Monday, November 19, 2007

Processing My Birth Experience and The Business of Being Born

Edit: Read my review of the movie here.

My church showed the new film The Business of Being Born this past Saturday as a fundraiser for the West Virginia Chapter of the American College of Nurse Midwives. I feel blessed and hip and excited that I was able to see this new documentary, and have a big warm fuzzy that my congregation that is so supportive of midwifery and natural birth. (We also had a great discussion afterward- although I had to duck out early- that I'll talk about below.)

I was braced for an emotional trip going into the movie, because my birthing experience was disappointing. My plans for a water birth at a birth center were smashed to itty bits by complications- genuine ones, I feel pressed to qualify: Molly passed meconium in utero, and my birth defects created problems- I have a tough, scarred cervix and scarred uterine walls from surgery to remove a wall that divided my vagina and uterus into two compartments each. My cervix would not open until I was swimming in Pitocin, and then my placenta wouldn't budge and the doctor on call had to come in and just yank it out of me. (This was Hell, evil pain. No epidural, and the dose of Nubain I'd taken during the rending of my cervix was long gone then. So that part taints the whole memory for me along with the shock of my bright, sterile environment and the tangle of IV tubing and monitoring wires.)

So I’d known watching it would make me re-examine my birthing experience, but it felt different than I’d expected. One of my midwives was there- the one who took my “water broke and it has green poo” phone call and checked me into the hospital. She switched shifts before my active labor and my favorite midwife D took over. That’s one of my regrets- choosing the practice that rotates prenatal care and, apparently, labor attendance between several women. I missed that, the experience of the women on screen who bonded with their caregivers through the pregnancy and then had a deeper connection with her during labor.

But L was great. The film and seeing her there made me want to communicate with her about my experience. I wanted to thank her for being so gentle and so supportive the way she guided me through all the scary changes to my birth plan. She was amazing at respecting my dream of birth even as she helped me understand that it couldn’t happen the way I’d wanted. She worked hard to try to get me to the birth center, checking me in the hospital hoping the meconium was thin enough to not be a worry, then explaining very sweetly the steps that followed. It’s hard to describe but she and D both validated my wishes by emphasizing that my birth was not really “normal,” that my conviction that I could deliver without medication was correct in a typical situation but there was going to be intervention that was beyond normal birth pain.

So I wanted to thank her for all of that, and articulate it, but I left before the rest of the group. (Amusingly, I had to excuse myself to get home to pump- the grandies had Molly.) Leaving in the middle, I felt such a lack of closure. I should have hugged L, at least, on the way out, or been warmer when I recognized her- new pretty hair do, street clothes instead of scrubs. I alluded to her being my midwife during the discussion and then worried all night that my saying that she missed the actual delivery came across as a slight.
I left feeling such a weird mix of stuff, anyway, that I wanted Molly’s presence to help ground me in my motherhood, in my present. I’ve folded the birthing into myself, and my motherness and the beautiful connection I feel with Molly. I wasn’t upset per se, just off balance. I decided I’d call to see if she was awake still and fetch her back if she was up. She was awake, so I picked her up and bundled her into a snuggly cocoon of bedtime with Bu and me, and nursed her and felt myself calm.

Now, I feel like I’ve processed the memories better maybe. I may send L a postcard and articulate some of the things I need to tell her. Just thank yous… For doing the best anyone could to acknowledge the loss I felt delivering in the hospital, and the way she was very apologetic about having to order all the interventions. And for rubbing my crazy balloon feet with scented lotion.

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