopes and fears for birth. Each of my prenatal meetings with her were very therapeutic, and one that proved especially helpful had focused on my fears of a c-section. To try to alleviate my fears a bit, Jess had walked me through exactly what a c-section would entail - what would happen, what the room would look like, what I might hear, what I might smell, everything. This helped me immensely before the fact in that it eliminated some fear of the unknown, and when I did end up needing a c-section, I was able to remember some of the things Jess told me to expect and it helped calm me in the moment.

Of course, Jess was also a great source of support during the whole labor and delivery. She helped me try different things to cope with contractions, was very encouraging, kept us apprised of our options as labor wore on, helped us to fully understand decisions we were making, stayed by my side in the operating room when Eric went to be with the baby, and even helped us get breastfeeding underway. After the birth, we had a postpartum meeting with her as well, where we did some debriefing and she brought us a meal (Daisy May's BBQ, our favorite NYC 'cue!).

An unexpected but invaluable service she provided was being a support for Eric. As I mentioned, Eric did tons of reading. He knew his stuff going into labor. But, my labor was long and I don't think he expected the emotional toll that seeing someone you love in so much pain can take on you. Having Jess there gave him someone to talk to during down times, someone to bounce his thoughts off of when we were trying to make a decision (such as deciding to go for the epidural), etc. Even something so simple as making sure he had the camera in the operating room - he would have forgotten it had she not grabbed it, and we would have missed out on pictures from Ellie's first moments, pictures that I will treasure forever. It was just so nice for Eric to have someone not so emotionally invested in the situation to talk to and confer with during the whole process. I'm so grateful for the support she gave to him.

Bottom line, in my personal opinion, if you spend any money on birth preparation, get a doula. She was an absolutely invaluable source of support to us and I can't imagine having done it without her.

My Medical Team

I also just wanted to rave about my doctors, the hospital, and the nurses. Everyone was so kind to us. From the moment we checked in to the hospital, I felt like the staff cared about what we wanted and they really did all they could to try to give us the birth experience we hoped for. When that couldn't happen, they handled it with respect and consideration and did all they could to take good care of us, both physically and mentally.

Of course, I chose my doctors based on their reputation as being the best in town and very supportive of natural birth. I know that I made the right decision - each one tried so hard to give me that birth experience I wanted, but ultimately, they did what they had to do to take care of me and Ellie. Even when they knew that my plans were going to fall apart, they handled it in such a way that I still felt like I had some control over the situation. I appreciated their care and demeanor very, very much.

With Dr. Migliaccio in the recovery room after my c-section

Beyond just my doctors, the whole hospital staff was wonderful. Given all the various complications, we met many different people from many different departments, and everyone (with the exception of the one lactation consultant) was excellent - very nice, and they provided great care. Overall, we were very happy with our experience at Palisades Medical Center. Choosing a hospital was a very stressful decision for us, and in the end we actually sort of got forced into going to Palisades, but now after the fact I know that we absolutely ended up where we needed to be. It was perfect.

With Ana, one of our favorite nurses

This guy wasn't medical staff, but while we're talking about people going out of their way to care for us, it bears mentioning that our cab driver when we came home from the hospital was also awesome. He went out of his way to avoid potholes and bumps in the road, and made sure to pull up right to our front door so my poor, in-pain self wouldn't have far to walk. It was a kindness that was not requested but certainly didn't go unnoticed or unappreciated. Really, our whole experience was just like that cab driver - people doing all they could to make things as easy on us as possible.

Eric

I said it before but I want to say it again - Eric was incredible through this whole thing. I know he thinks it's just his job as my husband, but sadly, I don't think all husbands behave the way he did. He never left my side, from the early moments of labor through my entire recovery. He did whatever I needed, whether it was to be my support as I swayed through contractions, feeding me ice chips when I thought I might die of thirst, holding my hand in the operating room, brushing my hair after I had been laying in a hospital bed for days, putting a cool washcloth on my head when my fever left me sweaty, taking care of Ellie so I didn't have to worry about her as I tried to recover, and on and on. He really went above and beyond and I can never thank him enough for being such a support to me. He is such an incredible husband and father, and Ellie and I are very lucky ladies.

