Wed 13 Aug 2008
your comments shine through my screen like benedictions. the overflow of truth and thoughtfulness and humour, raw and warm, calms me, strengthens. i bask. i eat up ideas, cross-referencing, googling hungrily. call answered.
i sit humbled, grateful. you took me by surprise. i did not know, not like this, that the well ran so deep and generous, that the collective wisdom of a mythological sisterhood could be tapped like this. i feel as if i’ve wandered into a Little House on the Prairie stageset, into a quilting bee community of yore where i am mothered, friended, surrounded and held up. my birth coaches, sixty strong. your stories widen my horizons, my sense of the possible. your stories make me less afraid.
i have never known how to ask for help, before.
Mad wrote a powerful post the other night about fear and walking at night and the Take Back the Night phenomenon that swept college campuses in the late 80s and early 90s. that was my coming of age, that era, and i sang that song for years.
my mother’s spent her life more than usually mistrustful of the unknown, and she tried desperately to inculcate in me caution, wariness of all that the newspapers said i should fear as a young and vulnerable woman in a predatory age. but, like so many, it was not the unknown that hurt me, that damaged my sense of my own worth and my right to inviolate status. i did not even have words, at eighteen, for what happened. but i had anger, at the misdirected fear that smothered without protecting, and shame, in buckets. the shame kept me tongue-tied, unable to ask for help or support. the anger made me defiant. and in the mess of my fumbling attempts to find healing, i began to walk, at night, alone, alert…head high, keys spiked. i walked and walked, for nearly two years, compulsively. it was a way of refusing to wrap myself in the shroud of victimization and dependence that society held out as a false promise of safety. it was a way of taking back my own body, as well as the night. but mostly it was a way to quiet the deep, crippling sense of vulnerability and fear that ate away at me in those years, the panic that threatened each time someone came close.
it took, in the end, years and years and ultimately a conscious letting go. but i walked my way out of that trauma, that damage…literally walked away from it, each step a blind, grasping effort to surmount fear.
i think i have been trying to do the same with the trauma of my children’s births. except a waddle is not a confidence-inducing stride, and i have been unable to outpace myself, my fear, my history. so i have had to face my shame this time, own it and voice it and say aloud, “i have been hurt. i am frightened. i do not know how to go forward by myself.”
the warmth of response has taken so much of the power from the shame and the fear that i wonder, sadly, what might have happened had i been brave enough to try this tack half a lifetime ago.
i waited two hours to see my OB today, because half the practice is on summer vacation. my fear and shame sat with me through the wait, despite all your words…i felt like a kid waiting to be called into the principal’s office, dreading humiliation and misunderstanding. it’s not being my own medical advocate that intimidates me, but admitting my vulnerability, admitting how badly Oscar’s birth shook me despite his survival. being supplicant and helpless is not my strong suit. i was afraid i’d find myself tongue-tied, once again, unable to stand up for my need for agency and dignity with this impending birth…unable to admit how much i fear the panic that swallowed me last time, the panic i failed utterly to master.
i really like my OB. she’s been with me through all four pregnancies, though never – by circumstance – for delivery or d&c. i trust her. she has looked me in the eye and said, “i’m sorry. i made a mistake.” she has always treated me like a human being.
and still i could barely meet her eyes as i unfurled the litany of facts and complications that have left me so afraid. i hunched on the crinkly paper of the exam table, picked at the flannel blanket. i didn’t want to overstate, be dramatic, have her write me off. i trailed to a halt, handed over the list of questions i’d posted here the other night with all their what-ifs and maybes and stretches of what’s commonly done. i looked at her and choked the obvious out. i’m just…so scared.
she didn’t patronize me, or pat me on the arm and tell me not to worry my pretty little head. she listened, and looked at me, and said, “i will come in with you, if i can. i’ll put that on your file, right here. i’d like to be with you through this birth, if that might help?”
they don’t do that here. my mum has worked at the hospital for years, and i know they don’t. there’s an agreement between the OBs that on-call status is respected, because the on-call docs have to be on site, away from their kids or their sick spouses or their beer or what have you, so having subs come in is frowned upon. i looked at her warily, said “i’d feel guilty.”
she said, “don’t.”
and then tears welled up and streamed down my face and she handed me Kleenex and i felt six years old and like i’d just been rescued from the Kmart Lost and Found desk.
we talked. plans for induction or c-section are tabled until i reach 37 weeks still pregnant. we will try the delayed cord clamping, and a few other things both from her repetoire and your suggestions to try to minimize the likelihood of retained placenta and surgery. we will aim for skin-to-skin and nursing right after birth. she will work with Dave and the delivery nurses to try to do as much perineal support, lubrication, and stretching as possible. we may try to break up any cervical adhesions upon cerclage removal at 36 weeks…or wait until labour depending on how imminent that appears at that point. she’s checking on anti-anxiety options, and depending on how things present we may try an early epidural if that’s possible instead. slowing things down a little, for me, might not be bad. she approved of the advice i’d been given here to try to minimize prolapse.
and most important, she’s going to talk with the entire OB team about me, in case she can’t be there when i ultimately land at L&D. and if at any point, with her or another doc, i panic and feel i just can’t confront another possible gong show, it’ll be on my file that i can ask for a c-section without any argument from the medical team. not my first choice, but a choice i’m grateful to know is there. i see her again next week, and we’ll talk some more.
tears are still close to the surface, tonight. relief, gratitude, astonishment. i haven’t given birth yet, obviously…the actual event is still ahead of us. but the birth i feared, the panic i could not walk away from…i think its spectre has been largely deflated, weakened. by you, with all your stories and your virtual hands in mine. by one doctor stepping up to my side.
trust. antidote to fear.