Saturday, 29 March 2008

The Horror Story

How many women have told you their birth “horror story”? I'm guessing many. In fact, how often have you had a woman, a friend, relative, mom behind you in line at the grocery store, tell you a birth story that wasn't a horror story?

In fact, how many even shared their WHOLE birth story with you? What kind of words did they use?

I had back labor

It was the worst pain I've ever felt

It was awful

I was in labor for # (too many) hours

I pushed for three hours

I tore

I had a c-section

I barely remember anything from the drugs

I had an epidural

I loved my epidural

The epidural didn't work

Pitocin is hell

They cut me

I was stuck in bed

I wanted to scream

I was such a bitch

My husband was so scared

I was so scared

I was terrified

He wasn't breathing

The cord was around her neck

I was too weak to hold him

She couldn't latch well

I just didn't dilate

My body didn't want to go into labor

Is this really what we're raised on? (And mom, grandma, aunties, you were the wonderful ones that never said these things to me, I love you.) Completely ignoring the terrifying view of birth that the media portrays, we raise our daughters this way. At every turn it's something to fear, just get through, and be bitter about.

On top of that, we hear that once we have children, we “lose our dignity”. I think that women are trying to say “You won't give two shits who sees you naked afterwards” but I find it very telling the words we use to get that across. Dignity.

Is it that undignified to give birth? Are we so far from our instinctive, primal selves? Are we just too civilized to bear down, moan and scream the pain out, and tear off our clothes in the heat of the moment because they bother us? No, we must be quiet and “dignified”.

Fuck that.

You know, I've tried to be careful not to scare expecting mothers (or any woman that hasn't had her first child) with my own “horror” story. I didn't want them to fear birth so much. I didn't want to add stress, or emotional hang ups.

That ends today. I've come to realize that yes, I have a horror story. But it wasn't the pain that was horrible. It wasn't the labor. It was the method. It was everything else that was horrible.

It was horrible that I was forced to stay in bed.

It was horrible that I was only “allowed” short, 10 minute walks around the floor every few hours.

It was horrible that my mother had to somewhat covertly bring me FOOD.

It was horrible that I was being pumped full of chemicals.

It was horrible that I was made to feel my body had failed, and now MEDICINE must intervene.

It was horrible that they gave me more and more and more pitocin when it did NOTHING to change my cervix.

It was horrible that when I made progress, on my own, without the pitocin, they still turned it back on after they broke my water.

It was horrible that they broke my water, and likely lodged my sons head in an unfavorable position.

It was horrible that I had to endure for hours what most women only feel during transition.

It was horrible that they “encouraged” me to push in other positions, and then failed to help me get comfortable or support me.

It was horrible that I had no voice.

It was horrible that I did what they said, when I KNEW BETTER, because I'd given up on my body.

It was horrible that I agreed to the induction, when my son was obviously not signaling he was ready to be born.

It was horrible that my fear and mistrust overruled my faith in my body and this, the oldest of processes.

It was horrible that they cut me, twice.

It was horrible that I saw my son, naked and new, for only the briefest of moments. I can't remember what he looked like.

It was horrible that they tossed out every preference I had for after the birth.

It was horrible that I was alone, with a stranger, for the first hour of my sons life.

It was horrible that I was in so much pain from the incision I could only stand holding him during feedings.

It IS horrible, that my horror story is MILD compared to the injustices many new mothers and babies suffer every day.

I will no longer sugar coat this story. Neither for my family, my friends, or for my children. My son will know that I love him, and that I never, ever, ever have blamed him, and that even as bad as it was, I would do it all again for him without hesitation. But he will know that this way is not right, and it should not be normal.

They will know that my labor was not horrible, just the setting.

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