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Fourteen

My first child was born in 1973, and I had a background of watching other mothers from my group on the West Coast going to Lamaze classes and getting the father involved.  It was all kind of a big thing on the West Coast and I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed.  So that was one thing that I ran into as I became pregnant in the Midwest, and started asking around about natural childbirth type thing and Lamaze classes.  In Cedar Rapids, Iowa I probably didn't ask to right people, but one doctor thought it was really radical and perhaps I would like to see an acupuncturist or something, said with a lot of disdain.  And I wound up having my first child, Marceline, in Michigan. There I encountered some people that we had known from the West Coast, but were not into natural childbirth as I recall, and they recommended, and just insisted, that we go to their OBGYN.  It was a group, and I was not happy that every single time it was a different OBGYN.  I had my favorites, but when it became close to the birthing of the child one doctor said, "You can do whatever you want, yeah we'll accommodate what ever".  But we didn't discuss Lamaze too much.  And he's the one I ended up having come in that evening.  I had gone the day before, and my child was I believe a week or two weeks overdue according to their due date, and they wanted to check.  Evidently when they did just a regular exam she seemed to have moved up again from the birth canal.  She had been progressing the time before, so they decided they better do an X-ray.  Well after that, when I told people that they did an X-ray, everyone was just shocked.  So I guess they had stopped that shortly after or maybe even during that time.  Well, they took an X-ray and from the X-ray, seeing what my pelvis looked like, they decided that this child could no way negotiate this very narrow long pelvis.  The narrowness wasn't as much a problem, they said, as the length of it; that the child couldn't navigate the lengthy very narrow passageway.  So they said we're going to schedule you for a C-section because we're worried about the child getting brain damage coming through there.  So of course, hearing that you go, "Oh yeah, I better have a C-section".  It was disappointing, but I went home that day and figured, "Oh, well".  They scheduled it, even though they were worried about brain damage, they scheduled it for a week ahead.  I thought, "Well, then the child's going to be that much more overdue".  I couldn't understand why it was so important that they do this, and yet they had to schedule it.  They didn't do, "Oh, we've better take it right away," like you think if it were truly worrisome.  So we went along with it, we were good patients, and went home that night.  I thought I had been so good, I had not eaten anything any night past eight o'clock in case I had gone into labor in the evening.  But I went ahead and had a beer, I never drank anything hardly; enjoyed myself, had a whole bunch of cookies after eight o'clock at night, and then my water broke.  So we called and they said, "Get right in here".  It was about a half an hour away, so I went in.  Being as it's about 33 years ago, I don't really remember a lot of details, except that I had to do the regular prep in those days which was the enema and the whole thing.  I was ready for that, oh okay I didn't want to do it but I got the shave, the whole humiliating process.  My labor progressed quite, quite well.  At one point I could tell I was going into transition, and the labor became more intense.  I don't remember it as being horrific, but it was just more intense.  We decided to try a Lamaze thing, which was putting the bed into sort of a W shape.  It would just supposedly ease me.  Well, the doctor just happened to walk in at this time and said, "What the hell are you doing?!  This is ridiculous!"  He said, "Put that bed back down".  He wasn't a mean guy, but he was very authoritative.  He was the doctor, of course, and he said, "Poor thing," he was just going to make me more comfortable.  Of course, we felt foolish because we bowed to authority at that point.  I started realizing that time was slipping by, and I can't remember quite the sequence, but it seemed to me I was in more heavy labor.  They asked me if I wanted something for the pain and I had not wanted to do that.  But because who knows why, I was weak, so I thought, "Well yeah, that might be good".  No, I know it was that I couldn't keep track very well of what I was doing, and so I thought that maybe that would help.  Of course it didn't, they gave me secenol I think.  I remember as soon as I had it I thought, "Oh no!  Now I can't keep anything straight.  This is really not good". But Greg, my husband, was very much of a help for me.  Because he would get me through, we counted through the contractions and did breathing the best we could under the circumstances.  