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.


#reverb 10 – Dec 27, Ordinary Joy

Two small children kissing.

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Prompt: Ordinary joy. Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year? (Author: Brené Brown)

I would like to put two moments out there for consideration, both involving my partner.

I love locking eyes with him, feeling close to him that way, trusting him enough to maintain eye contact where so many others might look away. This is something I look forward to doing with my child, especially as he or she nurses.
My partner and I cuddle often. We often hug, we often brush lips, we spoon in bed, but sometimes we forget to kiss — to really kiss, deeply. It is thrilling to remember this kind of kissing, for our tongues to touch, when we have fallen out of this habit, when we have forgotten about the sensation.

Book of Love

When I first began to date Tim in college, I took to emailing my younger sister to get her advice. (You see, she is the emotional one, and I am the logical one. We’re better balanced now, but four years ago, less so.) In discussing our respective love lives, it was that word exactly that came up — love. What is love?

I just finished a book called Talk of Love by Ann Swidler. I found out about it from a post on Sociological Images. Ann Swidler conducted a study about the way that a narrow population of white, suburban, heterosexual California couples and how they talked about love. She took their comments and framed two cultural models of love.

Mythic Love

  1. Love is a clear, all-or-nothing choice.
  2. The person you love is unique, and idealized.
  3. Your choice to love is made in defiance of social forces.
  4. The choice to love permanently resolves an individual’s destiny.

In other words: “They met, and it was love at first sight. There would never be another girl (boy) for him (her). No one could come between them. They overcame obstacles and lived happily ever after.” (113) This is easily identified as the mythic love that appears in books and movies, the kind of love that people like to scoff at.


  1. Real love is not sudden or certain. It grows slowly and is often ambivalent and confused. Love does not require a dramatic choice but may result from circumstance, accident, or inertia.
  2. There is no “one true love.” One can love many people in a variety of different ways.
  3. The kind of love that leads to marriage should not depend on irrational feeling in defiance of social convention, but on compatibility and on practical trains that make persons good life partners. The fewer obstacles that people have to overcome, the happier they are likely to be.
  4. Love does not necessarily last forever. Love and marriage do not settle either personal identity or social destiny. Rather ‘than guaranteeing that one will live ‘happily ever after,’ love requires continuing hard work, compromise, and change.

This is the kind of love that, as the Sociological Images post states, drives both the psychological and religious self-help industries. It is the kind of love that I identify in the day to day struggles of being married.

So What?

Swidler goes on to argue that the two concepts of love are used differently by the same people, that both are coherent cultural constructs that help us navigate our confusing  world.

What I mean to say (and Swidler argues) is that people use the “realistic” view of love to manage and interpret ongoing relationships, and struggle with the day to day realities of being married.

However, the mythic formula is used to formulate arguments on whether or not to marry or stay married. The mainstays of a “decisive choice” and a “unique other” are available because one is either married or they’re not, and one is only married to one person at a time. The institution of marriage is governed by this mythic understanding. The mythic understanding upholds the instution of marriage, and the institution of marriage upholds the mythic understanding.

For me, this has all sorts of implications.

As a writer, it means that romances in the modern sense has to have several dimensions to be realistic — one where there is a lot of certainty, and one where there is potentially a lot of ambivalence. If characters want to get married, it means that they will convince each other and their families of the certainty of their love. If they don’t want to get married, they will probably be a lot less certain, and conflicts with their friends and family may arise.

As an LGTBQ Ally (As an ally, I am always in training. Feel free to correct me, those who self-identify), it puts a whole new spin on the fight for equal marriage rights. For one, there is a school of thought within the movement that marriage is not radical enough. On the other hand, there is a school of thought that says that without marriage, love relationships will never be legitimate in the mainstream heterosexual understanding of love relationships.

As a married person, I recognize that the growing uncertainty of marriage in our society contributes to the need to understand love differently. (Oh, the books that I have read and will continue to read on the self-help marriage subject!) But, as Ann Swidler says, as long as people want to believe that love lasts forever, the mythic love ideal will last.

What do you think?

What is love? Do the visions of love that Ann Swidler put forth make sense to you? Are there other understandings that you would propose? (Ha, pun unintended!) Continue reading