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Friday, December 16, 2011

Bi-polar and pregnant: One woman's story, part 1

It's amazing how different each pregnancy - and each birth - a woman has can be completely different from each other. No more is that more apparent than with my friend Em, who has had three pregnancies and two live births. "My path is like many others, yet vastly different from most," she writes. "These posts are not a defense of my choices. They are my choices made with the most knowledge I had at the time. I can wish for different outcomes, but each experience shaped me in a way I needed to be shaped. Nothing is without pain and my path to today is no exception."

Warning: Em wanted to share her story, and both she and I felt that it might present triggers to those who have suffered through traumatic births or a pregnancy loss.
I have been very lucky - I have given birth to all three of my children vaginally. I have had two spontaneous labors and one induction. I have had three vastly different birth experiences.  My first was scary and painful, this one I call the bad. The second was the ugly, more on that later. The third was cathartic and cleansing and amazing. I ended my child bearing days on a high note. In fact I could relive my son’s birth a million times over. 
Let’s start with the major hurdle ahead of us - I am bipolar. This is important to know as it plays a massive part in the pregnancies ahead. I was 30 when diagnosed and felt reborn to have a name to the weird things in my head. I have a team when I get pregnant - my OB, my psychiatrist, and a talk therapist. Bipolar plays a role in everything I do, whether it is by conscious thought or my sub-conscious. My case is quite severe. I could write endlessly about how messed up I am but alas this blog is about birth, not mental health. So on with the show.
"The Bad"
We decided the time to start a family was right so I consulted my psych and was told no drugs. OK. I was scared and knew how sick I became off the meds, but I wanted a baby so no drugs. I am beyond lucky when it comes to conceiving my children, simple temping got me pregnant. We conceived our daughter easily and I started reading books.  I wanted to know what was ahead, both pregnancy and delivery wise. I dutifully read my books, feeling they made me knowledgeable. Never once did any one refer me to Ina May Gaskin. I promptly tossed “What to Expect” (LOL!) and focused instead on the Mayo Clinic book and the Week by Week book. Given my health history I had been taught to count and trust my doctors. They were the one with the medical degree not me, right?
I had a fairly easy, uneventful pregnancy.... I met all the doc’s in the practice so I wouldn’t have a stranger between my legs. I hired a Doula to get me through labor without pain meds, I had my birth plan. I was armed with knowledge. I have neck issues and was required to have an epi placed during labor or in early labor since I can’t get a breathing tube down without me being awake to swallow it, so I asked for the unheard of saline block. Sounds like I was heading for an amazing birth experience right? Yeah no. 
Em's first was a typical vaginal birth - 38-week membrane sweep that turned into what sounds - or reads - like a baby vs. doctor tug of war, in a way.
I am not one to follow all the rules and neither is my daughter. She got tired of all the poking and prodding and started labor. That was 2:50 p.m. By 3:30 I am writhing and screaming in pain, my daughter does nothing half-way - I was contracting every two minutes for 80 seconds. The nurse immediately says time for Nubain. Pain did not go away; I just stopped caring about it. From there the glorious epi was placed, with drugs. I had lost all my will and had zero support to go all natural. My husband panics when I am in labor.  He will stand there or stay in the room watching but he can’t get out of his own head to help me. I continued to progress steadily without the pit. Or if there was pit I was uninformed.  
.... I was told to start pushing, because being a 10 means you’re ready, right?  So I pushed, and pushed, and pushed some more. I pushed for an hour before I felt the urge to push. So like a good obedient patient I listened and kept pushing till I felt pain, burning tearing pain.  It felt like there was a Ring of Fire, as a friend of mine calls it. I was told to hold it and stop pushing when the pain was at its worst; I politely said “F*** that” and pushed my daughter into the world. They whisked her away to clean, weigh and Apgar her. The OB proceeded to start the stitching process which took approximately 25 minutes.  I have no clue how many stitches were placed but if she averaged a stitch a minute - 25 stitches sounds close enough. They we’re all internal, only three external. I looked - it hurt and I wanted to know why. They wouldn’t let me hold my daughter until I was done being stitched. They offered a bottle and I said no. My breasts were ready for her. I immediately placed her on my breast, and there she got her first meal. She was perfect and beautiful. She was then whisked away to the nursery for her exam. 
All was great until they stood me up to use the bathroom for the first time, and I can tell you I have never felt pain like that. I literally thought my uterus was going to hit the floor, I couldn’t move. Well, obviously that didn’t happen, but the pain was beyond my imagination. I sat on a plastic doughnut for three weeks till I popped that poor balloon. At my six-week post partum check I was cleared and “healthy." I was cleared to begin relations with my spouse and like a moron tried. I ended up in tears it hurt so badly. I still was in loads of pain and proceeded to find a new OB, whose nurse diagnosed a RAGING bacterial infection that took four rounds of antibiotics and seven weeks to heal. I swore a C-section couldn’t have been worse at that point - 14 weeks healing time total.
From what I have heard this is the typical experience. Yeah well, it isn’t a positive one, it sucked. I mean seeing and holding my daughter was amazing. The healing from this was awful and left me scarred for the days ahead. To say my post partum period was one of pain is an understatement. I thought there is no way I am doing this again. That thought lasted two years.
Continued here.

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