Just about the time I thought I couldn't handle it any more, he would say, "Well it's almost done," or "You're half way through," and I would only maybe be a quarter of the way through.  I felt like that was really a helpful thing to do, cuz I told him afterwards that it was okay; that was great.  At some point during labor it seemed to be very rhythmic, and it was almost like music.  I can remember, either I thought of it as an idea that I was conducting the music with my arms or that I was part of this music.  I just remember that I was going through this (labor) and that it had meaning.  It felt rhythmic and that I was conducting it in some way; that is the meaning behind that sensation.  As much as I didn't have mystical things going on like other people, I did have something symbolic going on.  So we were huffing and puffing along, doing what we're supposed to do.  And it seems to me that they came in and gave me an exam, pelvic exam, that was very painful.   I remember when they had examined me before I went into labor, when they decided I was going to have C-section, that it was so painful when you're that pregnant.  I don't know, for me that was just really awful.  And I think they did it during that time when it was not nice.  At some point, they said I was fully dilated and it had been about four or five hours since my water broke.  So everything was advancing really fast, but the baby wasn't coming down.  I was ten centimeters, so they said we better do a C-section.  So (I) went through that whole C-section thing, which was surprisingly easy.  I thought it might have been a bigger deal, but they gave me a spinal so they didn't knock me out.  I guess in those days they were just getting into spinals versus general anesthesia, but they made a great note that I had eaten a whole bunch of cookies and a beer (laughing).  So they were shaking their heads.  I don't even remember if they had told me ahead of time what anesthetic they were going to use, or if they changed it because I had eaten.  Whatever, but it was a fairly easy process.  As I look back on the whole process, as mothers will do, I was pretty out of it when they showed me this new baby.  Of course, they wisked this baby away and I didn't get to bond with her right away.  She was brought to me on a four hour schedule they still adhered to.  I could hear this baby crying down in the nursery and so about the first day they let me get up, I went down I realized it was my baby.  She was just crying her heart out cuz she was too hungry, and I think they probably gave her formula in between, I'm sure.  The first night in the evening the doctor came to see me and I mentioned that I had eaten.  He said, "Oh no!  What had you eaten?" and I said, "Oh, I had spaghetti and salad".  At the time, I had convinced the nurse to give it to me.  I think I had had some horrible broth, no nutritional thing, so she brought in what she was giving everybody else.  So sure enough that night I had really horrific gas pains.  Of course, going through labor, those muscles had been involved.  So it reminded me of labor, with all that pain going on in that part of my body, and there was this distinctive feeling that it was her labor.  Not just some baby, but her, my baby's, labor.  It wasn't like it was bad or good, it was just an identity.  Of course, I had pain pills after that which probably dampened any more sensations like that.  And then there was a snow storm right after, and nobody could come see me.  I was alone in the hospital for a week, and that was kind of hard to be stuck up there and they didn't let me have the baby very often.  There were four women to a room.   It must have been the day after Marceline's birth that they had to tell the woman next to me that her baby was severely retarded.  I had heard it cry and it didn't sound quite right.  It's called Cat's Cry Syndrome because the baby sounds like a cat meowing, I think it is something really severe like parts of the brain not fully formed.  I had to hear all that because there were just a curtain between us, and I felt so horrible for her.  You'd think they could have given her some privacy; I was glad that her family was with her.  I felt so sick that night, I got really nauseated, and I closed the curtains and had to explain that I didn't mean to cut her off.  She was so sweet and sympathetic as I was groaning away in bed.  I just remember how horrible I felt for her, after going through all that to hear that your child wasn't going to last for very many years.  Another woman in there was unwed and she wasn't very interested in the baby, and she kept plucking at her IV.  I wanted to tell her that it was going to get swollen if she did that, but it was a huge hospital; there were many women.  The fact that you have a child that is healthy and normal is so essential, and then when you don't, the trauma those people must go through I can't even imagine.  I had a great deal of trouble nursing because it was very painful for me.  I was extremely engorged.  