While I was pregnant, I read a lot about spirituality and the power of positive thinking. I was having a really difficult time with the fact that I couldn't get out of giving birth. It was the first thing I was ever going to do in my life that I could not just decide not to do (someone should add "give birth if you are pregnant and want to keep the baby" to that whole "death and taxes" bit). No matter how bad I wanted to, I couldn't at the last minute say, "You know what? This whole giving birth thing doesn't sound like my bag, so I'm gonna bow out on this one. Peace out."
There was no going back.
I decided if I had to go through with having my legs spread in the air for perfect strangers while a baby emerges in a sea of mystery goo, then I should definitely consider the power of postive thinking. The power of being present in the moment. Be present. Mind over matter.
So, I came up with a list of phrases, or affirmations, to read to myself during labor. I guess I thought I would read them in between contractions. Who knows what I was thinking. My mind was a sea of mystery goo by that point as well.
Here are a few of my mind over matter affirmations:
1. Stay in the present moment
2. This Pain is NOT part of who you are
3. Have an attitude of gratitude - You are having a baby!
4. Choose calm
5. Remain Present and Go No Further
7. Remember that Maximus is a miracle and a blessing
8. Your need for control is your ego - It is not part of who you really are
9. Let go and trust
10. I am safe and all is well. I trust my body, I trust God, I trust Steve. I give thanks for the easy and joyous birth of my son, Max, who is happy and healthy!
11. This is Pain with a Purpose!
12. Make the present moment your friend - it is not an obstacle to overcome
13. I am a Spiritual Being having a Human Experience
Okay. First of all, I planned on having an epidural during labor and I planned on it working well. I guess I thought I would read my affirmations while I sat watching TV and playing cards with my husband while the epidural took all the nasty pains away. This is what they told us in birthing class - take playing cards because there won't be much to do after the epidural while you are waiting for your precious bundle! I want to slap that birthing class nurse now.
I started talking about my birth experience back in April (The Nothing and Foreshadowing). I guess this is my continuation of those entries.
After my husband and I were finally admitted to a room of our own, the contractions got much worse. Where in the h-e-double toothpicks was the anesthesiologist? I never planned on having natural childbirth. I wanted my epidural!!
All the details of the next few hours are quite blurry to me (unending, excruciating pain can do that to you), so if I get some details incorrect, maybe one of my family members can correct me. I think the anesthesiologist showed up around noon. I had been there since 7 am. At noon, I was dilated to a 6. Great! Moving right along.
I got the epidural. I was hurting so bad I don't even remember feeling the stick of the needle in my lower back. Total pain relief for about 30 minutes.
Unfortunately, rather quickly, the pain returned until I was in agony again. What was wrong? Why wasn't it working?
Someone went to find the anesthesiologist because I think my head was spinning around like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. I hated everyone by that point. Especially the unsympathetic nurses who kept poking at me and staring at me and examining my progress (which hurt like a mother scratcher), then giving me the evil news that I hadn't progressed any at all. People came in and out of my room, I have no idea who was there or what was happening outside of the sheer terror I was feeling. During one exam, I let out a howl and a scream until the nurse finally gave up and said she would have the doctor examine me from now on. Thank you!
Thank God, I had an amazing doula who kept me focused. She breathed with me, she massaged my legs, she kept the reiki music playing, she gave me ice chips, she encouraged me. If it hadn't been for her, I think I would have...well, I'm not sure what I would have done, but it probably would have been homicidal-ish. I do remember family members coming in and standing at the end of the bed, just staring at me, not saying a word, looking helpless. I know they wanted to take my suffering away. I remember my husband walking in the room with a slice of pizza in his hand when I hadn't eaten in almost 24 hours. He then asked me if I wanted a slice, forgetting that I was not allowed to eat. Here is where homicide comes to mind. I remember my sister and sister-in-law being in the room and laughing at something they saw on tv. If I had been a super hero, I would have zapped them right then and there with my laser beam eyes. Zapped to dust. And then I would have said, "Now who is laughing?"
A different anesthesiologist finally came into the room wearing a hawaiian shirt and looking very vacation-ish and rested. Bastard. Just kidding. He was a VERY nice man who tried to figure out the problem as best he could. Or maybe it was the first anesthesiologist who came in a second time. This is where it gets blurry. I can't remember.
Anyway, one of the two took out the first needle and put it back in, thinking adjusting it would work. Nope.
Then they upped my dosage. Nope.
Then they figured out that my backup dosing wasn't working. They fixed it.
Nope, still in torment.
Then they took out the old needle and inserted a brand new epidural.
Pain relief for about 30 minutes once again...and it returned in full force again.
I didn't know someone could be in that much pain and not die. It was absolutely the worst pain I have ever felt. To make matters worse, I couldn't walk or turn over becauase the only thing the epidural managed to do was completely numb my legs. I was a dying invalid.
I never once looked at those damn affirmations.
Well, anyway, after seventeen hours of wanting someone to kill me, the doctor came in and checked my progress. I was dilated to a 6 1/2.
In the last eight hours, I had only progressed 1/2 centimeter. I fell into complete despair. I couldn't go on. I was going on no sleep, no food, 17 hours of mental and physical SUFFERING. I couldn't go on.
Apparently, my son was head down, but facing sideways and his head was stuck in my birth canal. He wasn't coming out the regular way. I told the doctor I wanted my son out of my body immediately by any means possible. So, a quick shave and I was off to the OR for a c-section. I'll talk about the emotional and physical scarring of that cherry another day.
So, I'm sure I left out lots of details, but I can't remember much outside of the torturous contractions. One on top of another and another, all freaking day long.
And now, I look back at all my theories and expectations, my affirmations, my determination to make my birth experience a joy and a blessing. And I laugh. I roll my eyes. I shake my head. And I look at this poor, unsuspecting woman. Look how happy she is. She had no idea the storm that was comin'.