Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Abnormality Of Our Birth 'Norms'

Recently I posted a status on Facebook, which expressed my concern over what I had just watched on a popular birth show. It was no surprise, that with such an interesting, relevant, applicable to EVERYONE subject (such as birth), there would be much response. I loved the experiences shared and the different views given. Even if they are different views- it ultimately gets our minds thinking and is food for thought. There is so much to be discussed and so much to be shared, just simply from this one Facebook post, that I thought I would post it here, in addition to my subsequent thoughts from the comments left…

“I decided (against my better judgement) to turn on TLC and watch 'A Baby Story.' It's supposed to be a happy, cutesie show, but all it's doing is making me sad. These people don't even realize what they're doing...eager to have their baby, uniformed, and being wrongly led by the Doctor. Induced at 39wks for no medical reason, water artificially broken at 3cm, epidural at 3cm, even before the onset of labor. And they wonder why she's not making progress?”

The goal of my posts have always been to make statements- to bring to attention things which I feel passionate about and which we should discuss, share, and hopefully make better. The goal of this post was just that- to discuss the kinds of things that happen all too often and make up the birth stories of so many women. Uniformed women, MISinformed women, and healthcare providers who leave them uninformed and MISinformed and portray these interventions as being without consequence.

There is a misconception that just because these interventions are now seemingly routine interventions, that it is ok and they are safe. You might think that because your sister or your best friend, or even YOU have had an elective induction, artificial rupture, monitors, early epidural, and the like, and you have had a “healthy” or “good” outcome, that these things are therefore ok. But individual, personal experiences cannot always be used as examples. It might be one’s argument that social, elective inductions happen all the time and often times end in safe, healthy deliveries...or that epidurals happen all the time and often time end in safe, healthy deliveries, seemingly without consequence. But instead of applying it to individual experiences or small scale perceptions, we need to look at the larger picture. For example, my mother smoke and drank during her pregnancy with me…and I was a healthy baby who went on to be a well-adjusted, intelligent, educated woman. Does that mean that smoking and drinking during pregnancy should be considered safe? No, because just looking at smoking- we know that babies born from moms that smoke have a statistically higher chance of being born premature, of having low birth-weight, and having respiratory problems.

This goes beyond hospital birth vs. birth center birth vs. home birth. It goes beyond surgical delivery vs. medicinal pain relief vs. unmedicated birth vs. natural birth. It has nothing to do with a WOMAN’S CHOICE regarding epidurals or social inductions. That IS her choice. But it should be HER choice and it should be her INFORMED and EDUCATED choice. Is an elective induction with artificial rupture with a high baby and an epidural BEFORE labor a good or SAFE idea? Come on. Is it a surprise that after a day of labor that she had made no progress? And my last and hopefully resonating point- Why is this being portrayed as ok and normal?

I have had the privilege of supporting women and families in many births, both Out-Of-Hospital and in the hospital. I very much agree that beautiful, wonderful births happen within the hospital…to include induction and epidural births! My argument is for care providers to never portray these interventions lightly, to fully inform their patients, and to acknowledge that statistically speaking, we have better, safer outcomes the less we intervene (in normal circumstances). And if we are going to socially induce or use epidurals, let’s do so with good timing and therefore more safely, to minimize the risk.

Not as care providers, but as a women and as families, what can we do? Choose your care providers wisely! Word of mouth can be powerful for a Dr. who is a no-go vs. a Dr. who people love and respect. Next, know that it IS ok to interview them! Pick up the phone and schedule a consultation! There is importance in knowledge, bedside manner, compassion, and views and beliefs on birth. What are his or her feelings on interventions, to include inductions? What is their primary c-section rate? WHY is it that? This is just the very beginning of getting a feel for this provider. Once you have met, once these types of questions have been answered, you might have a glimpse into who they are and their style of practice as a care provider...hopefully you will feel as they will be good support to YOU, helping YOU care for yourself and helping YOU to make educated decisions in YOUR care. Lastly, educate yourself. Your Doctor’s input should only be one source of knowledge. Read books, visit respected websites, and question, question, question!

Why is this important? Why does it even matter??? It matters because what that television show showed is not an entirely unrealistic depiction of the majority of other birth stories in our country. I see it happen all too often, I hear testimonies that sound not very far off from it. Women come to us from far away, in seek of having a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean), and most of these women look back with 20/20 hindsight and knowledge gained from the first time around, with very similar stories. It matters because to intervene is NOT the normal process and in reality, it should not be our norm to be a culture of uninformed or misinformed women who electively induce, view epidural anesthesia as a needed or required passage of birth, and who have a 30%+ c-section rate.

