Friday, November 16, 2007

Video: Empty

Video: Question CPD

Enrolled

My enrollment process for AAMI has begun!! I got the Email this morning! I'm still not sure what all I have to do to get completely set up, it seems to be a follow-this-step-and-then-we'll-tell-you-what-the-next-one-is sort of thing. But I'm started! And I'm so happy!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Anxious

I sent out my application and payment for Ancient Art a few days ago. I am really anxious to hear back. I guess now I probably have to wait until at least Monday. Agghhh! I am far from patient on the best days; this is making me crazy!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Another Dream

In my dream Emily is only a few weeks old and is sleeping upstairs. Maddie is asleep in her room. I start having some uncomfortable stomach pains, so I head to the bathroom, thinking that is the problem. I barely get the door shut when a very intense pain drives me to my knees. I reach down and feel a baby crowning. I gently push and slowly guide the head out of my body with my hand. I can feel the damp softness of the baby's hair, and I can feel the baby both inside and outside of me. I give another small push and bring the baby up to my chest. She is a girl, and she doesn't utter a sound, but I can see she is breathing. I sit quickly, and feel her weight in my arms. Chris comes in the room and, like me, is shocked to see we have another baby. But I am too caught up in the exquisite perfectness of this birth to think about anything else.

The dream ended there. I had this dream a few weeks after Emily was born. I had nearly forgotten about it until about a week ago, when it resurfaced in my mind. What amazed me then, as now, was how vivid the dream was. I could feel the pain of the contractions, the stretching of my perineum. I could feel the downy softness of her head, and her legs as she left my body. I could smell the birth fluids. The tile floor felt cold under me. At the time, it helped me feel like I regained some of what I had lost when Emily was born in the hospital.

But the dream has come back. My mind cannot seem to let go of it. Even when my conscious mind is elsewhere, I can feel it playing on the edges of my subconscious. I have not yet caught what this dream is trying to teach me, but I felt compelled to share it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Dancing!

A few days ago, I was offered a really good deal on tuition to the midwifery school I want to attend, Ancient Art (http://www.ancientartmidwifery.com/ ). It was a deal that I really couldn't pass up, but it looked like I might have to, becuse we were having trouble finding a way to get the money together. So we decided that it would be worth taking out a small personal loan to pay for it.

Today it was approved!! So I get to enroll sometime in the next few days! I just need to wait for the deposit into our account.

I am so excited!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

New baby?

It looks like there will be at least one more baby added to our family.

No, I'm not pregnant.

Chris was told two days ago that he will be going to Iraq for a year starting in January. He may get to come home for a few days in March between training and leaving the country, but he will be gone the majority of 2008. He left for a deployment when Maddie was 11 months old, and now he will be leaving when Emily is 10 months old. He will miss that wonderful 12-18 months old stage in both of our girls.

We have already been discussing the possibility of having another child in a few years. We are young, and aren't sure we are ready to give up our childbearing years quite so soon. Besides, I feel strongly that there is one more little girl waiting to join our family. This has just probably sealed the deal, provided we can have another, never a sure thing with our history.

Hopefully the next time, he will be home for her whole babyhood.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Teresa's HBA3C story

This is the story of my friend Teresa's home birth after three cesareans. She made this gorgeous video that is making the rounds and changing birth perceptions everywhere. Her baby, Aidan, was born not long after Emily. So when her waters broke days before labor started, talking together about our similar experiences was natural. I was honored to share this experience with her.

Here is her video:


Here is her birth story, in her own words, and posted with permission:

The Birth of Aidan Michael

Having already had 3 Cesareans, the last one being a homebirth transport, I was at a loss for what to do in the way of birth plans with this pregnancy. What I really was hoping for was to find someone who could take a look at my medical records with me (including mention of my ‘markedly thin lower uterine segment’, my ‘narrow pubic arch’, my ‘single-sutured uterine closure’, my ‘incisional hernia’ and whatever else labels I had worried myself about) and talk with me about the risks and the benefits of having another Cesarean vs. having a homebirth. I spent a lot of hours praying and asking God to please instill in me the wisdom to know what His will was for this birth and this baby. I quickly ruled out a hospital vbac, knowing that it wasn’t an environment where I could labor effectively or feel comfortable in; therefore, I really wasn’t interested in pursuing it as an option. This left me with the options of having another Cesarean or birthing my baby at home. I called around, talked to various midwives, and got a referral to a DEM who had gone back to osteopathic school to become a doctor, opened her own birth center, and still did home births as well (along with having a family practice). She was in a very rural community 3 hours away and I decided to make the trek down to see her. The minute I met her, it was an instant “click” and I knew that I wanted her involved in my birth in some capacity. As she listened to the stories of my previous Cesareans, she said to me with tears in her eyes, "There is nothing wrong with your pelvis, your uterus, or any other part of your body. What you need is to be left alone while you labor. You need to feel free to do whatever you need to do without anyone watching you. Your assignment is to figure out what you need in order to feel uninhibited and to birth this baby." I thought a lot about that in the subsequent months, and came to realize that she had hit the nail on the head, and what I needed in order to feel safe was to be left alone to do the work of labor, to not feel watched, or timed, or scrutinized in any way. I also knew that I definitely wanted Sarita to be a part of this journey, so I hired her, knowing that she could only come if it was on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. I interviewed several other midwives in the area. I ended up hiring another midwife, Donna, as my primary attendant. The thing that most attracted me to her was that her philosophy could really be summed up in two words: Birth Works. I don’t think I have ever met another person who believes this as wholly and adamantly as Donna does. Funny thing is, from the time I hired them, I always had a feeling that neither of them would be there for the actual birth, but was hiring them for what they might be able to provide me along the way.

I woke up around 3:40am on April 3 to use the bathroom and found that my pajama pants were soaked and so was the bed. “Hmmm… that’s strange,” I thought. I wondered if my water had broken or if I was maybe having some weird dream about going to the bathroom and peed on myself. “But that is a LOT of liquid; I really don’t think I would pee my pants.” So I got up and walked to the bathroom and nothing was leaking out, and after all it was still another 5 days before my due date. I was expecting to go somewhere between 41-42 weeks like last time. So I changed my pants, laid a towel down on the bed and tried to go back to sleep. But I was soon hit with a pretty big contraction. I glanced at the clock and 5-6 minutes later, another one hit. They continued coming fairly regularly but were only lasting about 30 seconds. “Oh NO! Just like last time!” I thought and I started to cry, thinking this was surely the result of another malpositioned baby, even though I had worked so hard, and tried so hard to get this baby into the right position. I decided to go downstairs and read a couple of my most inspirational birth stories that I had saved for such an occasion. As I got up, a huge gush of fluid came out. Okay, now I knew I didn’t pee my pants that time. So I went to the computer room, and instead of reading birth stories, I decided I’d better finish the assignments I had due for school that week. I started typing term papers, breathing through contractions, and doing laundry all at once (such is the life of a mom I suppose). The contractions continued on for another 2 hours or so and when Steve got up for work, I told him that “today is the day” and he began setting up the birthing tub and cancelling meetings and such. Shortly thereafter, my contractions completely stopped. They didn’t just space out or become less intense. They were totally GONE! But I was actually thankful for the break, as it would allow me time to get the kids to school, get my assignments dropped off, and get some last minute errands done before labor geared up.

I called Donna and also Sarita (knowing that she wouldn’t be able to make it since it was a Tuesday, but still wanted to let her know what was going on). Donna advised me to try to get some rest and eat well for what was to come. Nothing. Not another contraction all day long!! So I went to bed that night a bit discouraged and disappointed. I prayed that God would give me patience and faith to make it through this time of uncertainty. If there was one thing I didn’t prepare for it was PROM. (Note: PROM- Premature Rupture of Membranes) I had worked on issues in my mind, such as going postdates, posterior baby, back labor, etc. etc. But never PROM; it just never entered my mind. I thought as long as I had maintained excellent nutrition, which I had, then my amniotic sac would be super strong, and my labor would surely not start with ROM. Wrong! So what could I do? I went on about my day as usual, then settled into bed early that night. Around 3am, I was awakened by a contraction, followed 5 minutes later by another, and another. They weren’t the kind that you can just ignore or sleep through. These required all of my attention and so I got up, got onto the birth ball and breathed and moaned. Steve heard me and woke up, asking what he could do. I told him I wanted him to get some sleep because we may have a long road ahead of us (little did I know). The contractions continued on for about 3 hours. And as the sun came up, they stopped, not another one.

I was still leaking fluid and it was filled with white substance, which I couldn’t figure out what it was, worried that perhaps I had a yeast infection or something. Donna came that afternoon and when I showed her the pad, she told me “That’s vernix.” “Vernix? From my baby?” Somehow this notion was just so exciting to me!! It meant there was really a baby in there. S/he seemed so close now that I was seeing his/her vernix. Wow!! Donna checked my vital signs, fetal heart tones, etc. and everything looked perfect. “Well, it certainly won’t be long now.” she said as she left. I look online to find that 90% or something like that of women go into active labor within 72hours of their water breaking, if left alone. That was so exciting and I began to wonder if it would be this afternoon, or tonight, or maybe even tomorrow. I asked my friend Clare & her husband to come stay in our basement until the birth, as she was my chiropractor / acupuncturist / photographer / moral support for the birth and I didn’t plan on doing it without her there! So the 72 hours passed and I was faced with what to do. Do I attempt to nudge things to get started? Sex is out, swimming is out, warm baths are out…ugh! Donna showed up on Thursday with a big bottle of castor oil, “just in case” I wanted to get things going. Was she starting to worry? Starting to doubt? It didn’t sound like it by her words, but why then, did she bring that castor oil with her? I decided that she just must not be used to patient women, and wanted me to have options. So I sat it up on top of the refrigerator, where I would take it down and look it over from time to time, but I knew that it wasn’t what I wanted. I was monitoring my pulse, temperature, and blood pressure every few hours during the day, as well as monitoring the baby’s heart rate and everything was perfect, solid as a rock. As I would pray for guidance, I would realize that I truly was okay with waiting, and Donna was okay too.

