Thursday, February 17, 2011

Natural Childbirth or OMGWTFRUCRAZY?

So now that we got the baby IN there, we've got 9 months to figure out how to get it OUT.  Buckle your seat belt, guys, cause I'm about to blow your minds.  I'm planning to have a natural childbirth.

Go ahead, freak out.  I'm used to it.

Seriously though, when I tell people that I'm planning a natural childbirth, you would think I am telling them that I'm going to give myself a c-section in my kitchen with my Wustof poultry shears, but don't worry, A will be on hand with plenty of neosporin and bandaids.  To be totally honest, I find their horror to be a bit amusing and I've started saying "natural childbirth" in a high spooky voice just for the thrill it gives me to watch people lose their shit right in front of me.

In all fairness, though, this is just a symptom of the world we live in.  Our entire lives have been medicalized, we are conditioned that our bodies are generally broken and that medicine has the answer to all our problems, whether they are physical, mental or emotional.  Here's the thing, though.  I just don't buy it.  Especially when it comes to childbirth.

I first became interested in natural childbirth years ago, when as a women's studies student I first learned about the medicalization of childbirth.  How was it that we went from dropping babies on the side of a road and going back to work to a world of cesareans and epidurals?  That's not even digressing to the days where women were literally tied down and knocked out as their babies were pulled out of their bodies.  It's a long, long story with many twists and turns, and too much to go into in this blog post, but perhaps one day when I'm feeling particularly feisty and enraged I'll outline it for you, my avid readers.  At any rate, I began studying midwifery back in my college days, going so far as to consider pursuing it as a career path for awhile.  I began seeing a midwife for all of my well woman care years ago, so it was most logical that when the time came I would pursue natural childbirth.

Now, I'm not going to say that when I realized that the rubber was gonna hit the road I didn't pause and really think about what I was going to do.  I mean, it was one thing for 18 year old NOT PREGNANT self to poo poo the modern conveniences of hospital labor, but here I was 10 years older and wiser, and, most importantly PREGNANT.  So I gave myself an out.  Really considered what I wanted to do.  Pulled out some of my old books.  Bought some new books.  Talked to my husband.  Imagined how I would feel in different scenarios.  At my first offical prenatal appointment at the Birth Center, I recognized how relaxed I felt, how I shared my feelings like I was talking to an old friend.  I knew I was in the right place.

I'm not going to tell you that I'm not afraid of childbirth or that I'm not nervous about it.  I mean come on, even YOU would see that is a load of poopy.  But what I can tell you is that I believe 100% that I can do it.  More importantly, I believe that my body was MADE to do it, carefully designed with just this purpose in mind.  So much of modern birth involves things that "could go wrong," but the truth is that without needless intervention, things rarely do.  The female body is equipped for this task, from conceiving a child to growing that child, all the way though birthing that child and nourishing that child.  I always loved that the literal definition of midwife is to be "with woman" - that the role of  a midwife is to support a woman as she progresses through the natural process of pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period.  I don't expect it to be easy, but then again, what part of parenting is. One of my favorite quotes is from a midwife who told a laboring mother "This is not the hardest thing you will do for this child."  Isn't that the truth?

The only post script I'll give to any of this is that the ultimate goal of this whole deal is a live baby and a healthy Mama.  So if things happen that change the natural process or endanger the baby in any way, all bets are off.  I'm not so tied to the idea of a happy earth mother birth that I would ever risk the health of the baby.  But I'm comfortable and confident that the women caring for me wouldn't ever put either of us in danger.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

A whole day all about love! What a treat!  I know that we should always the people we love that we love them EVERY day, but the truth of the matter is that life gets awfully busy, and whether you mean it or not it's not always easy to stay focused on the important things.  BUT -  to have a whole day devoted to LOVE, well I don't care if it's a made up Hallmark holiday or I get screwed by the florist AND the chocolate manufacturers, I LOVE IT!

In fact, this is going to be a very short post because I am off to celebrate with my loves - all FIVE of them!  I am a lucky, lucky, and very loved girl indeed.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Healthy Baby

Since finding out that I'm expecting, I've discovered a popular buzz phrase that comes out in almost any discussion surrounding the baby.  It generally appears when people ask if we're finding out the baby's gender, when people who know my super-ultra-girliness assume that I have all my appendages crossed that I'm growing a little one of the female variety.  The universal response to all of this is a quick dismissal - "It doesn't matter, as long as its healthy," which people toss out confidently as if the mere act of uttering it will make it true.

Last week we went in for our first trimester scan.  Honestly, I didn't understand a lot of the medical stuff surrounding the test, I just knew that it involved an ultrasound and anything that included a peek a boo session with baby seemed like fun to me.  It wasn't until we were sitting in the waiting room with a packet describing the various test results that it really dawned on me what we would be finding out today.  Down syndrome, Trisomy 18, Trisomy 21 and other congenital heart defects would likely show up in this screening.  I started to get nervous, and then I thought of Eliot.

