This is part of my series 100 Days: Waiting for a Rainbow.
When I was pregnant with William, planning my water birth at a local birthing center, overseen by midwives, my mom told me that it’s all well and good to plan, but that I should be prepared to not have everything go the way I want. I knew she was right, and agreed. Maybe I would need an epidural. Maybe I’d need to be induced. Never in my wildest nightmares did I imagine it meaning what it meant.
Sweet William was all of about 1 hour old when I first learned the hard fact that, even in pregnancy, you can’t always get what you want. I was still in recovery when a nurse gently explained to me that I would never have a vaginal birth. In my sick, shell-shocked and medicated state, I stammered something that was mildly incoherent about a VBAC. She very gently told me that only an “irresponsible doctor” would allow a VBAC.
I didn’t believe her.
The day we buried William was the same day I had my surgical staples removed. And my doctor agreed with the nurse’s original assessment. No vaginal birth. I didn’t believe him either.
The following fall I was in a leadership seminar with the wonderful nurse who runs the local hospital’s OB ward. She confirmed that a VBAC wasn’t an option for me.
When I consulted with my OB, she said the same thing. So did the perinatologist. I was out of “second opinions” – everyone agreed.
Of all the things I could have been truly angry about after William’s death – this was the one I just couldn’t let go of. I was furious. Beside myself. I was angry with doctors who couldn’t seem to grasp how important a natural birth was to me. I was angry with the doctors who – in an effort to preserve William’s life – took away my ability to naturally birth my other children without telling me. I was angry at the “crunchy” moms who wouldn’t even talk to those of us who were doomed forever to the realm of surgical birth (seriously – try asking a crunchy blogger to blog about a “more natural c-section”). I was angry at God that the most womanly, feminine act in all of nature had been taken away from me permanently. Angry, angry, angry.
People tried to reason with me, and it was good to hear their words. I was reminded how lucky I am to still have the chance to bear children at all. I was reminded how lucky I am that there are the medical advances necessary to make childbirth, albeit not what I want, a relatively safe option for me. I was reminded that it was by God’s mercy that I lived in a time in history when not only my life, but William’s brief life, and the lives of any future children, were preserved by advances in medicine.
The anger settled, gently, into frustration. A frustration that will just not go away, no matter how much I try to focus on how lucky and blessed I am.
I consider myself one of those tip-toeing around the edge of being truly “crunchy.” If you’re new to that term, what I mean is someone who doesn’t go for the standard medical community’s answers to things like treating disease, dietary choices, and so on. I use whole wheat flour, and when I remember I soak my grains and legumes before I cook them. I bake with unrefined sugar. I’m not afraid of eggs (especially from free range chickens) and I love my (nitrite-nitrate free) bacon. I drink real milk. You’d be hard pressed to find cold medicine or pain killers in my house (if you do, check the expiration dates), and my vitamins are mostly food-based. I go to the doctor so rarely I don’t have a family physician. I won’t let my dentist use fluoride, and I spent all fall dodging the flu vaccine. You get the point… crunchy….
But not pregnancy crunchy….
When we were consulting with our OB about trying to conceive, I expressed to her my frustrations with not being able to have my child the way I wanted. She compared pregnancy to an airplane flight. Pregnancy is the jumbo jet and baby and I are the passengers. And the doctors are the pilots. During the flight, I can just sit back and relax. Once they get this baby on the ground, I can do things however I like. But the doctors get to be the pilots.
I just sort of nodded along at the time. It actually irritates me more now than before. This just feels upside down. I should be the pilot, with a competent OB co-pilot. I don’t particularly care to be strapped into coach, jostling in the turbulence.
These pilots are not flying the plane the way I would like! I’m on prescription grade vitamin supplements. I’ve downed more of that nasty glucose stuff than I ever intended. I’m on hormone shots. I’d like to try taking arnica for aches and pains, but I have no one to advise me on dosage. Last week I had a very much unwanted vaccine. Because my doctor told me I’d be an idiot to not have it, that I was an idiot for not trusting him, and that I was an idiot for reading anything on the internet (okay… he IMPLIED – but the word idiot came out of his mouth in reference to people who think like me). Because someone somewhere decided I needed one every time I was pregnant. Because even though I just had one a little over two years ago, evidently, that’s not enough.
And when this baby’s birth day arrives, I won’t be “comfortable” in a birthing center, or my own bed, or a whirlpool of warm water. I’ll be stretched out on an operating table with my insides being examined. And there will be painkillers, and anesthesia, and antibiotics, and strangers, and bright lights. If I’m very, very lucky, I may get to snuggle this little Squishy before they clean him all up and make him presentable. Maybe just maybe I’ll be nursing in the first hour of his life.
The only consolation I have is that I’ve done everything I’ve been told.
I have this very stark memory of sitting in a Chipotle with my mom and my sister, still pregnant with William. My sister, a nurse, was sharing about a young patient she had whose parents were unable to come to grips with the fact that there was no chance for survival. The child was suffering and the parents simply couldn’t let go. In a flurry of hormonal, emotional tears I softly proclaimed that I would like to think that I was capable of making a choice that was best for my child, even if it wasn’t what I wanted, even if it was painful for me.
What horrible, Dickensian foreshadowing. I was faced with that decision just a few weeks later.
And the last 29 weeks have been no different. It seems every time I go to the doctor I’m faced with making a choice that my doctors are convinced are best for my child, even if it isn’t what I want. For a crunchy girl, this pregnancy hasn’t been very crunchy. I just hope my doctors are right.