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

Posts for Anxiety 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 Five: Postpartum

[part four]

PART FIVE: POSTPARTUM

While I had been finishing up in surgery, Shaun had gone with our daughter back to the birth center. While Kristin stayed in surgery with me, Nurse K helped Shaun to do some skin-to-skin of his own with our daughter Ariadne in a quiet room. He sang to her and held her all alone for a good fifteen minutes, and I’m so grateful he got to have that time as well. Skin-to-skin promotes bonding between baby and parents, and it was important to us that both Shaun and I got to experience that.

After his alone time, he and Nurse K took her to the nursery, and my mama, Laureny, Jeannie, and Emi got to see her for the first time. Everyone was both in tears but also couldn’t stop smiling, watching Shaun bring her close to the windows so everyone could see her. He sang to her as he held her, then they got her a cap and a blanket before returning her to me in the recovery area.

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When I returned from the recovery room with Ariadne, they had moved us into a different birth suite for some reason – I’m not really sure why. I don’t know if that’s standard procedure for after C-sections when rooms are available, or what. (There had been a lot of construction in a hallway just outside my room too, drapes and drills and ladders, maybe that had something to do with it too.) For whatever reason, when they wheeled me back to a new room, the change felt nice. The other room had become a place of strain and worry, and this new room was a place of joy and ease.

One of my biggest regrets about how my birth ended up was this time back in the room. Not that it was bad – but at this point, I was exhausted and doped up on pain medicines. I wish I had been a bit more clear-headed for my daughter’s first few hours earthside, I wish I had had that rush of adrenaline that comes with a natural birth.

As it was, I was pretty out of it. Yet again, I kept passing out, often in the middle of sentences. I had my daughter on my chest, with my friends and family gathered around, glowing, beaming, looking at her – I remember Laureny’s face in particular, the sunlight from the window framed her face in a sort of halo, and she beamed at my daughter and me – and I kept ordering myself to stay awake, but was drifting in and out. Still, Laureny and Emi and Jeannie and Mama all cooed and awed over my daughter’s little pointed elf ears, her head of hair, her dark serious eyes. Even from her first few minutes and hours on earth, Ariadne was such an alert and aware baby, looking at everyone, taking them all in, seeing and learning her grandmother and her aunties, her mama and papa.

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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 Two: The Induction

[part one]

PART TWO: The Induction

Luckily, Shaun managed to switch his usual Sunday evening shift for a Sunday day shift — meaning on that stressful night, when we were waiting to find out if we’d be parents sooner rather than later — he got to be home with me to try and keep me sane.

We truly had a lovely evening together, and looking back, knowing how it all ends — I’m so glad we did. It felt like we were standing on the edge of a cliff, trying to keep our balance: one the one hand, we could go in to the birth center on Monday and end up being kept, induced, having a baby sooner than expected. On the other — all this fuss and worry might be for naught. We might be sent home, and end up laughing Monday evening in our living room about how keyed up we were over nothing.

So I wanted to make an effort to be sure that if this was our last night home together, we really made space to honor how special that was. Shaun set up to grill — it’s always one of our favourite ways to spend an evening. He did his special chicken marinade and grilled squash and zucchini, so we had a healthy meal, and we enjoyed the summer evening as we had so many other summer evenings — the little brick patio, Shaun grilling and singing as he always does, the sunlight in the blue sky, the wind rustling the tree branches.

The other thing I wanted to make sure to do, even if we weren’t sure how the next day would go, would be to get a few final belly pictures. My gut had started talking to me loud and clear in the last few days, and as the days went on, I really started listening to it. I didn’t know for sure what would happen the next day, but I felt pretty sure the next time I was home again, I wouldn’t be pregnant anymore. Shaun and I had had our beautiful maternity session with Rachael, but those pictures had my belly covered and not super defined. I really wanted some pictures that showed of the glory and majesty of a pregnant belly — which meant hugeness and stretch marks included. I snuck off the couch for a few minutes, long enough for Shaun to snap some bare belly pictures of me with Baby Girl inside for what might be the last time. (And in retrospect, I’m so glad I have these pictures, have captured my big, beautiful belly, those last few days of Baby Girl safe and snug inside me.)

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Sweet Emi came over later that night, to have one final pep talk and strategy session. All along these last couple days, Emi had been so supportive and just an absolute rock. She kept reminding me — this is not you. This is nothing you’ve done or not done. You’ve been one of my best doula patients ever, I’ve not had to worry about what you’re eating or doing, you’ve done such a great job taking care of yourself and baby, and this is just something we can’t control. It was everything I needed to hear, over and over again, as I continued to blame myself.

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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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