I continued to trudge along, day after day, wishing I had told NO ONE about my broken water, not even Donna or Steve or Clare. If I hadn’t, they would just be looking at me like a normal 40 weeks pregnant woman, but instead I felt like they were looking at me like a “watched pot” all of a sudden (which they all swear was my perception, not their feelings). Each night I would have regular contractions and each morning they would disappear. . On Friday afternoon I had my first (and only) bout of “daylight contractions” and they were incredibly strong, and all in the front around my scar area. This did worry me a bit at first, but soon I began to welcome them and to be thankful that at least it wasn’t all back labor like last time. Sarita came to spend the weekend with me that weekend, and she seemed okay with everything. I really think she thought I was going to have a baby that weekend; I was hopeful that I would too. It was Easter weekend. We had fun, pretending to be on a mountain vacation, talked a lot about my hopes and fears and worries and it was incredibly therapeutic. But…she left and still no baby. I still felt okay with waiting for this baby to emerge when the time was right.

I figured that Monday’s middle of the night labor episode would be the one that turned out to be the “real thing”, since the kids would be back in school from their spring break and I could concentrate on laboring. I was going on a week now with ruptured membranes, and had moments of complete panic and worry, but when I would stop and really sit with things for awhile and ask what I was being called to believe, I would have a real sense of peace that all was okay. It was a strange peace that I have never had about anything before. In the moments when I felt weak and was ready to take herbs, or drink the castor oil, or do the nipple stimulation, I would stop and ask myself if it was really the right path for me, and get a resounding NO. So I wouldn’t do it. The waiting was SO hard though, but still I was okay with waiting. At the times that I would be ready to give up and go sign in at the local hospital for a c/section, I would get a kind word or email, or showing of support from someone that would keep me going and remind me of what I was waiting for. The greatest gift from this experience was that I was able to see a hint of my strength even before “real” labor began. I was able to really get in touch with my body and what my needs and wishes were during all of this. I did do a lot of acupuncture in those days to get the baby lined up optimally, to keep me calm and in a good space, and to get my body prepared for a smoother, gentler labor when it did kick in.

The days went by slowly, each one longer than the one before. I was vigilant about monitoring my wellbeing, and the baby’s. I began to take antibiotics as a preventative measure, going into the second week. I haven’t ever been a big fan of antibiotics, but their use seemed prudent to me as the days wore on. I think this was the only hint of “intervention” I had during the process. I was beginning to grow impatient, but still I knew that waiting was better than any of the alternatives.

Saturday, April 14 rolled around, and while it seemed to be much like the previous 11 days, there was also something distinctly different about it, about me that day. The peace I’d been feeling for the previous weeks seemed to have dissipated; I was CRANKY! I was irrational, unreasonable, and just beside myself. I was thoroughly finished with being pregnant, was certain that this baby was just not going to come out without being cut out, and that I was surely broken. As Clare tried to convince me otherwise, and coax me onto the treadmill, or into some other sort of movement or motion to elevate my mood, I lost it. I told her how “I have done everything within my power to get this baby into a good position and try to get it to want to be born. I have done chiropractic and acupuncture every week for the past 9 months. I have meditated, I have visualized, I’ve talked to the baby, I’ve exercised faithfully, I’ve done OFP so much my knees are bruised, I just can’t to anymore. I can’t listen to you blaming me for not doing enough! I have had it. I am DONE! I am just DONE!! Why can’t you just admit that I am BROKEN? It is time for me to just throw in the towel and admit that my body is broken! My pelvis is messed up and I can’t birth this baby!” and with that I stomped off in a rage. All the while, she is going on about how that is not the truth and that she is NOT going to accept it, how I *know* it is not the truth and for me to stop sulking, snap out of it, and get back to focusing on truth.

After taking the afternoon off from everyone and spending the great majority of it sobbing and wailing and lamenting of how I was tired of being pregnant, I managed to pull it together that evening and went to church with the family. It was a nice service with songs that seemed to be chosen especially for me. I was able to ground myself once again and start to capture some of the peace that I felt was trying to elude me. By the end of the service around 8:00, I had made amends with my body, and had decided once again that everything was okay, that things were happening on the timetable they needed to be on and that I was okay to be pregnant for another few days, at least until after Tuesday, the new moon, and then I would re-evaluate (for some reason, it helps me to just take things a few days at a time). About 2 ½ hours later, around 10:30 while I was sitting in the living room talking with Steve and Clare, I was nailed with a contraction. “Oh boy, here we go again,” I thought, as it seemed that my stop-start labor was going to start again tonight, albeit earlier than usual. The contractions were coming every six minutes or so apart and were requiring my attention. They continued on as they had over the previous “labor episodes” in their pattern of 5-6 minutes apart, yet only lasting about 30 seconds each.

Around 1:00am, everyone decided to go to bed and I thought it would probably be best if I got some sleep too “just in case” this ended up lasting awhile. As soon as I lay down, however, the contractions became almost unbearable. I needed to be up on my feet and moving my hips to cope with them. So I got up and put on my MP3 player, already loaded with all of the music I had chosen for this labor. I started walking around the bedroom, lying over the birth ball between contractions. After a few more, I went downstairs and spent the next hour or so “dancing” through the contractions. At one point, I decided that I felt nauseous and it seemed like a good idea to force myself to throw up (ugh!). It actually did make me feel better, for whatever reason and I went back to the work of laboring. It was a beautiful spring night, so I decided to go out on the front porch and I wrapped up in a blanket on the wicker furniture. I would stand up during a contraction and move my hips around in large circles or figure 8’s, and turn up the “labor music” and breathe and moan as I felt the surge overtake me. Then between the contractions, I would turn the music off and sit quietly, enjoying the sound of the crickets and the brightness of the moon. I think it was at some point during my time outside that I realized “I think I might actually be in labor this time. It’s been over four hours now, and things do not seem to be going away, but getting more intense.” As soon as that thought entered my mind, an instant excitement filled the air, and I was almost giddy with anticipation. Here I was in the stillness of the night, laboring alone in peace and working beautifully through each of these contractions! It was as if I was dreaming and I started to cry & think to myself, “I have waited for so many years for this moment and it’s finally here!!”

As I stepped up the step to go back inside, I could literally feel the baby’s head moving down lower into my pelvis and feel my pelvic bones slowly stretching apart. The contractions became even more intense and immediately went to about 3 minutes apart. I started to feel a little panic rain over me, as I attempted to work through the contractions by holding on to a ledge in our kitchen that is about chest high and then letting my body just kind of “hang” from my arms. I was thinking back to how, in my last labor I wanted to be constantly leaning forward, whereas this time leaning forward was painful. I had to be upright, or almost leaning back, moving my hips around the entire time in order for the contractions to feel “right” (albeit VERY intense), rather than painful. I was thinking how some support would probably feel really nice right now, but I didn’t think I could make it up the stairs to wake Steve. So I continued on like this for…no idea how long…I’m guessing another hour or so, with thoughts of how thankful I was that the contractions were so much more in my front than in my back. I was certain now that this was the real deal and that sometime today I would meet my baby, although I was figuring it would probably be somewhere around dinner time.

Finally, at the end of a contraction (which now had gotten to be about 2 minutes apart), I literally bolted up the stairs as fast as my hugely pregnant self could carry me before another contraction hit. I burst into my bedroom and yelled “Steve, I’m in labor! Get up NOW!” Poor guy, a bit of a rude awakening for 3:45 in the morning!! I told him, “I think you’d better call Donna and let her know the contractions are 2 minutes apart, but only lasting about 45 seconds.” So he did, as I focused on a contraction and making it through, telling myself that it was the last one I would have to do without his support. “Donna wants to know if you are ready for her to come now.” “No, I just wanted her to be aware,” I said, surprising myself a bit by this response. So he hung up the phone and said, “She said okay, but please call back whenever they start lasting longer, or you feel like you are ready for her. She will come whenever you need her.” He then got to work filling up the birth tub, and I ordered him over to put pressure on my sacrum. “Harder…lower…2 hands…” I bark, as the contraction begins to feel as though it will consume me. After the contraction, he goes back to his work with the birthing pool, but no sooner does he get started that another contraction hits. “Steve, my back, please!” (Much to my (& everyone else’s) surprise, I was a very polite laborer). “LOWER! 2 HANDS! Horizontal, not vertical!” (direction of his hands). It was all I could do to eek out little 1-2 word phrases to express my needs at this point. This became our routine, he would press on my back, I would rotate my hips & do this strange thing with my arms, where I would shake them really fast through the contraction. Then it would end, he would go back to his ‘birth tub’ work and I would rest for a minute or so until the next contraction hit and we would slip back into our routine again. My state of mind seemed to be sort of hypnotic, where I became unaware of nearly everything around me, other than the powerful sensations coming through my body.

We continued on with the routine for probably 15-20? contractions, at which point I announce, “Uh oh!! I really am going to be sick!” and I rushed to the bathroom and started throwing up WHILE having a contraction. This was the only time during labor that I worried my uterus might rupture. There was such an incredibly strong, painful force seemingly going in 2 different directions in my body, with the vomiting and the contraction. It was almost more than I could take. After the contraction ended, I told Steve “I think you’d better call Donna back and tell her I’m throwing up. They say that can mean transition, but I’m sure I’m not in transition yet.” So he called her back and she said she would leave right away and be there in an hour. I then asked Steve to go down to the basement and wake Clare to come up. While he was gone, I had 2 more contractions that I had to find a way to cope with on my own, without our routine. I decided to sit on the toilet through those contractions and do the arm shaking thing (still no idea why I did this, but it felt right at the time). Those 2 contractions felt very ‘forced’ to me because I wasn’t able to swivel my hips the way I needed to. I was so relieved when he came back into the room and Clare too, and quickly got back into the routine over in the corner by my side of the bed, in a space so small that Steve could barely fit in there with me. But that is where I felt comfortable and secure. I would look around to make sure Clare was still in sight, grab hold of Steve, place my right leg up on this stool, keep my left knee on the ground, swivel my hips, shake my arms, and have Steve pressing firmly on my sacrum. My mind was just filled with such a feeling of strength and triumph and anticipation already, interspersed with moments of fear and doubt. “I can’t believe this is happening. I am doing this work of birthing my baby!” I would think, followed by “There is no way I can do this for much longer. The intensity of this is just ridiculous. Why would anyone want to do this?” As soon as I would begin to entertain such thoughts, I could feel Steve’s strong, protective hands back on my body in just the right way to re-center me and re-affirm that all is well.