It is all intertwined.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Miscarriage, Separation, Feeling Melancholy, and...Being Thankful

Miscarriage is an interesting thing. It happens to you and the first time, it usually blind-sides you- surprises the hell out of you and shocks you. Usually, it’s something you’ve never given thought to. We think of pregnancy and we think of 9 months. At the end of that 9 months, we think of a healthy baby. That’s the way it’s supposed to work, right? But that idea is not entirely realistic. In reality, and perhaps surprising to some, miscarriage is quite common. How common? About 10-25% of all medically documented pregnancies end in miscarriage and it’s thought that as many as 30-40% of all fertilized eggs end up as miscarriages- so early that the women mistakes it for her normal period. My point? My point is…It happens. And usually, it takes having a miscarriage or knowing someone who has miscarried, for you to figure it out. You can be young, completely ‘normal’ (whatever that means…), completely healthy, and do everything right, yet still miscarry. Crazy, right?

My very first pregnancy was a miscarriage. I was newly married, young, and completely healthy. After the whole experience, it surprised me to learn what a common occurrence it was. And while I understood, while I never questioned it, it still stayed with me. It’s of course one of those experiences and memories in life that stay with you. With my subsequent pregnancy, which would thankfully be Aubrey, I was constantly on-guard, constantly keeping watch…Every cramp, every twinge, every trip to the bathroom, subconsciously preparing myself to see that initial tiny speck of blood. But of course it never happened. In the end, I had a somewhat uneventful pregnancy and a healthy baby girl. Very interesting though- I remember how I felt after she was born. As a new mom, the concept of motherhood and having a baby of my own was not as connected as what it was once having a baby was a tangible reality. In other words, once she was in my arms, the reality of miscarriage was that much more stinging. It may not have been a fetus, it may not have even had a heartbeat…it’s not necessarily feeling like you lost a “baby.” That’s not the sad part of it. The sad part is the potential. Thinking, and now as a new mom, seeing the potential of what could have been. That reality was sad. But then I realized that that baby I now had in my arms would not have been the same baby if I had carried the other pregnancy to term. Things would have been different- different egg, different sperm, different time in my life. Nothing would have been the same and now this new being before me would not have been my reality.

A year and a half later and I was pregnant with Ethan and you would think having had a normal, successful pregnancy would have eased my mind. I did go on to have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby #2, but I learned, through that experience and through since supporting other women through their pregnancies, that a miscarriage stays with you. It makes it real. You never quite let down that guard because you’ve been there and you’ve experienced that as your reality.

Now, after we’ve experienced the excitement of finding out we were pregnant, and anticipated the months of pregnancy ahead, we’ve just as quickly found out that we miscarried. In an instant, the excitement, the happiness, and the anticipation were taken away- only to be replaced by a host of other emotions. First thing I thought were my own words from my previous blog, haunting me, yet reaffirming their truth-

“…I feel that same intricate delicacy for the life within me. Everything in life and the outcomes that transpire are ever so fragile. We, like a developing life, are hanging on by a thread. Will it work out? What will tomorrow bring? We don't know. The thread is delicate and can break at any given moment, sending us down another path, or taking it all away.”

Am I sad? Slightly. Am I disappointed? Extremely. Do I understand? Entirely. My previous words say it well. I acknowledge and believe that I, myself, play only a small role in my life. I’m not the most devout, I’m not the best Christian, but I believe and serve the Lord. I believe that He has a purpose much greater than what I can and ever will understand. My knowledge is oh-so limited and I know better than to question something when I do not know the greater plan. So I accept it for what it is and I look at my life and realize that really nothing is what I had envisioned, but yet I have the most beautiful, wonderful life. So I trust in what got me here.

The hardest part? Not having Glen. I hated that he was not here with me. I hated that he could not see that ultrasound. I hated that he was not by my side to hold me through the physical pain. I hated that I had to feel the disappointment without him. He was in another world- literally a world apart from the goings on of Wasilla, Alaska.

I learned that while I am an incredibly strong, independent person, life is just not the same without him. I do not…I cannot…be without him. I refuse. His love and his support and his presence…they are everything to me, they strengthen and fuel me, and catalyze me. Doesn’t matter what gets thrown at us- I can handle it and accept it, but I want him beside me.

But above the disappointment, above the loneliness, there is an incredible feeling within me of thankfulness…

I’m thankful for the beautiful mess of life that I’m here to experience.