I couldn't even stand to have my nightgown on, I was just totally immodest.   I just would take it off and the doctors would say, "Put that on, please," if they came in (laughing).  And then I had spinal headaches, they must have started about the second day.  At that time the needle was bigger and evidently allowed air in.  They were horrific, just horrific, and I couldn't raise my head hardly at all.  I had to drink lots of water and take pain pills, so that didn't help (with breastfeeding) either, I'm sure.  I had to stay a whole week because that was more standard procedure to stay after a C-section anyway.  So it was not exactly a bonding time and I had difficulty nursing.  They gave me really stupid nipple protectors which made it worse; it was like making the whole nipple more sore than it need be. The nurses didn't know a darn thing about nursing, so I had to wait until I got home and read my La Leche League literature I had gotten before.  I contacted them after I went home, and they helped me get started.  "Throw those things away!" they said, "Those things are just totally out to lunch".  Everything got quite a bit better when I got home.  And so for the second child, Claire, this was almost eleven years later.  Having read things since then, and heard other people, I just thought that I wanted a lot more wide awake experience for my second child.  They talked about VBACs and how I knew that I would probably have to have another C-section.  But I was also heard that people were beginning to see that it wasn't always necessary.  So the doctor I went to was also recommended by a friend.  I was going to have to go off the island, I was living on Orcas Island at that time, to have a OBGYN.  He was quite open minded and very kind, and said, "We will do whatever you want".  This time I think he was a little more apprised that the other doctor who had said that.  He understood the importance of birthing.  They had a labor room that was very comfortable where the father could stay.  They also allowed my oldest daughter, Marceline, who was then going on eleven, to come in and be there if she wanted.  She decided she wanted to, and it felt really good that she could be there.  It was more of a family event, naturally, but she was old enough that she could participate.  She would very patiently put wash cloths on my head and she was a great help, I just remember her being so patient and concerned with me.  He (the doctor) said, "We will give you a try at a vaginal birth.  We will just see what happens, but you're going to have to be hooked up to an IV because in case of a hemorrhage.  So we just don't have worries about that and we just have to do that that way".  Of course I was delighted that they would at least give me a try and I was also a little scared too, because they scare you with that hemorrhaging thing.  And you keep thinking, "Oh man, to bleed to death, well, that would be just horrible! (Laughing).  Which is, I guess, a fear that they had, and so I knew that (the IV) was going to happen.  On the island I went to a woman, there was a really lovely woman who did coaching for just a very more relaxation and breathing type thing which I tried to practice.  They didn't have Lamaze any more, I think Lamaze was sort of out of fashion, and that was okay.  I just wanted somebody to do some coaching.  But by this time my husband was not into it any more, and he rarely joined in.  So I figured, "Oh well, I know how to do it".  This child did not come fast the way the other one (had), she was really reluctant to come.  I woke up at five o'clock, it was two days after she was due, as soon as my water broke.  Because we were living on the island, we'd just been waiting for several days because of the New Year's Holiday over at a motel.  We had just come back, giving up.  We figured New Year's was over and this baby's not going to come yet.  Of course you know, the next morning I went into labor but it was a very slow labor.  They said, "Get on the ferry and come over.  It's not an emergency, we won't fly you out," which was nice.  So we took a nice ferry ride over and the whole day was just very slow I didn't have very strong (contractions). I don't even think I had transition or anything.  Finally, at oh probably five or six in the evening, they said, "Well, we think we ought to give you some pictocin to move this along because we are concerned".  Oh and they got concerned, they did fetal monitoring and they got concerned the baby wasn't getting enough oxygen.  They gave me oxygen with a mask which really bothered me because by that time you are kind of woozy if your not in transition or heavy labor.  I had had ether as a child, and it was a horrifying experience, and they had put a mask over my face so this was an anxiety thing when they put the oxygen mask on me.  I knew what it was and I was able to describe.  They tried to relieve it for me by putting the mask just a little bit away from my nose, so we had sympathetic people around but I hated that.  