This whole anxiety disorder thing is never going to go away. I know that. Nevertheless when my therapist reminds me of that fact, as she did yesterday, it always kicks my ass.
The last few weeks have been crazy and busy and rather wonderful. Of course, the busier one is the less time he or she has to sit down and blog. And I do want to write about my RI friend’s visit, Z’s birthday, my Aunt and Uncle’s trip here, my computer dying, T’s sudden and enthusiastic entry into the world of temper tantrums, and the most embarrassing thing that has happened to me as a parent in public thus far. I plan on getting to most of that stuff, but today I read something that has me in such a tizzy it motivated me to get back to posting.
Let’s be honest. Writing about politics is not going to win me a lot of friends. And much of the political blogging out there is just preaching to the choir, which is a colossal waste of time in my opinion. Most of you guys reading are my friends who share a lot of the same political beliefs as me, and I wish there was a way for me to reach those who disagree, but I honestly have no idea how to do that. And yet my horror and frustration are so acute that I can’t help myself and I’m preaching to the choir anyway.
I am pro-choice. This does not mean I am pro-abortion. I have known several women who have used abortion as birth control, and that cavalier attitude towards pregnancy sickens me. I have also known several women who were careful, still became pregnant, and made the difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy. Probably because I went on the pill before I was sexually active for medical reasons and stayed on it for 15 years I have never had to contend with the impossible decision of whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. Yes, T was unplanned. But we were working towards starting a family, or more specifically Z was working hard on wearing me down. So I have no idea what I would do if faced with an unwanted pregnancy, particularly if I was young and single. But no matter what my choice would be I am grateful to live in a country where I am free to make it myself. And I am worried about the current attack on reproductive rights of American women.
My problem with the proposed provision on stripping federal funding for abortion training extends far beyond a women’s right to choose. And this problem is what I would like to share with those who are pro-life. If this provision becomes law there will be a generation of doctors who are not trained on a basic procedure that saves women’s lives. If a surgical abortion is performed in the first or early second trimester it is either 1. suction and scraping, or 2. dilation, suction, and scraping. The latter is referred to as a D&C. And over a period of 13 months I received two of them. Because D&Cs are not only used in abortions. They are used when part of the placenta is left behind after childbirth, and they are used after missed or incomplete miscarriages.
When part of the placenta is left in the uterus after childbirth a woman can start to experience heavy bleeding, which can lead to passing huge blood clots, which can lead to hemorrhaging, which can lead to death. I only got to the huge blood clot stage before seeking help. And I was nowhere near death, but it was scary enough and I was grateful that my doctor was able to perform the procedure to fix the problem. This complication happens in 2% of deliveries. What if doctors were not trained in how to perform this procedure? The mortality rate for complications from childbirth would skyrocket.
My miscarriage was in the “missed” category. My embryos had stopped developing weeks before the miscarriage was discovered via ultrasound and blood test. The D&C was performed in order to save me from the emotionally and physically painful experience of passing the “products of conception” myself after a waiting period of an undetermined amount of time. Was it a life or death medical necessity? No. But it certainly made the indescribably awful experience of losing a pregnancy slightly more bearable.
This legislation goes beyond the abortion debate and attacks the rights of all women in America. Would any pro-life person want to deny women suffering from the issues I experienced access to this procedure? I truly am shocked it is happening in the 21st century and appalled it was proposed by a woman, Rep. Virginia Foxx. What if she had a retained placenta? What if her mother or daughter did? Do we really want to punish all women over proposed restrictions placed on a legal procedure?
OK, that was kind of heavier than usual. So how about some pictures of T to lighten the mood?
I have to make an appointment with the Ob-Gyn for a little issue (I won’t bore you/gross you out with the details). For months I’ve been meaning to switch doctors from the person who delivered me to the person in the same practice who helped me with the whole piece of placenta still in my uterus thing. But I’ve been sick to my stomach with worry about making the call. Can you switch doctors within a practice? Should I just suck up my discomfort? Do I have to tell my doctor that I felt like she let me down? I couldn’t face all that stuff and did what I do best—procrastinate until something happens that forces me to act.
I am still waiting to hear from the practice to see if the switch can be made, which is kind of a bummer because now there is an urgent matter at hand and if I can’t switch I need to find a new doctor pronto and this all could have been avoided if I had dealt with it in a timely manner, blah, blah, blah.
After I got off the phone with the receptionist the weirdest thing happened. I started crying uncontrollably. And when Z asked if I had called the office last night and I told him yes—you guessed it. I started crying uncontrollably.
T turned 8 months old yesterday. It got me thinking, why am I still so upset about the circumstances surrounding his birth? Every birth has its issues, and mine was not that bad. But I really can’t seem to get over it.
Here is what I came up with: It isn’t the medicalization of my childbirth that I can’t get past, but the dehumanization.
