Laura, like myself, is a realist. She doesn’t want sugar-coated descriptions of pregnancy and child birth; she wanted the truth. She wanted to know that mothering was going to be hard. And she wanted to know that her lack of enthusiasm for baby clothes – an insignificant material good – wasn’t an indicator of her ability to be a good mother.
I am currently pregnant with my second child who will emerge via C-section in an antiseptic operating room. The date is yet to be scheduled, however it seems that our second daughter will be “born” in the last few days of July. I know I’ll have a C-section not because I want one, but because given my unique anatomy (I have a heart shaped uterus…it sounds like it should be full of love, but apparently its problematic for a number of reasons for me and baby) my babies get stuck transverse breach. In laymen’s terms, that’s upside down and backwards. No one would let me try for a natural child birth. If modern medicine was not available most likely neither me nor my daughter would be around today.
I started out my first pregnancy at a Birth Center as hospitals, doctors, and the medical complex shake me to the core. I know this about myself, and so elected to be cared for in the more natural and less intimidating environment of a Birth Center. Everything was going fine until I casually mentioned that I was once told I had a ‘heart’ shaped uterus. This immediately alerted the midwife and I was sent off to the OB high risk specialist at the local hospital for imaging. I was then deemed too high risk for the Birth Center and told the only safe place for me and my baby was in the hospital.
When I went in for my first visit with the OB high risk specialist he asked me my worst fear and I told him it was having to birth in the hospital. He asked why, and I told him that it was because for me mainstream medicine operates off of too much fear based decision making, and I preferred a more positive, holistic, and supportive environment. He then proceeded to give me a list of all the reasons it was incredibly dangerous for me to try and have a child anywhere but in a hospital, especially given my condition. He confirmed all of my worst thoughts.
I became a regular at the hospital. I was to visit Dr. High Risk and his offensive bed site manor for what I can only describe as professional and high cost assaults on my personal anatomy every two weeks. I would spend the entire day before my appointment and the morning of my appointment a total wreck. The minute I walked in the hospital my hands would start sweating, I would become completely disagreeable, and a nervous vibration of fear. I was terrified that every time I came to the hospital that I would be told I was going to lose my baby during the second trimester—a reality that meant I would birth to a live baby to then watch it die given its premature state. There were a few intermittent procedures that might keep this from happening if it looked like baby was trying to come too early (one included literally sewing the baby in) but in my mind, I jumped to the very worst case scenario.
This incredible fear was coupled with my complete lack of control over my own body in the hospital setting. I felt violated every time I entered the hospital. I felt threatened with the option of having to sew the baby in. I never understood the paperwork or the jargon. For someone who likes to be in control this was wildly unsettling.
When I finally made it to my third trimester it was with a sigh of relief. My daughter and I had made it. I was now researching information and care for preemies but the worst case scenarios I had been imagining were in the past. I was also able to switch from the high risk OB to a more traditional OB. My new doctor was a much better fit for me given my personal needs. He still didn’t, however, completely ease my worries.
When my daughter stayed in her backwards and sideways position I did everything possible to get her to shift into a more amiable one. I tried massages, acupuncture, chiropractic, prayer, and an ‘inversion’. It was not pleasant, and also didn’t work. I was in for the surgery.
The day our daughter was ‘born’ was the worst day of my life. Yes, the end result was my daughter, you can tell me to look on the positive, count my blessings, etc, but it was awful. Again the fear and terror coursed through my veins. Being admitted to the ER for the surgery I ended up leaping off my hospital bed and yelling at one of the nurses. I then had to apologize. I was humiliated as they shaved my pubic hair for me. Why didn’t they just ask me to do this beforehand? I had lost all decency.
I then had to walk myself into the operating room, and sit on the table. The numbing shot was given and I laid down. I soon lost all feeling, but still retained a weird tingling sensation in my lower half. I had to lay on the table as they inserted a catheter. I was so ashamed. The doctors came in and started the procedure. I began feeling as though I was having trouble breathing, a common side effect of the drugs. I could then smell burning flesh. It took me a minute to realize that it was my burning flesh. They were using a laser to cut the baby out. At some point the anesthesiologist started talking about his sprinkler system with the other attendants. It was like I wasn’t even human. Then it was over. I was given a crying pink baby and expected to feel surges of joy.
I didn’t feel any real attachment to the baby. I hadn’t felt any attachment to the baby at all during my pregnancy, most likely since I was too worried about losing her. It was better not to get attached—though this was not a conscious decision. People would hold up tiny little baby cloths and say, can’t you just picture a baby in this, cooing with cuteness. I couldn’t. It just made me mad. Cute cloths mad me angry. Pink lace—livid. I hated it all. I was so worried I was going to be an awful mother given these reactions. Who hates baby clothes? What was wrong with me?
I can’t be in control all the time. I get that. I should probably work on letting go more. Okay, fine, I agree, however I also want to be told. I want to know as much as I can, so I can make my own decisions. Or make my peace with the smell of burning flesh before I have to smell it. Truth is power for me. Knowing the truth is freeing for me, even if it’s bad. The truth is reality after all.
I consider Facebook and other forms of social media to be one of the main portrayals of “the American lie.” All rainbows and unicorns. It paints a distorted picture of the world–of people’s lives. It entices people to lie about reality though perhaps not intentionally. The truth is many times ugly, or at the very least imperfect. I would have rather someone warm me that my pregnancy and my daughter’s birth might be the worst experiences of my life. Full of fear, humiliation, embarrassment, anxiety and the like. Then I would at least know “it’s not just me.” Its life. Then I wouldn’t have had to worry that since I couldn’t envision my daughter in cute dresses that maybe I’m not fit to be a mother. I could just come to terms with the fact that sometimes difficult pregnancies result in connections after the birth and not before. But people don’t want to tell you ‘unhappy’ things. They don’t want to ‘scare’ you. They want to share the good, not an imperfect reality. Give me reality. Give me the respect of sharing your ugly and imperfect.
To learn how to contribute your own guest post, visit The Sisterhood of Imperfect Mothers Project page.