23 April, 2011

When the Healing Has Begun

Two days ago, on my husband’s birthday, a well-known blogger and advocate for natural birth, breastfeeding, and women’s rights, whose blog is called The Feminist Breeder, had a live homebirth on the Internet to a big baby. I am excited for her and thrilled her homebirth was successful because it shows women in many places across the globe, but mostly in this over c-sectioned United Sates, that homebirth can be done, that women have a right to do it, and that natural birth can be a lot simpler and healthier for baby and mama than interventions.
I’m a horrible blogger, in terms of the “business” end of things – I have only commented on a few (by which I mean less than a handful) other blogs, I don’t network, I rarely “follow” anyone, etc. But I did check in every few days with The Feminist Breeder to see what was up with the birth. The baby was overdue and that made me feel nervous in remembrance of my own birth circumstances, so I checked in periodically, like a lurker in the shadows.
That night, I put my child to bed, which even though she insists she’s a “big girl,” still entails me laying down next to her while I read many stories, usually while she’s nursing, and, when she’s done with “boob,” she’ll “lay on my arm,” at which point I turn off the light and sing her lullabies until I am drifting off to sleep and then I know she finally is, too. I wake up with a kink in my neck around two hours later.
So it was; I woke a little after midnight, rubbed my neck, tucked my child under her covers, and inexplicably, checked my Facebook status updates to see that indeed TFB had given birth. Not live, but a few hours after the fact, I read all the posts from the live birth and watched the few second video of the little (big) baby being born. And then I cried. I bawled, actually. Bawled and bawled, mostly in the bathroom so as not to wake up my husband. Until two in the morning I cried and I woke up with a giant migraine from the stuffed up-ness of my sinuses.
Why all the crying? Because I’m still so damn sad, every once in a while, that my child didn’t come through my body like that. I wasn’t even trying to share my homebirth with the world, and thank god, because I didn’t get it. But sometimes, like the other night, I wonder if I’ll ever really heal from the loss.
I recently finished a book called Poser, My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses, which a friend sweetly and unexpectedly sent in the mail. I liked the book, even though it reminded me of how I used to be able to do a lot of the poses mentioned, and how I used to have a pretty regular yoga practice before my child was born, and how yoga is another thing I’ve lost (but hope someday to regain) while becoming a mother. The book describes all sorts of truths about yoga and marriage and motherhood and the effects of Pacific Northwest weather. But one reality I felt the author never addressed was her feelings about having two c-sectioned births. True, in her case, the two babies she birthed had more complications than her own body, and I’m sure the emotion and fear about their survival and wellbeing overshadowed any sense of the sadness from the c-sections. A few times the author mentions the weakness in her “core” from the operations in relation to doing yoga, but otherwise, she kind of glosses over the fact that the c-sections even happened and, more relevantly, how they might have been related to the baby’s complications. I don’t fault or judge this author for not analyzing the c-sections; as I said the babies’ lives at their birth were more emotionally exacting. And the fact that I do analyze my birth experience is probably a product of my own “core” weakness. But while reading, I just wondered how women who have had a c-section can gloss over it. Or ignore it.
The day after bawling about TFB’s homebirth, I received a copy of an email from a friend that she’d sent to our local ICAN chapter about her VBAC story. I read that story with joy, though I pretty much knew the details since I see this mama regularly, but, still, I was glad to read it all in writing. She mentioned at the end of the story how her second child’s birth was such a healing experience for her first and this sentence made me cry all over again because that kind of healing isn’t available to me. My husband and I are not planning on a second child (I’ve learned to never say never) because of our advanced age, lack of space in our house, and the fact that my body would probably completely fall apart with another pregnancy and, moreover, I’d be hard pressed to find a midwife in the world who would allow me to try again with a natural birth after the hemorrhage I had, and I am quite sure I couldn’t go through another c-section. Thus, a VBAC healing isn’t an option for me and while I have, of course, healed a lot from my experience, the fact that I still cry and bawl, and feel such envy and “why me?” feelings about not having a natural birth makes me know there’s still more, after almost two and a half years, much more to be done.
Before I started this blog, I’d done quite a bit of writing about my birth story and my feelings about the outcome, and that writing helped me heal some, but I knew I needed to do more. So when I decided to publicly put some of that writing up on a blog, my intention was to help other women who wonder why they still have feelings, sad and difficult feelings, about having a c-section, especially when those feelings seemingly come out of the blue. And so, two and a half years later, when I still feel those difficult kind of feelings, I write about it in order to tell someone else who’s out there crying, you’re not alone.


Christy said...

Thank you Nancy. It's nice to not be alone...

Nancy Slavin said...

Yeah, Christy - I was thinking about how the 5 stages of grief don't come quickly and are not linear things. This week I've had lots of anger, which I realized I hadn't really felt that much since the birth, and yet, from my social work days, know anger is an important part of the process....ah, personal growth....

Laszlo said...

I have a friend who had a c-section two years ago, and each year, about a week before her daughter's birthday, she writes about what a difficult time it is for her and how she is still in pain. I know it's something she carries all year, but things really come to the surface at that time of year.

When I think of how much we look to others' stories to give ourselves a sense of place and normalcy, I am so grateful to her and you for your writing. Pain and grieving must be shared. It's like a lifeline to people who are suffering in silence.

Nancy Slavin said...

Thanks, RL. I think those anniversaries do bring up the "feelings." But it's a strange thing to have something so wonderful (the birth of our daughters) be a source of pain as well. At least for me, having the day be on Halloween, I can appreicate the trick and treat nature of having a child. Please pass 54 Hours on to your friend and maybe we can connect!