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“You can make anything by writing.” ― C.S. Lewis

Posts for Baby Weeks Category

Birthing Ariadne, Part Six: Reflection

PART SIX: REFLECTION

There were so many parts of this birth story that were hard to write — and this final section has become one of the hardest. The truth is my feelings on my birth change, sometimes from day to day — depending on how I feel, my general mental health, what kind of comment someone has made lately. Every other post in this series has been 90% ready to go for weeks — but I keep coming back to this one. I keep feeling like I haven’t said enough, or I haven’t said what I meant clearly, or that there’s another message or lesson I need to explore.

Months have passed since I gave birth to Ariadne. Although I began writing her birth story the first week we came home, as I am finishing it, her first birthday is on the horizon. Before I had my own baby, I wondered why mothers waited so long to share their birth stories. Weren’t they burning to share their experiences, their joys and pain? Now, I understand. Now, I realize what a transformative, life-changing experience birth is, whether it happens perfectly as desired, or is massively derailed. It’s not so easily tossed out for the world to digest – sharing your birth story is incredibly overpowering, intensely vulnerable.

I found, the deeper I got into my birth story, the more confusion I felt. Even in the first weeks home, I was moved to tears – sobbing tears, neither wholly of pain nor of joy – when looking at pictures from our days at the birth center, when trying to put into words the huge wealth of emotions I felt that week. My birth struck me as a many-layered experience. Parts of it were painful in the extreme, both physically and emotionally. Parts of it were beautiful, spiritual, and empowering, despite the frustrations. I struggled – do struggle still – how to make peace with this juxtaposition, this dichotomy of the two very different sides to my birth that somehow inhabit the same space of my heart.

Even just writing my birth story forced me to face the parts of my birth that I found painful, disappointing – even traumatic. Writing this has been a form of therapy, certainly – but there were times I did not feel up to the task of working through the disappointment, doubt, and guilt that I felt during that week, and have felt from time to time since. The idea of sharing my birth story makes me feel intensely vulnerable. Giving birth is both the most vulnerable and empowering time of a mother’s life, and sharing our weakest and strongest moments takes a lot of guts, and a lot of strength.

I confess that I delayed writing and sharing this post, because at times, I feared people would judge me. Directly after my birth, I did not feel much doubt about the decisions I’d made. At that point – the aftermath was still very evident, from the huge bruises on my arms to my hideous feet still grotesquely swollen from the magnesium to the follow-up doctor’s appointments to make sure my blood pressure came down and stayed down, and that I remained out of danger for a stroke or seizure. It was easier to take the danger of my ill health seriously, in the first weeks after I gave birth. The scariest moments, the biggest risks and dangers had left their mark on me, physically, and they were not easy to forget, at first. For a few weeks, I continued to feel justified in every decision I had made, because the evidence of their necessity was printed on my skin.

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Birthing Ariadne, Part Four: Birth

[part three]

PART FOUR: BIRTH

I still couldn’t believe those words – I believe I need a C-section – had left my mouth, and then I had to say them again, about 45 minutes later, to the doctor when she returned. In the time in between, I felt a curious sense of relief, this lightness like a huge weight had been taken off of my chest. I felt that I had made the right decision – that voice that had been shouting at me louder and louder to listen to my instincts quieted for a while.

Telling the doctor what I wanted and why was difficult, again. While she and I had our differences then, and have had differences again since, I do firmly believe she had me and my best interests at heart. I believe she was listening to my midwife when she said I really wanted a natural birth, and that’s probably honestly why she let me go as long as she did – under different circumstances, without my midwife’s warning, she might have called for a C-section earlier, but she wanted me to have the chance to birth the way I wanted, even if that wasn’t her way. Even on that day, I understand we had a sort of impasse of worlds, different outlooks and lifestyle, and I didn’t waste a lot of time trying to explain too much to her. I told her the basics of my decision, and after some discussion, she agreed we would do it.

I had thought maybe things would move very quickly at that point, but this wasn’t an emergency caesarian. They had to get the staff, wait for an open OR, to prep me – we had a bit of time, still, before the moment would finally arrive and I would have my baby in my arms.

That time in between ended up being a really beautiful, loving time, and I’m so glad we had it. Lauren arrived back from the dance studio, and just sat by my side and held my hand for a while. She told me she loved me and was proud of me. I felt safer and stronger, having her back with us, having her hold my hand and not say much, but look me in the eyes and tell me silently that she believed in me.

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All of us – Shaun, Lauren, Emi, Jeannie, Kristin and Mama – sat and just – talked. Processed. We discussed everything we had just talked about, all over again, and the more we talked, the more I felt convinced this was the right decision. I was able to calm myself, and gather my strength again – because what was about to come was almost scarier to me than giving birth vaginally might have been. I remember feeling very peaceful during this time, and very grateful for everyone there.

