Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Dream That Changed My "Birth Plan"

The other night I had a dream that I think will change the way I think about birth forever.

My husband and I were at home, doing our best to work through my contractions as long as possible before heading to the hospital. My water hadn't broke and we were walking around the house, I was bouncing on our exercise ball (using it as a birthing ball) in and out of a warm shower, and my husband was helping me the whole way through. Finally we decided to go to the hospital to see how far along I was since the contractions were strong and close together. I was hoping my pain tolerance was stronger than most and that we'd get there learning I was close to fully dilated.

When we arrived at the hospital they sat me down and checked me. I was dilated to 6cm. Not bad. I was just worried they'd tell me I was something like a 3 and that they couldn't check me in yet. I remember hearing that situation with a few of my friends and wondered if my pain tolerance would be at their level.

They wheeled me into a delivery room where I labored some more. My contractions were strong but I was trying my best to resist the need for pain medication. I figured if I could say no to that I might as well say no to everything else.

Every time the nurses came in they would check me and offer me some sort of intervention: Pitocin, breaking my water, epidural. I was worried if I gave in to one I'd be "trapped" into the rest leading to a c-section... Which I really didn't want.

I did reluctantly agree to them putting a set of "headphones" on my belly which was suppose to track my baby's heart beat. They said that would help them monitor the baby and let them know if anything was going wrong. I wondered why they needed constant monitoring when a doppler now and then could do the trick but I didn't argue too much.

After a little while a nurse mentioned that my baby's heartbeat was going down every time I had a contraction and I mentioned that could be normal and was no reason to sound an alarm.

When she left, I pulled my husband over and told him we'd better watch out and make sure we don't feel rushed into anything. I laid in bed for awhile when nurses started to come in.

For some reason they started to wheel my bed into another room. My husband followed behind and I told him to keep an eye out. I said I was worried they were going to put me to sleep and cut me open when I didn't know. He promised me he wouldn't let that happen and he'd stay right next to me, and no mater what, we wouldn't get a cesarean.

They pushed my bed into a room with a machine that looked like a cat scan machine, and my practice's midwife was there to greet me. She told me there was something wrong with my baby. At first I was thinking it was some kind of ploy, but then she turned on a big TV with an ultrasound image of my baby and she didn't look human at all. She looked like she had a bird-shaped skull, and a dinosaur-like spine and as if she was overgrown and completely deformed.

The midwife told me my daughter had pinkscriptocytosis (no idea where that came from but it was the word I remember from my dream). My eyes began to swell and my train of thought shifted completely.

"Is she going to be ok?" Was all I could manage.

My midwife went on to tell me what that condition means and that she could maybe learn to walk around the age of five...

Everything else she was saying wasn't sinking in. I just kept staring at the image of my baby and wondering what I did wrong. What did I do? I thought I had been safe, healthy, careful. All I could do was blame myself. I also wondered why we didn't detect this earlier but mostly wondered how in the world we'd get her here safely.

I was so angry for worrying so much about doctors taking advantage of me and for not worrying about how my baby was doing and how healthy she'd be once she got here. I was so worried about being "tricked" that I missed something. All I could do was cry.

I woke up completely startled, sweating, scared, and confused. I was shaking as I tried to digest what I had just been through, or thought I had been through. My LittleLady bug was kicking in my stomach, as if she was telling me she's ok.

I went to the bathroom still thinking about the dream, reminding myself it WAS just a dream and that my baby girl is just fine. It was about 3am and I did my best to go back to sleep. It wasn't easy.

My husband woke up from my restlessness and I told him I had a bad dream. He asked me what about but I didn't feel like going into details.

In the morning I woke him up to tell him the full story and tried to sort out my thoughts with him.

We frequently discuss birth and how we'd like it to go, but also the way some corporate systems work. We're well aware of the fact that not everyone in the medical field is truthful. Last year we had a horrible experience with a newly graduated densist who insisted that I had 13 cavities that needed to be drilled and filled. After getting a second opinion from a family dentist we trust, we discovered I in fact only had three very tiny cavities that barely needed work.

We understand people sometimes do things to make things easier, safer, or better for them while ignoring the opinions and feelings of the patient.

We talked about how we'd like our labor to go... We'd go as natural as possible but discuss every option brought before us, no matter how often. We're not going to focus on bringing a piece of paper with us stating "this is our birth plan" because we know that paper only does so much. Things can change and although I may decide and write "no epidural" for now... 30 hours of active labor with my pain tolerance, plus, yes, possibly a nagging nurse may make me decide to say "screw it, give me the drugs." But if I do, that's ok, because the plan is to be as educated as possible so we can feel comfortable making decisions as we go.

We don't want to focus on a personal contract we sit down to write now, only to reflect on it once again later, cursing ourselves for not "sticking to the plan." Our PLAN is to stick to a healthy birth practices outline such as those by Lamaze. Our PLAN is to make wise decisions together and be flexible. Our PLAN is to enjoy the experience together. Our PLAN is to have my husband cut the umbilical cord, and for our baby girl to be placed on my chest as quickly as possible. Our PLAN is to have a CHD test after birth, to breastfeed, and to have a safe and healthy recovery.

I'm not going to plan to skip the epidural no matter what only to discover I can't stand the pain and change my mind later. I can plan not to have a c-section but during labor discover my baby girl has her cord wrapped around her neck. I'd change my mind then an opt for surgery. Then what of my plan? I am scared to death to make a promise to myself that I won't keep, then cause myself so much regret after the birth of my baby because of self-disappointment.

It reminds me of planning for a wedding. There are some brides who go all out in the planning process, wanting to make sure everything falls into place perfectly on her wedding day. She may darn-near stress herself out up to the day of the wedding, maybe even the day of making sure it's all right. Then what? Afterwards there's sometimes a feeling of disappointment. It's all over and now life goes on, the climax of the wedding day maybe wasn't all she expected but it's ended and hopefully she's prepared some for married life and the responsibilities that come with that.

I use to say "I don't want a beautiful birth, labor and delivery is just a means to an end for me to get my baby here." But my mind has changed. I DO want a beautiful birth, but my picture of what that is isn't like everyone else's. No matter how my baby decides to come into the world we will choose to make it a beautiful experience, and we'll enjoy it, because by gosh HAVING my baby in my arms at the end means we did it, we completed the process and we made it through the most exciting day of our lives. And to me THAT'S when the beauty starts--Or at least, that's what I most look forward to.

My dream may have just been an insane collection of thoughts and worries playing on the big screen of my HD imagination, but it made me wake up a little. It made me count my blessings, and be so grateful for the chance my husband and I have to be parents in the first place, for the knowledge we have of that's most important to us, and for the wisdom and courage we have to educate ourselves about the process.