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.


Feisty Irish Wench said...

Oh honey BIG HUGS!!!!!

This stuff is small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. Right now where you are though, those potatoes are freaking boulders careening off a mountain at you.

Next time someone asks if you're breastfeeding, say "why do you want to know?" (advice a la Ann Landers or Miss Manners, I forget after 4 kids - 1 of whom is sitting in my lap stinking up the joint. That gas kills brain cells too)

Anonymous said...

Just to let you know - you are not alone. My best friend had to have a C-section after months of planning a home birth. Then her son also had a latching problem and had to have his tongue snipped. And she has had endless guilt and grief from strangers about not breast feeding. Reading this was like reliving all the horrible stories I have heard from my friend. Her boy is now a year and a half old. She is preggo with #2. She is hoping that this time around all of her planning will pay off.

Just don't give up. Sometimes things just happen a certain way. You love your son and you do the best you can. That is all ANYONE can do. Hope you feel better!

Joana Kaylene said...

This post breaks my heart. I hope that someday the guilt will subside because of the amazing pride and love you feel for your son and the way you ARE raising him will overshadow all of that.

YOU are an amazing mom and Jerry is an amazing father. Years and years from now when you look back on all of this, how you gave birth to him will not matter as much as the fact that you did. All those years of hearing that you couldn't have your own baby and look! you did. it doesn't matter how he made his appearance. He's all yours. And that's the only thing that will matter to HIM.

i love you kris. <3

Ashley said...

Big Hugs Kristin! The guilt will go away. I can't help you with the c-section stuff but I feel you on the breast-feeding thing.

I went the whole pregnancy saying I was going to breast-feed and hopefully not have any drugs. Well I got the epidural and don't regret it because there was no way I was going to make it. But after I had Emilia we tried the breast-feeding and we got her to latch on so I felt we were on our way.

A week after I had her I got incredibly sick. Couldn't hold anything down but I kept trying. But as I was sitting there breast-feeding that little baby I hated every moment of it. Then the guilt set in because I thought there was something wrong with me. Why didn't I have the incredible bond that I was suppose to have? Why does everyone say that BF was one of their favorite things to do with their child? I was not comfortable about going to feed the baby around my family so that lead to supplementing formula even at the hospital. After not really eating anything for 2.5 weeks my husband made me go back to my OB where a good nurse finally told me that its okay not to breast feed. She will be a healthy and happy baby if I choose formula. So I stopped breast feeding the next day. And within a week I was feeling better and was eating again.

Is there days that I think about the what if's? Yes. Do I feel guilty? Not so much espcially when I accepted the fact that I am a poor eater and I just couldn't learn to like all of the veggies I needed to eat so in hindsight formula was probably best for Emilia. Is she a happy and healthy baby? You bet!

Don't let anyone get you down about not breast-feeding. You are doing what is best for you and Sam and that is all that matters :)

P.S. I quit planning as I learned through Emilia's birth that nothing goes as planned

Josh and Melissa said...

I had MAJOR guilt after Cadence was born about having an epidural and not eating well during pregnancy. It was aweful. The guilt really contributed to my post partum depression. I had it really bad after Cadence was born (I think I'm more susceptible to it in general). Stay positive and think about all the wonderful things you can and will do for Sam! He'll get to travel - how many kids get to do that? I know mine won't get many opportunities in their childhood (mainly due to finances) - which of course I have guilt about. The most important thing is that you LOVE him and you do!