I’m thankful for the love that surrounds me.

I’m thankful for even just the potential of life and the ability to get pregnant.

...And to exerience all of this with the love of my life.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


October 24, 2010

There's this little funky shop in SeaTac airpot, bursting at the seams with a plethora of miscellaneous goods- accessories, books, decor. The tiny shop is filled with these items and the like.

I love the shop and all of its eclectic intracasies, but upon entering it, I dance the fine line between interest of all the wares and the sheer sensory overload of it all. Lord forbid you take a kid in there with you- I can envision me loaded, bogged down with luggage, pillow, and the ridiculously expensive airport Brookstone fuzzy blanket that the kids beg me to buy every time in one hand, and with my other hand, unsuccessfully wrangling Ethan and his three year-old antics, him trying and successfully touching every piece of merchandise in the store.

With that thought, I was thankful to be alone.

As I was walking out, only having looked at half the store but my eyes already crossing, there was a wall filled with frames and plaques of inspirational sayings. One stood out to me...

The plaque said the following...
"What lies behind us and what lies ahead, are tiny fragments compared to what lies within us."

I stood there for a moment, staring at the words and unknowingly digesting them, analyzing them, contemplating them. Is that really true? Are the events of our past and our future really tiny fragments compared to what lies within us? Because I think I have to disagree. The problem is that to agree would be to downplay the importance, the magnitude, of our past. The past is not so tiny.

Perhaps I am as good a testament as any to the magnitude one's past holds. Tiny fragments compared to what lies within us? No. The past IS what lies within us.

In the same pulse and breath that I wrote that, my heart filled with a million overwhelming emotions. The past does make up what we are, does make US, and it is indiscriminate- good and bad, our past is present within us, both with the wonderful positive memories that have molded us, but it also rears its gruesome head through all of our ugly, painful memories. You can't get away from it- they're experiences and memories that have been forever engrained.

Sometimes it's not even YOUR past that affects you. Someone else's past can be just as profound. It can mold you, teach you, hurt you, and haunt you. I know this to be true. But perhaps when my heart swells with that feeling of hurt that makes my chest ache, makes it hard to swallow, and takes my breath away, I can remind myself that perhaps the greatest of these is TEACH. I can take it as it is. It's not my past, but it's still within me. The great news is that it's the past. I can choose to take it with all its glory and bask in the glory that we are where we are. We are HERE.

I can close my eyes and in a split second, I have flashes of my life- particular ones, relevant ones. Behind me and before me- even things that have yet to come.

I see and feel Vegas summer nights- the sun long down but yet still nearly 100 degrees, the sound of locusts so loud, it's either comforting or insanity provoking.

I see my parents and brother- not as they are now, but as they were. I see Wisconsin in fading September and I can remember what it feels like to have a family. And then in the back of my mind I hear a line out of "Garden State"- What is 'family?' What is 'Home?' Maybe that's what it is- a group of people who hang on to the same imaginary place, hanging on to the memories that connect them, even though connections may no longer exist, and that place called 'Home' is just a distant memory. What is 'Home?' Where is 'Home?' Your guess is as good as mine.

Then I see Aubrey- freshly having made her entrance into the world, fire engine red, swollen from birth, head full of dark hair, screaming with all of her might. A defining moment for me in that hospital bed- her screams, to this day, resounding in my head, "Go THIS way!" Only I didn't hear her message then.

And now I see Glen- I can smell him and feel him- both physically and emotionally. I feel his love and feel such strong, true, powerful love for him. In my glance at our life as it is, I see all of the events that came before. It's one of those things where it's appropriate to sum it up with, "If you only knew..." I'd like to tell the story, but it's impossible to tell the story and do it justice. There were so many life events, circumstances that twisted and turned, contorted and intertwined to pave the way for us. So fragile and delicate in its process- any wrong turn, any fraction of interference and it simply would not have been. The outcome would have been entirely different. A process ever so intricate, ever so delicate- there can be no question that there was the hands of a greater Power at work.

I feel that same intricate delicacy for the life within me. Everything in life and the outcomes that transpire are ever so fragile. We, like a developing life, are hanging on by a thread. Will it work out? What will tomorrow bring? We don't know. The thread is delicate and can break at any given moment, sending us down another path, or taking it all away.

I feel an immense connection to Glen and pure excitement knowing that we are growing a baby. It is truly amazing what life brings. Excitement, anticipation, nervousness, and Love.

This is what I feel.