Please welcome guest blogger and raptor extraordinaire, Lisa Miller.
On different parenting sites we’ve all seen quotes like this:
“At the moment we decided on the transfer, however, was the moment I felt the most guilty and as though I had failed.”
“ [I] Was so ashamed and embarrassed to have gotten the epi[dural] after 26 hrs of horrible back labor, I somehow had myself convinced I did something wrong for it to hurt so bad…”
“Even though I KNOW that I want an epidural this time, I occasionally catch myself thinking that I should just tough it out again and see if it’s better”
“I was not strong enough to make it. I pussed out.”
“I remember feeling immense guilt and failure for several months after Anna was born.”
“I knew I wanted the epi[dural] with #6 but felt weird about it all at the same time.”
“I still feel guilt over not nursing Elijah as long as I did the others and feel that it’s my fault he has had so much to deal with health wise.”
“ I do remember – however – feeling worried about posting my birth story on Babycenter (haha, why Lord, why?) because it ended in a c-section and I felt like I failed at birth (siiiiiiigh) that first week or so after the surgery.”
A Confession to my Closest Friends:
Common as these types of conversations are, this is not a collection of quotes from Birth Without Fear or Baby Center. These are selections from a conversation the Raptors were having just this morning. Yes, all these women are the rational ladies who support a woman’s right to choose drugs for labor and to formula feed and see nothing wrong with either. Apparently we do not extend such courtesy to ourselves.
How deeply do those of us who were steeped in Natural Child Birth still feel guilt over making the choices we did in labor? I feel so guilty that I have been lying to you all for the past year. Yes, I’ve told this lie so many times that it just seemed natural to tell it to the hordes of new best friends I have made over the last year. You all know that I got an epidural with my second birth, but you didn’t know I also got one with my first.
Why would I do such a thing? I know that getting pain relief in labor is a fine, safe, and perfectly acceptable option. Why the lie?
The first thing I am going to do is to rationalize my lie to you, because I STILL feel the need to defend it. With both my kids I was pushing within 30 minutes of getting pain relief—thus I still feel like I earned the title of Natural Birther, because I did all the hard stuff without drugs. This does not matter one bit. But it still does to me. Why is that?
The Natural Child Birth Does Me Wrong:
I had not been able to unclench my jaw since my daughter had been born. The pain from the clenching had caused my teeth to ache. I went to the dentist where he filled my teeth and gave me Vicodin. The only time I felt OK was when I was taking it. Soon enough I could not get any more narcotics and the pain from my jaw had moved to my neck and was making its way down my back. I was frantically borrowing pain killers from friends and family, scared to ask for some from a doctor because I feared they’d think I was a drug addict. Something was wrong.
Nine months pass and I can no longer get out of bed without help. I ache like a 90-year old-woman. The Doctors test all come back fine. They occasionally see some inflammation but they test me for everything under the sun. It’s not Lupus, it’s not Lyme’s. In the mornings I load my kids up in the car. We buy lunch at fast food places and we drive until I can’t afford anymore gas. It is the only way I can take care of them. At least when they are strapped in I don’t have to walk or move much, which causes me too much pain. I have resorted to buying pain pills from a sketchy guy that comes into the place where I work for $5 a pill. And they don’t help much. This is not the mother I wanted to be.
When my legs start swelling and I get fevers of 101.1, I break down in a doctor’s office. I tell her about everything, the pain, the pills, being an awful mother. She places her hand on my knee and looks over my record. “Honey, you have Fibromyalgia” She says as she rubs my shoulder.
And finally I have a name. Fibromyalgia is a disorder of the central nervous system that screws up the bodies pain receptors. It tells your brain that you are in pain when you are not. In people with fibromyalgia, as many as 35% have also been diagnosed with PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When my doctor asks me about what was happening around the time the disorder started, I wrack my brain.
“If it was some type of trauma” She began “It would be something that you’ve replayed over and over, almost obsessively. Perhaps something that causes you nightmares?” Well, now that you mention it…
I had been having the dream since the day of my labor–the first one starting in the hospital. I see my husband– his usually calm and collected face looking at me in terror—eyes wide, head slightly shaking, and this scares me. He is the strong one and here he is falling apart. It scares me to death. And the pain, I can feel it like it was actually happening. Most people forget the pain of childbirth almost as soon as it is over, but I wake myself up having another dreaded contraction, only to find that it’s not real. I am clutching a deflated belly with not so much as a cramp.
My son’s labor was just long. Twenty two hours, with back labor and Pitocin and I got just got tired. The epidural helped to relax me and he was born soon after.
My daughter’s labor was 6 hours start to finish and was frantic. I remember trying to walk in the parking lot outside the hospital but every step caused a contraction and each one was worse than the last. When I actually got into the room, I went from my hands and knees, to the tub, to the ball to the bed and could not get a break from the pain. It hurt so bad that I remember looking down at my knuckles, which were white and griping the bed sheet and wondering how I could kill myself quickly. I didn’t ask for the epidural so much as I demanded it, and then begged. I cried knowing that it would take an hour for them to get a bag of fluids in me and then to get the actual drugs. I don’t like remembering this. Some folks might say that it was the epidural that caused the fibro to flair. To them I say: I didn’t have nightmares for months about getting pain relief. But I still have guilt.
So I did it to myself. I have given myself a life-long disorder for a belief I would later come to realize was not even real. The medicine they have me on has allowed me to be the mother I have always wanted to be. I still have bad days but I have a life. Having this condition has taken so much from me and once it is released, no amount of getting over my birth will make it go away. I am currently pregnant with our third child, taking a risk to be on the medicine while I am pregnant. Fibro has taken so many things from us, I refuse to let it take the family that my husband and I always dreamed of.
This labor, I plan of trying to be induced so that I know I can have an epidural as soon as possible with no waiting time. I have not a bit of guilt in that, and yet I still have guilt and shame from the epidurals I got in my other labors. I still feel like I failed at some goal I had set for myself. My rational mind knows this is insane, yet the guilt is still there.
So to my Raptor friends: I apologize for lying to you. And I am also sorry that I still have the need to offer further explanations (I have a pelvis that turns my babies’ sunny side up and makes labor very painful). But knowing that many of you still carry around the guilt makes me see how powerful this business of NCB really is. I see how it can get into your head and make you crazy with thoughts and insecurities. So here is to getting over it, moving on and not forgiving ourselves…because we’ve done nothing wrong.