February 23, 2011
Dear Dr. X,
I don’t expect you to remember me; we met for only a few short minutes almost four years ago now. But in that time, you made a huge difference in my life. I’ve been meaning to write to you and thank you for all that time. I don’t know why it took me so long, but it finally feels like the right time.
Four years ago, on February 26, 2007, I walked into A. Hospital in labor with my second baby. But the story starts days before, when my waters broke almost a week before I went into labor. My first baby had been born via a very traumatic cesarean, and I wanted a VBAC more than anything in the world, other than a healthy second baby. So I stayed home and waited for labor to start. It finally did on February 25th. I labored all day and all night, and into the next day. After 30+ hours, we made the difficult decision that something felt wrong, and headed in to the hospital, knowing I’d be going in for another cesarean. At the front desk, I was offered a wheelchair. I wanted it, but I could not take it. I think now that I was buying myself every extra second I could get. I walked up to the birthing center, stopping every two or three minutes for another contraction.
It felt like it took hours, but I finally made it up to the birthing center. I could barely tell the nurses my name at that point. They hustled me into a room, and took a quick history. When I said I was a VBACer, they made it clear that the hospital doesn’t support VBAC, and I resigned myself to my fate. The doctor on call was just leaving, so he refused to see me. The new doctor on call was still seeing patients up in R, so it was decided that I should get an epidural, rather than wait for a spinal right before surgery.
So that’s where I was when we had occasion to meet. You walked into my room and told me about the risks of epidural, pausing for my contractions. I’d never had a doctor do that before, wait for me to be capable of listening. It makes a big difference, you know. That little pause shows women that you think of them as human. And it makes a big difference.
You told me you were going to give me just enough drugs to take the edge off, and started telling me that I did not want to be recovering from surgery and caring for a newborn at the same time. I was expecting the opposite to the point that I replied, “I know, you think I was stupid for even trying…”
You got a little more into my face then, to make sure I heard you, and told me No. We are going to get this baby out before the doctor can get here. Then you gave me a perfect epidural. The edge was off, but I still had to work through each contraction. Then you left, and I don’t remember seeing you again.
I know you probably don’t remember me, and that’s okay, but I’ve always wondered if you ever heard what happened, or if for you, the story ends here. And I wanted you to know the end. I didn’t get the baby out before the doctor made it in, but by then I was strong enough again to sign the AMA papers, declining the cesarean. At 8:55 pm, I pushed my second daughter into this world, with a crowd of onlookers. For me, there was no one in the world but her and I. She was perfect and we were both healthy and fine. We named her Emily Michelle. She was eight pounds and three ounces. (My first daughter had been six pounds, fourteen ounces and I was told she was too big for me!)
Emily is about to turn four. She is a delightful child, and loves to draw. She can’t wait to start school with her big sister. Two years ago, I gave birth to my third daughter, at home. She was nine pounds, eight ounces. Her birth was seven hours, start to finish.
If I had ended up with another cesarean with my second baby, I don’t think I’d have been capable of trying again. I wouldn’t have my third baby at all. Birth IS that important in a woman’s life. It is not routine for us. It is life-changing and earth-shattering. Being respected (or not)and having our wishes honored (or not) impacts us forever. For the staff, we are just another woman, just another birth. But it isn’t just another birth from this side. We remember forever.
I take credit for Emily’s birth. I refused induction, I waited as long as possible to come in, I signed the AMA papers, and I pushed her out. That still, four years later, feels so good to say. I PUSHED HER OUT! But you came to me when I was weak. You were kind to me, and you gave me strength. That’s just how it should be, but so often isn’t. So I thank you. Your words of kindness changed my life, and I will be forever grateful to you. Thank you. Thank you! THANK YOU! From the bottom of my heart.