I had preeclampsia. My blood pressure was worrisome and I had to be induced a week early. T’s birth was very medicalized, but I understand why the doctor made the choices she did. If a piece of my placenta had been left behind and I had been treated with compassion I think I would have been cool with the whole thing. I get that mistakes happen and no one is perfect. So I had to go back in and get a D&C. You know what? In the scheme of things it wasn’t the worst experience. It made me stop bleeding. It would have just been another part of his birth story if I felt like the doctor was listening to me.
But I feel like the nurse who helped me deliver, Z, and I all voiced concerns about what was going on and we were all ignored. The nurse was worried about my heavy bleeding less than 2 hours after T was born and she contacted my doctor who was no longer at the hospital. My doctor says that she requested an ultrasound, but one was never given and she didn’t follow up to make sure it happened, or to find out if I was OK. Every morning during the hospital stay you get a visit from your doctor or member of the practice and the baby gets a visit from a pediatrician. The morning after T’s birth I didn’t get a visit. After inquires, the doctor finally sent someone to see me at 3 in the afternoon. Then after I got home I called the office for an appointment because I was worried about the amount of blood I was losing. My doctor’s nurse told me she spoke to my doctor who was sure I was fine, but if I really wanted to come in I could get an appointment with another doctor at the practice for the following day. Through all these events things were going wrong and she wasn’t listening to us. I have never felt so helpless.
Thank God the other doctor realized what was going on and got me some help. He sent me right to the hospital, and to my doctor’s credit she came in to do the procedure though it was her first day of vacation. When she saw me she said she was sorry, but the next thing out of her mouth was she couldn’t believe this happened, it was her first D&C for a left behind placenta in more than 5 years. It was like she had no comprehension that the situation needed to be about me rather than about her.
Again and again she made me feel forgotten. When things started to go wrong it felt like she couldn’t be bothered. If she had acted like she gave a crap or listened to what we were saying I don’t think I would feel so awful about my experience. I wonder if I am obligated to let her know how I feel, or if I can just leave her care without an explanation. Am I a coward for not wanting to have it out with her?
The bigger question is how do I get over it? As my shrink recently pointed out to me it would be wrong to let an awful experience rule my decision to have another child, but at this point it is. If I do decide to have another child at least I will understand the importance of finding a doctor who is completely engaged. I can handle medical bumps in the road if I feel like my doctor gives a shit.
*Things didn’t go terribly smoothly with my labor and its aftermath. So if you are pregnant you really might not enjoy reading this.
Cast of characters—T, my son who is 7 months old, and Z my husband of almost 10 years. Let’s start when T joined the party.
Four weeks before Thomas was due I was diagnosed with preeclampsia. So I had to be on bed rest for 3 weeks until I was induced. Zeke was alone packing the apartment in Providence and I was at an extended stay hotel in Syracuse with my mom for more than a week. Mom was great, Zeke was great, but this was a very stressful situation. Duh. We closed on our new house without a hitch on the 4th of August. The moving van arrived on the 5th, and we were frantically unpacking (by we I mean Z and my mom) because we only had a week until the baby arrived. We were scheduled for a weekend birthing class, but I had to miss it on doctors orders because the preeclampsia had me sort of messed up.
So we showed up at the hospital to have the baby on August 12th at 6pm. I didn’t have a clear picture of how I wanted my birth to go. I didn’t have a clear picture of how anything would go. I hadn’t even been inside the hospital. I was scared shitless. We were brought to the room by a really nice nurse and I was explaining to her about the move and the new house and new job and lack of preparedness for labor and I started to cry. Hard. I was trying to swallow the tears, but I totally couldn’t talk. She kept asking me questions and I kept looking at Z. Luckily he understood my looks meant “answer the damn questions! I can’t speak right now!” And luckily he had all the answers. And most luckily the nurse was very sympathetic. She got choked up too, told me I had to stop crying or she was going to cry as well.
So everyone was very nice to me. I think they sort of thought “Oh we need to be very careful with the crazy unprepared lady in room 19.” And the Cervidil went in to get the party started.
My water broke at about 2:20, which felt kind of cool. Kind of like a creaking wrenching in my belly that was unlike anything I had every felt before, but wasn’t really unpleasant. The contractions came immediately and they were strong. I didn’t make it 2 hours before begging for the epidural. We spent most of those 2 hours in the bathroom. Z kept asking if I wouldn’t like to go back to the bed and I really didn’t understand why it didn’t make sense to him that the bathroom felt much safer.
After the epidural I got 2 hours of sleep, and then I woke up experiencing the intense pressure which translated to the worst pain I’ve ever felt. I’d dilated to 7 cm. Being induced just made it all go so fast. I was fully dilated by 8 am and it was the longest hour and a half of my life getting there. I thought there wasn’t supposed to be much pain with the epidural, but sweet Mary mother of god it was terrible.