Around an hour or 2 after we made the 4:30am call to Donna, the doorbell rang and a few moments after that, Ruth (the back up midwife) appeared at my bedroom door. “Why is she here? Where is Donna? What is going on?” were thoughts all running through my mind, but I wasn’t coherent enough to verbalize anything or really even to care much. I continued to stay deep, deep inside myself, deeper than I had ever gone before, doing this incredibly intense, difficult work. I later found out that Donna’s road had been flooded and she was having a hard time getting out of her driveway. Ruth asked how I was feeling and I gave her a look and a grunt. She started talking with Clare about what had been going on, how long, etc. etc. and I just pointed at them both and screamed, to which my loving husband translates into, “If you two want to talk, you need to step outside the door. She doesn’t want you talking right now.” I nod my head “yes that is right. Thank you.” and we got back to business.

It was strange really, looking back. Before Ruth arrived, I had no conscious awareness of anyone else in the room, or even the world. I had this concentrated belief that this was all within me, I was the ONLY one who could do this job. But then when she arrived, I began to get sidetracked and a bit panicky. I started looking to her to save me or something, asking her “Am I okay? Is everything alright?” to which she would reply, “Do you think you’re okay? Do you feel like everything’s alright?” and when I would ask, “What if I need to go to the hospital?”, she would reply “Do you feel like you need to go to the hospital?” and unfailingly turn all of my doubts and fears back onto me, and force me to go even deeper within myself and trust my instincts, to which I would immediately get an answer, “Of course I’m okay. I am birthing my baby” or “No, I don’t need to go to the hospital. Drugs sound mighty nice right now, but I am doing just fine without them.” At some point, Steve made the crazy suggestion that I might be more comfortable up on my bed for a few contractions (I think *he* would be more comfortable with me on my bed LOL). Up I went for one horrendous, terrifying, excruciating contraction. I started just SCREAMING! (up to this point, I had been moaning and making beautiful birth sounds during the contractions). After it ended, I couldn’t get off of that bed and back into my corner quickly enough. Then Ruth started blathering something about a blood pressure cuff, to which I snapped “Don’t know where it is. DON’T CARE!!”

At one point during my laboring, I could hear some rattling sounds over top of my music…the sound of a sterile glove being unwrapped. My body clinched up, I turned off the music, and I started crying like a big baby, “Oh please PLEASE no! I don’t WANT a vaginal exam. If it shows that I’m not making any progress, I will be SO disappointed. Please no!” Ruth answered, “Teresa, I’m not doing a vaginal exam. You sound very ‘pushy’ and I just want to place my hand down there underneath you to make sure there’s not a baby about to fall out onto the ground.” Uh…did she say “pushy”? Did she mean…does this mean…nah, can’t be…I don’t get to pushing. My body is broken and I give in way before any pushing starts. Fast forward another, probably 5? minutes or so (I had/have no concept of time whatsoever in this birth…I only know what time the first contraction came, what time everyone went to bed, and the times that I woke Steve up and had him call Donna, thanks to the phone bill). So 5 or so minutes later, I heard the crinkly sound again overtop of my music, “What are you doing? No! No exams! I am probably not dilating at all and I can’t hear that news. Please!! Please!!” I say, figuring I will only be setting myself up for huge disappointment. Again, she assured me that “Of course you’re dilating, you are pushing!” and she placed her hand underneath me to see if there is a baby head hanging halfway out because I sound like I’m pushing at the end of each contraction & it is impossible for another person to get back into this tiny space I’m in, particularly in this peculiar position with one leg up on the stool, one knee on the ground.

After that contraction, she asked if I would be willing to move out to the middle of the room, or into the birthing tub, or somewhere else (she is seeing that birth is imminent; I am not seeing it). “No, I like it here. I want to stay here.” Steve then picked up the stool I’d been leaning on and said “Come on, T. We’ll go to my side of the bed. There’s more room over there.” And so up I go. As I got halfway around the bed, I have a contraction in the middle of the room. It’s terrible, painful, scary! I feel so exposed and vulnerable! As soon as it ends, I rushed back into a corner on his side of the bed (which does have more space, but not much), “assume the position” that I have become so fond of, and turned my back to everyone else in the room. About that time, this unbelievable, out-of-nowhere, extraterrestrial-feeling compulsion invades every cell of my body and I feel every single inch of myself start to push and heave and thrust and work and groan. What on earth? And then a small voice inside my head says “Hey, I wonder if I’m pushing?” (Okay…so I’m a bit slow to figure things out). I put my hand down and reach inside my and I feel the most indescribable, inexpressible, utterly beyond words sensation that my fingertips have ever felt. There it was, no more than an inch or 2 inside my body, my baby’s head. My. baby’s head. It was at that moment that I believed, wholly believed, for the first time since the scalpel made its first cut eleven years earlier, that I was going to give birth to my baby. I was capable, my body was perfectly made, my pelvis was adequate, my uterus was strong, and my baby was about to be born. I was suspended in this hazy, quasi-reality…the moment froze and a flood of emotions just rolled over me. I was caught between wanting to just stop everything right there and savor this most miraculous experience that I have ever been a part of and wanting to push with everything I had in me to get this baby out here and kiss his/her beautiful face and touch that squishy head with my chin and my lips and hold him/her close to me.

Eventually the latter won out and I started pushing with another contraction, all the while thinking “Well, I am almost 100% sure this baby is going to come out my butt. But there is not a thing I can do about it, but get it out.” I was remembering other women’s similar experiences on the ICAN list about pushing being “shockingly rectal” or something like that, and that gave me some comfort, but mostly I just felt like I didn’t really care if it did decide to come out my butt. Again, I put my hand down there and felt that amazing baby head, and someone asks “What are you doing? Why are you putting your hand down there?” “Because, there is a baby right there. It’s about to be born.” At this proclamation, the scurrying began, grabbing cameras and blankets and getting in position to hopefully get a hand on this baby, although as the midwife said, this had to have been the most difficult position for her to get in there and catch the baby, and to which I replied, “I really was unconcerned with your comfort or ease at that point.”

I laid my head down and rested and maybe even dozed for a few minutes while waiting for the next contraction. It was so quiet and so surreal to me right then. There was nowhere else in the world I would want to be, nowhere in the world was anything as important going on as this undertaking right here. As the contraction began to build, I raised my head, gathered up every ounce of anything I had and gave a huge push and felt this incredible sensation of the slippery, squishy head sliding through and out of my body, followed by the body. I looked up in my foggy haze and asked “What do I do now?” to which my darling husband quickly replies, “DON’T SIT DOWN!” LOL…the baby was right under me. Ruth calmly unwrapped the cord from his neck and handed him to me. “6:56a.m.” Clare announced. So he was born after about 8 ½ hours of active labor, 20 or so total hours of some intense prodromal labor, and nearly 2 weeks of ruptured membranes. I am SO thankful that it happened the way that it did and I got a lot of the ‘work’ out of the way as I went along. And also so thankful that I never had a vaginal exam so I never knew whether to be excited, frustrated, discouraged, etc. other than what my body told me to be.

I took him in my arms and the first thing I did was to thank him, “Thank you, thank you so much for doing this with me baby.” Then I turned to my husband and I have never seen such a look of awe and admiration and love in anyone’s eyes as I did in his at that moment, which probably mirrored what he say in mine. We just sat there for a moment and looked into each other’s eyes as I proclaimed, “We DID IT!!!! I did it!! I just pushed a baby out of my vagina. I really did it! I just can’t believe I did it!” I looked up and noticed another midwife, Martha, sitting by us. I didn’t even know she was there. Apparently she had arrived about 5-10 minutes before the birth. I continue to just ooh and aah and kiss and squeeze my baby and then it occurred to me that I had been calling the baby, “Baby Boy”. I didn’t even look to see if it was a boy. Oh no, what if it’s a girl, will she be traumatized? I quickly unwrapped the blanket and took a quick peek, “Oh, I KNEW you were a boy!!” and I started sobbing and just praising God with sheer joy and disbelief in my heart.

Someone helped me up onto the bed and I just laid there staring at my baby, all nestled up against my skin. I felt so warm and so full, so complete. Someone woke up the older kids, and my second son Evan came in and hopped up on the bed with us, meeting his new baby brother and having an image of ‘normal birth’ forever etched into his mind. About 20-30 minutes after the birth, Donna arrived and I got up and pushed out the placenta, got cleaned up a bit and hopped back into bed, where Clare soon served me the most delicious breakfast I have ever eaten in my entire life, of eggs, bacon, French toast, orange juice, etc. and I devoured every morsel of it. We chatted a bit with the midwives, to which one of my first questions to all of them was “What made you guys decide to take a chance on me? Why did you ever think I could do it?” and to which they each gave a variation of the same reply, “Of course you could do it. Why WOULDN’T we think you could do it?” Simple as that.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Video: 1 in 3

WARNING: GRAPHIC SURGICAL IMAGES

The Women of ICAN. I'm the fourth picture from the beginning.

Here are the lyrics:

Catch me as I fall
Say you're here and it's all over now
Speaking to the atmosphere
No one's here and I fall into myself
This truth drives me
Into madness
I know I can stop the pain
If I will it all away
Don't turn away
(Don't give in to the pain)
Don't try to hide
(Though they're screaming your name)
Don't close your eyes
(God knows what lies behind them)
Don't turn out the light
(Never sleep never die)
I'm frightened by what I see
But somehow I know
That there's much more to come
Immobilized by my fear
And soon to be
Blinded by tears
I can stop the pain
If I will it all away
Don't turn away
(Don't give in to the pain)
Don't try to hide
(Though they're screaming your name)
Don't close your eyes
(God knows what lies behind them)
Don't turn out the light
(Never sleep never die)
Fallen angels at my feet
Whispered voices at my ear
Death before my eyes
Lying next to me I fear
She beckons me
Shall I give in
Upon my end shall I begin
Forsaking all I've fallen for
I rise to meet the end

"whisper" -- amy lee and ben moody

Where I Am- October 17, 2007

So where am I now? Mostly, I'm just being a wife and mother. I'm taking care of my kids and watching them grow up both entirely too fast and, at times, not fast enough. I love them immensely.

