Friday, October 18, 2013

PAIL Bloggers October 2013 Monthly Theme Post

[This post is part of the PAIL Bloggers October Monthly Theme.  You can find other posts on this month's topic here.]

I think I must be in the minority in feeling this way. . . but I always viewed pregnancy and childbirth as very much means to an end and not as things I felt a strong desire to undergo for themselves. I do understand that many women have an idea in their minds of how they want their birth experience to go, and that many mothers create a birth plan with the intention of realizing these hopes.  But I had no investment in any particular plan except whatever would result in all of us being alive and well at the end.

Even before I was pregnant with my sons, I felt that so long as my pregnancy and birth experience ended with both my baby (or babies) and me healthy and alive, I would deem them a success and be happy about how they went.  Once I knew I was having twins and was at a higher risk of complications with both, I felt this even more so.

So because I felt this way about pregnancy and childbirth, having a certain type of birth experience was never very important to me.  In light of how each of these experiences went for me, I believe the fact that I had this mindset was probably a good thing because both my pregnancy and my delivery were far from what most women would wish for as the ideal of these experiences.

I knew from about 26 weeks on that I would likely be having a C-section.  Twin A (AJ) was in a frank breech position at that point and unlikely to turn (as he was running out of space to do so).  And even before that point in my pregnancy, I had a strong suspicion that a C-section was a real possibility, given the fact that I was having twins, had gestational diabetes, and was over age 40 (all risk factors for C-section).

So the only real question in my mind for most of my pregnancy, and certainly from 26 weeks on, was not "how" I would give birth but "when."  My OB told me she would not allow me to go past 38 weeks, but I also got the feeling from her that she never thought I'd make it that far (and I didn't).

  • What type of birth did you have?
I gave birth to my sons via urgent C-section at 34 weeks, 1 day.  Essentially, my doctor came into my room just before 7:00 p.m. and told me that I'd be delivering that night because my lab results that day indicated that my preeclampsia had worsened and was now at the "severe" level.  Before 10:00 that night, my sons had been delivered.  (I wrote about my sons' birth story here.)

  • How did the birth experience of your child affect your parenting of this child? 
Although it was far from ideal in a number of ways--not the least of which is that I was heavily medicated, critically ill and barely saw my sons for the first 48 hours of their lives--I honestly don't think that my birth experience has had any effect on the way I have parented my sons.  Being pregnant with twins and having had pregnancy complications, and with my background as a nurse, I was always well aware that premature birth was a possibility.  We have been very fortunate that our sons have been very minimally affected by their early arrival.  At this point, apart from being a little more on the alert for delays than I think I might otherwise have been, I think I interact with them just as I would have done had they been born via a natural, full-term vaginal delivery.

I also don't think that my birth experience affected our future plans with regard to having more children.  We were done at two regardless, based on other considerations.

  • Have you felt “judged” about your birth(adoption) experience, and has that affected your parenting or future plans?
There have only been a few times I have begun to feel judged about my birth experience. . . but letting people know that you developed a life-threatening condition that left your doctor with no choice but to deliver your sons early and that you had to have a C-section because one of your twins was in a frank breech position usually puts an end to any possible judgment.  (I've felt more judgment from other moms for not breast feeding than about my birth experience, but that's a topic for another post.)

  • What sticks out in your birth/adoption experience that you still carry with you?
I remember that I didn't hear our first son, AJ, cry as I could feel him being pulled out, and that concerned me.  I remember asking MM to go and check on him and telling him to make sure he took pictures (he did).

I *did* hear MJ cry, loudly.  I remember one of the nurses bringing MJ over for me to see first, and that his eyes were wide open, looking around at everything (just like my MIL told me his father's were when he was born).  I remember being further concerned about AJ at that point and wondering why he hadn't been brought to me first when he had been delivered first.

By the time a nurse brought AJ over for me to meet, the narcotics and other drugs I had been given had started to take full effect, and I felt very drowsy and disconnected.  I do remember that his eyes were squeezed tightly shut, in contrast to his brother's wide open ones; he looked very tired.

I remember two different nurse practitioners from the NICU coming over and telling me that neither of my sons needed to go to the NICU.  (There was a NICU team present for each boy at their delivery, just in case.)  I was both surprised and relieved to hear that.

After that, I just have bits and pieces of memory over the next several hours.  I recall seeing the boys in their warmer beside me in the recovery room. . . talking briefly to my father to let him know they had been born. . . lots and lots of uterine massage by my nurse and eventually even more intervention "down there" by my OB (which is, blessedly, very hazy, thanks to the narcotics).  I know that I had a lot of bleeding because I remember seeing some of the pads with my blood and hearing the doctor and nurses talking to each other and to my husband.  I remember throwing up and afterwards feeling very, very thirsty.  I remember the boys being taken off to the nursery at some point.  I remember eventually being taken to a regular private room.

All in all, I really don't think much about my birth experience. . . primarily because my memories are not entirely positive.  I mean, obviously the arrival of our sons brought us great joy, but I have never been so ill in my life, and that in and of itself was very scary.

At first, I felt a little sad about the fact that I don't really have positive feelings overall about what really should be a joyful experience.  But putting things in perspective. . . my sons' birth was really just one day in what will be a lifetime of being their mother.  So we got off to a bit of a rocky start.  They are here, and so am I, and we are all happy and healthy.  That's what really matters.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

You Don't Forget

I have written here often about the fact that I spend little-to-no time thinking about my lack of fertility now that I have my sons. There have been times I have even pondered whether I am truly "infertile," given my lack of a definitive diagnosis, my "advanced age" at the time we started trying, and my ability to conceive naturally on two occasions (though those pregnancies did not progress).

An online friend (not a part of the ALI community) married last year at 39 and hoped, as many of us do, to start a family with her husband. Her first hurdle was being diagnosed with cervical cancer shortly before her wedding. After (thankfully) getting the all clear on that front, she experienced an ectopic pregnancy recently that ruptured, resulting in the loss of one of her tubes.

Through the surgery and follow-up for her cancer, she has also learned that she has a large uterine fibroid that it would be very risky to remove but will make a successful pregnancy nearly impossible.  After seeing what she went through with ruptured ectopic pregnancy, her husband doesn't think she should even attempt the surgery. Or if she does, attempt the necessarily risky (to mom and baby) pregnancy that would follow it.

My friend posted on her blog this morning about how she is not OK and about her feelings about likely never being pregnant or having a child who is a combination of her and her husband. Reading her post reminded me of my own feelings of grief when I realized I would never have a child who shared my genes and MM's genes.

I adore my sons and the unique individuals they are. Now that they are in my life, I wouldn't trade them for my own genetic child. But I won't deny that, before they were here, having a child naturally, who would have been genetically related to both me and to my husband, would have been my preferred option.

I have confidence that my friend and her husband will mourn their (very real and deep) loss and probably come to parenthood in some other way. I do believe that most people who want to become parents do, if they are open to multiple paths to that destination.

Reading her words and being reminded of my own feelings as I progressed along my own long and increasingly circuitous route to eventuall motherhood by a path I'd never thought of walking brought up emotions today I hadn't felt in a long time.

You never really forget.