Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dealing with guilt

When it came to my pregnancy, nothing went as planned. I feel guilty, but I have to admit that despite praying to get pregnant, I hated it. Hopefully the very act of admitting that will help someone else to realize that it is possible to be overwhelmed with joy and still be miserable. The day I rolled over into my second trimester, I was attacked by debilitating migraines. The first one lasted three straight weeks and involved three trips to the ER and one extremely fantastic neurologist. At 25 weeks, one side of my pelvis decided to sit higher than the other, and I added a weekly trip to the chiropractor to my to do list. At 26 weeks, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and had to give up everything I was craving. I made it to 35 weeks without a single stretch mark, and then my belly broke out in angry lines that caused my husband to gasp in, well, I'm not sure what. I was found to be group B strep positive. And then the due date came...and went.

My doctor induced me at 41 weeks. My doctor broke my water 9 hours into the process, which brought on nightmarish contractions. I went from no contractions to less than two minutes apart within 15 minutes. I screamed for an epidural. And then the anesthesiologist hit an awkward spot in my back and I ended up having a bad reaction, so she had to do it again (note: not her fault, actually, as my back is a mess anyhow, and I loved her). I still wasn't dilating. The baby still wasn't dropping. They started pitocin. The baby went into distress, I was put on oxygen. After watching the baby, my doctor checked me again and I was only at 3 centimeters. The baby's heart rate concerned him, so he decided on a c-section. I agreed, since we were 24 hours into the process and going nowhere. They sent Jere off to get ready, and I cried to the anesthesiologist through the whole surgical prep.

The c-section was fantastic. My son came out healthy. I was healthy. But mentally? I wasn't ok. It wasn't because of the surgery. The surgery was easy and quick and gave me a beautiful son. It was GUILT. They gave Jere the baby and then offered to lay him on my chest. I said no. My husband followed our son back to the recovery room while they finished closing me up, and the anesthesiologist patted my forehead while I said over and over, "Is he ok? Did I screw him up? Why didn't I want to touch him? Why doesn't it feel like he belongs to me?" And she answered, "He's fine. He's perfect. You'll want to hold him later and never let him go, I promise."

I made it back to the recovery room, and my family was there passing Sam around. And I still didn't want to hold him. Then the nurse asked if I wanted to breastfeed him, and I said yes, and she cleared everyone from the room according to my wishes. The two nurses helped me try to feed him, but he didn't seem ready. It turns out he never would be. More guilt. I sent him to the nursery the first two nights on the advice of the best nurse in the world. I let everyone else take care of him. I tuned out. I hurt. He wouldn't feed. The first lactation consultant told me I just had to "try harder." I was grateful when another LC came on duty and checked Sam's tongue. He was severly tongue tied and couldn't latch. By then, I had already started letting him supplement with formula and pumping as well.

Long story short. I ended up staying in the hospital FOREVER. It took three weeks to organize with our insurance to get Sam's tongue fixed. I was exhausted from pumping and feeding (remember, it takes twice as long when you have to feed the baby, get the baby to settle down, and THEN pump...only to have to repeat the process almost immediately after you see time for sleep in there?). And by the time they clipped his tongue, his latch was so unbelievably screwed up that feeding him actually caused me to scream and sob. Jerry and I decided Sam had gotten plenty of breastmilk over the last three weeks, and it was time to cut our losses. More guilt.

So the guilt, in list form:

1. I feel guilty about the medications I had to take during my pregnancy to control my migraines. Maybe I should have just dealt with the pain.

2. I feel guilty that I ended up with gestational diabetes. Maybe if I'd controlled my eating, it wouldn't have happened.

3. I feel guilty that I wasn't able to give birth to my son "naturally." Someone once told me I wasn't built to carry children. I will always feel like that is true.

4. I feel guilty that I gave in to an epidural. I thought, at the time, that the screwed up epidural was my punishment, and the resulting spinal headache was a continuation of that punishment. I hear all these stories about women giving birth without drugs, and I don't understand it. Mentally, I will always wonder what would have happened if I had just hung in there with the contractions. Maybe he'd have come out on his own.

5. I feel desperately guilty about not breastfeeding. I'm sick of hearing that I should have worked harder and stuck with it.

Today's women live in a world where they're inundated with stories of harrowing drug-free births and the "breast is best" mantra. The heroes are those women who can push their children out, go home the next day, and breastfeed them for a year. Instead, I couldn't put in any of the work. I was in the hospital for 5 days. And I was actually relieved to switch to formula. But the guilt still stares me down. It's there when I'm cuddling my son and he tries to root through my shirt and I have to distract him with a bottle or pacifier. It's there when I see him stick out his tongue. It's there when I find a stray nursing bra that hasn't made its way into the storage box. It's there everytime someone asks if I'm breastfeeding. And it's there in every book I own that has 90 pages on breastfeeding and 3 pages on formula feeding, every health article, every support group, every fan club. I have more than once cried to my husband that I feel like a terrible mother.

I hope that someday, the guilt goes away. My son is happy and healthy. Well, mostly happy. He's a very serious baby, just like his mom.

Today's lesson: My anesthesiologist was right about one thing. I did eventually want to hold my son. And sometimes my husband has to pry Sam from my arms so I can get some sleep.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Back in the saddle?

It's been a busy couple of weeks. We're trying desperately to return to our normal life (yeah, right). My poor son had a slew of doctor's appointments, and I know he's grateful all of that is over. And my husband and I are slowly adjusting to parenthood. We've thrown some good advice out the window in favor of doing it our own way, and are actually starting to feel like we can successfully raise this boy while still maintaining our sanity. Or at least Jere's sanity. Mine was already being calling into question.

There came a point where I was crying because I wanted out of the house. I wanted to go on a car ride that didn't involve the doctor. And my wonderful husband obliged. We packed our son up and took him to the mall. Sam fussed the entire time and demanded to be carried. We stopped in the family lounge to feed and change him, and what a wonderful invention! We bottle feed, but it was nice to have some privacy so we could sit down with him. I managed to get a little shopping done, thank goodness, and then we went over to dinner. And you know what? He slept. We've taken him out to dinner two times since then, and he sleeps! It's fantastic! Granted, he gets home and has a cow and stays up until 4 AM. But we're slowly starting to develop a life WITH him.

And then my wonderful husband gave me a 6 hour break so I could attend a luncheon with my friends. I love this yearly luncheon, but I haven't been able to go for the past few years. I wasn't sure I'd make it to this one, either, but Jere took the baby from me, loaded me into the Mustang, and yelled, "NO GUILT!" out the front door as I drove away. And I swear I only called to check on him once. During the luncheon that is. I MAY have called on the way home, too.

Everything is settling into a shaky routine here. It doesn't really have a same time each day pattern. But we're getting closer to it.

Today's lesson: It is possible to keep pieces of your old life when you have a baby. Though the pieces are likely to be covered in spit up and other choice bodily fluids...