Saturday, July 6, 2013

On labor, forgiveness and a third time around

Watching my best friend have a baby was one of the super-coolest of the super cool moments. 
I heart this photo.  For reals.

For several reasons: 1) because watching a person come into this world is, like, overthetop amazing.  2) It was nice to see that labor and delivery can go the way it's "supposed" to - in other words, if she'd been doing this 100 years ago, both Jess and Lauren would have been totally fine (whereas I'm pretty sure I'd have lost both of mine and/or been dead...).  3) It gave me a new sense of accomplishment over my own labor.

Because, here is what a new mom looks like after 4.5 hours of labor:
Peaceful, relaxed, kinda glowy.
Here is what I looked like after 24 hours of labor:

Like I'd been through a war.  Like the postergirl for abstinence: Hey kids, keep your knees closed, or you'll wind up looking like THIS! (dramatic music plays.)
I've had a fair amount of guilt over the way my labor played out.  I wanted so badly to do the natural childbirth thing, and instead I put myself and my sweet little guy through hell.  His poor, poor head.  My poor everything. 
As I've re-played it, I keep thinking how I "should" have done things better.  I should have held on longer once the pitocin started.  I should have kept pushing so we didn't have to use the vacuum.  I should have been stronger; tougher.  The should haves have plagued me more than a little since August.
After watching Jess, I've finally given myself permission to let all that go.  My misconception is in thinking that people who are able to have truly "natural" childbirths are some sort of superhero and I am not. 
Here's the truth: Jess had 4.5 hours of labor.  Her entire labor from start to finish was less than the time I labored on my own on pitocin.  Not that she is any less awesome for having done it by herself - it's amazing - but I've been comparing apples and oranges.
The truth is that after about 45 minutes of intense, transition-level contractions, she had a moment where she didn't think she could do it anymore.  The contractions were heavy and coming on top of each other, and she was overwhelmed and worn out from having one big contraction.
This was my experience on pitocin.  Once that medicine hit my system, I never had a moment of peace again.  My contractions definitely peaked and lessened, but they never, ever went away.  And they were tough.  I always suspected that laboring on pitocin was a lot like laboring in transition, and after watching Jess, I'm convinced that's accurate - at least for me.  After 45 minutes of this she nearly called it quits.  I did more than five hours on my own, after already doing 12 hours on my own and with no end in sight.  And the knowledge hanging over me that I'd likely need an epidural anyway. 
She pushed five times and a baby appeared.  I pushed with absolutely everything I had for over an hour and still couldn't get him out.  Evidently, I had to push him from like my trachea.  At the end of her experience, Jess was totally wiped.  Exhausted.  I'd been awake close 40 hours in a row and had no food or water for at least 16 of those.  Exhausted?  I needed a whole new word to describe where I was at.
It sounds like there is a jugement or comparison here, and there isn't.  She did an amazing job.  Period.  But all this time, I've felt like I somehow didn't do an amazing job, like I caved early or didn't try hard enough.  If I could have done just a little bit more...
Now that I've seen what it takes under absolutely ideal conditions, I no longer feel that way.  I kicked ass - for hours and hours - even while I was getting my own kicked.

People who do this big job without meds are awesome.  And super lucky that their bodies are able to work flawlessly and easily to make that possible. 

We learned a lot.  And the crazy thing is that after all that, I still hope to go back and do it again.  We'll have to seriously weigh the options and consider whether to go the c-section route, because I can't willingly put another baby through that horrible experience.  The difference between my sweet baby Leah, who was alert, head up, nursing well right off the bat and my poor tiny, cone-headed, dazed Logan was truly alarming. 

But oh how worth it those precious little people are. 

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