Sunday, February 3

Silas' birth story, part two

Hi there! It's been a weird week around these parts, with three out of four grandparents staying with us, a birthday party, a well-child visit at the doctor's, and me recovering from an ear infection and dealing with a lingering cough... so, yeah. Learning to manage these days with softness and intention sure is a process. But, as promised if belated, here is the rest of Silas' birth story.

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Before going to the hospital, we went to my midwife's house, where we filled out the admission papers, and where she gave me an extra dose of antibiotics. I also ate a little, some yogurt and a banana, the last food I'd have for over half a day. I was feeling so sad and defeated and tired.

Once we got to the hospital, around midnight, we were quickly set up in a labor & delivery room. We met with the doctor to go over our plan, and I got an epidural and Pitocin, which together would allow me to rest while labor got started and dilation began. (I was at maybe 1 or 2cm at that point.)

The next few hours are a blur.I know Illysa, our midwife, went home. I know Daniel slept. I remember the dim room, the intermittent beeping of machines, the blood pressure cuff squeezing into my arm periodically. The epidural didn't completely obliterate sensations in my lower body. I was laying on my side, and the anesthetic pooled into my lower hip and leg, so that I could feel moderately strong contractions on the higher side of my body. I remember that they hurt some, but that they were manageable. I had a little clicking device on hand that could up the amount of anesthetic in my body but I went for a long while just keeping sensations as they were because as I breathed through each contraction, I could feel that it was working. All my yoga training, all the stuff I`d been teaching in my Prenatal classes about staying with the breath and staying in the present moment and dealing with strong sensation, all of it was working, and that was deeply gratifying. I remember hours in bluish light of the L&D room, just me and my baby and sensations in half of my lower body, working our way toward birth.

Around 6am or so I was checked again, and I`d progressed to maybe 6cm, which was great, and very encouraging. The plan was working! We'd made the right call, coming to the hospital. Though I hadn't slept much I felt well-rested and ready to take on the rest of labor, encouraged by my work in the night and the great progress I'd made. But, despite a great start, my labor petered out. My contractions became irregular in timing, duration and strength, and my progress ground to a halt. I labored another 6 or so hours with little to show for it. Around noon, our doctor came in with this news: it was time to call it a day and proceed with a C-section. He didn't see how this baby was coming out on his own. He agreed to give us time, Daniel and Illysa and I, to discuss it.

Illysa cut right to the chase, telling us that she knew from the moment my water broke that my chances for a natural delivery were slim. She told us that each hour I spent in labor increased the chance of infection for me and for the baby (by that time my waters had ruptured nearly 69 hours previous), and that if the baby developed an infection, they would put him in the NICU for 7 days. That was it for me. Having a C-section was the scariest, worst-case scenario for me, and the main reason for that is that I knew how the procedure could interfere with getting the breastfeeding relationship established. I knew in my bones, completely and immediately, that the potential benefits of a vaginal birth (unlikely at that point) were well outweighed by the huge cost of having my baby in the NICU. The most important thing was that he be delivered safely and onto my breast as soon as possible. Making the call to have a C-section at that point was hardly a decision at all--it was a no-brainer. We asked for a little bit of time so I could process what was about to happen, though by that time I had little mental faculties available to prepare for what was coming. I remember asking Daniel to hand me my copy of Birthing from Within, because I recalled a chapter on C-sections, but though I glanced at the pages, I couldn't take in any of the information.

Daniel and Illysa went to take our stuff to a storage space and I was left alone to be wheeled into the OR. I vividly remember that ride: hairnet on me head, gazing up at the glaringly bright lights, with this deep dreadful sadness welling up within me. This was it. The worst thing I could have imagined was happening. My baby was going to be born via C-section. Though I didn't then--nor have I for a single moment since--regret the decision to go along with the operation, in that moment my nightmare became all-too real. I think that making that journey into the OR alone, without my husband or midwife, made things slightly worse, and that is one of the things about that day that I would change if I could. I would want one of them to hold my hand.

