I was kind of surprised that some wholeheartedly agreed yes - although I'm not sure why I was. Normally I love the writing, the reading, the interacting with others - but sometimes I just get so bummed by the situations of people around me - people I don't even know - and don't know how to put my finger on those feelings.
I lie awake and think, What is wrong with me? I can feel a tension, an undercurrent, and I'm not even sure what it is. I realize that I worry, for other people. Women I don't even know. I can't read "certain blogs" (ahem) before bed because I will stew and seethe fitfully through an entire night's sleep. I lie there and wonder, How am I impacting anyone? Who am I really helping? Why does it seem that so few women agree and that so many women are sucked into the vortex of unnecessarily abnormal birth? How can they not see it?
Sometimes I think, Will my blog just keep going on forever? What will there be to write about? What kind of advocate will I be in 10, 15 years or will I even be one? I like to consider myself a "birth nerd," not a "junkie," mostly because I know certain people (the same people who write those "certain blogs") consider that statement laughable, perhaps derogatory (even though they themselves live, eat, breathe birth, just a different kind of birth). I never started out on this path intending to be anything other than a mom, and somehow careened into something else. I never dreamed I would come to this point.
Knowing what I know now, and in sharing the experiences of other people, it's hard not to be bitter and hopeless about things sometimes. Especially in the comments I received on my last post, I was disturbed by the responses I got. I feel angry for these women, wondering why some of them aren't angry, too. Thankfully, some of their husbands stood up for them and confronted the doctor. But then what? What did it change? If we keep hearing how this happens, how it's legitimized, what has it really changed?
It's hard not to get defeatist or angry over other people's decisions, knowing that it's a decision I would never make for myself. But then I remember, they're not me. So it doesn't matter what they do. It ultimately doesn't matter what I think.
My niece just gave birth to her first child, and as usual, the end of her pregnancy was miserable. Just like it is for just about every woman. I know many women suffer in physical and emotional ways that are far above the norm, and I don't want to make light of their ailments. My niece was uncomfortable, but said she did not want to induce without a medical reason. I took that as a good start and offered advice, as did many of her friends: avoid Pitocin. I tried to encourage her the best I could, offered tips on how to manage labor and blah blah blah. The usual "Your baby will come when he's ready" stuff that us Birth Nerds like to tell everyone, which sounds crummy and well-meaning to her, but hey - it's the truth.
When she posted pictures of herself on FaceBook after she had the baby, I found myself scrutinizing them closely. A shot of her husband standing next to a sterilized cart of medical instruments, no doubt "just in case." I thought, I am being an idiot, but honestly - I do it all the time. I'm not sure if this is good, bad, normal or what - but I wondered, Did she get a cesarean?! I was so hoping not, that she had gone into labor on her own and just let the baby do his thing.
My mom called the other night and asked me if "I'd heard." Apparently they never told any of our side of the family, until my sister blabbed. Of course, I had a sinking feeling when I saw that picture of her, smiling, hugely pregnant and in her hospital gown. Few women in true, active, unmedicated labor look like that, I thought. And if they're medicated, they don't look like that, either. My mom sounded kind of disgusted, which secretly pleased me: "She got induced."
I knew it. My heart kind of sank.
I told her I had tried to help and knew she was uncomfortable, told her that it could potentially raise her c-section rate, and her group of friends and I told her to avoid the Pit. I kind of thought, Geez, why even ask for advice and sympathy when you're just going to ignore it? She suffered just like the rest of us do, and then later I read status updates on how awful she felt and what a "rough recovery" it was. Yeah, no kidding, honey. I don't want to say, I told you so, but ... well, I told you so. I can even picture a possible scenario (God I hope not): I tore so badly with my last birth, why don't we just schedule a cesarean this time and avoid all that?!
It's hard not to get too caught up in other peoples' decisions. My mom even told me, "Don't take it personally." I try not to, but I still can't help looking at pregnant women in public and wonder, Where are they giving birth? I bet she's had a cesarean. I wonder if she'll get an epidural? It's the most absurd conversation ever, and yet, I bet I'm not the only one who does it.
Sometimes in conversation with strangers we'll start talking about babies, their upcoming birth and whatnot, and something will slip: "Oh, I'm due on July fourth." I immediately picture the woman on the operating table, told her "fluid was low, baby was big!" kind of crap perhaps because her doctor had a Fourth of July picnic to go to that was more important. You can't just open up a can of worms with strange women in public like that. At least not unless you want them looking at you like you've grown a dozen heads and suddenly started talking in Pig Latin. I wish I could tell them. So much to say, so little time. So few people who really want to hear it.
I know my niece, and many like her, made a decision. Was it the right one? I don't know. I don't know if even she knows that. I don't know how much she knows about birth, or why she's feeling like she is, like she got run over by an 18-wheeler. I don't know if she'll make that connection the next time she's in labor, if there is a next time.
I don't know how much of her choice was really hers, in the end. I'm not sure if she's knows that either. She may have read some books, asked some friends, but in the end, did it matter? Maybe she thought, That's not what my doctor is telling me, or That's not what the pregnancy book I read said. Just some crazy relative talking out of her ass, that's all.
I know I can't make decisions for other people, and that every birth is unique. I'm not feeling their emotional pain from having weaned themselves off their antidepressants and rounding the corner into a possibly monumental bout of postpartum depression. I'm not feeling the physical pain of SPD. But I have felt the physical pain of cesarean, the emotional pain that everyone tells you to get over because you should "just be happy you have a healthy baby!", the psychological stress of wondering how much I'll have to fight for the birth I desire, should I ever get pregnant again. And I can see what might lie ahead for my niece and others like her, because I've already been down that road and don't want someone else to go down that path, either. At least if they don't have to.
Some thoughts that sum up what I wish I could tell people, that I wish they could understand:
When we treat high risk women with all that we have to offer, we lower their risk. When we treat normal women as high risk, we make them sick. - Michael Klein, MD
Any decision that is made without research and education, is NOT a fully informed decision. It is a decision based on fear and/or one that relies on dumb luck. - Health, Home and Happiness