The doctor finally told me to push. Z was holding one leg, my mom had the other and I tried. And promptly announced I would be unable to continue. Not being prepared for labor really was a stupid move. I didn’t have any concept that I was expected to push through the worst pain of my life. It simply did not seem reasonable or possible to me. Everyone in the room except for me seemed to be on the same page. They made it clear to me that really there wasn’t another option and I was going to have to push the baby out. I tried very hard to explain to them that it wouldn’t be happening, but they were really persistent.
So I pushed and pushed and pushed for 2 ½ hours. I fully expected to crap all over the place because I’ve heard that happens, but I didn’t. Every time I pushed I did pee everywhere. Al least the doctor was laughing. She said that she’d never seen anything like it. I was all pumped full of fluids so the amount of urine was truly amazing.
It was real work. I thought it might just be a TV and movies thing that laboring women were covered in sweat, but nope that is totally the real deal. And in between contractions I was so exhausted I fell right asleep. The pain would stop and I’d be out like a light until the pain started again. Evidently when you go into labor naturally it all sort of slowly builds up. Your good old vagina stretches out and the pain builds and builds rather than hitting you like a freight train. My doctor, who said she never did episiotomies had to snip me open to get the baby out. And even with the snips I managed to tear. Most ladies tear in a straight line, but I am an expert at being difficult so I tore in a Y.
And now we get to the one part of this experience that was magical. The doctor told me to grab the baby after I pushed his shoulders out and put him on my stomach. I will be grateful for that moment for the rest of my life. And they left him on me as I birthed the placenta and they sewed me up. So I got about 20 minutes with him. Didn’t see his little face and I couldn’t move myself or him so I had to wait until later for that. It really helped to have him there because the tears were so deep that I got to feel the stitches going in even with the epidural.
So about that placenta…I really wanted to see it cause I’m gross like that, but was too weak to ask. I clearly remember the doctor saying there was an extra lobe on it, but that it all seemed to be there. Um, yeah more on that later.
Jesus this is really long. I’ll try and just get the major points down. I wasn’t doing a good job of slowing down with the bleeding. When I got up to go to the bathroom I almost fainted for the first time in my life, and I couldn’t pee on my own. My bits were all swollen. So in went a catheter. And the nurse was pretty nervous about all the bleeding and called in a doctor. By this time the epidural had been turned off. The doctor examined me and then reached up into my uterus and pulled out blood clots. Zeke said some were the size of his hand. This was by far the most awful painful invasive part of the entire experience.
I asked Z if the weirdest part of the day was watching a baby come out of my vagina and he said nope, it was the number of people who very casually put their hands up my vagina.
Eventually I made it down to recovery. Where I continued to bleed like a maniac. I found out months later that Z was noticing all the other new moms walking around the halls while I was stuck in the bed with a nurse changing a blood soaked pad underneath me with alarming regularity. He inquired as to whether this was normal and assured it was.
When I finally made it to the bathroom and looked in the mirror I saw that there were purple blotches all over my face. I asked the nurse what they were in a panic and she said I’d burst blood vessels while I was pushing. I was so angry at Z for not telling me about them. He looked at me like I was nuts and said that he would be crazy to tell me in the state I was in. Which was a really good point.
I also remember a new nurse checking me out and changing the bloody pad. When she looked down below she involuntarily gasped and said “Oh no!” I asked what was wrong and she it was just that I was so bruised and torn up that my recovery would be similar to a c-section. I remember thinking “Awesome!”
So we got home in one piece, but the bleeding wasn’t slowing. Then the blood clots began. They were big and they were scary. Looking back on it my mother, Zeke and I all feel like we can’t believe we let it go on for as long as we did. We all knew deep down something was wrong, that this was not normal. Days later the nice doctor who ascertained that there was a piece of my placenta still in my uterus had to fish out even more blood clots before he could do the ultrasound. That involved pain like you wouldn’t believe.
He said I needed to call Z and tell him to meet me at the hospital. I started to cry and said “Do we have to do it today?” The doctor was very fatherly. He looked at me and said “You’re the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my life! Do you want to stop bleeding?” So we went off to the hospital to get a D&C. Basically they vacuumed me right out. They also put in new stitches because the blood clots stretched out the ones already there. But thankfully I was sedated and didn’t feel any of that. Unfortunately the recovery period was extended and the doctor still wanted me on bed rest for an additional 4 weeks.
Yeah, yeah, yeah this is gonna mostly be about T…um I just noticed this was pretty much only about me. Well clearly I am incredibly self absorbed. T was perfect and healthy. I loved him instantly, which was a shocker. I was so scared and reluctant to enter motherhood that I worried about bonding, but it wasn’t an issue. Things were just so scary and messed up but those feelings and events felt very removed from him. In between all the bad stuff I was holding him and feeding him and blissed out with happiness while I was getting to know him.