When Emily was about a month old, I became a chapter leader for ICAN. I started ICAN of Kenosha, and the chapter has been struggling to get out to the people who need us. Yesterday, though, we had our first really successful meeting! The topic was vaginal breech birth, and we had a speaker and a video. Seven people came, including a couple pregnant with their first child, who is breech at 36 weeks. They drove nearly two hours just to come to this meeting! They were already pretty determined to avoid a cesarean, but I think the meeting cemented their decision. I really hope to have a lovely birth story from them soon.

I'm also finding myself drawn to midwifery again. I have two classes left to get my associates degree in college. I plan to finish those next semester, then enroll in Ancient Art Midwifery Institute. www.ancientartmidwifery.com I don't feel that I am quite ready to take on an apprenticeship, with being called out in the middle of the night, at all hours, with no warning. Chris's job coupled with how young my babies are make it really impractical. But I can go to school and start my academic training. At least it will feel like I'm taking steps toward my goal. I can't wait to get started.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Reflecting on Emily's birth

A few things keep coming back to me about Emily's birth, over and over. The first is the amazing way the timing worked for me to get my VBAC. If Maddie hadn't thrown a three-hour fit, I would have gone in in the middle of the first OB-on-call's shift instead of at the end, and I would have been cut. If we hadn't hit every red light, a five minute trip wouldn't have taken twenty minutes. I would have been cut. If I had accepted the wheelchair, the walk down the hall wouldn't have taken as long. I would have been cut. If the new OB-on-call was in the hospital when I showed up, instead of in her office, I would have been cut. If a different anesthesiologist had been on call, I would have been cut. It came down to literally minutes between repeat cesarean and VBAC. I don't know what to make of it. My first instinct is to think that someone was watching out for me. But I still can't shake the "why me?" feeling that comes with that. Why would God be watching out for me, making it all go right for me, when it has gone so wrong for other women I know? I can't make sense of that in my head.

Still though, I am grateful. I never thought I'd be grateful for a gigantic fit in the middle of labor. But I am. I never thought I'd be grateful for red lights or long hallways. But I am. I am so grateful. I will never remember Emily's birth without a sense of awe at the timing perfection.


The second thing I can't stop thinking about is the impact of Maddie's arrival (I cannot bring myself to call it a birth) and Emily's birth on my relationship with Chris. We were discussing divorce after Maddie came. After Emily, we have never been closer. Almost the only thing I remember from that long night of labor in the basement is Chris holding me and talking me through the contractions. He was my rock, my protector, my support. We grew so close through the experience. I feel like I'm doing a horrible job of putting it into words. Maybe there are no words. I love him. He loves me. That is enough. That is everything.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A conversation with Maddie


A few days ago, Maddie and I were cleaning her room. She found her little knitted "ooterush" (uterus. I had made a few of the uteruses for the conference. I gave Maddie the first one I made because she liked it so much.)

Maddie- "Mine uterus not have a ribbon and band-aid."

Me- "No, honey, your uterus doesn't have a ribbon or band-aid."

Maddie- "Mine uterus need a band-aid?"

Me, tears in my eyes- "No, honey, your uterus doesn't need a band-aid. Your uterus is healthy and strong."

Maddie- "Mine uterus not have owies?"

Me- "No, your uterus doesn't have owies."

Maddie- "Momma's uterus have owies?" -me nodding through the tears now- "I sorry Momma. Need a kiss?" -kisses my belly- "I love mine Mommy."

Me, down on my knees hugging her- "Mommy loves you too, so very, very much."


It was heartbreaking.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The ICAN conference


My story wouldn't be complete without going back to talk about the ICAN conference.

When Emily was seven weeks old, we drove out to Syracuse to go to the conference. I had become a Chapter Leader about a month after Emily was born. I wanted to give back to ICAN. This group saved me, brought me back from the dark place I was lost in, and put me back together. I wanted to help someone else the same way.

I went to the chapter leader training before the main conference. I was in awe of some of the names on the name tags. These were people I respected so much. I had never met most of them in person. Some, I was just so glad to see again. I nearly burst into tears when I saw Tonya. It had been over 18 months since I had seen her. And Shannon, Shannon who talked me through part of my labor, I couldn't wait to show Emily to her. I wanted to give her a hug and thank her.

As a new leader, I learned so many helpful things during the training. The best part though, came at the end. We were gathered together, and the ICAN board read passages from the new book, Cesarean Voices. These were the stories of the women of ICAN. It was so moving. Everyone was crying. Then, the board members gave everyone a knitted uterus, and put a little band-aid on it. Tonya gave me mine. She said she knew a band-aid couldn't heal the hurt, but maybe it could help a little. Then she hugged me and told me she was so glad I was here. I started bawling on her shoulder and told her I really didn't think I would be here if it weren't for her. That set her off, and we were both just crying and crying. But it was somehow a really good cry. They were cleansing tears, tears of both pain and joy.

The conference itself was wonderful. There were so many wonderful speakers. I learned so much. The UBAC session was really hard on me though. I cried quietly most of the way through it. I was still in the "I failed" phase of my processing. Raechel, one of the speakers, noticed I was crying and handed me a box of tissue. It was a small act, but one that held so much love and caring. I was overwhelmed.

Of course seeing Shannon was so wonderful. There were just no words to express my gratitude to her. She held Emily and we chatted about everything. It was great.

Another highlight of the conference was buying my own copy of Silent Knife, the book that had helped me so much. Then I got it signed by Nancy Wainer, who had come to speak. She is an amazing woman. She seemed as thrilled to meet us as we were to meet her!

During the conference, another woman from the List, Missy, was in labor. It was a start and stop labor, and she was tired and frustrated. At one point we heard she may have transferred to the hospital. When Shannon came in and announced that Missy was holding her baby, at home in her bed... I can't describe the cheering. It was beautiful.

After the conference, I stayed and talked with another friend. We were going to just have lunch, but I ended up talking for almost five hours!! It felt so good to get everything off of my heart. That is when she told me those words that changed everything, "You simply got the support you needed, when you needed it."

I can't even try to explain all the ways this conference changed me, moved me, helped me grieve and helped me heal. I came home a changed woman.

Processing

Physically, my recovery from my VBAC was difficult. I had a second degree tear that extended both up towards my urethra, and down into my perineum. The bottom tear extended about two-thirds of the way into my vagina. It took a lot of stitches to fix that up. It hurt for a long time, and took several months to heal completely. I don't have any residual effects, though.

Emotionally, I was in a bad place for a long time. You wouldn't think so, right? At least I got my VBAC, right? Yet I felt traumatised by it. But I couldn't pinpoint why I felt traumatised. Really, I was just grieving. I was grieving the loss of my UBAC, the loss of my homebirth, the loss of the calm quiet birth I had planned. I grieved the loss of catching my own baby, of being the first to touch her, of having her wet little body on my chest immediately. Even in my own mind I couldn't understand that these were very real losses. Of course I needed to grieve them.

Once again, I was spending my nights thinking about the birth, replaying it in my head. This time though, they weren't flashbacks, just memories. I cried a lot.

I was also insanely disappointed in myself. Yes, I had gotten my VBAC, but I gave up. I felt like a marathon runner who worked and trained for the race. I ran the first 20 miles and then quit. Someone picked me up in a golf cart and drove me to the finish line. I just had to walk the last five yards across the line. Yet I was being given full credit. It didn't make sense. I failed. I gave up. I deserved to be sitting there recovering from the second scar on my belly.

These feelings were compounded by the fact that not long after Emily's birth, a friend of mine had a very long labor like mine. She fought to the end and ended up with a CBAC anyway. (CBAC-cesarean after trying for a VBAC) I cried for so long when I heard. It just wasn't fair. How dare I give up and everything works out. She deserved it so much more.

I was very hard on myself for a long time. I just couldn't make sense of it. At the ICAN conference, a friend told me something profound, but I couldn't grasp the whole meaning of it then. "You simply got the support you needed at the time you needed it." At the time, it got me started thinking about things differently. But when it came back to me later, it changed my entire outlook.

One night, weeks later, I was thinking about Emily's birth, as I did often. This time, however, I really started thinking about the anesthesiologist. I started thinking about how I needed to find his name, I needed to send him a thank you note and let him know how it had worked out. Those words came back to me. "You simply got support..." Suddenly I realised, for the first time really, that I had changed my mind. I stood up to the OB when she was pushing for a cesarean. I pushed my baby out. I did those things, not the anesthesiologist. He reminded me of what I wanted when I forgot, but it was me who acted on that. I felt again like I had immediately after the birth. I did it! I did it!!

I had noticed that my cesarean had a lot less power over me now. I didn't understand it, but I felt healed. Eventually I figured out that I had the birth I really needed to have. In some ways, it was the birth of my dreams, literally. I realised that I had needed to go back into the place I was so afraid of. I needed to go back to the place (not the exact place, but it sufficed) where I had been brutalized the first time. This time, I stood up for myself. I took my power back. I had a second chance to do things over, and I took it.

I will always be sad about what I lost with Madelynn. My VBAC did not rewrite what happened to me the first time. And I can still be sad about the loss of my planned birth with Emily. But Emily's birth was the final step in my healing from my cesarean. I will always carry the scars, literally and figuratively, but I feel like a whole person again. I feel complete.

Comparison

My first moments with Madelynn


My first moments with Emily
The first time I saw these pictures side by side, I was struck by how much my "smile" in the first one looks like it is painted on. I look like I really want to just scream.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Emily's birth story

Towards the end of my pregnancy, I started having odd dreams. I remember two in particular.

The first:
I'm in the hospital and I just gave birth vaginally to a preemie. They whisked her away right away and I didn't even get to see her. This is all dream
knowledge, because the dream opened with me in the hall. They want to take me to a recovery room and I'm refusing to get in the wheelchair. I'm going to walk, thank you very much. So they give me a room number and tell me to find it myself. I have to go down a flight of stairs only to find that I'm not on the maternity floor, but stuck in a room on the first floor that they reserve for people whose babies have died. I get really mad and I call the nurse on a telephone on a desk in the middle of the hall. I tell her we are going home right now. I send DH up to get the baby while I'm arguing with the nurse. She keeps telling me the baby won't eat and can't go home. I then "know" in that dream way that they tried to give her a bottle and she wouldn't take it and right now are trying to put a feeding tube down her nose. Suddenly Chris comes down the stairs with the baby and hands her to me where she latches on instantly. I think, "Yep, she's just a booby baby." And we go into the delivery room to gather our things so we can go. The room is PACKED with our things from home. Pillows and blankets, but mostly Maddie's toys. Even her tricycle. I woke up while we were packing things into the stroller.

