28 December 2015

Madeline's Birth Story

When my mother gave birth to me, it was on a warm June morning, 39 years ago at 5:31 a.m. I was in the Frank Breech position, often known as the most difficult and dangerous position for a baby to be born. Growing up, my mother would jokingly tell everyone that I was born ass first and have been showing my butt ever since. To make matters worse, my mother had also just lost her husband (my biological father) two months before my birth. To say that my birth was traumatic, sad and lonely would be a huge understatement. She had no husband and I had no father. For months after my birth, my mother struggled with depression. Fortunately with the love and help of her parents and sister, she was able to pull through. 

Fast forward 39 years, and that breech baby (yours truly) was preparing to have a baby of her own. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I lived with a constant nagging fear in the back of my mind that I needed to prepare myself for some challenges during childbirth. Knowing my mother's birth history with me, I was always concerned about how our daughter would be brought into the world. If I'm honest with myself, I think I always knew that we would have to make some hard decisions about Madeline's birth. Call it mother's intuition, but as we sat through each of our labor and delivery classes, I would quietly say to myself and sometimes to Michael, "I just know I'm going to have to have a C-Section."

I was right.

I was 42 weeks pregnant when the doctor finally decided that I had to be induced so we packed our bags and off to the hospital we went. Because Madeline was being a stubborn baby, I had to have Pitocin and they also used that bar with a string to soften my uterus. Nothing worked. I was in labor for 32 hours and was at 7 cm dilated when the doctor ceremoniously announced that I would need to have a C-Section. She felt that given as long as it took for me to get to 7 cm, she didn't know how much longer I could go {looking back on this, I wish I would have insisted on waiting a little longer. I regret that.} I was devastated. I remember thinking how much of a failure I already felt as a mom and I didn't even have my child in my arms yet. I couldn't even deliver my own child - what kind of a mother was I? The doctor pretty much did not give me any options. It was a C-Section and nothing else. I was helpless and unable to do anything about it: no options, no thinking it over and no control over the birth of my own child. Feeling helpless as a mom is probably the most frustrating and upsetting feeling ever known to man.

Madeline was born on July 24, 2011 at 2:24 pm. I briefly saw her over the drape for a few seconds when the doctor held her up for me to see and Michael brought her to me for about a hot second before I started experiencing the most excruciating pain of my life - my anesthesia had worn off and I had hot spots. I could feel everything going on with my body; the shifting and resetting of my intestines, the stitching, the tugging and pulling, all of it. There was no time to lose. The anesthesiologist put a mask over my face and in no time flat was 100% knocked out. 

Because I was knocked out and because I’m extremely sensitive to medicine as it is, I didn't wake up coherent until around 4 a.m. the next morning. I went in and out of consciousness but I wasn’t fully awake until the next morning. My daughter was nowhere to be found in our room. I called for the nurse and asked to have my baby brought to me but was told "No" and that "I needed to sleep more" and they would bring her to me when the morning shift came in. Well, that wasn't until 7 a.m. and because I had been knocked out for around 17 hours at that point, I wasn’t able to have the skin to skin contact I so desperately wanted after Madeline's birth. I knew that immediate bonding after birth was very important for both her and me. I didn't coherently get to see and hold my daughter until the next morning - 17 hours after she was born. I didn't even find out until after the fact {because I was knocked out} that Madeline had jaundice and that's why she had been taken to the nursery overnight. I missed the first cleaning bath, the opportunity to breastfeed within the first hour after birth, those first few finger grasps and the general quiet time to just sit and hold my child and bond after labor, and while there are pictures that were taken of us as a family in the recovery room, I don't remember any of it. 

What angered me even more about my hospital stay was the complete lack of concern of the nurses and lactation specialists on call that could have cared less that my child was having a problem breastfeeding. Maddy was having a very hard time learning how to latch on {a problem I fully believe that stemmed from her not being able to breastfeed right after birth} and with me being a new mom, I certainly had no clue how to teach her. I remember sitting in my hospital bed balling my eyes out because I wanted so desperately to simply be able to feed my child and not being able to do so made me feel helpless. I kept getting the brush off of, "Oh honey, it just takes time for them to learn" with absolutely no help or direction whatsoever. Because of this, we were forced into having to supplement with formula in order for Maddy to get the nutrition she needed and while I’m a total advocate for formula feeding, my hope and wish at that point was that she could have been breastfed.

To add insult to injury, the next few months that followed after we left the hospital were a nightmare. I was unable to breastfeed at home {even after consulting endlessly with a private lactation specialist} and then my PPD kicked in on overdrive. I felt like a disaster as a mother. I wasn't able to deliver my baby the way I felt I should have. I wasn't able to breastfeed. I wasn't able to be emotionally stable for myself, let alone my child. I truly felt like a failure.

In dealing with overcoming the disappointment I felt from Madeline's birth, the common platitude I keep hearing from women discussing C-Sections is, "The goal is to deliver a healthy baby in a safe and controlled environment. As long as that is accomplished, count your blessings, be grateful and move on." Or you also hear, "Count your blessings that we have such wonderful medical advances to be able to deliver babies via C-Section. A lot of women in other countries don't have this advantage" and while yes, to some extent I get this and I understand the sentiment behind what is being said and am very grateful for a healthy child, there is a huge part of me that couldn't disagree more with those comments because I think a woman and child's birth experience is so much more than that. For anyone to condense, boil down and wrap up a mother's birth experience in an "It could have been worse, count your blessings" package is short-sighted.

I’m a mother bringing a child into this world. A life. Another human being - my child. Never in the history of a woman's life will she do anything more important than bringing her child into the world period, bottom line. In doing so, there are certain expectations and milestones we all expect to experience during this time and when they don't happen, it leaves a huge hole in your heart. I think what made the hole worse for me was the fact that Michael and I pretty much knew after I got pregnant that Madeline would be our only child so knowing that I would never have another chance to experience a child's birth again - to reclaim those lost moments - was a very bitter pill to swallow. 

It has taken time but over the last two and a half years, I've learned to fill the hole in my heart with my daughter's love, laughter and tenacity for life instead of having regret, sadness and disappointment for how her life started. Children have a miraculous way of healing us as parents and Madeline shows me every day that the work I'm doing now as her mother far outweighs what I was or wasn't able to do for her as her mother when she was born. I've allowed myself the time I needed to grieve in losing those first special moments with her. I think that is a very important part of the process of getting over the disappointment of a hard birth.

I am a strong, capable woman who made it through some dark and stormy months at first as a new mom and I know that what lies ahead for me, my daughter and our family far outweighs anything I left behind when I walked out of those hospital doors. I know now that when I look at my scar, I can be proud of the woman who gave life to another instead of feeling ashamed of the method by which it all had to happen. I’m starting to accept that while this is my story, it doesn't have to be what defines me as a woman but more importantly, as a mother. 

Courtney @ Shiraz In My Sippy Cup
Courtney @ Shiraz In My Sippy Cup

Courtney is a published author, mom, taco enthusiast, and a Star Wars and Tennessee Volunteers fanatic. She's never met a piece of sushi she didn’t like and enjoys an amazing glass of wine and a great cut of meat. You can read more of her wine-induced, sleep-deprived adventures on The Huffington Post and Scary Mommy.

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