Archive for the ‘Birth Story’ Category

When You Don’t Feel a Bond to Your Baby

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

When my first kid was born, the bond was immediate. The labor was induced, due to preeclampsia, and it went quickly: six hours after the Pitocin drip started, I was holding my tiny, squirming little bundle in my arms. I had dreamed of a natural labor and delivery, in a birthing center, and worried that the change to a hospital birth with medical intervention would impact the bonding process I had read so much about. Instead, my heart broke open and I never loved someone so intensely as I did the moment I saw my precious boy.

Eighteen months later, to the day, I was in labor with my second boy. I had taken all the precautions this time, doing all the things my midwife had advised to avoid preeclampsia, and was actually going to be able to have a home birth this time. We would be in our safe space, without medical intervention, and it was going to create the ultimate bonding opportunity between my child and me. What I couldn’t anticipate, though, was that eighteen hours of back labor, a much longer period of time pushing than the first delivery I experienced, and a baby that was 50 percent larger than my first resulted in me feeling exhausted, pained, and hollow. I looked at my second baby, perfect in every way, and though glad he was safe and healthy, I felt little more than appreciation that the entire process was over.

At the realization that I was not over the moon as I had been with my first, that appreciation was suddenly replaced with a crushing sense of Mommy-guilt. Why didn’t I feel the euphoria I felt before? Why didn’t I feel that bond the second I saw him, as I had before? I had checked all the boxes, done everything right—what was wrong with me?

Turns out, the immediate bond with your child isn’t something that everyone experiences. In fact, 20 percent of new parents don’t feel that intense attachment the second they lay eyes on their new baby. Those feelings are even harder to come by if your birth is traumatic in any way, as having a child doesn’t remove the part of you that is human. Experiencing pain, emotional and/or physical, requires healing, and your brain may require that to happen first before a bond can occur with your child. Worse yet, there is immense pressure to suddenly have an entire identity shift with the birth of a child, so in addition to dealing with the difficult transition to parenthood, a lack of bonding can be accompanied with a giant helping of shame. Those negative feelings, isolation, and other biological factors can spiral into developing postpartum depression, and it’s important to recognize when extra support is needed. In the meantime, removing the pedestal we place motherhood on with all of its attached expectations of perfection allows for more opportunity to talk about the times where we don’t meet expectations.

Four years later, that second boy of mine is full of more goodness than I could ever ask for, and I am fully over the moon for all the things that he is. It took some time to get there, but that doesn’t make me less-than—it makes me human.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

My Pregnancy: Week 39

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Week 39And just like that our world was never the same again. What a strange feeling to go to sleep knowing the next day you’ll wake up and have a baby. We’ve wondered for months if she will look like a sumo wrestler like I did at birth (she was actually our smallest babe) or if she’d have the blue eyes that are so rare in my family (so far, yes). Trying to put words to the birth of a child…our sweet child.

I remember waiting. We arrived at the hospital at 5:30. The house was so quiet as we dropped our boys off at grandma and papa’s the night before. We were mostly quiet and still, just like the morning. For everyone there, the doctors and nurses, we were just part of their routine. She arrived just short of three hours later. There was a lot of paperwork, questions, and monitoring. I soaked up the last time I would hear her heart beating on the monitor, the last little kicks before I’d feel them in my arms.

I felt nervous and alone. I warned the anesthesiologist that at my last birth I was so lightheaded on the table from lying on my back that they gave me medication to stabilize my blood pressure. This time it happened again, and our heart rates dropped low. I saw my OBGYN’s eyes watching the monitor, watching the nurse as she prepped my belly. I felt about to pass out as I saw him fanning the antiseptic to speed its process. He began the procedure as they hurriedly finished draping me, around the time medicine started kicking in, my blood pressure stabilized, and my husband joined me.

I remember the anticipation. Per my request, hubby kept me distracted with stories of his students and fellow teachers. He talked about rudimentary things and I asked a question or two but I was quite aware of the pressure, tugging, and quiet talking of the doctors at my midsection. She gave them trouble coming out, several people pushed on my belly before they used the vacuum to deliver her in the midst of more amniotic fluid than anticipated. At this point hubby and I sat quietly in awe, waiting for that sweet tiny cry in the silence, because what else can you do as your child arrives in this world?

I remember desperately wanting to know her.  We hoped to have the doctor show her to us before anything else, but given the circumstances they took her straight to the incubator to be checked out. Hubby saw her, took pictures. I finally spoke up, as he was captivated, reminding him I wanted to know too. He brought over the camera and I that’s how I caught my first glimpse of my girl. Perfect.

I felt complete. She quickly arrived at my head, bundled up but every bit of beautiful. Her alert but glazed eyes penetrated to my heart. The rest of the room disappeared until I heard the pediatrician ask to take a picture.  There she lay in my husband’s arms, the finishing touch to our family. Instantly it felt a bit like she’d always been there. Even still, remembering life before her is hazy unless I really think about it.

