Sunday, July 26, 2009

Before I Tell You Way Too Much About My Labor, Let Me Piss Off All The Natural Labor Advocates!


Eve, 11 days old.

Photographs taken by child photographer (and my bff), Emily Cobb Henry.
You can see her photo site here.





I have no idea why I was ultimately able to conceive so easily, or why I had an easy pregnancy, or why I seem to have an easy baby. I am anxious even writing these words, as though putting them into type will make them no longer true, or somehow "jinx" me and everything will fall apart.

I lost both my parents to cancer by the time I was 30 and, as I've stated before, this has had a significant affect on my ability to think rationally when it comes to matters of health. Things could be fine, but maybe they aren't, and maybe that maybe will result in the worst possible outcome. That's how I think. That's how I thought, felt, feared throughout my pregnancy -- that anything (or nothing) could lead to the worst possible outcome.

I barely believed I'd ever get to meet my daughter.

Dramatic? Yes. Silly? Yes, as it turns out. Also? True.

But. But but but.

In the grand scheme of things, I understand how much is not up to me, and how much is simply not in my control. I spent a huge portion of my growing-up life trying to fix things I couldn't fix, wanting to repair messes that weren't mine, trying to solve problems I didn't create. And for so many reasons we can let my therapist work out, my efforts didn't work. When my mom got sick and my husband left me, I realized -- with tremendous fanfare -- that you can try really hard to make things turn out a certain way and fail anyway.

I am grateful to have learned that. I'm not happy about the circumstances under which I learned that, but at least I know. I have no illusions about what I can control. My controlling-ness comes out in my work, in small day-to-day things, sometimes in (non-personal) projects. But I have let go of a lot.

Sometimes you plan and plan and plan and then the worst thing happens anyway and what was the point of all your stupid planning? All it did was make you crazy.

This is why, once I realized I was really and truly pregnant, I became the most mellow I have ever been.

The internet and pregnancy books and websites are treacherous places. As a new mom I was clueless and wanted to learn everything I could so I could do things "right". But it took me about two hours to determine that if I were to follow every recommendation, I'd be a complete basketcase. The list of off-limit-just-to-be-safe foods and drinks and activities and products could, if you were under the impression that you could control things, consume your whole life and you'd be worried at every turn about every little thing.

I know lots of pregnant women who were that way. I should have been one of them. Except.

Except I let go. Except, I guess, I'm cynical. Except I don't, really, believe that all the tiny things matter because if something horrible is going to happen, it's going to happen and there's very little you can do to prevent it. Not one but TWO of my best friends did everything by the book and it didn't make a difference to their failed pregnancies. My sister did her damndest to have the perfect pregnancy and that had nothing whatsoever to do with the genetic condition that befell her beautiful baby boy. And you know there are crazy crack moms and alcoholics and underaged high-schoolers who don't even care having healthy babies every day.

I stopped my own madness before it started.

The second I found out I was pregnant I started to read, yes. I researched. I explored and discussed and blogged and studied a lot and then said OH MY GOD THIS IS SUCH BULLSHIT to most of it. I mean, I didn't drink tequila and smoke crack. Of course there are reasonable things to do and not do, reasonable things to worry about. But if I focus on the big picture, then I drown out the noise.

I live with the gripping fear that comes from knowing there's absolutely nothing -- nothing -- I can do to guarantee I have a healthy baby. But that fear also puts into perspective how unnecessary it is to obsess over whether I can, say, eat a soft cheese, have a glass of wine, or take a bath.

My perspective may be rooted in something rather grim, but the result has been quite positive.

So why am I telling you all this?

Because it's not that I don't care. It's not that it doesn't matter, it's not that I'm a go-with-the-flow kind of person naturally, it's not that I really think "Oh, whatever." But that's how it came across -- not just when I was enjoying a piece of cheese or glass of wine while pregnant, but when I had to decide whether to induce labor, whether to have a c-section, whether to give the baby formula, when to leave the hospital.

I just (ha! "just") wanted to have a healthy baby. I didn't let myself get wrapped up in how that was supposed to look. If I could be lucky enough even to just HAVE a baby, I didn't care about the rest of the stuff. Or rather, I didn't overly care.

I'm envious of the women who are trusting enough in the world to have birth plans. Who think that if they write it down, that's how it will go. Who have resources enough to go to the hospital and choose to have a home birth anyway, because they trust it will be fine. Who want their experiences to be heightened by not taking drugs, who have immovable conviction about needing to bond with their baby the moment it's born. Who, basically, worry about the details because they assume they WILL have a baby.

Whereas I just don't. I didn't. I went into it thinking I had no idea what would happen. I didn't make a plan so I wouldn't be disappointed if when it didn't work out. That seemed like tempting fate to me. I just hoped I'd end up with a baby. Everything else seemed totally inconsequential.

I'm beyond grateful it worked out.


And hi. Now with all that weird background given, I can finally get into what actually happened. The whole "labor" thing was rather enjoyable, all things considered.