But of course since they said the baby needed more oxygen, and I would do anything for the baby so I did it.  But the whole thing is that I hadn't eaten all day.  Being a person who, I found out later, has low blood sugar, if I don't eat I would have more of a reaction maybe than some people.  I was really weak and I think that could have had a lot to do with the labor, I really do especially after finding out some things later.  I was sucking on the popsicles and doing that kind of thing, but it wasn't (the) nutrition that I needed.  So I was just really kind of putty by the time they decided to up this up.  When I would have contractions I didn't have much strength to push.  Yeah, I think I was allowed to push; it seems to me that the first labor they didn't want me to push.  I guess partly because they knew I was fully dilated but the baby hadn't moved down very much and they were worried about the baby.  That was not a good feeling, to not be able to push when I had the urge.  I don't think it lasted too long before they took the baby C-section, first baby.  So this baby here I was trying to push.  It wasn't working, wasn't working, finally they decided, "Well, we ought to try some more extreme measures".  They got some sort of suction thing that they were going to attach to Claire's scull.  And that scared me, I could hear the clanking of chains (laughing) and I was like, "Oh my God".  It seemed medieval.  And they talked about forceps and, "Oh, we know to do it.  We won't injure the baby," you know, ble ble blah.  Oh lordy.  I think they made some attempts there.  So when he said C-section, I was scared enough and tired enough that, let's just get this poor little child out.  Which is what we did, and it was better than the first time because I had insisted before, "I want my baby to nurse right away when he or she comes out," we didn't know that she was going to be a girl yet.  They honored that and they let her suck on my breast, which of course, I couldn't tell anything I was so out of it myself.  But I thought, "Oh goody, this is happening.  This is good".  And I got to see her and see her right away.   I could touch her and then, after she nursed for a little while, they took her.  I think they must have wiped her off or something before she was put at my breast, but it was so much better that way.  But I was so exhausted.  You know, I am so envious when I read these birth stories of women so ecstatically happy, all I could think of was exhaustion.  It might have been my age, I was forty, but at the same time I do think that the age might have contributed to my lack energy and food.  However I think it was a huge factor not to be able to eat, and pictocin I do remember made things harder.  I guess it was supposed to push me into hard labor, but I don't remember the exact ways it was hard.  It was just all these contractions and we weren't counting this time.  We were just trying to relax and trying to push, and it was just not very productive at all.  So this time, however afterwards, I was allowed to nurse as often as I wanted.  But I couldn't keep the baby in the room all the time, which was too bad.  One time we were just bonding beautifully, she was asleep on my tummy and chest, and I was dozing.  The nurse came in and was alarmed because she could have slipped off.  I suppose that's true because I was taking morphine for pain, which is a complication of C-sections, and it did scare me a little bit.  But she was there with me a whole lot more.  They got me out of bed right away because they had smaller needles for spinals so I didn't have any problems with headaches.  So I got up right away and felt so much stronger, and more capable, and more powerful as a woman to be able to move around after this birth.  Although, I was still attached to an IV for a couple days.  They wanted to send me home after three days and I said, "No".  I didn't feel strong enough yet, I needed to stay one more day.   I mean, I really think that was a factor in C-sections.  The newest methods to send women home right away, maybe the young women can do it, but for me it was like I needed that time.  Plus, it was a wonderful time to bond with my second child, which I hadn't had with my first one.  In the long run, I did bond with her at home and it was fine, but it's really special to do it in the hospital before you get home and before you have to go back to taking care of husband and other kids.  Even though, I was waited on quite a bit by my husband.  It was not like I was taking charge because of the C-section.  It was just a nice peaceful time, and I did treasure that and glad that I had that extra day that I could do that in.  So the second C-section itself was a much better experience.  If I think about it long and hard, and hear other women talking, I would always have wished to have had both my kids by natural vaginal birth.  But of course, the important thing is that they are here and wonderful, and beautiful.  And they're both healthy, and that's the most important part of it for me.