A couple of months ago, I dropped a birth trauma and PTSD bomb and then went about my blogging as if nothing ever happened. Then I accidentally scheduled myself a double-dose of anxiety today. Now I’m laying in my bed with my brain turned up to 11 and trying to come down enough to fall asleep.
This birth, I am planning on a VBAC. Even though a vaginal birth is safer and preferable to a repeat cesarean, hospitals still treat a VBAC like crazy ticking time bombs that a hormone-crazed preg is getting ready to launch at their doorstep. So my hospital, while VBAC-friendly, requires me to meet with an OB to discuss the risks of a VBAC. The risk is uterine rupture, and it occurs in less than 1% of VBACs. Half of that less than 1% can end up being fatal. That’s the risk.
I went into this meeting knowing pretty much exactly what I was in for. And I smiled and nodded to pretty much everything, because being combative isn’t going to do me any favors. I taught a master class in tongue-holding when the OB expressed concern that August was born 8lbs 12oz. Did I feel like this baby was getting that big? Do I feel like this baby is approximately two months from weighing 8lbs and 12oz? The hell do I know? You’re a doctor. Please know things.
Specifically, know that I was on an IV for 13 hours, which means August was on an IV for 13 hours, and that he came out of me puffy and inflated. He lost one pound very quickly in the hospital. So there was no way he was actually an 8lb 12 oz baby. Plus, he wasn’t chubby, or what you commonly think of as a “big baby.” He was long as hell, that’s it.
Along with all that, you wouldn’t exactly call me “dainty.” I possess enormous, Irish-Italian Catholic hips. My body was built for babies. A “big baby,” is the least of my worries, and shouldn’t even be showing up on a doctor’s radar. It got me flustered that this kind of nonsense is part of a meeting like this.
The OB determined that I am a candidate for a VBAC (doy,) but I still left frustrated that some dumb things had been brought up. It worried me that when it comes to labor, my doctors already have a list of reasons to expect me to fail. Rationally, I know this isn’t really true because this is a VBAC-friendly hospital and I am seeing encouraging midwives at a practice where OBs are also supportive of VBACs. But I was not in a rational place.
I had some time to cool down, and I wasn’t even that riled up to begin with, before my next appointment. Adam and I were scheduled to go on a tour of the birthplace at our hospital. In my first pregnancy, I thought I had done my homework on finding the best hospital I could. I was not correct, and although I gave birth at a good hospital, it was not at all a good place for a vaginal birth and had the highest c-section rate in my state. This time, I have chosen a hospital with a low c-section rate and a high VBAC rate, which also has instances of gentle cesareans. I’m very happy with our choice and I know this hospital is my best shot at a healing birth experience.
But I was unprepared, pretty naively, for the feelings that being in a maternity ward were going to bring to the surface. With PTSD, certain triggers can bring you right back to the events of your trauma, putting your mind and body back into a very agitated state because survival instincts start kicking in.
I felt fine for the beginning of the tour. We saw the triage rooms, we walked by the nursery, all was fine. Then we got to a birthing suite. I immediately felt myself getting upset and uncomfortable because there was a labor tub in the room, which you can sit in for pain management. Because I have had a cesarean, I need to be hooked up to monitors a lot of the time, and that means I cannot use the tub. Not being able to use the tub is not an actual huge deal. I don’t know for a fact that it would be helpful t me. And if I arrive in the hospital when someone else is already using it, it wouldn’t be an option anyways. But seeing it reminded me that I have less options. It reminded me that because I had a cesarean, no matter how unnecessary, I am assessed as a higher risk and higher liability than other women. It reminded me that this thing that happened to me is continuing to impact my life when I just want it to be gone.
Our next stop on the tour was the OR; I was completely zoned out. I don’t remember a word the nurse said. I don’t remember any questions other people on the tour asked. I don’t remember what anything looked like or any details, except I know that I was physically present for that part of the tour.
So I’ve spent the evening in a weird place in my brain, being upset and being frustrated and being angry and being fearful. I got some comforting words from my doula, and continue to get all the support in the world from Adam. But it’s hard to come down from this feeling when my brain gets to this place. I start arranging and rearranging details, trying to find a scenario where I can gain the most control.
I’m bending my No Hippie Shit stance on most things in life and buying some birth hypnosis recordings that are focused on VBAC. And I’m writing this all down as a way to process and sort through some feelings, because they need it. I know that if I go into this birth in survival mode, my chances of success are going to shrink. It took me forever just to pee into a bedpan during my first birth because I was stressed. I doubt my cervix is going to be much more cooperative if I’m carrying every ounce of this on top of the regular stress that comes with pushing a human through your body.
If you’ve had a positive experience with birth hypnosis, let me know! I would love to hear about it. Really, anything positive. I’d like to write down as many encouraging things as I can and stick them up in the birthing room to help keep me focused. Blatantly fishing for birth compliments over here. Give em up.