Monday, April 6, 2009

It Doesn't Matter (Or Does It?)

You know how people say "It doesn't matter how a baby gets here; a healthy baby is all that matters."? This is something I've been mulling over ever since my son's everything-I-didn't-want delivery left me with some very real feelings of inadequacy and personal failure. I know they say it doesn't matter how a baby makes his entrance into the world, but is that really completely true? What if a child's birth leaves a mother not only physically scarred, but emotionally damaged as well? Is the healthy child, then, really all that matters? What about the needs of the mother?

This is not to minimize the miraculous gift of a healthy baby, or the necessary medical interventions that save the lives of thousands of babies (and mothers) every year. And this does not excuse irrational women who are so determined to have their babies their way (without regard to competent medical advice) that they truly do put their infants and themselves in mortal danger. But I do believe that sometimes there is too much focus on the baby and the doctor's personal preferences, and not enough focus on the woman who is actually doing the delivering (and that's another thing - I'm sorry, but doctors do not "deliver" babies, moms deliver babies. Doctors are just there to sign for the package).

I've been thinking about this again as a friend of mine just raced spectacularly across the pregnancy finish-line with a three-hour, drug-free delivery, and one of my sisters-in-law is fervently hoping that her body will cooperate and decide to go into labor on its own so she will not be stuck with another c-section.

Suddenly I'm remembering my son's delivery, during which I had absolutely no control over anything. My doctor gave me timelines on which my uterus was supposed to cooperatively dilate. And then she put tubes, hoses, and monitors over every square inch of my body and in every available orifice and wouldn't even allow me to get up to walk around or use the restroom. It was like a gun had been fired to start the race, but I, as the star runner, was commanded to hold still and see if I could make it to the finish-line in a set time without moving a muscle. It was ridiculous.

I ended up with a c-section that I didn't want because my body would simply not conform to the mandatory babies-have-this-long-to-come-out guidelines. I was so numbed up from my epidural that I was partially paralyzed, and couldn't even move my arm to touch my son after he was born. I couldn't sit up in the recovery room to hold him because the resulting pain in my shoulders was so great. I didn't feel him come out of my body, I didn't get to see him come out, and if he hadn't been yanked out of my uterus, I would have felt completely unnecessary to the entire process.

I have struggled with my emotions about this ever since. I tell myself over and over that the "how" of the delivery was trivial compared to having a healthy little boy who arrived safely. I tell myself I should not care how he got here. But the fact remains that I do care, and I care a great deal. And these are not emotions that I feel should be ignored by any doctor, regardless of how professional her opinion may be.

There are two indispensable people to the process of birth, and the needs of both should be taken into account. So I have to say that, no, having a healthy baby really isn't all that matters.

A healthy mother is important, too.


MyDonkeySix said...

It does matter. With Jacob and Rachel, they came fast. The nurses kept telling me to slow it down and that I was having a hard time not pushing. I felt bad afterward that I couldn't control it, but my body goes when it is ready and there is NO stopping. That is why Jimmy was the best delivery. He started to come, but the doctor wasn't there yet. However, the nurse just calmly sat on my bed and delivered him. No pressure about stopping, she just let it happen. It was wonderful! You want to feel like a success after that huge life changing event, not a failure! It's all about having good doctors and nurses.

fiona said...

I think if it matters to the mother, then it matters. I've heard of many women who feel the same as you do, yet have their feelings trivialized by others who say, "it doesn't matter!" It's one of the most important events in a woman's life, the birth of her child, and should be one where she is involved, even *gasp!* in charge! (as much as is safely possible.)

This view might sound weird coming from who has no regrets at all about her c-section, but therein is the key. I had a say in it; that's what I chose, more or less. Sure, I could have pushed for trying naturally, and having twins most definitely doesn't mean you have to have a c-section(and in fact at first I was planning/hoping to do it normally), but that's what FELT RIGHT to me for the twins' delivery, based on our circumstances, and I have not once regretted it. I even had a quick, easy recovery! But I would love to do it the normal way, too, be more involved.

Anyway...Your feelings do matter, you have every right to feel this way, and it doesn't take away from the gratitude you have for Michael or the love you feel for him. (Not that you feel that way, but I've heard other women say they were made to feel guilty when they expressed their similar feelings, as if they didn't fully appreciate the sweet little "end result"!)

Sara said...

"But I do believe that sometimes there is too much focus on the baby and the doctor's personal preferences, and not enough focus on the woman who is actually doing the delivering."

I COULD NOT AGREE MORE. I was saved in my delivery by a nurse who was a certified doula and a midwife-in-training - and she became my partner as we took control of the world. I was a "pain-in-the-nether-regions" patient, but I had heard too many stories of moms-to-be being railroaded into a delivery they didn't want for no other reason than it didn't fit a prescribed pattern. It's the big reason that made me select a Midwife this time around.

And honestly? It DOES make a difference. I can tell you from being on the other end - it's empowering, and I cry that women end up with deliveries that make them feel like they had no part in the birth. Whatever kind of birth you have, if you get a say, it makes all the difference.


overlyactive said...

I totally agree with you Bonnie. My first birth was terrible in that I felt out of control of my situation. I thought I wanted a natural birth but I didn't have the support from anyone around me and that just doesn't work. It took me three tries to get it right. My last two were perfect births in my eyes. What I thought was a perfect birth could be completely different for someone else. My sister in law loves her C section deliveries and after clouts how "easy" her labor and even recovery is. I really think it's very individualized. I have a wonderful doctor who totally was in support of me having a doula. It made the most difference for me. I pray you will be able to have another delivery or at least come with peace with your first. Tons of love! Heather

Rob and Erin said...

Thank you, Bonnie. I had a VERY similar experience with our first. I was devastated after the c-section. It took me a long while to come to terms with it. I did learn a lot. One of those things being that it does indeed matter. I'm sorry you had to go through that.