Friday, February 29, 2008

While we're all taking a break

Seventy-five hours. I was in a haze of endorphins, and time felt very strange--it was something that had texture and elasticity. Each contraction had its own pattern, its own colors, its own rhythm. I knew, going through it, that it was the most heroic thing I'd ever done, because it was a hard labor and it would have been if it had lasted six hours. The pain in my back was intolerable without counterpressure, and the contractions never got organized. It seemed like every few contractions I had to come up with a new way to get through them. I danced deep in my hips, I rocked, I got on hands and knees, I squatted, I knelt with my upper body draped on the birth ball, I sat and rolled on the birth ball while I nearly fell asleep leaning forward on the bed, I lay on my side with my upper leg propped with pillows. I held onto my spouse, my mother, my doula, my midwife. I climbed stairs sideways, I gripped the side of the bathtub from both inside it and out, I hung onto the banister, I grabbed onto a rope hung over door.

My water was broken. I vomited more or less daily. On the third day, I took castor oil and it got messier. I was at the limit of my body and it didn't seem like the baby was ever coming out. The baby started to seem like the enemy. The baby did seem like the enemy. I just needed her to come out so my labor would be over. When I talked to my midwife about it ("How do I stop thinking about the baby as the enemy?") she said the only other person in the world who was physically experiencing my labor with me was the baby.

Z. didn't have such a great time of it. A few months after she was born, we discovered that she started crying when she heard male voices singing. It was abrupt: happy baby, distraught baby. She did the same thing when I lowed like a cow for her: happy baby, distraught baby. I realized that was what the sounds I made during labor sounded like to her. She was traumatized by it, too.

I was a homebirth mom; I only transferred to hospital after 65 hours of active labor at home, and I transferred because I needed to sleep. If I hadn't intended to have a homebirth, I would have had a cesarean, and I didn't need a cesarean. My health and Z.'s health would both have been compromised needlessly, and given that she was transferred to a different hospital for complications unrelated to my labor, our separation would have been even longer and more profound.

So, I do consider my hospital birth--anaesthetized, on Pitocin, and hooked up to machines--to be a homebirth success story because it was a vaginal birth I would not have been permitted if I'd started in a hospital setting, or even in a birth center. Thank god I had a midwife who trusted what she knew a normal birth looked like. Thank god that if it was going to take me that long to get there, I had someone willing to give me the time, and that she, A., my mother, and my doula all gave me the support that I needed to use it. Thank god.

But god has a sick sense of humor, you know? Because this homebirth sucess story was not a successful homebirth. My doula was calling me a birth warrior, but I don't feel like a won a victory. I feel like my body had this big ugly surprise that it waited my whole pregnancy to spring on me, and I'm still coming to terms with it.

(Oh, and restart your watches at midnight, okay? We'll be back on the clock, then.)


Lo said...

Rough, rough stuff. I'm sorry.

On a lighter note, when you're ready for some diversion, I tagged you.

Phantom Scribbler said...


The Goldfish said...

Wow. A very frank description S..

I wonder whether it is useful to use the language of winning and losing when it comes to our bodies? The fact you had such a prolonged battle is the unfortunate thing. The fact that it ended happily - with both yourself and Z. intact - is a very good thing.

How could you have won? And what would defeat have looked like?

It's Mother's Day here in the UK. Have yourself a good one. :-)

Lo said...

We've reached the day! (though I don't remember the time...) happy birthday Z!

dawn224 said...

I have a friend who just this week was planning on a home birth and ended up not dialating after a similar length of labor.

Conversely to your story, Alex has always seemed to be calmed by the long drawn out sounds I made in labor. Interesting that both our kids have reactions to those labor noises.

S. said...

Dawn224, the only time you'll hear about long labors is when people plan homebirths because other birth settings simply don't permit labors to go on that long, even if mom and baby are healthy (as Z. and I were throughout labor). I suspect if homebirth were more common we would think of labors like mine as the extreme limit of how long a labor can be, instead of being well past it.

S. said...

Goldfish, I know you probably meant it rhetorically, but I'm pondering your question. Thanks for throwing it my way.