I felt calm, almost at home (as much as possible in a hospital on an operating table). As hubby went with baby toward the recovery area just a few feet away, I spoke with the doctor I’d come to know over two pregnancies’ time. He explained what he was doing as he sewed me up but I basically already knew. This was my third time on this table. The nurses were familiar, the routine calming, as all the literal and figurative loose ends were tied up and I wheeled into recovery and babe was brought to my naked chest to nurse. Her long fingers and stretched out toes!

I remember looking over at hubby and smiling. Our world was never the same again.

Annie is a mom of two boys, ages two and four, and a newborn girl! She looks forward to sleeping again in about 18 years.

My Pregnancy: Week 38

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 9.09.08 AMI’m done. So done. It started with some minor itching, enough that I asked my doctor about it at my weekly visit at week 37. He suggested the itching was likely hormones and stretched, dry skin. Two days later arrived the weekend and a buzz to my doctor on-call. He ordered blood tests to check my liver without offering much detail. Thus began a very long, stressful week. In the end I learned to feel more empathy for the mamas that have odd symptoms, call the doctor’s office more than they’d like to admit, and get a little grumpy or inexplicably tearful amidst their pregnancy hormones and discomfort. I’ve now been there. I’ve so been there.

I’ll cut to the chase—the lab work came back normal, but based on symptoms my doctor said I developed cholestasis. The trouble rested on the timing of it all. Test results took over a week and there wasn’t really time to do more testing before baby was due to arrive, in 3 days. In my 38th week I called my doctor more than all the other days of my three pregnancies combined. Every day they said to try again tomorrow, surely tomorrow the labs will be in or—worse—I left a message and received no response. Dr. Google provided scary information. For example, the suggested treatment for cholestasis potentially includes having baby at the 37/38 week mark… which I was in the midst of.

Add to the unknowing and impatience my 38th week discomfort and hormones along with my previous work in hospitals, often spending time with families who were in the midst of tragedy. Worried and itchy to the point of breaking my skin was not how I wanted to spend my last full week pregnant. I felt crazy at my 38 week appointment when the doctor seemed nonchalant yet he also said we’d do the C-section the next day if the test results came back by then. They didn’t. Mixed signals left me feeling like a crazy ticking time bomb over the weekend.

I would say I wanted to spend this last, final week of pregnancy ever focusing on last minute details and relaxing, eating up our final times as a family of four. I mostly spent many late, sleepless nights bleary-eyed between bathroom breaks, glaring at the computer screen and inputting very odd questions to Google. I imagine the waiting seemed all the worse because my eyes were so directly focused on the prize, our soon-to-arrive babe and, hopefully, her healthy delivery. As I reflect on the situation, in a way I did focus on last minute details. I also focused on cherishing our family, but instead of the four we were already a family of five in my heart.

PS—She arrives just fine, just a couple of days from this post. She’s perfect.

My Pregnancy: Week 37

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

One subject I’ve not shied away from is my experience with two cesarean births and this birth planned the same. I don’t want to make light of the seriousness of major surgery,Week 37 but I find myself sharing pieces of my story because I see the shame surrounding cesareans, and I don’t think that benefits expectant mamas or those who have experienced the operating table for birth. It took time to be at peace with that first cesarean birth.

I was induced based on borderline high blood pressure and a “trace” of protein in my urine. It was the day before a major holiday during America’s longest holiday season. Though I originally opted for a natural birth plan, 6 hours in I had an epidural. My labor never progressed. After 19 hours my child remained at negative three station (very high), my cervix dilated only to 3 cm, and I developed a fever while baby’s heart rate began to decelerate. A borderline emergency cesarean birth resulted. Baby went to NICU and I saw him 18 hours later (and for about a minute after delivery).

Afterward I felt like I failed, like I was weak for asking for the epidural at all. I felt embarrassed that I was so in pain that I moaned and groaned so desperately in front of my husband (he didn’t care) until I finally received an epidural. I was alienated from the doctor from her hard bedside manner, not to mention indignant at the seemingly convenient, baseless induction to avoid the chance of my birth happening on a holiday. I felt enraged at the nurses for not trying harder to encourage nursing, instead opting to force feed my son formula (to avoid potential blood sugar issues related to a large baby). I felt despair at being so far from my son in the NICU, seemingly powerless to be there with him. Though about one month later baby became exclusively breastfed, every feeding that first month just brought back up these feelings, made more punishing by my exhaustion and hormones.

I hid all these feelings because people insisted that it didn’t matter how baby arrived, just that we were all healthy. Sure, yes. Then I felt discounted like my feelings and hopes were entirely disregarded, seemingly cancelled out by the healthy child that eventually made it to my arms. Now I somehow felt selfish to be disappointed in my experience when the doctor potentially “saved our lives,” as one said.

