Monday, November 14, 2011

Strength Has Different Faces

Throughout the years I have been "given" (thrown into?) opportunities to show me that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. Cutting through all of the lies after my very unnecessary and damaging cesarean in 2004, to have a triumphant and empowering home VBAC in 2005. Going through that labor in 2005 after weeks of exhausting prodromal labor, only to end up with a stubbornly posterior baby whose gift to me was 100% back labor on my injured back. But, I did it. I gave birth to my 10lb 10oz, posterior baby girl only 19 months after I was told that I could not safely birth my 8lb 8oz son safely because of his size. Oh, I wanted to give up. Several times. But due to the support of my husband (which was a surprise, because he had been VERY against the home birth), and my amazing Midwife - I did it. It was an amazing feeling.

I didn't think that I would go through anything as physically challenging as that labor and birth. Boy was I wrong.

One year ago, three days after my due date with baby #4, I was in early labor. I knew he was breech. I knew he was larger. And I was struggling with knowing that he wasn't in a good position for breech. I am trained in breech deliveries. I have caught breech babies. And due to this, I knew the position that he was in wasn't favorable. Added to that - my intuition, my heart, my gut told me that things weren't going to go as planned. However, I wasn't willing to change my plan of me birthing with my husband. I had no idea that early labor would continue tomorrow, then heavy (and very hard) active labor would go on for a full 48 hours before I met my son.

I actually began early labor on November 12, one day after my due date. It was definitely early labor, but it was spaced out enough so that I could get some rest and try to get things done. In the wee hours of November 15, labor developed into something harsh. Contractions were still decently spaced, but they were incredibly rough. I'd not experienced contractions like this until *much* further along in labor. The next day, November 16th, was my HBAC baby's 5th birthday. I tried as best I could to celebrate with her, in between contractions that were wreaking havoc on my body. Labor spaced out a little bit in timing, not intensity, in the middle of the day...but then came back with a vengeance that evening. Several times in the course of the week or so before meeting my son, I cried. And I sobbed. You see, in my heart I knew something was wrong and that I wouldn't meet him the way that I had planned. And this was nearly impossible for me to accept. In fact, I didn't accept it until after I decided to go into the hospital for a cesarean.

And yes - here's where the skepticism, the questioning, and the downright unbelief comes in. Women are told to trust their intuition in birth....except when it comes to accepting intervention. A home birth Midwife went into the hospital to ask for a cesarean. I've been told that things were said about me, everything from, "She went in and asked for a cesarean because she was scared of breech. She didn't labor or push as long as she said.", to, "Karma's a bitch." The latter is because of how outspoken I am about birth. I speak often about breech being a variation of normal, and long labors sometimes being necessary. I still stand by them. I have also, when asked, critiqued a birth story so that the mom can have a better understanding of what choices she can make differently in a future labor/birth, in order to have a better shot at a different outcome. There *were* times, I'm ashamed to admit, that I critiqued a birth without invitation, though not TO the mother, but with friends. Not that it justifies it, but these were almost always hospital birth stories where it came out that mom decided to allow intervention, or home birth stories that started with mom inducing "naturally" and allowing intervention. The only comfort that I have is that *I* know what I went through. *I* know that I did absolutely everything I could, and everything "right", and still ended up in the operating room. Also, I have the comfort of knowing that anyone who knows me well, knows at least that my story is likely true - though, I got questions from people who I thought knew me well enough to know that I would NEVER step foot in a hospital, never mind ask for a cesarean, if it weren't 100% necessary. :shrug: I'm not sure many people will ever understand the agony involved in this journey. The decision to go into the hospital was necessary, and I was actually at peace with it at THAT point. But the agony before that point is indescribable. And people have told me that I shouldn't care what people think, or want to believe, and I know I shouldn't.

Knowing that doesn't stop it from hurting.

I have received incredible validation from Gail Tully, of Spinning Babies. I met her at the ICAN conference in April. She was doing a lunch session on breech births. She pulled out a sketch of the exact breech position that Caleb had been in and said, "I wasn't going to draw this one for this session. But last night as I crawled into bed after reviewing my notes, I had this tugging feeling that someone here needs to see this.", and she went on to explain how this particular position more often leads to bad outcomes. That the way he was sitting can cause major complications when the baby rotates. I sat there in disbelief, and began crying. Whether anyone believes this to be intuition or fear - it was there. I had an increasingly unnerving feeling about head entrapment as my labor went on with Caleb. And I've never seen one. The breech births that I have attended have all gone beautifully. But it's what kept grabbing me. Now, I will never know for sure if that's what would have happened had he been able to descend. Some have told me that him not being able to descend is probably what saved him. I don't want to be that dramatic, because I don't know. I never will. Maybe he would have been born just fine had he been able to descend. Maybe he wouldn't have been. I can't keep thinking of "maybes", because it'll drive me nuts. But this validation from her is invaluable to me. In the past week I found a comment from her on my birth story, from last January. Three months before I even met her. I didn't see the comment before last week. She reassured me that I did absolutely everything I could, and that sometimes these breech babies are just not able to descend, and a cesarean is necessary. I know that mine was, but having the validation from a woman who has seen breech more times than I probably ever will, and who very much believes that it can be normal and totally fine ... it was amazing.

