eleanor's birth story, part 2

i began preparing for my labor as soon as i knew i was pregnant. i read dr. sears' pregnancy and baby book, sheila kitzinger's complete book of pregnancy and childbirth, ina may gaskin's guide to natural childbirth and breastfeeding, and active birth. we chose a hospital known for being natural childbirth friendly and for having "breastfeeding friendly" status. i watched the business of being born and we hired a doula. we had a plan: i was going to labor at home for as long as possible, labor in the birthing tub, have an active birth without medication, no episiotomy, delayed cord cutting, and uninterrupted tummy to tummy time with eleanor for as long as i could. from time to time people would ask me if i was nervous about labor and i always said no. i wasn't. i trusted my body and my ability to give birth. in fact, the only thing i was scared of was my birth not going the way i planned. if only i could have gone over my plan with eleanor before the big day so we could have done a play by play practice run through...

as you know from part 1 of e's birth story things did not go according to my perfect plan. in the end i was given pitocin and had an epidural, spending the majority of my labor confined to bed. but that was only the beginning. during the long labor eleanor inhaled meconium (a baby's sticky and tar-like early feces) and was having trouble breathing. this meant that after her birth we had very abbreviated tummy to tummy time with a nurse holding oxygen near eleanor the whole time. and then heartache: they took her away in an incubator. what followed was four and a half days of running between my room and the pediatric unit playing the role of annoying american mom, only leaving to eat and sleep. eleanor was treated with an antibiotic to prevent a possible lung infection and i cried and cried and cried. i mourned the loss of not only my perfect birth but also what i had wanted for the moments and days afterwards. we were separated shortly after eleanor was born, i hadn't roomed in with her, and i wasn't allowed to nurse. i was so afraid that we had lost crucial bonding time and that my chances of successfully breastfeeding were over. thankfully this was not the case. i just have to say here that i am so thankful for the nurses and their patience with me. they were so lovely and even took my cell number to call me anytime e started crying so that i could be there to comfort her.

i am someone who likes to be in control and my labor and the days after brought me to my knees. even with all of my perfect planning i was not in control. i didn't want to be bitter about my birth story and so i chose immediately to accept e's birth the way it happened but in the weeks that followed i struggled with feelings of failure. i had to question where that came from and i realize now that in not having any room in my mind for a different labor experience than the one i wanted i set myself up a bit for disappointment. and those feelings of failure? that was my pride. in the end my little girl was healthy and happy so what had i lost really? a natural birth bragging right. natural childbirth has many benefits for the child but the ugly truth is that i was so caught up in myself, in what it said about me to be the kind of bad ass woman that didn't need medication that i forgot that the most important thing was a healthy baby. nothing will remind you quicker than the sight of your new daughter in an incubator with wires connecting her to all sorts of machines. i'm not saying that i would change my birth plan and when pregnant again i am confident that i will want the same things for that birth, but i will allow for the possibility of it not working the way i want. this has been the most humbling experience and in a way i am grateful for it not working the way i planned as it required a new kind of emotional strength. i'm sure this won't be the last lesson my daughter teaches me about my lack of control.

 mama and eleanor bath time

if you're interested here is the full set of photos from e's birth