The second:
I'm walking into the hospital crying because I'm going to a scheduled c/s and I don't know why it needed to be scheduled. In the hall Chris and I run into Tonya, who is working on a computer. I'm wondering what the heck she is doing there, but I'm so glad to have someone from ICAN to talk to that I don't really care. I sit down to wait for her to finish on the computer. A doctor walks up, a tall blonde woman, and introduces herself as Michelle Tiffany (The one OB visit I went to with this pg was with a man named Micheal Tiffany.) and says she's going to be my surgeon. I say something under my breath along the lines of "Who gives a s***?" Then tell her "nope, not doing this. I'm going home." She looks at me and says "I don't blame you. After all the nursery is closed." I have no idea what she means, but anything that gets me out of there without a fight. So we go walking down the hall to the door and pass the nursery that has a sign hanging in it that reads "Closed due to feng shui problems." (did I mention I have strange dreams?) On the way out, I start having lots of contractions, so we hurry home. I woke up having to use the bathroom really bad, so I was probably really having those contractions.

These dreams really illustrated to me the fears I was having under the surface. I was afraid of a long labor, afraid I'd get tired and give up. I was very afraid of having another cesarean. I didn't think I could ever recover from that. I did the best I could by planning for a long labor. We had a birth tub, a birth ball, a bag full of snacks and Gatorade and Emergen-c. We had a whole little nest set up in the basement. One of the TVs was down there, and a blow-up mattress, and the rocking chair. Other than these things, I didn't know what else I could do to tip the scales in my favor. I really couldn't know anything else until I was in labor. This left me feeling like an over-wound spring for the last several weeks of my pregnancy. This feeling, combined with the fact that I could barely move my huge belly around and some minor prodromal labor left me very anxious to get this labor underway.

I tried to keep my mind on other things. I sewed the last of the diapers, and hung up all our baby clothes. Even the dresses, despite the fact that I didn't know if the baby was a boy or a girl. I worked on two different baby blankets. Chris took my pregnancy pictures. I also spent as much one-on-one time as I could with Maddie, knowing I wouldn't have as much time soon.

As soon as I hit 38 weeks I just couldn't take it anymore. I wanted to be done with being pregnant so badly. Very early Wednesday morning I woke up to a pop. I managed to get to the bathroom before I released a good bit of amniotic fluid. Then I hobbled up the stairs, with fluid running down my leg, to the birth bag to grab one of the adult diapers we had bought for just such an occasion. I debated telling Chris what had happened. I was afraid he would get excited and not be able to sleep. I knew I needed to sleep as much as possible. He woke up when I laid down though, so I told him. He didn't seem to have any trouble going back to sleep.

I was really surprised when I woke up that morning. I had slept almost all night. I was having some contractions, but nothing serious. I was in very early labor. Chris called in to work and started his paternity leave. He had two weeks.

Nothing really happened on Wednesday. I saw the chiropractor in hopes it would get things moving. But nothing. I went to bed that night, expecting to be up in the middle of the night sometime, but woke up Thursday morning to the same few contractions I had gone to bed with. Maddie had a gymnastics class Thursday night, and we took her to that. Other than my waters continuing to leak, not much was going on with labor. Sometimes I would have several hard contractions back to back, but most of the time they were very light and irregular. I was really working with my optimal fetal positioning (OFP) postures, but the baby seemed perfectly positioned. Perhaps she was asynclitic and I couldn't tell, I don't know.

Thursday night (and each night after) I woke up and was awake with contractions for several hours. They weren't bad, I didn't need to breathe through them, but I couldn't sleep. So I sat in my chair, leaning forward for OFP, and watched TV, surfed the internet, or just sat in the dark, talking to my baby. Eventually they would slow down, and I could go to sleep.

By Friday, I was getting pretty worried that we would use up all of Chris's paternity leave before the baby came! I was getting very anxious and feeling the stress. I wasn't worried about us physically, I was monitoring my temperature for signs of infection, staying hydrated, and baby was moving frequently. On Saturday, we went and walked the mall for several hours. I had quite a few contractions that I had to stop and breathe through. I could also feel the baby finally move into my pelvis. When we went home, I was tired from so much walking, but it was a good tired.

I woke up at about 4:00 in the morning with contractions that were regular and required my attention. I sat by myself for a few hours waiting to see if they would go away. I wasn't timing them, but I would guess they were about seven minutes apart. When Chris and Maddie got up, I did regular morning things in between contractions.

By early afternoon, the contractions were about five minutes apart and I wanted to go down to my "nest" in the basement. I took a few of my favorite movies with me, the ones I know by heart and don't mind missing chunks of, because I couldn't concentrate on anything during the contractions, but I was fine between them. I spent all afternoon and evening watching movies and rocking in my rocking chair. I would get up and stand, leaning slightly forward (OFP!) and sway my hips during the contractions. Chris brought me dinner. I wasn't hungry, but I made myself eat because I knew I still had a long way to go. I was making myself drink water, too, because I wasn't thirsty.

Once Chris had Maddie in bed, he came downstairs with me. I kind of expected things to pick up right away, but they seemed to stay exactly the same. About five minutes apart (we never did time them, but it seemed about five minutes.) and I had to work through them, but they weren't awful. I decided to get in my birth tub, mainly because I thought things might slow down and I could get some rest. As soon as I got in the tub though, things really got into gear. The contractions started coming every two or so minutes and the were really hard to get through. It took everything I had to concentrate on relaxing and moving so I didn't feel like I was going to rip apart. They weren't painful, but I felt like they were washing over my head and trying to drown me. I had to spend all the time in between contractions preparing myself for the next one. I made Chris turn off the TV because it was irritating me, distracting my focus. Poor Chris was rushing back and forth making me drinks and snacks in between contractions and holding me and talking to me during them. We did this for hours.

It was getting on towards Monday morning when I had a slight urge to push. It was very small, not at all overwhelming like I expected, but I was so anxious I pushed anyway. I pushed for maybe three contractions when everything stopped. My contractions went down to about every twenty minutes. And they started to really hurt. I had been in labor for over 24 hours now and everything was just stopping? I was so frustrated I couldn't stand it. I got out of the tub and walked around, just paced the basement, trying to get something, anything, started again. The few contractions I was having hurt so badly. I had promised myself that I wouldn't let a fear of taking pain medications at home cause me to transfer to the hospital. I had Chris go get me the Percocet I had left over from my cesarean. I took one and tried to sleep. I would just get to dozing when a contraction would hit, and I would be totally unprepared for it. This made it so much worse, and the medication didn't seem to be helping the pain at all.

As soon as it was 6:00 am, I called my friend Shannon. Somehow we got disconnected, and I waited for awhile for her to call me back before I realised we hadn't turned the phone ringer back on. I called her again. I don't remember a single word of what she said to me, but I will never forget the sound of her voice. By the time the phone call ended, I was contracting regularly again. They still hurt, and I was dealing with them on my own now because Maddie was awake. Chris was doing his absolute best to be there for both of us, but he couldn't be everywhere. Without him reminding me to eat and drink, I stopped doing it.

By noon, I was still contracting about every five minutes, but I wasn't making any progress, or I felt like I wasn't. I decided it was time to go to the hospital. I knew I as going for a repeat cesarean, but at the time, I was very at peace with that. Something was obviously going on that was preventing this baby from being born. I was ready to go. Chris tried and tried to talk me out of it. Reluctantly, he started getting Maddie ready to go.

She threw the biggest fit I have ever seen a child throw. Every time he would get her shirt over her head, she would rip it off. She was kicking and screaming and hollering. Meanwhile, I was pitifully attempting to get myself into some sweatpants, but I couldn't manage to get my feet into the legholes with my big old belly. It was funny then, but it is hilarious to me now.

It took until 3:00 to get everyone ready to go. Three hours! I realised at the last second that I needed to call my friend Meredith to pick up Maddie. I called her at work, feeling so guilty, and asked her to meet us at the hospital. Then we headed out. The hospital was maybe 10 or so minutes away, but we hit every single red light. Chris was talking about how he was never doing this again, he was getting a vasectomy. All I could think about was if it was too late to get into the CBAC session at the upcoming ICAN conference.

We finally got to the hospital, but we didn't know where to go. We stood and waited, me contracting all the while, in a long line at the information desk. Finally we got pointed in the right direction. I was warned that it was a pretty long walk and was offered a wheelchair. I wanted to get into that wheelchair so badly. But I couldn't. I don't know if it was my ICAN "brainwashing," sheer stubbornness, or divine intervention, but I could not accept that wheelchair.

I started the long walk down the hall. And it was a long walk, even when I walked it again a few days later, not in labor. I had to stop what felt like every three feet and tense my whole body into the contraction. It was the only way I could get through it without screaming, and I couldn't scare Maddie like that. Eventually we got to the elevator that took us to the "birthing center." It was really only a labor and delivery floor in a hospital, but I guessed it just sounded better. I walked up to the nurses's station and waited for someone to notice me. There was another woman, who appeared in early labor, walking the hall. She looked frightened when she saw me.

It took me three contractions to even tell the woman at the desk my name. She asked if my water had broken and when. When I said, "Wednesday morning," I thought she would have a heart attack. She told another nurse to just show me to a room. They didn't need to bother with triage as it was obvious I was in advanced labor. I was actually in or nearing transition, but I didn't know that then.

We were shown to my room and left alone for a few minute while the nurses got together whatever they needed to get. My friend Meredith showed up for Maddie. I could see in her eyes that I looked like hell. I thanked her for picking up Maddie and getting there so quickly. She knew that things must be bad for me to be at the hospital, so she leaned over and said, "Remember, all that matters is a healthy baby." I hate that phrase, but I knew she meant it in all love and kindness. She left then, with my little girl.