My handsome, amazing husband and my beautiful baby girl

Processing the Birth

One thing that has been a bit of a struggle for me (and will continue to be for a while, I expect) is coming to terms with how everything played out. On the one hand, everything happened just as it needed to for me to feel at peace with every decision we made. For instance, I had sworn I wouldn't get an epidural. However, by the time my labor hit the 76-hour mark, and I was so uncomfortable, I was able to make peace with that decision and I have no regrets about getting that epidural at all. It was what I had to do at the time and it was absolutely, 100% the right decision. In a way, I'm glad that things happened in the way that they did so that I could say that at every step of the way, we made the decisions that were right for us in that moment. No regrets.

However, a part of me still feels cheated out of the experience I wanted. The thing I had been looking forward to the most was that skin-to-skin contact right after birth - having my baby put on my chest immediately, feeding her right away, holding her and cuddling with her and bonding with her in her very first moments of life. Instead, I was laying on an operating table and first saw her through pictures. I didn't get to hold her until over an hour later. Of course, then we still got our skin-to-skin and breastfeeding time, but it just wasn't how I had wanted it to happen. I missed the first few moments of her life. There are times when I think about that and it just breaks my heart, and I feel so angry at how it all happened. Again, I'm not upset about any decisions we made, but I'm just upset at the situation. I'm upset that the situation forced us into those decisions. We did what was best for Ellie and for me, but I hate that it came to that.

A big fear that I have now is how this experience will impact future pregnancies. For one thing, I always thought I wanted a big family. After having gone through this, I can't say that with such certainty anymore. Of course, as I get some distance from the whole thing, my feelings may change. But having been told that I will now be predisposed for HELLP syndrome in future pregnancies, it worries me. I don't want to go through this again and I don't want to put any future babies at risk. I know there is time to think about all this and of course I'll be talking with my doctors about what this all means for my future, but right now I just worry.

I think it will take time to really come to terms with how it all went down. I still can't tell the birth story out loud without getting choked up. But, I know that's normal. It will just take some time to grieve the experience I missed out on and come to terms with what actually happened. And that's okay.

Ellie

At the end of the day, none of what happened matters because Ellie is here and she's perfectly healthy. THAT'S what matters. And if either of us had to face complications and setbacks, I'm so glad it was me and not her. I am so lucky to have this happy, healthy little girl sleeping next to me right now, and how she actually got here doesn't matter one bit because she's here and she's perfect. I couldn't ask for anything more.

Taking Ellie home from the hospital

5 comments:

Lauren said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts girl, this def makes me realize birth is so unpredictable no matter how much we plan :-)

Kristen Jo Ann said...

Wow! I admire you & your husband so much- you guys are a true TEAM & excellent parents! =)

Dad said...

Even though neither of you required that long and intense birth saga (said as the husband of course), as you said at the end of the day nothing...repeat nothing is more important or fullfilling than the feeling of being a parent. As we used to talk about being married is much more important than the act of getting married, the feelings of being a parent of your beautiful Ellie will fill your heart and mind for the rest of your life.

See you tomorrow.

Kim said...

Very well put, all of it. As someone who experienced a very similar situation (although my labor was only 31 hours - you are amazing) including the ending c-section, it is hard to wrap your brain around getting exactly the situation you DIDN'T want. A lot of people may say, your baby is here and healthy, just be happy, but its not that simple. Thank you for putting so eloquently what I have been thinking for 4 years now.

Mrs. W. said...

Kim, I'm so glad you commented. It's really nice to hear that I'm not alone in feeling this way, because sometimes I do feel a little guilty for feeling like that since Ellie did make it here safe and sound, so does it really matter HOW she got here? But I do think it's important to grieve the experience you missed out on. I'm sorry you had a similar situation but thanks so much for making me feel like I'm not alone! :)