Month: May 2014

The Natural Way

Since the trend lately has been to extoll the virtues of having an all-natural, granola-crunching, kale-wrapped childbirth, I thought I’d share my experience with the best birth modern medical science can provide. I’ll spare the gruesome details, of course, but someone has to stand up for those mothers that can’t be one of the all-natural “yummy mummy” set.

Firstly, let me also say this isn’t meant to demean or belittle those of you that choose to have a natural birth – rather, it is simply the flip side of the articles and blog posts that make a habit of guilt-tripping any new mother that hasn’t had a natural birth. If you haven’t seen them, trust me, they’re out there, and the experiences of these hipster moms always seem to come with a heavy dose of heavy handedness to anyone who hasn’t embraced the way nature meant for us to have children.

Let me say this in response: nature has nothing to do with it. Not anymore. In today’s world of making your 10-year plan and putting careers before family, women are letting nature dictate when and how they have children about as much as they are foregoing things like their afternoon mocha choca-latte or having their nails done on Saturday mornings because “that’s not nature’s way”. And since nature had nothing to do with the circumstances that lead me to consider having a non-natural childbirth, I let her sit this one out and dealt with the consequences in a similarly non-natural fashion.

I have had many friends that expanded their families in the last few years, and I can count on one hand the number of women that have had natural childbirths. But no one ever talks about the Cesarian section as a perfectly acceptable method. No one. It’s like the cousin that isn’t cool enough to invite to your party but is the first one you turn to if you need anything. And it’s not like it’s some small decision either. This is major surgery. But still no one talks about it.

When I got pregnant, I knew right away what my odds were for carrying to full term and for having a natural birth (neither were good). More importantly, I knew that if I tried to do either of those things I would be putting both my life and my baby’s at risk. If something was going to go wrong, after all the trauma that that area of my body had endured it probably would. And yes, at 28 weeks pregnant that prediction came true, and everyone was on pins and needles for a while while we figured out where things stood.

When it became clear that little Grunt was in there to stay for the long haul, we scheduled my c-section. Scheduled it, and then rescheduled it earlier, because I knew I wouldn’t make it to the first date without some serious issues. I met with the anesthesiologist the week before, and he explained exactly how the surgery would go. They took blood and I filled out all the requisite paperwork, and then I showed up the day of with my suitcase, my husband and my mother, and it was go time.

We were scheduled to begin at 2:30pm, the last one of the day, but because not everyone schedules when they are going to have a baby, we had to wait until 5pm before I was taken into the OR to begin prep. They gave me a spinal block, something that took away all feeling from my chest down, and erected a curtain so I couldn’t see the gross stuff happening down below. MiniSir was escorted in and he was only in the room for 5 mins or so before our son was born. The whole procedure took 20 mins from the doctor’s scrub in to his congratulations and goodbyes. And the entire time, the anesthesiologist stayed with me, explaining what was happening, letting me know how things were going, what (if anything) I would feel at any given time. To say that it was comforting would be an understatement.

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My biggest worry going in was that I would freak out because I couldn’t move, a sensation that I had associated with the time immediately following the accident. And since things just kept getting worse the last time I felt that way, I was terrified that once I got that way again things would inevitably fall apart.

But they didn’t. They went perfectly. I had the utmost confidence in the surgery team that was with me, and by the time I was starting to get the feeling back in my legs I was in my room holding the perfect little human I had very recently given birth to.

I’m not saying that surgery should be the default option of childbirth by any means, but it shouldn’t be the bastard step-child either. It is completely safe for both mother and babe. It’s a sure-fire way of caring for patients that, like myself, have complicated medical histories. And honestly, it is far, far more common than most people realize.

For me, there was only one logical choice when it down to it. And that wasn’t the “natural” way, but it was a natural conclusion that I chose surgery. So the next time you read about someone’s natural birth, remember that though it may be the way nature’s set for humans for millennia, it’s not necessarily the “natural” course for the future.

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Ginger, Grey, and Yellow

Being a new mum was overwhelming at first. I can’t imagine anyone thinking otherwise as they hold, for the first time, the tiny person they’ve just spent the last nine months creating. Because of the method of my delivery, I didn’t have the use of my legs for quite a while afterward. Lots of time to cuddle with my perfect bundle of joy and debate about who he looked like.

In our case, this was a very short debate: he couldn’t possibly look any more like my husband than he does.

But as I held him and slept beside him through his first night, we began to notice a few things that weren’t quite right – the most telling one being that we couldn’t really wake him up, and he wasn’t all that hungry when we did. Blood work done the next day confirmed the reason why: our little bundle had jaundice. High levels of bilirubin in his system was making him tired, and because he was so tired he didn’t have the energy to eat. Now, there are a bunch of babies born every day that develop jaundice, but in our case it was a bit more serious. My munchkin was operating in the “very high” range of bilirubins per blood unit – there is no higher on the scale that you can go. And because he is a different blood type than I am, he also lacked that basic genetic immunity which meant that his red blood cells were working overtime.

Luckily, the way they treat neonatal jaundice is by phototherapy. He was placed in a bassinet under a UV light and a heater. He got to wear a sunshade to protect his eyes, and he was kept at a warm 36.5C. We got to have the whole unit in our room with us so we could take him out to feed him when he needed it, and bond with him as much as possible during his first days.

This is the phototherapy set-up for newborns, where Grunt spent his first few days “tanning”

I won’t tell you it wasn’t hard. He did not like being on his back all splayed out at first, but we couldn’t keep holding him like he wanted – it would have made treatment impossible. I cried a lot while he cried, and MiniSir did his best to keep us both calm. He did finally get used to being under the lamp, and it really helped when one of the nurses made him a little nest of blankets so he felt more secure. Over the next few days his colour improved, and when they had evidence that the bilirubin levels in his blood were dropping, they let us bring him home.

By this point the changes in him where undeniable. He was sleeping soundly, and eating so much that we had to start supplementing with formula, something that we have continued to do ever since to make sure he’s on the right track for growth. He’ll never been a big kid – MiniSir and I are not giants – but at his two week check-up the doctor confirmed he had gained back and surpassed his birth weight, and I breathed a sigh of relief. His hair gets more red and gingery every day, and his eyes have stayed a stormy grey, but one thing is clear: the yellow skin colour is gone for good.