The nurse came in and asked me to give a urine sample, which I couldn't do and gave me a gown to get into. I was actually grateful for this because my pants were getting very wet. I hadn't been able to get anything on underneath them. She said something about needing to do a speculum exam because my waters were broken. I was to far gone to even care, though normally I wouldn't allow something like that. Once I got into the bed, though, it was obvious I didn't need it because all she had needed was to make sure it was amniotic fluid with one of those little tester papers, and I was leaving convenient little puddles everywhere. All she had to do was touch me with the paper and it turned color.

The nurse taking my history asked about my previous birth. I mentioned that it was a cesarean and she looked at me and said, "Oooohh... uhh... we don't do VBACs here." I think I snapped at her something along the lines of, "I'm a home birth transport. I wouldn't be here if I didn't need another cesarean!"

Once I was in bed and the monitors on, I was informed that the doctor on call, the one doctor I had seen prenatally, was going off call and was not going to help me. The doctor coming on call was in Racine, 10 miles away, seeing patients. I didn't care.

I was checked, and found to be at 7 cm. Not that it mattered to me, I was having a cesarean now, and that was that. A nurse came in to put in the catheter. I asked if it couldn't be done after I was given the anesthesia, and she said it was going to be a rush to get the surgery done before the baby came out on its own as it was, so she had to place it now. The statement struck me as odd at the time, but I was so convinced that my baby was simply not going to come out without surgery that I thought she was simply very mistaken. Now, looking back, I cannot believe the absurdity of that statement. We have to rush to do surgery, otherwise the baby might just come out!! It says a great deal about our medical system.

Having that catheter placed without the anesthesia was awful! Beyond the pain of getting it in, which was excruciating, I could feel it all the time, and it made me feel like I had to pee. It was awful.

I also got an IV of fluids, which I desperately needed, and antibiotics, which I probably didn't, but which seemed prudent to do before surgery. I was tied to machines just about everywhere I could be.

Suddenly, the door opened and the anesthesiologist came in. He informed me that they were planning to do a spinal for the surgery, but the doctor was delayed and it was clear I was in pain, so they were going to give me an epidural now. I have never been so happy to see a man with a surgical mask! He ran down with me the risks of the anesthesia real quick, and then started to tell me why a repeat cesarean was more risky than a VBAC. My brain was so conditioned to expect the opposite that I just said, "Yeah, yeah, I know you think I was dumb..."

He got a little firmer with me then, to get my attention. "No. You aren't listening to me. We are going to get this baby out before the doctor can get here. You do not want to deal with all the risks of surgery. You do not want to deal with recovering from that with a new baby. I'm going to give you just enough medicine to take the edge off, okay?"

I could not believe it. This man, this doctor, had just reminded me of who I was and what I wanted. I got the epidural, and sure enough, the next contraction had no pain. But I could still move, and feel (especially that damned catheter), and I had to breathe and work through the contractions. They were still really difficult and took a lot of effort, but the pain that made me want to scream was gone. I was so grateful to his man. And I don't even remember his name.

He left and the nurse checked me again. I was at 9 cm! I couldn't believe it! She told me to let her know when I felt pushy. I didn't yet. There were two nurses in with me and one of them was talking about how she had used to work at a hospital that had VBACs all the time. The other said something about how she wished she saw more of them. I couldn't believe my luck, being surrounded by supportive people. They also placed an internal monitor on the baby. I only agreed because it seemed like the only way I would have the vaginal birth I desperately wanted now. Even then I could see the irony of that monitor. The one piece of equipment I had had my cesarean to prevent my first baby from having, I was now willingly using on my second. I felt like I was allowing her to be hurt to save myself. But at the same time, I knew a cesarean would be worse on her than the monitor, or that's how I justified it.

The doctor on call walked in about twenty minutes later. I had the courage and the strength I needed back now and I told her I would not be having surgery anymore. She tried her best to talk me out of it, talking about how there was a serious risk and how I may have read studies, but didn't know everything. I was telling her numbers, like a 0.5% chance of rupture, and all she kept saying back to me was that I couldn't know everything. I was actually enjoying sparring with her between contractions. Chris said he thought she was being very obnoxious and coming on very strong, but I thought she was doing a very poor job of "convincing" me. I was actually a little disappointed when she finally said, "Well, you are the boss, and I have to do what you say, so if you sign these forms (the Against Medical Advice, AMA, papers) I can't say anything about it." because it ended my fun. I signed the papers at 5:03 pm.

I asked the nurse about delayed cord cutting. She looked at me in horror. "The baby could bleed to death if you don't cut the cord right away!" I wanted to push the issue, but how do you undo that much misinformation so quickly?

I started to feel a little pushy soon after she left and I called the nurse. She said I was 9 and a half. Really, I just had a small lip. It probably would have gone away if I had gotten on my knees, but I was so tired and didn't even think of it. I was able to not push with the contractions and so it wasn't a problem. I wasn't really keen on the idea of pushing on an incomplete cervix, even if it was almost there. The urge to push got steadily more intense and I called her back again and again. Eventually I had no control over the pushing my body was doing. The nurse rushed in and told me the monitors showed I was pushing. Duh. She checked again and it felt like she wiggled that last little bit of cervix around the head. She pronounced me complete and started setting up the stirrups. I asked if I had to push like that, and she (genuinely, not rude or facetiously) asked how I would prefer to push. Ten seconds earlier I had wanted to be up on my knees, but at that moment, my brain failed me. I said I didn't know.

I got all set up and pushed with the next contraction. Immediately, the baby's heartrate did all kinds of crazy things. I was taken out of the stirrups and laid on my right side. Her heart rate immediately improved. I was warned not to push, but I couldn't help it. I really did try, and it seemed her heart was fine with what my body was doing when I couldn't fight the urge hard enough. I couldn't feel it, but she was moving lower and lower. I didn't need to be checked to tell. It was obvious when it was finally time for me to really push.

Chris says that from this point on, her heart was always fine, but that was not my truth at the time. I will tell the story as I lived it. My contractions were one on top of the other. I wasn't getting any break between them. The doctor came in and told me that if this continued, and her heartrate didn't improve, they were going to need to "take me back," which I understood to mean "to surgery." There was talk of giving me Trebutaline, to slow the contractions, but slowly, I was getting just enough space between them for the baby's heartrate to recover. Eventually, though, it became time to just get her out. The stirrups came out again, but my legs were held so far back that I didn't even touch them. They were really nice to have to rest in for the few seconds between contractions though. Chris was standing on one side holding one leg, and my nurse on the other. I pushed like my life depended on it, because I felt like the baby's might. The dotor was trying to direct my pushing, but I couldn't make sense of it. Push one I directed towards my vagina, and it was like pushing on a wall. Push two was directed towards my rectum, same thing. Push three, I tried pushing towards my sacrum. I could feel it working now! Suddenly I could feel the ring of fire starting to burn. I still had the presence of mind to think, "Wow! That hurts! But I am so glad I can feel it. I am so glad the epidural didn't numb it away."

During the moments between pushes, I would look up at Chris's face. He was watching our baby be born, and I was seeing the birth on his face. After each push, the look of awe grew. I'm so glad I didn't have a mirror, or I might have been looking at that and missed those looks.

At some point I yelled out between pushes, "Nobody announce the sex of the baby! I want to see for myself." The doctor repeated my request to the other people in the room. I was aware of Chris and the nurse, and only vaguely aware of the doctor and a pediatrician and his nurse. I got back to pushing.

I pushed right into that ring of fire. It hurt, but I found it oddly pleasurable to push to the limits of that pain, to feel myself stretch that far. I felt like I was going to rip in every direction. Suddenly, I pushed past my limits. There was a blinding pain and I let out a horrible, loud whimper. The sound of it still echoes in my ears. All of my pushing power deflated.

I gathered my breath to push again when I heard the nurse holding my leg say, "Stop pushing, we have to suction." I was confused for a moment, and then it slowly dawned on me. "The head is out?" I asked quietly, then louder, "The head is out?" The nurse assured me that yes, the head was out. It was in that moment I realised that I was still waiting for the general anesthesia mask to come into view. I had still been sure that I would be rushed off to surgery. It was also the moment I realised that was actually going to do this. I was going to birth my baby!

I didn't have time to dwell on it, though, because I had to push, NOW! I felt her shoulder slide under my pubic bone, and then blinding pain as hands pushed it back. It felt like there were five hands inside me (it was actually three), yanking on that shoulder. It would have come fine on its own, but now it was a bit sticky. I tore badly. I felt the baby kick me as the body and legs slid out.

I opened my eyes just in time to see the doctor hand the baby to the pediatrician. "We have a girl! Chris, we have another little girl!" I was thrilled. A HUGE roar of cheers went up. I was unaware of it, but Chris said there were at least thirty people in the room. It took me by surprise and I jumped. But I had other things on my mind. They had taken the baby (she still didn't have a name) to the warmer. She didn't breathe right away. I wasn't really worried, I knew she'd be fine. She was. Someone called out the time. My little girl was born at 8:55pm on Monday, February 26, 2007.

Suddenly I couldn't stop laughing. I wanted to cry in happiness, but I just laughed and laughed. i kept saying, "I did it! I did it!" over and over.


The doctor asked me to push one more time and the placenta plopped out. Then my baby was being placed in my arms. Typing it, it seems like it took a long time, but really, it was maybe three minutes. Everything was happening so fast. I hollered at Chris to grab the camera.

He took several pictures, and I got a nurse to take a picture of him holding the baby. The doctor started stitching and I felt every stitch. Chris left to go get Maddie. I felt odd that he was leaving so quickly, and he felt like I was pushing him to go get her. So, a bit of a miscommunication there.

Emily weighed 8 pounds, three ounces. Madelynn had weighed six pounds, fourteen ounces. So much for my small, deformed pelvis!

Slowly the ruckus quieted. The doctor finished stitching and left. I noticed the placenta in a bucket and asked the two nurses left in the room to show it to me. They not only showed me, they took a couple pictures for me. I didn't touch it, and I wish now I had, but I didn't think of it at the time. I realised I was ravenous. I asked one of the nurses if I could get something to eat.

I also had to pee very badly. I wasn't supposed to be able to get up so quickly, but the nurses helped me. They also disconnected me from everything except the IV. I was getting some pitocin to help my uterus clamp down as I was still bleeding a good bit. Not horrible, but enough that I felt the pitocin was prudent.

