I'm having a hard time processing Dash's birth and subsequent events right now. At first, it was easy to overlook the sadness surrounding the events - I was so busy with balancing the NICU life with home life, and still reeling (in a positive way) from the post-birth hormones, adrenaline, etc. Now that things have settled down (thankfully!), I'm left to try to face and process my feelings - something that's always been tough for me, as an expert in issue avoidance.
I knew that I was having a hard time when I noticed all the pregnant women checking into the hospital while I was walking down the hall to the NICU. Seeing families waiting in the waiting room also brought some sadness, as did seeing babies being carried out to waiting cars. The worst was when I saw a lactation consultant advise a brand new mom who was nursing her baby. I believe I had my first of several breakdowns that night; I so badly wanted to be the mom nursing her baby.
Dash is here. He's healthy and we love him so much. Obviously that's what matters most. Secondly, I'm doing great, and I feel better than I've felt in months. I certainly wish that I was able to carry him longer and not subject him (and all of us) to the NICU stay, but I'm the first to admit that it's been such a relief to feel human and healthy again. There are a lot of silver linings to the situation, and we've spent a lot of time pointing them out over the last couple of weeks. But, I do believe that birth matters. I believe the whole experience matters, and I'm having a hard time reconciling the beautiful birth of my beloved son with the events with rapidly followed, and seemed to have overridden the birth experience. To be honest, it just feels like such a major let-down, after so many months of planning and dreaming about how my next baby would enter the world.
Here's the strange thing: I pretty much had the birth experience that I really wanted. Yes, it took a long time to bring labor on, and yes, I was synthetically augmented, but the big parts of the day went as close as to "plan" as any birth ever does (most likely). The people I really wanted present were able to be there. I was able to do it without any pain medication. I wanted to try different laboring techniques (such as in the bath), and I even wanted to give natural induction techniques a try, if it came down to it. My baby girl was well looked after and happy while I was away. She even got to wake up and get put to bed by my mom, something which I really wanted to happen. I even dared to wish that the day would start by my water breaking before labor actually began (something that only happens in 10% of pregnancies), which did happen, AND to be even pickier about the how's and when's of the whole thing - I wanted my water to break sometime in the night. Which it did. And, I was only in transition for a couple of minutes, and I pushed the baby out in 7 minutes. When you're doing it without pain meds, every minute feels like an eternity, so this was certainly welcome with open arms. :)
But, Dash was born prematurely. And he was in severe respiratory distress. He was placed on my chest, but soon after was taken to where he could get the medical care he needed. Dash seemed to leave the room as quickly as he arrived, and left with Peter. As soon as I was cleaned and presentable, my mom and aunt came in to share in the moment. But, it was 4 am, and almost everyone at the hospital with me had been up since early in the previous morning. People left to go home and try to get some sleep. My sister fell asleep in the pull out bed beside me. Peter came back from the NICU to give me a status update on the little boy who I'd given birth to, yet was a stranger to me. Then he went to get some sleep as well. In the meantime, the nurse decided I was bleeding too heavily and started me on more pitocin to stimulate more contractions. She promised it wouldn't hurt as badly as labor, but it almost did. And so there I was - alone and breathing through contractions. No baby inside me to motivate me, just the morning sun coming up to remind me that it was another new day I was starting while still not having really slept for more than 2 out of the past 48 hours. I think about that memory and I'm struck by the fact that despite being so lonely and isolated, I doubt I would have wanted any company. All I wanted was a do-over and to see my baby. (As it was, it would be several days before I held him).
After Eleanor was born, we had a joyous party with many attendees. The contrast between experiences is so stark. For someone who believes in the significance of birth, I'm struggling to see it in this one. It feels like the whole experience was so overshadowed so quickly. Further, it feels like it never really happened. There was no time to process or reflect - instead, we moved on quickly to the next phase of life, as though this never happened. Even then, it was like we had two separate lives, and our "home life" (vs "hospital life") was almost the exact same. No influx of baby items, just going through the motions like before. I found myself wondering if I was ever really pregnant at all.
Of course, I'm typing this with a baby boy sleeping peacefully on my chest, with baby items cluttering the room. So despite the start, 15 days later, things are "normal" for life with a newborn. And I'm thankful. And, he just let out a big ol' burp, which hopefully will settle his tummy enough to allow me to get a little sleep in the next couple hours. :) Still though, I'm just having a tough time processing the way this whole experience started.
That's all. Thanks for listening. Does anyone else want a birth experience re-do?