Ruminations on Sir’s birth

Earlier this year, I finally caved to spousal pressure and started reading Robert Jordan’s epic fantasy series, The Wheel of Time.  Relatively early in the series, the main character, Rand al’Thor receives a wound that, at least as of the sixth book, never heals.  A wound that never quite heals often feels like an apt descriptor of the emotional and mental scar I carry from Sir’s unplanned cesarean birth.*

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Sunday will mark my third year of celebrating Mother’s Day as a mother.  Time — to process, to grieve, to heal — has helped, but there’s still something there, a nagging thing that won’t quite go away.  Usually, I don’t allow myself to go down the “what-if” path, because “what-if” is not what was, or what is.  But I do believe in learning from the past, and I’m intrigued by the whole birth process.

I covered the whole “should have had an ultrasound to determine baby’s position with certainty” / “could have tried any number of methods to turn him if I’d known he was breech” thing pretty well in the above-linked post.  That is certainly the crux of the matter, but I’ve had a couple of other thoughts recently.

First, when my water broke at 39+1, we (me, Matthew, and my midwife) all assumed that I was going into labor.  However, given what transpired in the next 24-hours, I rather suspect I had premature rupture of membranes (PROM), meaning that, yes, my water had broken, but neither my body nor my baby were really ready for labor: weak, erratic “contractions,” that really felt mostly like unpleasant cramps; never dilating past 2-3cm; and, in general, a complete lack of signs of active labor.

Second, and I would have to do more research on this, I wonder if we could have tried some of the methods for turning a baby after my water broke.  I’ve read a couple of stories about breech babies flipping to head down during labor, which makes me think it might have been possible, though maybe that was before the membranes ruptured (?).  At any rate, I don’t really remember even exploring this with the midwife once we were at the hospital.

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Finally, I’m a bit conflicted about the whole idea of a birth plan.  On the one hand, if you want to have a natural birth, in this day and age of over-medicalized, intervention-heavy births, you have to research and plan.  On the other hand, all of the planning and visualizing my “ideal” birth were, at least in part, what made it so hard when things took a 180° turn.

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I’m glad that I was informed and knew about my birth options, but how much did that contribute to the aftermath — the weeks and months of grieving my planned homebirth and the post-partum depression that lingered long enough to probably not really count as “post-partum” anymore?

That said, were I not rather set on sticking to having just one child, I would almost certainly be researching and planning a VBAC (and perhaps an HBAC), and I often give in to the temptation to read the wonderful VBAC birth stories shared by the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN).

*Writing can often be cathartic and healing, but I wonder if this writing is more like picking at a scab.
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5 Responses to Ruminations on Sir’s birth

  1. Karen Karabell says:

    Twenty-five years later I wish my birth experience with my first-born son–also a Gabriel!–could have been different.

    First, we did not know we about home birth. Given familial and societal pressures at that time, we probably would not have chosen one in any case. But we researched and pondered. I learned enough to know to stay out of the hospital as long as possible. I went in only when I got scared that I might give birth in my living room. (In retrospect, of course, I wish that I had!) When we arrived at the hospital, the on-duty nurse was thrilled to pronounce me 9 cm dilated. I could tell that she and the doctor thought this birth would be a “quickie.”

    But in the hospital my labor stopped dead in its tracks. It wasn’t helpful when the doctor started screaming at me to “PUSH”!!!! Shortly, she got frustrated and declared that I needed an episiotomy and that she would use a vacuum to “suck” him out. I’ll never forget the “WTF” look on his little face as he came out.

    And this was a “good” hospital birth. All these years later it still makes me angry and tearful to even think about it.

    • Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

      Even with good plans, and a “good” outcome, there are so many ways this very sacred, intimate experience can hurt when it is not what we hope for, for ourselves and for our baby. So glad you were able to have better experiences with your other births, Karen, and I totally understand it still hurting.

      Most hospital environments/procedures are not conducive to the birth process. Staying home as long as possible definitely helps!

  2. Jess says:

    have a very similar story in some ways – with important differences. we should talk sometime! sending you a private message.

  3. Rebecca | Seven2Seven8 says:

    Melissa, I’m sorry to read that the birth experience with G was less than ideal and has had nagging repercussions for you. My own feelings about medical intervention at birth and a culture of doctor/hospital convenience over what’s often better for mother and child have been shaped significantly since viewing the documentary The Business of Being Born. I will say that he’s a gorgeous child and I can’t believe how alert he looks in the top photo.

  4. Jami says:

    Thanks for writing this :-). We share such a common story, it’s always good to hear how you’re doing on your journey. Harlee’s little brother is due at the end of July… Getting pregnant again is the scariest thing I’ve ever decided to do, as I’m sure you can imagine. I’m doing my best to just live in the present, because I don’t handle the lack of control that the impending unknown holds very well…

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