Chris came back with Maddie, who was very tired. We called all of the relatives to announce her arrival! We visited for awhile and then we decided it would be good for Maddie to sleep in her own bed that night, even though everyone was welcome to stay. The hospital's policy on other children is "Whatever you want." Maddie stayed the second night with us.

I was alone with the baby. That was probably a very bad idea. I was so tired. All I wanted was to sleep. She nursed for forty-five minutes the first time. After that, any time I moved, she would cry. She did not like having her center of gravity disturbed. It was so bad that if she fell asleep when I was mid-step, if I put the other foot down, she would wake up and cry. I walked her as much as I could, but I had to try to rest. I sat down on the bed and was bouncing her in my arms. I fell into a microsleep and woke up just in time to see her roll down my body and towards the edge of the bed. She stopped millimeters from the edge. I was terrified and I wanted to send her to the nursery, but I couldn't bring myself to do that. I put the bed in a recline and put up all the rails. Finally I was able to get a bit of sleep. It was only an hour that night, but it was something.

The next morning I was able to really appreciate where I was. My room was huge, and private. The nurses left us almost completely alone. In the bathroom there was a huge, jetted tub for water labors (I don't know if they actually have people birth in them, but for sure they labor there). It had room for three grown people in it! The shower was big enough for at least two. It was so nice to have a shower that morning once Chris brought me some clothes and shampoo. Really, the rest of our stay was like being in a fancy hotel. Even the food was good. I could order anything I wanted off of the "room service" menu. Even the fresh green beans really were fresh!

We named the baby that afternoon. We had been considering Chloe, Ainsley, and Emily. She just looked like an Emily. We chose her middle name, Michelle, because it is Chris's sister's middle name.

Every time I looked at Emily's head though, I felt sad. I would see that scab and cry. I felt like I had betrayed her for allowing that monitor. It is one thing I would love to be able to change. She will probably carry that scar forever. Was it fair for me to avoid my scar by inflicting one on her?

We went home after 36 hours in the hospital. As nice as it was, I couldn't wait to be home.

Opening my heart

When Maddie was about two, we decided to go ahead and try to have another baby. Looking back, neither of us really believed it would happen, because I was not going to go through the mess of fertility treatments again. Mostly we had come to terms with only having one child. But I started charting again, and while we didn't force ourselves to have sex during my fertile times, we weren't opposed to it. We were ready to open ourselves to another baby if and when one decided to come into our lives.

I had wanted to be prepared for the possibility of another baby, so I had continued to read about good births and ways to avoid the pitfalls of last time.

But when my charts made it clear that we were pregnant on my third cycle, we really were in shock. We were not expecting it to happen so fast! It hit me particularly hard. Suddenly I was in a position where I was going to have this baby, one way or another. At first it was the idea of the birth that got me. I spent about a week thinking that maybe just having a repeat cesarean was a good idea. I could schedule, I wouldn't have to labor. And most of all, I wouldn't have to fight. A VBAC these days is a fight. You have to fight to find a care provider, you have to fight hospital policies and time frames. I could have a home birth with a midwife, but even that carried some degree of fight.

I couldn't just resign myself to another surgery without a good reason, though. While my heart was still with unassisted birth, I started searching for a midwife. A new law legalizing midwifery in Wisconsin had just been passed, but the details of who a midwife could and could not care for at home was still being hammered out. No one was willing to risk even the slightest possibility that something might go wrong during my birth and prevent midwives all over from taking on VBAC clients. So midwives were out. My insurance assigned me an obstetrician, but I could not willingly go back to a surgeon to have a normal birth.

That left us with an unassisted birth as really my only option. It was one I felt very comfortable with, though. I loved being my own caregiver. I was sick, and for some reason very uncomfortable throughout my pregnancy despite chiropractic care and regular massages from Chris. I also often felt like this baby was an interloper in our family. We had a happy family. We all seemed to fit together nicely. Who was this baby to inject itself here and possibly mess that up for us. I know these thoughts weren't very nice, and the guilt I carried about having them mad it even worse.

Around 15 weeks, I was measuring very large and decided it would be prudent to get an ultrasound. i went to the one and only prenatal appointment I had throughout the whole pregnancy to get it ordered. We went for the ultrasound and I cried the whole way through. I couldn't believe how much it hurt my scar to have the ultrasound waves going through it. I also felt terribly guilty for exposing my baby to the waves as it was clearly not a good experience. But I also really didn't want to see the baby. I made Chris put the pictures away so I didn't have to look at them. I wasn't sure yet that I even wanted this baby, I definitely didn't want to see its picture. It made everything way too real.

Of course, I did eventually get to the point where I put those pictures up on the fridge, where I was somewhat excited to meet this new baby growing inside me. It just took me a very long time to get there.

I wrote this post to my myspace blog when I was in my late second trimester. It shows a good deal about my mental state regarding the upcoming birth:

Hmmm... my very first ever blog. I'm a tad late jumping on the bandwagon here. I'm terrible at journaling, so I don't expect this will get updated very often. And many apologies to my guy friends. This blog will probably be pretty graphic and personal. I'm gearing up to give birth, about the most intimate and feminine act there is, and my blogs will probably reflect this for awhile. So there it is, my disclaimer. As I mentioned, I am gearing up to give birth. As I write this I am 27 weeks and 3 days along. 3 days from entering my third trimester. This is both an exciting and petrifying time for me. (For the few people who know the whole ugly story of Madelynn's "birth," you understand my fear. For those who don't, it is time for me to get my story out there, look for an upcoming blog with it. I just didn't have it in me to type it all up today. ) So I am preparing for this birth already. Well, in truth, I have been preparing for it since before we even conceived. We always wanted more than one child, but getting Madelynn was an amazing struggle. I have a condition known as polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, which can make getting pregnant very difficult. For us, it took 2.5 years of medications and procedures. Some of the medications were so potent, it made me suicidal. Combine that with Chris being deployed and me being alone, well, not good. I had the presence of mind, at least, to know that I couldn't do it anymore and decided to finish the cycle I was on and then no more. We could adopt eventually, when I was finished grieving for the child I would never have. But that was the cycle it worked for us. I bleed for pretty much the whole first trimester. It turned out I had conceived with two eggs and one didn't develop properly. I was miscarrying that one, but it was a very frightening thing, wondering if the baby we had waited so long for would be lost so soon. It was made even harder by Chris' deployment. We each had to deal with all of this completely alone. (For those of you curious about these things, we had frozen some of Chris' "swimmers" before he left and had it transferred at the right times.) I never thought I would be so happy to have morning sickness, but it meant my baby was staying put! I'll go more into my pregnancy with Maddie when I tell her story, because it is all interconnected and really hard to figure out where one part ends and the rest begins. So, we had pretty much given up on the idea of having another baby. After what the drugs did to me the first time, I knew there was no way I could do that again. So to have another, we would have to conceive on our own. It was theoretically possible, since I do ovulate on my own occasionally. I chart my cycles, more so I know what's going on than for either "trying" or "avoiding." But it meant that when we did conceive, I knew within 10 or so days. We couldn't believe it! Then the morning sickness set in again and we could easily believe it. Maddie came via cesarean section, so this pregnancy, while otherwise an amazing blessing, held a lot of potential trouble for me. I'm very involved with a group designed to prevent unnecessary cesareans, but I must admit, at the very beginning of this pregnancy just signing up for a repeat c/s was very appealing. I snapped out of it pretty quickly, but for awhile that seemed way preferable to the fighting and work and effort I would have to put into a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). But the plain and simple truth is that I didn't want another surgical delivery. I want to give birth. I want to be the first person to touch my baby. I want to catch him or her as s/he emerges into my hands. I WANT to feel the contractions and sweat while I push out my baby. I want to breathe through the pain and curse and cry. Women who have had a c-section know what an unbelievable blessing it is to do that. I want it. What I don't want is to be in an operating room, numbed from the armpits down, a passive vessel for bringing my child into the world. I want to be an active participant. I want to nurse and cuddle my baby moments after it is born, still covered in birth fluids. So this time, we chose home birth.
This is what we had wanted for Maddie too, but just couldn't make it happen. We didn't know enough, didn't want it enough. We didn't even know what we didn't know. I wasn't going to make that mistake again, so even though we didn't know if it would ever happen, I set about learning everything I could. Some of it I couldn't help, being involved with ICAN (http://www.ican-online.org/ if you want to know more) gets you educated in birth even if you don't want it. A few months there and I learned more about birth and the politics behind it than I would have ever thought possible. But even the most knowledgeable women can't teach you everything. You have to learn about yourself by yourself. Self discovery and healing can not be given to you. And it is not an easy path to take. Some days, I look back down that path and can't believe how far I've come. Other days, I can still see my starting point and I don't know that I've actually done anything. Who ever said healing is a spiral was so right. Some days it seems like you are right back where you started, but eventually you find you are on the same place but another level of that spiral. This probably doesn't make any sense, but anyone who has ever grieved over anything will understand. Its universal.
Besides a LOT of soul-searching, what I did was toss the wrong pregnancy books (namely, What to Expect) and picked up the right ones. There are a lot of good ones out there, but for me, Birthing From Within is one of the best. It helped me to both heal from my first pregnancy and prepare for this one. Sit Up and Take Notice (along with http://www.spinningbabies.com/) helped me learn about the positioning issues to avoid to have a better birth. Turns out there is a lot more to good birth positioning than just being head down. I'm also really enjoying Hypnobabies. There are classes, but we are using just the book, and it is going very well. I finally know what it means to relax on cue, a huge step for me. The Pink Kit is great for learning my particular pelvis and the best birthing positions for me. I'm seeing a chiropractor regularly to keep all my bones in line. When I get a little further along, I'll be practicing Optimal Fetal Positioning to try to avoid the posterior position that caused so many problems last time. I'm drinking Red Raspberry Leaf Tea every day.
The most important thing though, is being careful what I let into my head right now. I will not watch shows like "Birthday" and "a baby story" that so often show terrible births. I won't listen to bad birth stories. I go out of my way to hear good ones. Wonderful stories, some with "complications" but where no one freaks out and calls it an emergency. Birth is as safe as life gets. Sometimes that isn't safe at all, but the vast majority of time, it is. Birth works, when left alone. My favorite movie right now is "A Clear Road To Birth." It has videos of lots of unassisted births. No doctor or midwife to interfere and the births are so calm and wonderful. There are older children coming in and out at will, no bright lights or suctioning, no episiotomies or "we have to weigh the baby now, dear." None of it. Just pure, raw birth. As it should be. I call it my brainwashing tape. I need to brainwash out the cultural messages that birth is scary and dangerous and brainwash in that it can be lovely and calm and peaceful. To me, this is the single most important thing I've done to prepare for this birth. I have surrounded myself with people who believe in me and my ability to birth my baby. People who can remember I am strong, even when I forget. People who will have sympathy for my pain, but cheer me on anyway. Reminding me that I can do this. People who listen to my fears and help me work through them so they won't all come up while I'm laboring and vulnerable. People who aren't afraid to look at the raw emotion and deal with it. People who have walked this road before me and some who are wanting me to light the way for them. The decision to VBAC can be very hard, there are so many obstacles, but with the support and love of my supporters, I know I can do it.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Aftermath

I think this is the hardest chapter so far. I don't even know how I can begin to explain all the ways my cesarean (and the events preceding it) affected me. I'm still discovering some of them.