On the night of the 16th, once the kids were in bed, labor picked back up to an excruciating pace. I texted back and forth with a friend. I told her that I didn't think I could emotionally survive another cesarean, yet I knew unless some miracle happened in the middle of the night, that it's what I would end up with. Things were wrong. I sobbed, and I raged, and I sobbed some more in between contractions. I cried to my husband, who tried to reassure me that everything would be okay. He didn't get what I was saying, he thought it was from exhaustion and the intensity of labor, and how long the intensity had been going on without progressing further. I tried to lay down to get some sleep, and labor picked up to another level I didn't think possible. The pain was unbearable. I had never felt pain like this, not even in my posterior labor. But I had made an agreement that if things didn't change by morning, that I would go in for a consult to see what was going on. I was determined to keep going, trying to hold on to some last hope that things would totally change and he would be born into my hands in the water as planned.

At 3am my waters released. I was renewed with excitement, determination, and hope. Maybe that's all I needed. Maybe that's all HE needed, in order to come down. I woke Jeramy up and got in the water. My waterbirth tub was my comfort. I labored in there with candles lit and my playlist playing.

When pushing sensations started to take over my body at about 8, I was once again renewed. He would finally come! I had no idea that six more hours of unstoppable, excruciating pushing would be my labor.

48 hours of hard, active labor, and six hours of physiological (unstoppable) pushing later ... I saw that my son wasn't descending. He hadn't moved down even an inch. He was in the same exact spot, same exact height, as he had been in the last few weeks of pregnancy. His hard little head was still right underneath my left breast. Waters releasing, and pushing hadn't changed it. I knew this was the sign that it was time to ask for help. His heartrate was still strong, and I knew he was okay ... but I wasn't sure how much longer he and I could endure a labor like this. It took *forever* to get to the car, because contractions weren't only a mere 2 minutes apart, but they were well over a minute long, and double peaking. The car ride was excruciating. I've never felt so trapped, so immobile, and in so much pain.

Caleb Eliuddin Fiscer was delivered via cesarean section at 2:39pm on November 17th, 2010.

In the end, we were treated with respect. They honored our wishes. I was spoken to like a human being while on the operating table, which is a far cry from my first cesarean. I was awake. And I held and nursed my son - all 10lbs 6oz of him - within 20 minutes of his delivery. Caleb didn't have any drugs whatsoever - I refused any narcotics in my IV, much to the disagreement of the anesthesiologist who tried his best to convince me that I would be in horrible pain as soon as the spinal wore off. He didn't have any shots, vaccinations, eye drops. He was handed to daddy in the operating room. So very, very different than 2004.

I still cry. I still hate how this birth went. I still mourn the loss of my home and water birth. I mourn the loss of a peaceful, safe, and easily healed vaginal birth. My body is wrecked from this labor, in ways I won't go into detail about here.

But all in all, it showed me (much to my anger some days) that I am much stronger than I previously believed. I made it through the labor from hell, through 6 hours of incessant and excruciating pushing, and ultimately through surgery again. I didn't think I could make it through the latter. But I did. For a while I was angry because I didn't think I needed another birth "lesson", as to what can happen, and what we as women are capable of. I didn't think I needed to have another experience to be an example. All I wanted was a peaceful, beautiful birth. I didn't have a peaceful birth. To me, I didn't even have a beautiful birth. But it taught me some things that I will never forget.

I'm not sure how long it will take me to be able to think about this labor and delivery without crying, and mourning. Hopefully the sadness will continue to decrease in intensity.

Happy 6th Birthday to my HBAC Princess, who showed me just how amazing and empowering birth can be. And Happy First Birthday, my Caleb. My heart and joy, who showed me that I am capable of strength even in the face of heartbreakingly hard circumstances.

"You were not born in the way that I had intended.We did not meet in the way that I had hoped.You cried with confusion and hunger. I cried with confusion and pain.
We returned to our cocoon together. When we emerged – transformed. Beautiful and with delight. For we had fallen in love in the way I had dreamed.
" - Karyn Peabody

1 comment:

Willow said...

You are a true hero, Christy. I know that's easier to say than believe, but you are my inspiration. You are amazing.

November 17 was my paternal grandmother's birthday. She lived life on her terms, exactly as she saw fit, disregarding every negative thing that was said to or about her. She was a firebrand, and I wish I'd had the opportunity to get to know her better (she passed away when I was 7). I see so much of those traits in you, my dear friend. I'm so, so proud of you. I still weep with you for this CBAC-- but I marvel at your strength. Love to you, and to sweet baby Caleb!