Our Silas. Finally here.

The OR was as bright and cold as winter. Nurses busied themselves around me, chatting blithely about matters relating to their lives, calling me honey in cheery voices that had nothing to do the the gravity I felt the situation called for, that had nothing to do with the sadness and panic that were rising in me with the unstoppable force of ocean's tides.

From here on out, what I remember is flashes--images, sensations. My sense of time gone entirely out the window. I know Daniel and Illysa joined me in the OR. The next thing I remember is hearing Silas' voice, his first meow-like cry, and saying. "That's my baby!", though really it was more of a question. Is this really what's happening? Then they showed him to me. I saw his squishy face, dimple, and little cleft chin. I though, with relief, "Oh, he's cute!" That fact felt, even then, like a balm, a prize, for what I was enduring. I know he was held close to my and Daniel's face (by whom?) because we have those amazing pictures of our first moments as a family, but I don't remember how I felt then, how long that lasted. Pretty soon he was whisked away to be washed and examined, and they began the work of sewing me back up. That's when I remember things getting really bad.

Hello baby! I'm your mama.

I have since then learned that it is common for women to experience shaking during a C-section, but I had no context then for what was happening to me. For what felt like an eternity but can't have been more than 10-20 minutes, I experienced convulsions, panic and despair unlike anything I'd ever felt before. Due to the epidural, the lower half of my body was now completely numb. I could feel my limbs, but no sensation, as though they were encased in cement. The upper half of my body felt like it was trying to hurl itself off the table. I was frozen deep to the core, my arms and mouth shaking wildly. I was parched with thirst and my lips were so, so dry. I remember they tried to warm me up with a contraption that blew hot air on my arms (which may or may not have been tied down) but to little effect. And furthermore, I had nothing left. No energy, no inner resources, nothing with which to cope. I remember my midwife talking into my ear, guiding me to breathe, and me saying "I can't. I can't." Soon she called Daniel, who had been with Silas, over to be with me, because I was freaking out so much. Even his calm voice did nothing to soothe me. I don't know when or how my agony tapered off. The next thing I remember, I was holding my baby in the recovery room, still shaking, and he latched on and nursed like a champ.

And baby makes three.
Though I have no regrets about the course that was taken, and the decisions that were made, leading up to Silas' birth by C-section--truly, we did everything we could--still it will remain my greatest sadness that the first moments of my son's life were the absolute worse of mine. In the next set of pictures, taken by Illysa in the recovery room, you see Daniel beaming with pride and joy, holding his brand-new son in his arms, and I look worn and swollen, like I've been hit by a truck, which is pretty much how I felt. We were lucky that we were able to be with him the entire time, from the moment of his birth, and got to hold him as soon as possible. He never left our side while we were in the hospital. We were both groggy from the operation and drugs, but with lots of help from angelic lactation consultants and nurses, got nursing off to a great start, which continued problem-free until he was 20 months. There is so much to be grateful for.

But it was so far from the birth I wanted and had planned for, it was such a deeply traumatic experience, that I will carry the scars--physical and emotional--with me always. I've been processing a lot of those emotions in the last few weeks, with Silas' birthday around the corner, and this new baby's birth approaching. My son's birth made me both stronger and weaker in deeply fundamental ways. I have learned so much from this experience: about myself, about birth, about hospitals, about motherhood, about babyhood. The most important thing for me to learn now is to leave this story in the past, and to walk towards a new birth experience with confidence and strength. One thing I know for sure: this time, it will be different. Not necessarily worse or better, but different. You can't step into the same river twice. This one is firmly behind me, in the past.

Proud daddy. Home at last.

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My doula, a beloved close friend, suggested that I write down my birth story, which I hadn't done fully until today, and that I burn it, to release the hold it's had on me. That is what this post is: a bright flame, a wisp of smoke, ashes in the wind. A release. Thank you kindly for reading.

1 comment:

Thanks for stopping by for a chat! I read and appreciate every comment.