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Birthing Ariadne, Part Three: An Agonizing Decision

[part two]

PART THREE: AN AGONIZING DECISION

During that long night, a few things started to worsen in my condition — not terrible things, but small little warning signs. My urine output had gone down, they’d been monitoring it all night as it can be a sign of kidneys shutting down, and mine had lessened in the wee hours of the morning. I’d also developed a headache — another symptom of preeclampsia.

Around seven AM, my nurse T was off duty and she brought in a new nurse, K, to give her report on me. Listening to the long list of what was happening to me and what they were doing about felt a bit discouraging again, particularly when T looked over at me and asked, is there anything I’m forgetting? I mentioned the headache, and the nurses told me they’d get me some Tylenol to help.

Now that I had had Nurse T for a 12-hour shift, I was attached to her similar to the way I’d been attached to Kristin the day before. You never know with nurses, I’ve found they either tend to be super wonderful, or super frustrating. I’d tried really hard all night to be super positive and friendly and polite with any of the nurses who checked on me — as much as I could, out loud, even I was feeling grumpy inside. So far, I’d had excellent experiences. I was nervous to be meeting a new one — but K was absolutely fabulous, and played a huge part in my birth experience that day and the next.

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Birthing Ariadne, Part One: A Change in Plans

I’m going to tell you the story of how my daughter was born. And the birth story I’m going to tell you is almost the exact opposite of the birth that I hoped for, prayed for, and prepared for.

The birth story I’m going to tell you is simultaneously one of the best and one of the worst experiences of my life – and it’s taken me a long time to accept that it can be both. This story is one I’ve struggled with telling ever since it happened – one I’ve chewed on every single day, trying to break it down into digestible pieces. I’m not going to pretend part of me doesn’t regret how it went down, that sometimes I don’t wish I’d made different decisions, or that the universe had dealt me a different cards so I didn’t have to play the hand I’d been given.

But then I’m also going to tell you how I’m all right with what happened – how even though it was scarier than even I’d expected – parts of it were still so magical, so breathtaking. How I mourn the loss of that empowering, natural birth I worked so hard for – how I still struggle with guilt and fear and confusion – but how, on good days, I understand how every single step was necessary to get Ariadne here safely, and keep me safe, and how we did everything in our power to make her birth as spiritual, celebratory, and emotional as was possible under the circumstances – and how much I believe we succeeded, considering what we could not change.

This is a birth story, and it’s my birth story – meaning, I’m going to be as open and frank and detailed and long-winded as I want. You’ve been warned!

PART ONE: A Change in Plans

I find it important to note – I had an almost textbook healthy pregnancy. For 37 weeks, I was a healthy girl carrying a healthy baby. Aside from some anxiety and depression issues early in my first trimester (unrelated to being pregnant), and the typical pregnancy ailments – my baby and I were healthy and risk free, for almost our entire pregnancy.

I struggled so much with this; all throughout the pregnancy, but especially in the beginning. Part of me just didn’t believe that I was capable of being pregnant. It had taken us a little longer than expected to get pregnant, and felt such a shock when I learned I was — and some of that shock spilled over into the actual pregnancy. I doubted that I could do this, that my body could do this – for no reason other than that self-doubt that plagues us all. I believed all other women could have healthy pregnancies and healthy births with healthy babies, but I doubted myself. Surely something was wrong with me. Surely I would mess this up, surely I would find a way to ruin this. Surely I wasn’t good enough to be trusted with this gift. I’d wanted my baby so badly for so long – I was terrified something beyond my control would take her away from me.

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A Letter to My Husband on Our Third Anniversary

Dearest Shaun,

I have promised us that this year, for your anniversary letter, I will keep it short – what with both of us working, and Ariadne, all the demands on our time, and the fact that I’ve written a whole separate post for our anniversary on how we met.

And I think we both know me trying to avoid being long-winded is just not really likely to happen.

I’ll try. I’ll try to keep this short.

On the day we were married, we spent the entire day preparing for the ceremony and party, and then celebrating – a day of cool weather and fall leaves and wine and laughter and kisses and hugs and dance trains and bliss. On our first anniversary, we got to sleep in, and then drive across the river to the Encampment, to gorge ourselves on Ye Olde Timey Food and giggle at the terrible announcer for the battle reenactment. Last year, on our second anniversary, we were with Lance and Tara at Seahorse Ranch, and we walked down to the river, and all over the property, and then hiked at Munson Lake, and cooked dinner together – a beautiful day of family and peace and nature.

This year, on our third anniversary, things are a bit different. I was up at four thirty in the morning, and I got you up briefly at five. I was up again at six fifteen, and I got you up again at seven thirty. I was at work all day, and you were home in charge of child care. We spent most of the day apart. We contemplated going to a nice dinner tonight – but now it seems we’ll wait until the weekend. So much has changed, and we’d both rather be home in pajamas, snuggling our girl, than out and about after spending most of the day with our family in two different places.

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