I had an incredibly easy recovery physically. I had very little pain, none in my incision at all. I got up and walked the next morning, I never felt I hobbled. I could carry and care for my new baby with very little trouble. I did have to use pillows for support during nursing for the first few weeks, but that was more out of a fear of pain than any actual pain. I think I only took three doses of painkillers total, and two of those were at a nurses insistence that I would feel pain soon and it would be unbearable. This was already 48 hours after the surgery. The third was my first day at home because we had family coming and I was afraid I would be exhausted and start to hurt. I didn't get infected, my incision didn't reopen. I took my baby for a mile long, hilly walk in her stroller before she was a week old. No, it wasn't the physical recovery that was so hard for me, but the emotional one.

For the first several months, I was able to keep my feelings about everything under the surface. I was too involved in becoming a new mom, learning to breastfeed, dealing with colic, seemingly unending streams of visitors, and of course, physical healing, to do anything else. But I had nightmares. I would frequently wake up at night crying from a dream about people chasing me with knives. Most of the time, I had a lot of trouble sleeping. I would lay there in the dark and suddenly, I would be there, back in the operating room, smelling my flesh burn. I couldn't stand to be touched. I would cringe every time Chris even brushed up against me.

I tried to see a therapist. I went to a woman who claimed to be a specialist in post-partum depression. I told her about my cesarean and everything that went with it. She told me that she didn't believe any birth could be traumatic if the baby didn't die, and so my problems must be stemming from my marriage. I went a few more times, but ultimately knew I would not get help there. I didn't have it in me to try someone else.

By the time Maddie was four months old, my life felt like it was falling apart around me. I could barely function. I couldn't sleep, I couldn't take care of the house, I could barely take care of the baby. Chris and I were fighting like crazy.I knew I needed to help myself, but I didn't know how.

A few weeks later, Chris and I were on the verge of divorce. I was so angry with him. I knew in my head that he couldn't have helped any of it, but in my heart, I felt betrayed and abandoned. Why hadn't he helped me? Why didn't he stand up for me? He just sat back half asleep in his chair while I was brutalized. How could I ever trust him again? How could I forgive him? One night, things were so bad, we decided that it was just time. Divorce was our only option. We stopped fighting and began to discuss how we would work out custody. Eventually he went down to the garage and I headed to sleep on the couch in the living room. I couldn't sleep. I was thinking too much. Finally I realised that I had to tell him everything I had been thinking, all of my hurts and anger. At that point, what did I have to lose?

I headed down to the garage and told him that I needed to talk and he needed to listen. No matter what, he could not interrupt me. And God bless him, he didn't. I let everything spill out. All the hurt and pain, all of the poison that had been building for months. I talked and cried and yelled and cried some more for more than two hours. But it was out. It was over. I slept on the couch that night, but from that horrible, rock bottom place, things began to get better. It was a long, slow process, but each day was a little better than the one before.


I still needed help for me, though, and I didn't know where to get it. I knew I was the only one who could help me, so I started searching. I read some interesting things about art therapy, and so I tried some of that. Getting my feelings down on paper helped so much. I still have many of those drawings and paintings. They still hold so much power for me. I also told my story to anyone and everyone who would listen. At first I'm sure I came off sounding like a raving lunatic. That's what I was at the time, really. I also asked my La Leche League leader if she knew of anyone who had also had a traumatic birth experience. I knew I couldn't possibly be the only one. She is the one who pointed me to ICAN. ICAN, the International Cesarean Awareness Network, is a group dedicated to lowering the cesarean rate and helping women who are recovering from them. ( http://www.ican-online.org/)

I found the ICAN of San Diego web page, and there was a meeting in a couple of weeks. It was an hour away, but I needed to go. I was desperate. I kept looking online for help while I was waiting for the meeting. I came across an essay entitled You should be Grateful by Gretchen Humphries. (Check it out here: http://www.birthtruth.org/grateful.htm Her other writings are fabulous as well.) This essay was my first bit of proof I had that there were others who felt the same way I did about their cesareans. I read that essay over and over. I also sent it to my family members. I especially wanted my mom to read it, because the first thing she said to me after my surgery was, "Aren't you glad you went to the hospital now?" Umm... no Mom, I not. Not at all.

The day of the ICAN meeting finally came. I packed up the baby and made the drive. I was really nervous when I knocked on that door. But Tonya, the leader (and president of the whole organization, but I didn't know that then) opened the door and welcomed me inside. I was the first one there, but others followed soon. That meeting was a turning point in my life. I was surrounded by women who understood me, and I was able to tell my story fully. No one thought I was crazy. I cried a lot that day, and I will never forget those women. It was the first time I heard that a home birth after a cesarean (HBAC) was even possible. Just that brought so much joy to my heart. I had panic attacks even driving by the hospital. I couldn't imagine going in there to have another baby. After the meeting Tonya told me about the ICAN online Email list ( http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/ICAN-online/ ) and lent me a copy of Silent Knife by Nancy Wainer-Cohen and Lois J. Estner. Usually the group's library was limited to members, but Tonya could see how much I needed to read it.

I had heard that this book was widely regarded as "angry." I thought these women were so tame! But this book was so big in my healing process in ways I can't even describe. I think I read the book three times before I returned it two months later. I also paid for my first subscription to ICAN that month. I knew this was a group of women I needed to be involved in. I also joined what is affectionately known as "The List." It is very high volume, two days of not reading and my Email box was full! The love and support there, though, is truly amazing. A group of women, most of whom have never met in person, spilling their hurt and pain, supporting each other, and healing. I've been a member for three years now, and I don't know how I would live without these wonderful women. I've gotten to know them well. But even then, new and hurt, I was welcomed in with loving arms.

Slowly, with the new support I found, and with lots of soul searching, I began to heal. I became a functional mother and wife again. I could finally sleep. The house was coming under control. Chris and I were really starting to get along.

Maddie was 11 months old when Chris left on his third deployment. To keep myself busy, I went back to school full time. We would also be moving soon after Chris got back, and so I was taking care of all of those things. I was doing very well, and healing got put on the back burner.

I met a woman at a La Leche League meeting who was planning an unassisted birth after cesarean (UBAC). I told her that she could call me if she ever needed some support during her labor. I didn't want her to have to go through what I did simply for not having anyone to come. Not long after Maddie's first birthday, the call came. Jessie was having lots of contractions and her husband was underway and couldn't get home. She had been having lots of prodromal labor and we thought she would probably go pretty fast. She labored through the night and into the next morning. We had to call another friend to be with her for a few hours while I went to take a Psychology test (I aced it despite getting no sleep the previous night.) and then grabbed a couple of hours of sleep. I picked Maddie back up from the sitter and we headed back to Jessie's house. She was in the tub trying to relax through contractions that were obviously more intense than when I had left. Our friend had to get home to care for her own children, so it was just the three of us again. It was not easy to take care of Maddie (who cut four teeth that night!) and my laboring friend at the same time. Eventually I had to tell Jessie that I would need to go at 9:00 that evening. I simply could not be up again all night. She called another friend to come be with her once I left. Things picked up while we waited for him to come, and soon she was pushing with the contractions even though she clearly didn't want to. She was flat on her back in the bath tub. I was providing some perineal counterpressure and I felt her water break with one of the contractions. There was some meconium in it and soon the bath water was a dingy grey-green color. After an hour of pushing, she was clearly upset because the baby wasn't crowning yet. She asked me to check how far back the baby's head was. She was about one knuckle deep and seemed to be stuck. We helped Jessie onto her knees in the tub, which brought the baby to the perineum almost instantly. The tub was very uncomfortable this way, so with help, she got out and sat on the toilet. She would stand and hang from her friend's neck while I held her perineum during contractions. A couple of pushes later, Jessie eased the baby's head out. I watched the baby rotate into a better position to birth the shoulders. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. Jessie wanted me to check for a cord around her neck. There was none, but while I was checking, another contraction came and the baby was born right into my hands! I was so surprised and she came with such a whoosh of fluid, I thought I would drop her. Jessie immediately sat down and I handed her baby to her. Then I looked at the door and there was my baby, just watching in amazement. It was a beautiful moment. We got Jessie cleaned up and settled as best we could, and I borrowed some clothes to drive home in. Mine were soaked through with blood and amniotic fluid. Her friend stayed with her through the night and until her husband got home the next day. I lived on that high for the next few weeks. I had never done something so amazing in my life! It made me sad, to really know what I had missed, but it also brought me hope, because if she could do it, so could I.

Midway through his deployment, the ICAN conference was held, near where I lived. I wanted to go, but I had a choice between the conference or a Birth Renewal workshop that was held the same weekend. Some people went to both, but I just couldn't afford it. Birth Renewal was the right choice for me. I spent a whole day just focusing on healing me, as Maddie was with my dad. I even got to meet a few of the people I knew from the List.

Mostly I am doing better now, but every so often things still break through in unexpected ways. When we moved into our new house, I would lay on my back in our bedroom, everything would come flooding back. I kept reliving my surgery. Once again, I could barely sleep and sex was definitely out. Eventually I realised that the light fixture above our bed reminded my subconscious of the large round surgical lights. Chris replaced it with a ceiling fan, and it hasn't been a problem. I wonder though, when the next inexplicable reminder will come.