Eliot is a very a special boy who had Trisomy 18.  But that was not what defined him.  I found his blog years ago, through the wonder of google while looking for different spellings of the name Eliot (Elliott, Elliot, Eliott) as we were in the process of naming our cat.  I did not know that google search would lead me down a rabbit hole that would fundamentally change the way I viewed people who were "different."  I checked Eliot's blog faithfully, rejoicing as he overcame challenges and his parents celebrated each and every one of his accomplishments.  I am not ashamed to say that I wept when I logged on to learn that after 99 amazing days of life, Eliot had left this world for the next one.  A few weeks later I wrote to his parents.  I was honest.  I told them that I was 24 years old, that I believed in God but didn't go to church.  Didn't have any scripture to quote.   That I was pro-choice.  That until I met Eliot, I likely wouldn't have thought much about terminating a pregnancy that I knew would end with a child who would not survive.  But I told that Eliot had changed the way that I thought about the world.  That he had redefined the way that I thought about ability and disability, about achievement, about the value of an individual life.  Eliot and his parents made me reconsider what it really meant to live life to it's fullest and to find joy in everyday life and to understand that every situation, even the darkest cloud, has a silver lining.  Years later, I still have a photo of Eliot hanging on my bulletin board as a reminder of how he changed me.

As I sat in the exam room last Wednesday, I thought back to Eliot and I found another gift he had given me that I hadn't even unwrapped yet.  What if we found out that I was carrying a baby like Eliot, with Trisomy 18?  What then?  Well, I'm not going to be naive and say that we wouldn't be worried and upset and scared.  Of course, we would be all those things and more.  But I can also say that I understand that parenting any child is full of challenges.  And from Eliot I learned that parenting any child is also full of joy, expected and unexpected.

It ended up that after all that, we had a clean scan.  We were happily given the news that everything looked "normal" and that it looks, at least for now, that we are on track for a "a healthy baby."  But I didn't quite feel the relief I expected.

A healthy baby.  What does that mean, anyway?  Healthy as in physically able?  I mean, I suppose that we obviously hope our child is able to breathe, to eat, to have a body that functions normally, to have those ten little fingers and toes.  But that doesn't mean that we get a free pass.  Every child brings challenges.  Maybe they are physical challenges.  Maybe they are emotional challenges.  Maybe they are just babies who don't sleep or teenagers who drive too fast and fall in with a bad crowd.  I'm not going to say that some of these aren't worse than others - to have a child unable to live off a ventalator is quite different than a child who struggles to learn to read, for example.  But parenting isn't a contest, and every challenge is relevant.   I don't expect that any of it will be easy.

But the more I thought about it, the more I began to understand that to become a parent means to look at all those possibilities, known and unknown, straight on and say:  "I will love you anyway.  I will love you if you are a girl or a boy.  I will love you if your body is perfect or if you have physical limitations.  I will love you if you have emotional problems.  I will love you when you are seven years old and won't eat your green beans and I will love you when you are nineteen years old and fail your freshman year of college.  I will love you when you are successful and I will love you when you fail.  I will love you every day of your life no matter how long your life is, and we will be happy, together, if for no other reason than we will make it so."

This is what I believe it means to be a parent, having no practical experience of my own yet.  At times, I feel woefully unprepared, but I also know that perhaps this is the best thing.  One day we'll leave home as two, and come home as three, and then we'll start learning the rest of it together.  What I do know is this - "healthy" or not, every baby is a blessing, and every baby offers the opportunity for joy.  Thanks, Eliot.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Your Bad Day Just Got Worse

Today I woke up to the awesomest sound in the world. 

The sound of a cat throwing up.

I quickly jumped out of bed yelling, "A, ONE OF THE CATS IS THROWING UP!" as I scrambled to grab a towel and frantically searched for the culprit.

While it is usually our little Simon who is the puker in the family, I found Elliott engaged in a cycle of vicious heaving.  But Simon, being the compassionate, kind, caring soul that he is, was stationed right beside his brother for moral support and you could almost hear him encouraging, "It's okay, brother, let it out!  It will be okay" the same way we do for him when he's not feeling well.

Elliott looked at Simon, heaved a few more times and let lose a stream of vomit. 

Right across Simon's face!  In his eye!  Simon bolted upright and began blinking furiously - that shit had to burn!  I yelled for A -- "ELLIOTT JUST PUKED ON SIMON'S FACE!  IN HIS EYE!"  I scooped poor Simon up and took him to the bathroom where A and I wiped his face with a warm washcloth and tried hard not to laugh.  We cleaned the carpet and gave Elliott some snuggles too.

And when everything was all cleaned up we looked at each other and laughed so hard I began to cry.  Only in our house. 

Seriously dudes.  You just can't make this shit up.