Shaken Not Stirred by Interventive Birth

There is no polite way to discuss this.  It comes directly from my soul.  I don’t mean to offend or whine, but it is bound to happen.  The fact is that I still feel sorry for myself.  I still feel jipped.  I still feel like my babies died because providers refused to help me.  I know that I can’t change the past and that rolling around in yesterday’s pain will not help tomorrow’s healing.  I know that I’m fortunate to have my daughter.  I know that people have been through much worse than I.  None of that helps.  And now I sit here still trying to process my sister-in-law’s interventive vaginal birth.  Yes, interventive.  Yes, vaginal.  No, not natural.  No, not normal (in my personal definition of normal birth).

My sister-in-law had cesarean written across her from the start.  She was subjected to a full genetic screening of which she and her spouse were not fully informed.  The result was a pregnancy shadowed by the fear of a child with fragile X syndrome.  They’ve been faced with the choice of abortion (not that they considered it), amniocentesis (they thankfully declined), and several ultrasounds.  And along the way my sister-in-law began to fear childbirth.  It didn’t sound like the typical scared stuff that you expect; she sounded AFRAID.  I tried to console her in my way and bolster her confidence without devaluing her feelings.

Next thing you know it she’s due.  They’re already talking about induction.  The decision was made to induce her a week after her due date.  I did e-mail her and my brother-in-law and remind them that babies should be given a due MONTH, not a johny-on-the-spot due date, and that it was inappropriate to push her towards induction at least before 42 weeks.  I knew I’d lose that one.

At 41 weeks she was induced in the hospital.  Dilation was slow, and understandably she began to get frustrated and concerned.  She was told that she should be dilating at a rate of 1cm per hour.  What an awful thing to tell a woman who’s not progressing – that her labor isn’t normal or on schedule.  They broke her water; they upped her pitocin.  They did all of the things that can cascade into a cesarean.

Only, she didn’t end up with a cesarean.  Her pelvis wasn’t declared inadequate.  Her baby wasn’t pronounced too big.  How in the heck did she avoid the knife?  All the signs were there pointing towards a cesarean delivery and yet she didn’t get cut.

Her experience has caused me to ask myself some tough questions.  Did you want her to get cut?  Did the fact that she had all of these interventions and still have a vaginal birth take the wind out of your arguments against interventive birth?  Does her success reflect on me somehow and my failures?  Did she deserve a vaginal birth and I didn’t?  Or am I just “mad” because she deserved to get cut (having agreed to so many interventions) whereas I didn’t deserve to get cut because I had educated myself and planned for a natural birth.

Two weeks have passed since my sister-in-law had her baby.  I am thrilled for her and my brother-in-law.  I can’t wait to meet my new niece.  But the ghosts are still rattling my cage.  I am not stirred by her experience.  Rather, I am shaken.

6 responses to “Shaken Not Stirred by Interventive Birth

  1. I can completely empathize with how you are feeling. I had my second daughter 4 1/2 months ago. I thought I did everything right, I thought I planned everything right…..a beautiful HBAC. Well after 40 hours of labor with my water broke, it was time to transfer, the risk of infection was too great…there are no VBAC friendly hospitals here, it was an immediate c/s. I was devastated.

    Fast forward to 2 weeks ago. My SIL is due. Her water leaks on her due date. 12 hours later they put her on pit, she doesn’t progress, they are going to do a c/s but there OR is held up, she suddenly dilates to 7 on her own and delivers a beautiful little boy 4 hours later. Her birth is almost exactly how my first was, except I got the c/s.

    I was angry, I was jealous, I was every emotion. Then I went and saw her in the hospital. I recognized my own look of defeat and fear and joy in her that I felt after my first birth. I hugged her and all that anger melted away. She needed someone to talk to who could understand what she went through. And in the talking I am finding healing from my own two births.

    I hope you can too. BIG ((HUGS)) to you.

    P.S. I really enjoy your blog.

  2. Y’know… the tears were falling all day round here. Topped them up with an e-mail from a friend who was gushing about the siblings child who was born on Monday. Scheduled repeat cesarean. Of course the mother is a very bright and educated person and did what was obviously best for the baby. And… oh the and… at least it doesn’t have a cone head.
    after all the ‘they liked not having the fear and waiting and worry of labour’ like last time… it was the flippant comment about a cone head that literally floored me.

    I weep for all the people who avoid it… and tonight I remember the anger and rage and jealousy at a relative who got a vbac and was ANGRY at her doctors. She wanted the repeat c/s.

    So… BIG ((HUGS)) to you too. Because you are the one facing fighting the good fight. I’m too busy crying tonight. I’ll take over tomorrow for you okay?

    *not putting my sign in name, because I don’t want ‘the friend’ to find me wailing… I know it would hurt her… as much as her e-mail hurt me.

  3. What strength to be able to contemplate these questions. Of course you deserved better – we all do (even the ones who knowingly or unknowingly walk into intervention city, informed or not – our system of birth s letting us all down). She was lucky – sometimes the labor gods are kind & other times not so much. I’m sorry you are feeling all that you are feeling; at least you can talk about it & ponder it rather than just denying that the feelings are there.
    Many blessings to you – I’m holding you in my thoughts. I so enjoy your blog & am sure that your post will help many women.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. By sharing these very sensitive feelings and opening up yourself on here you have shared a very private thing. I want to say thank you for doing that. I have never had this choice in my life, so I have never had to deal with these issues personally. But I am a provider. I will remember this post as I help my mommas process their pain as well as joy at the birth of their baby though it may not have happened as they wished. I will be able to take your story in my heart with me as I travel through the rest of my career caring for women in childbirth and be sure I try to address these feelings even if they are not aware they have them yet.

    May I suggest though, that part of this is the desire, and it is very strong, to control birth? I know that sounds funny as we are talking about the interventions that “control” birth. I propose that sometimes what happens with all the preparation for the “perfect” birth actually gives women the false sense that they can totally control their bodies. Labor is a time that we have only some control over. We can control the environment. We can control who is the support around the woman. We can control what position she births in. But there is sooooo much we don’t control. We don’t control her pelvis shape, we don’t control her uterus and how tired it can become after a long labor, we don’t control HER.

    Many times I have wondered about something I am going to share here. I have patients who are as careful with what they eat as anyone could be. They go through Bradley classes or other classes and learn great skills with relaxation and using position changes. These women want so much for the perfect birth. Sometimes what I see happen is that they become so invested in this idea of what their perfect birth is that that then becomes the fear and we all know what fear can do…labor doesn’t work right. I have had to do an intervention about this part of fear many times. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Once the woman gives in to letting the body do what it will do I see about 50% of the time things get better. It is that letting go of the idea that they have TOTAL control.

    My point is that letting go is important in labor. But I think letting go of the anger of not having your perfect birth now even long after your labor is important. You are grieving. It is OK to grieve. Give into the grief and let it carry you through to the next part. This is a labor of grief for you. If I could wish anything for you over this comment section I would wish for you that you could let this past fear go and realize your body and your labor can only be controlled in certain ways, but not ALL ways. And you are normal for having these feelings. I wish you good health and that includes spiritual and emotional health, because that is what need to be healed right now.

    Again, thank you for being vulnerable here and sharing with us. You have helped me take bette care of the women I serve.

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