Healing finally came as I began to observe the culture through others’ experiences. When I saw other mamas talk of their struggles (mostly online in a cloth diaper group), I saw the pressures, the shame seething under the surface of comments. Sometimes these comments looked helpful, discouraging induction if at all possible (good advice really, but discounting of some women’s medical need for induction). The horror stories just seemed to amplify the fear and darkness surrounding cesarean birth. People regularly bring up the extra healing and risk though many mamas, I’ve learned through hearing stories and my own experience, get through the recovery with just a little extra effort.

This helped me shed the shame and feelings of less than. Time (and a change to an awesome doctor) helped me to process the many emotions of the birth, where deep down I felt an overwhelming lack of control. I had to account for myself as well. I never took the time to learn about cesarean birth. I think a lot of my feelings would have been less severe had I not been so blindsided by the unknown. I could have had a birth plan in place. I also may have opted for a C-section earlier had I realized the likelihood of my son going to the NICU due to my fever, but I never took the time to learn about why one might even need surgical birth.

I also never invested in classes for childbirth. Due to our busy schedules, I read a book on the Bradley Method but assumed that was enough. I was ill-prepared for labor. I didn’t even think to get out of the bed at any point in the six hours of labor before my epidural to move around. None of this may have mattered, but I realized I gave up much of my autonomy far before the day of induction. Certainly my doctor failed me in preparing me, but part of my healing came from an honest evaluation of what part I played in my labor experience. These things—getting up during labor, knowing about C-sections, more practice of focusing through pain, etc.—may have made no difference in the end result, but I judged myself for failing when I needed to offer myself more grace for being human.

Last, I hold out the possibility that my doctor kept baby and me safe. She and a nurse reported to me that the baby was angled into my pelvic bone instead of my cervix. It’s entirely possible that my son would have never dropped and had no chance of coming out vaginally either at all or without significant effort and risk by the doctor. In all of this I have found comfort in choosing a cesarean for my subsequent births. I face the operating room with grace and courage instead of fear and dread. It may be cold and sterile but it holds the opportunity to birth my child with just as much joy and excitement as any other variation of birth experience.

Annie is a mom of two boys, ages two and four. She enjoys the finer things in life, like compression socks and a full night’s rest.

My Pregnancy: Week 36

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Week 36We’re nearing go-time. What was once abstract in our mind—a baby on the way—becomes more real every single day. Our two-year-old lives in the nebulous, aware that baby is coming but not significantly understanding how his life is about to change. Our four-year-old shows far greater awareness, interest, and understanding about the baby situation. We introduced baby toward the end of the first trimester. We’ve continued talking about my growing belly; going to the doctor and hearing the heartbeat has proven particularly significant and concrete for him.

In the last few weeks we’ve gotten close enough to birth to integrate a variety of tools to understand baby sister’s quickly approaching arrival. Every kiddo is different, both in how they best understand things and of what developmental capability they are at. We’ve found several tools useful in preparing our children for baby #3.

Depending on your children’s specific needs you can find books on a wide variety of topics. Our sons needed help understanding why I could not do everything I used to as pregnancy progressed. Our 4-year old was also interested in what baby looks like and how she was developing in my belly. There are stories about becoming a big sibling and bringing a new sibling into the house, giving birth at home, what newborns are like, and how babies are made. If characters are helpful, everyone from Arthur and Daniel Tiger to Olivia, The Berenstain Bears, Little Critters, and others have books on the subject.

Among others, Daniel Tiger spends the first few episodes of the second season introducing little sister. You Tube also has a diverse array of clips about babies. One of my favorites includes Big Bird learning about breastfeeding.

Baby photos.
Our sons like to look back on their own baby pictures. They provide opportunities not only to see a baby but also see babies in their development and surroundings. I was able to explain aspects of the hospital by looking at pictures of the first few days of life. I could show how my belly gets bigger, baby eats milk from my breast and that babies sleep a lot and need to be held often simply through our family photos.

Conversation and Integration.
Just talking about the baby and including our children in our conversations about the baby help to make her more real. As we bought clothing, set up baby’s things, and packed my hospital bag, we presented the baby as part of our family long before she ever arrived. We pulled our swing out so our sons can practice being gentle as they pushed our Hulk, who stands in as proxy until baby arrives.

Doctor appointments.
Certainly, bringing my children to appointments did not make the visit go more smoothly. It was a challenge worth the effort because our four-year-old was especially moved by hearing the heartbeat each visit. Every visit I also made sure to see if he had any questions for the doctor about the baby. Our doctor humored this and built relationships with all of us.

Notice babies.
They are all around us. Point out babies, newborns, and pregnant women to your children and liken them to your experience. This brings a sense of normalcy to childbirth, seeing that our baby is special but at the same time babies are just a part of life.

Annie is a mom of two boys, ages two and four. She enjoys the finer things in life, like compression socks and a full night’s rest.