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Natural Born Guilt!

March 18, 2012

[written on 12/06/2011]
I want to reach back and talk about a sensitive subject related to birth.
Everyone decides how they want their birth to go. I wanted a water birth with no medication. I had planned it to be a bonding wonderful “baby and me” experience. My birth plan stated that I wanted a natural birth. Indeed, I certainly did. My last two were “natural” (of course, they were 19 and 20 years ago, respectively). But, Still, I had planned for a natural birth with this baby. After all, I am older, wiser and understand much more than I did back then. I prepared DH “Help me get through the pain so I don’t slow down my baby’s heartbeat.” We did not get off of work in time to attend Bradley classes– as if I could make DH go to them. But, I did try to read the 1996 edition of the book and put some things into practice. .
Yet, six hours into the labor, I called for and received an epidural. DH was not yet at my bedside … … and him being so green, I am not sure if it would have disuaded me from getting one. And, lest I forget it, (or “remember it differently,” my daughter was there and has recorded (not on tape, but by texts) all of the embarrassing parts … … and will relay the entire story to anyone who wants to hear.(smile)
Honestly, I was so stressed at that point. My best friend, J, (although we have now had serious issues b/c I married a muslim and she is quite fundamentalist Christian — yet, we still try to keep our relationship), had her last child 10 years ago. I remember her having a natural birth with midwives and a doula. I wanted this for myself. I really did. I read the Bradley book and tried to do relaxation exercises every night. Here is a link to the Bradley Method of Child Birth For a while, it did help me relax and breathe.
But there were differences. 1. the midwife didn’t even come in to check on me, as she had done with my friend. That concerned me. I thought that the baby’s head was just too large and needed some reassurance from a medical professional. 2. my last child was born 19 years before and frankly, I think that I just was not able to handle the pain. 19years ago, I certainly was stronger. 3. the labor lasted quite a bit longer this time than previously. The shower and birthing ball did help for a while, as did walking. But, not seeing my midwife did make me anxious and my blood pressure rose to the upper limits of normal. .
All justifications aside, I am admitting now, I had much guilt over this decision: even right after getting it. I mean, I was in labor saying: “I probably shouldn’t have gotten it: look, the baby’s heartbeat has slowed down.” and, it had which prompted one of the labor nurses, who happened to be from the Czec Republic say, “you know too much.” I was offended by this statement and didn’t unthaw until she went beyond the call of nurse duty to help us video the baby’s first bath for DH’s parents. With the epidural, My blood pressure had lowered and the baby’s heartbeat was much slower than before. sure, it was still in the “normal” limits, but in the “low normal,” Which, caused me much anxiety. still! I did not want to put this kind of medicine in the baby’s system, yet I did. And, felt guilty for doing so, especially for the sake of my convenience / pain tolerance. There are parents like my sister who said: “The first person I ask for when I went into labor was the anestheseologist.” I know that this was suppose to make me feel better and it would have, if I could somehow convince myself that my convictions were misguided. Someone told me that the epidural only effects the spine and doesn’t get into the blood stream. If this was correct, the baby’s heartbeat would not have slowed down. If I think about it long enough, I can still dredge up my guilty feelings…. … ok, “if” is “when” and “long enough is about ten minutes.” But, I must remember that I have a wonderful healthy baby boy. I need to enjoy these days with him and not waste them feeling guilty and depressed that I cowardly opted to subject my child to medication which negatively effected his body because I was in so much pain. My friend J also pointed out that I was way too anxious that something was wrong with the baby’s head or his descent down the birth canal.
Soon after I read a post (on the WTE bulletin board) from a mother who expressed an immense amount of guilt for giving her baby 8oz of formula. Now, I do believe in breastfeeding, but this mother’s post hit a nerve. She related her story of feeling so much guilt that it would bring her to tears. This would happen at least four times a day. This post was better than any smack in the face to jolt me back to reality.
Extreme guilt might mean that we have our expectations set a bit too high. We need to assess the situation. Here are some questions to ask:
1. What are the visible negative effects? For me, Azaan’s heartbeat had slowed down and although I could feel when it was time to push, my legs felt like jello. My blood pressure had lowered, which was actually a good sign. Still, the baby’s heartbeat had slowed down and I think that this delayed the delivery a bit. But, as I held my baby in my arms, as I heard him cry and I rocked him to sleep, as I fed him milk and felt him breathe; I realized that these effects had worn off. There were no lingering signs that I had received an epidural. A nurse or a friend could not visit, pick up the baby and say: “Oh, you must have had an epidural!”
2. Can I do anything to change it? Most generally, the deed is done and there is nothing that anyone can do to change it. furthermore, since (at least in my case) it won’t happen again, I don’t have to construct a game plan for any future slip ups. If the mother who fed her baby formula felt it was wrong, then she can analyze the situation. What made me do it — and how can I make sure that I won’t do it again?
3. What is your focus? Sometimes guilt can be a very “me focussed,” emotion. “i’m not good enough.” “I did it wrong.” “me, me, me.” And, in my case, I had to eat some crow because my daughter made sure that everyone knew that I left my convictions at home that day. While we are focussed on our pride or what we did or did not do, this wonderful baby is ready and willing to bond with a mother who is so glad that he/she is hear that she smiles and coos at the baby. Time is wasted on “me” when it could be spent on expressing happiness and gratitude for our little blessing.
4. what are my expectations? I am not perfect and am going to make some really stupid mistakes. If I am expecting perfection from myself, I am going to spend lots of my life being disappointed at either myself or my little baby boy. That disappointment might even overshadow the positive things I can glean from experiences with my baby. I am not always in control. Things happen. Sometimes guilt can come from a self righteous condemnation of one’s self. that is not healthy.
5. What did I learn? Wallowing in guilt and misery can make me forget that there is a lesson … … or two… to learn from my mistake. Maybe it is not to be so rigid or high strung. for me, it was about being more flexible …. … as if I needed to have a double dose of this lesson, I was not able to donate the baby’s cord blood, as hoped. the baby was born the sunday After thanksgiving and the nurses said that the “cord banking guy” was on Holiday. they could take his cord blood, but by the time he came in Monday Morning, it would be useless. This sounded like a poorly constructed lie, but what could I do? Even if I made them take the cord blood, they would have just thrown it out , which is probably what they did anyway. Unfortunately, The result would have been the same. . , [Why can’t things go the way I plan them???? GRRR!!!!] , and the second lesson was that I should not be judgemental. Every labor is different. I can’t presume I know what another woman is feeling. Each of us has our own experience and our own decisions to make. What might be a good decision for me, may not be for you. It is not my place to judge.

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