April 24, 2012

Defining Moments - Lea

Community member Lea, who blogs at Becoming SuperMommy, is among the many women who feel control over the birth experience was taken from her. It can leave a woman feeling conflicted, even negative - about the delivery and herself.

Lea has struggled with these issues. Her first delivery, of twin girls, felt very much out of control. She is preparing to give birth again, and has learned to adjust her expectations. Here is her story...

What were your plans for the delivery of your first child? What did an ideal birth look like for you?
I have always had, shall we say, hippie leanings. I was determined to deliver my children vaginally, with no interventions or medication. And then, as they say, life happened. I found myself pregnant with twins. Twins who were determinedly transverse, and no OB or even midwife would even pretend that those girls were on their way out naturally. To me, an ideal birth looked like my girls finally flipping their heads down, and squeezing their way out the way that nature intended. To me, an ideal birth looked like two big, healthy, full term babies who made their way out of the womb without any sort of modern medicinal advances.

What factors influenced the decisions you made concerning your delivery? 
I wish I could say that I made any decisions about my delivery. Any at all. But that simply wasn't the case. Instead, in the wee hours of the morning on the first day of my thirty fifth week of pregnancy, I woke up with the feeling of fluid rushing out from between my legs. I shook my husband awake and told him my water had broken, and he needed to turn on the light. The moment the light switched on, in a voice of remarkable calm, he told me that the bed was covered in blood and that I needed to talk to my doctor immediately. From that point on, the only decisions that I felt I actually made were my choice of clothing, my choice of which family members I called first on the way to the hospital, and one decision regarding bloodwork that ended up making all the difference.

Tell me a bit about your actual birth experience...
When we got to the hospital, we were told to bypass triage and head straight to the floor where I was to be admitted. In our own room, it took only seconds to locate both babies on the fetal monitor and to find out that they were both perfectly fine. No heart rate problems, no signs of distress, not even any contractions to worry about. We were told we would simply have to wait in that room until something changed. We were told it might be days. As I got hungrier, colder, and thirstier, I began to have contractions that I knew would go away if i could just get my blood sugar up. But nobody would allow my husband to feed me even orange juice.

As the contractions intensified, my doctor told me that it was dangerous to wait any longer. I was to be rushed into surgery, and to have the c-section they had been telling me to expect for months. I asked about an epidural, and the doctor told me, apologetically, that with inexplicable bleeding I would need general anesthesia. I put my foot down. I told them to rush the bloodwork. Lucky me, I was right. The bloodwork came back JUST as they were about to administer the anesthesia, and I was given an epidural instead. My husband was allowed into the surgery, and we were both able to be there for the birth of our children - two healthy but tiny baby girls.

How did that experience shape any future births/birth plans you may have had?
The most important thing was learning that my instincts are good, that I was right. Next time, I will have the confidence to demand the medical care that I require- even a cup of orange juice. I also plan on avoiding the hospital until the very last moment, so as to avoid dealing with doctors who simply want to do things their own way, regardless of what I- the patient- know to be best for me.

Have you ever felt judged for the way you gave birth?
Absolutely. Whenever I tell somebody that I had a c-section, almost every time, there is a moment where I feel that they are judging me. Criticizing me for being a coward, or vain, or any number of things. I'm particularly sensitive about it because everything about my pregnancy experience felt that way. If I told somebody I was pregnant with twins, they wanted to know if I used fertility assistance. If I told somebody that we supplemented with formula, they asked if I "tried" to nurse exclusively. If I told them I had a c-section, they'd tell me about some friend of a friend who delivered full term twins at home. I always had the urge to tell them the whole story, to say "Who are you to judge me? My life? My choices?"

But because so much of it felt out of my control, much of it felt like it must inherently be some form of failure. Because I had NOT chosen a c-section, that I had one was a failure. Because I had NOT chosen to become pregnant with twins, having done so was a failure. Because I had NOT chosen to supplement with formula, that was a failure. I could only be a success to myself if my experience met all of my own expectations, and the criticisms of others only validated my own fears and guilt.

You are currently expecting another child. Do you plan to try for a VBAC? If so, are conditions favorable for one?
I do plan to try for a VBAC. Right now, yes, conditions are favorable. But there still seems to be plenty of room for Baby X to spin around, so I'm not sure yet what position she'll end up in. I'm comfortable with the idea that it might still happen, but for the time being we're full speed ahead towards a head-down, full term, healthy little one. Another month from now, I should know a lot better what to expect. You know, once Baby X is actually due.

Have you altered your expectations for your second birth based on your experiences with your first? Or have you adjusted your view of "success?" How do you feel about these issues as you approach the delivery of your third child?
I have both altered my expectations AND adjusted my view of success. This time, success means being in control of the decision making process. It means that whatever happens, it happens in an informed and decisive manner. My expectations are different too, not just because I have really come to understand that the important thing isn't the birth, it's the CHILD. However they come into the world, it doesn't matter. What matters is that they come in kicking and screaming and totally healthy. That's all any parent should care about, when you get down to it. And if they don't come out perfect, it's not your fault. I think a lot of new moms blame the perceived flaws of their babies on their birth method. As I get closer to baby number three, I feel more anxious about the baby being here, but the birth itself is still vague and somehow unreal. I'm sure when I go into labor it will be different, but it just doesn't matter as much this time. This time, I just want it to be over quickly and smoothly, and to have my whole family together for the first time. This time I'm not so concerned with putting a baby to my breast, still covered in goop and tethered to a placenta. This time, I can't wait to introduce my girls to their new baby. Our new baby. I just want to see the awe and love in their faces, and get started on our new lives as a family of five.

I can't wait to read the story of that moment, Lea. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us for this series. And be sure to stop by tomorrow to read about the successful VBAC delivery of community member Miranda.

Lea has broken her birth story into two parts. Be sure to visit her blog to read more:



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