30 comments:

  1. Nice perspective. I agree, there's a whole heap of damaging information out there - and it just gets worse as your baby grows up!

    I think parents should trust their own instincts and understand that everyone has a different parenthood journey - and that's perfectly OK.

    Congrats on your little Eve :)

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  2. Eve is beautiful. I love those pictures.

    I also love your perspective. I hope it will be a while before I experience my own pregnancy, but when I get there, I hope I can be inspired by your chillness. While still allowing my sweetie to take care of the cat litter. ;)

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  3. This was so encouraging to read. Eve is gorgeous. Congratulations :)

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  4. She's adorably expressive!

    In the second picture, it's almost like she's saying "Is all this really necessary."

    Your pregnancy, child birth and motherhood is wholly yours. You weren't out slamming gin or doing coke, so beyond the basics, it's your choice. No one should ever guilt trip you for making decisions based on what you knew to be right for you and your family.

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  5. Thank you for saying that.

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  6. There she is! Such a perfect little doll...

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  7. Eve is so pretty--I think she looks a lot like you!

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  8. You are beautiful... Eve is beautiful. You make it a happy day when you share. Thank you.

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  9. So, this is a bit belated, but congratulations! And wow, she's so beautiful!

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  10. What a beautiful little girl!

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  11. Congrats, Kristy & Ish!

    Next to your "Women Are Crazy" I, II, & III...

    This was your best post. Ever.

    Thank you. I absolutely needed that today.

    Congrats, again.

    Toma
    (formerly of Monterey, now of Miami)

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  12. Same pregnancy/birth view point here, too. Precisely. And everything was fine, and my daughter is beautiful and healthy and perfect and I am so, so lucky.

    A quick note on the "easy" baby: You don't yet know what you have there, yet, and things will likely get harder, but IT WILL STILL BE OKAY. AWESOME, EVEN. Even the easiest of babies get hard very soon (the first month-plus, for me, was like a honeymoon DREAM, and then I got my real baby, who was not the easy baby I told everyone I had). I say this not to scare you, but so that you do not panic when it DOES happen. Because then, before you even have time to get used to how hard it is/seems, things will get easy again, and pretty much stay that way, with the exception of universal-type issues (teething, etc.) Seriously. I had a colicky, refluxy, screamy baby (these things did not appear until WEEK FOUR OR FIVE) and now, things are wondrous. And even when they're not, she's SO full of personality that it's easy. (She's almost five months now. Heaven.)

    But even babies who don't do that tend to get harder. So don't panic. Just enjoy it all, and know that the hard will pass. It will take you by surprise and send you into a brief panic, but it WILL pass.

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  13. Love, love, LOVE this perspective. And congratulations, times a million :)

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  14. Eve is so beautiful!

    When I had our daughter, almost "gulp" 29 years ago there was no internet to research with, only the library and Dr Spock so I had to do it mostly by myself and I was only 19 years old. I did try to ignore the strange advice like I had to get rid of my cats because they 'suck the breath from babies!" Yipes! And I did have a drink while pregnant and she was fine and grew up into a great person so I did something right.

    You'll do what feels best for you and it will be what's best for her.

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  15. Thanks for posting this! I can't imagine a more personal issue than childbirth, and every person has to make their own decisions. You have more personal insight- (years of therapy) than most. Thanks for sharing! Can't wait for the next one. Kisses to you cutie!

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  16. Hold on to that "let it go" perspective. Kids beat the need to control stuff out of you with a quickness.

    I used to joke (but secretly mean it) that I would consider myself a success as a mother, if only I could get my youngest to two with no major medical care.

    Two weeks before his second birthday he had to get stitches (who knew library story time could be so treacherous?). A week after that, he broke his arm.

    For the record, I still consider myself a good mother. My pediatrician? She does as well. CPS is reserving judgement.

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  17. I think you have a great head on your shoulders. Good for you to ditch all the screaming horror blogs that scare the crap out of you. I was 17 when I had my first and believe it or not it was all good. My grandmother nearly had a fainting fit when she came over in the afternoon and I hadn't bathed my daughter yet. My thinking was that she wouldn't go belly up if her bath was a little late...she hated it anyway. We didn't have those cool little blow up tub things that fit in the big tub.

    I had three children by my 20th birthday. They are in their 40s now and seem to be healthy and sane and wise. Some are wealthier than others, but heck one wanted to work in criminal justice for the state. She does good work. The all are very good people and somehow we weathered the locking themselves in the bathroom and I didn't have a key, horses and broken arms, and bull riding and getting thrown off. Somehow we all survived and thrived.

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  18. Your baby is beautiful. Congratulations, and I am so glad she's healthy, and you're happy, and everything is well.

    In some ways, I've taken a similar perspective on this baby-having business as you have. After divorcing my first husband, then losing two of my best friends to ugly deaths, I don't believe anyone controls anything. I've taken commonsense precautions, but I've eaten Brie, had an occasional glass of wine, and haven't thought twice about it.

