Sunday, March 07, 2010

Bubble Up

My cousin had her baby on Friday. I found out she went into labor in the morning and waited by the phone all day, anxious to hear news of her progress. I was totally unprepared for how M's experience would stir up undealt-with emotions from my own birth experience. When, as it turns out, her labor mirrored mine down to almost every last detail, I went a little crazy.

Every text message or relative seemed to deliver worse news: medical interventions, dangerously low heart rate, cord wrapped around the baby's torso (this was not something I experienced with Miles), and an eventual emergency c-section. My response to her delivery was so complex: I was a little jealous of my cousin because she got to the stage of pushing, but then was totally not jealous that she pushed for three hours before the doctor "called it" and rushed her to the OR. I was delighted to hear I have a new baby cousin, with red hair no less! But I was truly sad thinking about the way he entered the world. I am not saying that my cousin was devastated by what happened to her at all. I was devastated just thinking about that whole process.

I am heartbroken that another mom had to have major abdominal surgery, had to have her organs moved around and placed on her chest, that another mom can't get out of bed for a week (at least!) to tend to the needs of her crying newborn and change diapers in the middle of the night. My heart just aches for all these damaged bodies with staples in their skin. My cousin is allergic to Demoral...they had to find a nursing-friendly alternative pain medication to ease the burning she felt around her incision. I can't imagine that.

What is going on that more than 30% of babies are born until extreme conditions like this? Why do I feel so powerless when faced with news of such happenings? I need to work through these feelings and find an outlet for my political childbirth energy. This month's ICAN meeting (the first I'll get to attend!) can't come soon enough.


P said...

Katy, I meant to recommend to you The Woman In The Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction, by Emily Martin. I'm reading it now, and though it's older (pub. 2001), it covers a lot of ground I think would interest you.

p said...

Would you have risked your life or the life or your child, or had your cousin do the same?

Obviously these are not the ideal and there are statistics that show numbers much higher than "needed" - but on a case-by-case basis, who is going to take that risk and keep pushing? if you were the medical professional could you ask a mother to take that risk even if insurance was not a factor?

Anonymous said...

ps i'm not asking those questions to poke at you but because i cant understand the reaction, kind of like someone can't understand ptsd by watching someone go through it

Katy said...

obviously i didn't choose to risk mw's life and chose a c-section. but, i strongly feel like doctors in the US play what's called the "dead baby card" and bully mothers into thinking there is a greater perceived risk for the child. for instance, many mothers are encouraged to have a cesarean because their baby is "too big". mothers are told that to deliver vaginally will cause shoulder dysphasia or paralysis in the baby. many of these estimates come from ultrasound size estimates...the babies are frequently born weighing less than 7 pounds.

other mothers are encouraged to get medical interventions like pitocin or medical induction. these medical interventions pile up and, eventually, the babies are in real distress and surgery is a real and emergent need that might otherwise not have been there.

when i look at cesarean rates in other nations, i can't help but wonder what is going on that so many births in the united states are such drastic emergencies while so many births in other nations are problem-free, vaginal births.

there was a fantastic new york times article this week about a hospital in the US with a 13% c-section rate: i think the author covers many of the things that make me upset about birth in the us.

Valtastic said...

Out of the 30% I wonder how many of them are requested by the mother. I know my cousin begged the doctor for a c-section and pretended she forgot anything from birthing classes. I always said if I happen to get knocked (since I plan on adopting) that I want a c-section.. all the ripping and tearing they tout doesn't sound as bad as the glamourized c-section.. but no one talks about the pain and recover from that.