Dealing with Disappointment (Birth Edition)

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My 34 week check up with my midwife practice turned up protein in my urine, and a 10 pound weight gain, both signs of pre-eclampsia. My blood pressure was normal for me, which is even a little low for the general population. They sent me home with a 24 hour urine collection, which I brought back the next day.

The day after the urine collection, I called about the results. About an hour and a half later, I was admitted into the hospital. Two days later, I delivered my baby girl by medically necessary C-section after 8 hours of active labor, six weeks early.

I had wanted to give birth naturally, without pain meds. I had wanted to be supported by midwives, be monitored intermittently, be allowed to labor in peace. This is not what happened.

I know that the important thing was and is that we are both alive and healthy and healing. Is it completely unreasonable to be disappointed that I didn’t have the birth I wanted?  Reasonable or not, I’m hurting.

I know better. I know better than to tell myself stories of how things should be, to set up expectations, to set up disappointment by trying to predict the future. I did a lot of work to prepare myself for a unmedicalized birth — and it didn’t happen by a long shot. I can’t go back in time and unplan; learning and planning was prudent at the time. Still, it makes sense that I’m disappointed.

I am anxious hearing about other births, other pregnancies — I want to believe that I was strong and that I was brave, Like Tim told me and tells me, but my experience was not what I had defined as strong and brave.

Just like how I am not sure that I will ever nurse my daughter, even as I feed her with expressed breast milk, because of the cascade of circumstances that has led us here. And while it seems to be working, it wasn’t what I had defined as ‘best.’

I have a friend who is thankful for my sake that medical interventions exist, and were able to save me from seizure and organ damage, and to keep my baby healthy despite being born early. I wish I could look at it that way now; what I see is that the cascade of medical interventions I have read about happened to me: first, cytotec, then pitocin, then unreassuring fetal heart tones, then a c-section.

It’s a story I need to reframe. I read recently a list of 10 lessons that hospital births can learn from home birth — the first was thinking of doctors as back up. I was sick; something had gone wrong. The only way to help me (and this is the hard part to accept, the believing that I was in danger) was to deliver. And because Sylvia was not ready to join us in the outside world, it required induction and augmentation. That everything that happened was necessary back up, even if the help they were offering caused complications in and of itself.

My daughter is sleeping on my chest in her sling. I am so proud of her — she was too strong for the NICU to hold her more than 36 hours. She is growing like gangbusters. She shows personality in her dark eyes, and smiles contentedly both awake and asleep. I love her, but it doesn’t stop me from wishing we could have met differently.

Healing from this birth will be both physical and emotional. My c-section incision is shaping up, but the emotional scars are going to take a while.