    But I am, in fact, working on my birth plan right now. I understand your perspective on it, and it used to be mine, until I started to do it. What I've come to think is that the birth plan is a process, not a result. It's allowing me to think through different possibilities and contigencies. I don't think that if I write it down, that's how it will go. But I do think I want to have spent some time thinking over possibilities, so that I can talk to my doctors about what might happen before things do. I know several people who have had C-sections who "planned" natural births, and they have no doubt that the decision was the right one. I also know some people who had C-sections who felt pressured into the decision, who still wonder about how medically necessary the surgery was, and so on. I know people who have had good natural births with lots of preparation - and I know people who planned to have an epidural, but were too late when they got to the hospital and had to have a natural birth, without any instruction in how to make the pain as bearable as possible. I am trying to use the birth plan as an opportunity to think through the possibilities, do some reading, try to get my head around the options, then talk to my doctors about how things might go, including if things go badly. Part of that's the researcher in me; preparing for something by reading journal articles is my way of putting things in context (and the good thing about going to a source like NEJM is that academics don't tend to put things in melodramatic terms - they like % increases in risk, not blanket Do and Don't statements). I guess I also don't have an enormous amount of faith in most doctors - I tend to want to feel somewhat armed for dealing with the medical system.

    Anyway, I just wanted to speak out for the birth-plan writers. It's like making plans for a vacation - some people hate the thought of doing it, because they will be unhappy if they don't follow the plan. Me, I plan every day, and then don't follow the plan much, and never care. But the plan-making process always helps me understand things better, even if I only understand my own preconceived expectations.

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  19. Yeah, I was a birthplan writer, but like the previous poster, it was more for ME than for the medical staff. In fact, it never came out of my bag at the hospital. Granted, I had my husband and a doula (and a nurse who was more than willing to leave us alone because a young woman down the hall had NO ONE with her).
    My second baby was a c-section baby. Not because I planned it. Not because anyone did anything wrong - in fact, we tried a LOT of things to get him to turn from breech, and he DID... until he then turned transverse during labor. So, c-section, and good thing, because the cord was also wrapped, AND he was 10lb 2oz. Someone still had the nerve to try to commiserate with me that I hadn't had the baby "naturally." I told her that at the TOP of my birth plan was this statement: "If the baby doesn't come out of my forehead, it's a good birth." I still believe that.

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  20. Thank you!
    Thank you for your honesty and your sincerity. Thank you for just being you.

    I love your blog. I love your outlook and your humor and your "there. yes. I just said that" attitude!

    And I love that you have such an adorable baby girl to hold and to treasure!

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  21. Maybe the lesson here is that it's time to not look the gift horse in the mouth and just "accept"? Maybe it was easy, and she is easy, because it's time for you to experience easy? You've had so much that has been hard. At some point, the universe owes you some easy.

    :)

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  22. kristy,
    congratulations on your beautiful baby!

    i am really happy for you and ish, and maybe especially for eve, because she could not have been luckier in the parents she got. (ok, i don't know ish, but you've vouched for him pretty well!)

    though i know nothing of babies or pregnancy, what you wrote here made complete sense to me. once you truly grasp the randomness of the bad things that happen, you also end up grasping the randomness of the good things that happen... and that makes your appreciation of them and gratitude for them indescribably deep and real.

    it is wonderful that this awareness of the Random didn't result in massive anxiety during your pregnancy, but calm instead. that was a little gift you gave yourself (and, in my opinion, a serious achievement, even if you didn't do it on purpose!).

    congrats on all of it. i'm grateful, too, that you ended up with a healthy baby. that is how it should be, and isn't it wonderful when what should be actually is? so thanks for sharing it so we all get to celebrate that!

    xo
    sweetone

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  23. I don't envy the people who think if they write it down, that's how it will go, because it seems like those are the people who have GIANT EMOTIONAL CRISES when it doesn't. I remember my birth plan (which my OB made me write) was basically, "Um, why are you making me pretend this can be planned?" That has left me with very happy memories of my long labor and subsequent c-section. Mmmmmm, happiness.

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  24. And I can't believe I'm writing this SECOND, but that is the most perfect, glorious baby that ever was.

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  25. You are wonderful. So very smart, where the heck were ya during my pregnancy? I could have used a dose of that stuff.
    You amaze me. Thanks for writing.

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  26. Eve is SOOOO beautiful -- I'm so thrilled for you and Ish, and glad you're enjoying her so much. You know, I had a delightfully easy baby too, and he remained that way until about 3 or 4 years old. I just went with it.

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  27. Great. Thanks a lot. I didn't need to want another baby, but after these photos the baby wants are kicking in. What a super cutie!!!! I love the "let's get this over with" expression on her face in the second photo.
    BTW- instincts are the best- glad to know you are following yours. I always have the most trouble when I listen to other people and not myself.

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