9.10.2005

Perspective

A friend recently had a "traumatic birth." She had badly wanted a home birth, and after 82 hours of labor, she was taken to the hospital for an emergency c-section. Now, after three weeks of trying, her milk isn't coming in, and she is opting to bottle feed. She's suffering from a sense of failure, and I can't imagine that the requisite sleep deprivation helps.

I wasn't familiar with the term "traumatic birth," and didn't get it at first (you have a baby, right?), but that's only because it took me a minute to recall how important our "birth stories" are in those first few weeks. Giving birth is without a doubt a major life event, and as such we tend to have a vision for it. In the Bay Area, an openness to more traditional modes of birth can lead to an inflexible glorification of the naturalness of the home birth, the power of the unmedicated hospital birth, the gorgeous perfection of breast feeding. There's an intimation that we can *will* this to occur perfectly, with our reading and meditations and birth plans and positive thought. As though we lack true Woman Power if we give in to anything less.

I remember in those weeks after MZ was born, when I first started attending moms' groups, the murmurs that followed my retelling of our planned c-section -- the implication being that I'd given in to the Medical Industrial Complex. People (yes, men, too) would tell me how sorry they were that I'd HAD to have a c-section, that doctors were no longer trained to deliver breech babies and c-sections were their easy way out. "That's not how it would happen on the Farm."

C'mon, people, MZ was sitting upright in my womb, looking out with her legs up around her ears like a yogi. One or both of us could have DIED on the farm for which that birthing center was so evocatively named. And my friend labored for over three days to achieve a strong and womanly birth. THREE DAYS! No breaks. Is she less of a woman because her beautiful son was ultimately born in a hospital via c-section? Did the medical establishment really fail her somehow?

We can't will everything, no matter how positive we are. The power of positive thought is awesome, but it is not magic. What we *can* will is the way we respond to these events, to the disappointments that can accompany a highly-planned birth. Positive thought can keep us from sinking into the abyss of disappointment that can lead to sorrow and gloom.


Let's all try to keep our eye on the prize here. In six months, when no one's asking for our birth stories, and we have a ridiculously happy baby (because they are so grinny and giggly at six months that we have to carry our melted hearts around in a sippy cup), we know we've succeeded beyond our wildest imaginings.

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