Friday, September 16, 2011

Becoming a Mother (Part II)



My husband pulled the car over so that I could throw-up along side the road.

"Why in the world did you stop the car in front of someones driveway?"  I demanded to know though I was in no shape to really be preoccupied with such a question.

"I don't know" he replied, realizing there was no right answer to my question.

I closed the door to the car and we continued on the path to his mother's house to drop our son off for the night.  I was sick, I was nauseous: I was in labor.

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After the birth of my first child I accepted the possibility that I might not ever be pregnant again due to fertility troubles.  16 months later, another pregnancy test came back positive; a pregnancy that I lost shortly after completing my seventh week.

I accepted this loss, but my adoptive mother was very upset. She told me that I would be sad each year on my would-have-been due date.  I never knew that she had been sad each year on her would-have-been due date for the pregnancy that she lost. I had always thought that adoption fixes that; that it was my job to take that pain away. I hadn't. That's not fair or realistic--for anyone.

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Two months later, I became pregnant again with my second son.  People say that no two pregnancies are alike and it couldn't have been more true for me.

We made it to his mother's house before I got sick again. I considered blaming my symptoms on my husband's cooking. But no, I was in labor and I knew it. We made it to the hospital, but not without pulling over two more times along the road.

"Hear the froggies chirping?  They're hoping you feel better!" my husband said as I hurled my guts out over a bridge into a creek. I glared at him as he continued eating his bagel and drinking coffee. Paramedics have strong stomachs. 
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We arrived at the hospital and I was taken to the triage room on the maternity floor.

"Are you sure you are in labor?" the nurse wanted to know.

I tried very hard not to be sarcastic. I promise.

Nonetheless, the nurse decided I had a stomach flu. She wanted to send me home. I protested; I refused to leave. As consolation, she strapped itchy monitors across my belly and gazed, utterly unimpressed, at the monitor.

They placated me and let me stay there but would not admit me to the hospital. Silly pregnant woman who thinks she's in labor.

I fell asleep.
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I woke up as pain rippled through my body.  A few minutes later, I felt a gush of liquid.  I called the nurse; my water had broken.


"Are you sure?" she said as she walked in.

"I feel as though I am being slowly crushed by an iceberg," I replied.

Still, she tested me with her strip of paper before she announced "OK, you're in labor then" and slowly reached for a glove.  After a second of prodding, she retracted her hand with an alarmed expression.

"You're eight centimeters!" 
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The moment the staff realized that my son was about to be born was the moment they realized they had put me off for too long. They were not prepared for this birth. I was not admitted to the hospital. I had not had my antibiotics indicated to be needed by prior testing. They had not asked me about my birth plan or preferences. They had told me that there was no need to have my doula or my mothers called.

I was rushed to a delivery room as the staff scrambled to admit me. A box of gloves fell to the ground, littering white, latex-free figures all over the gray surface. "I see a head of hair!" someone announced.

I looked at my husband, he looked back at me. "It's too late," I said. "I am going to do this myself." 

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The staff argued. Was it too late to call the anesthesiologist for an epidural? I didn't want one anyway. No one knew that. Where was the doctor? No one had warned her a birth was impending.

 I took deep breaths.

With every breath I told myself you can do thisYou can do thisYou deserve a wonderful laborYou deserve a wonderful laborYou can do thisYou have the confidence to do this.  I looked over at the nurse next to me, who still did not have any gloves on.

"He is coming out."

The staff shouted at me not to push. They told me I needed to wait for the doctor.

"She knows what she's doing" said the doctor who had graced the doorway. "She's the only one who knows when she needs to push."

I focused on my hot pink socks. I sat up. I bore down. I swore I could have stopped time itself if I had deemed it so.

I was in charge.

 ------

They placed him on my chest as those wondrous cries left his lips.  He was a wonderment with deep blue eyes, a head full of chestnut brown hair, and a kissable button nose.  His little forehead was warm against my lips as I gave him a welcome-to-the-world kiss.  The same tears came to my eyes and a familiar lump formed in my throat; the indescribable mother-child bond. 

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So many thought processes flew through my mind while in the hospital. Too many to explain at once. I thought about how much more my voice should have been considered in my birth process. I thought about the privileges I have and how women without those privileges might not be heard at all. The thought terrified me, for them.

White privilege, Christian privilege, straight privilege, cis privilege, class privilege, coupled/married privilege--my privileges in that hospital were endless. I could pay for my care; received unquestioned support during my hospital stay; and no one questioned my right or my husband's right to take our child home. But what if?

What if I were younger? A person of color? What if I wasn't a Christian and no spiritual support was available? What if I did not have a partner or the privilege of being able to be married and have someone to look out for me during a time when I felt vulnerable? What if I did not have the privilege and opportunity to obtain an education and manage a household with someone else who also had the same privilege, to pay for insurance and our needs? What if I were alone? What if I did not have the means to inform myself about pregnancy and birth and needed to rely more on what I was being told by others? What if there was a huge hospital bill waiting at home for me?

What if I were on the other side of privilege; surrendering my son.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Really beautiful post. You are an amazing woman.

Joy

Anonymous said...

I'm an RN and currently work in hospital administration. I would strongly encourage you to send this story to the hospital's Patient Advocate, Risk Manager, and L&D manager. It's an opportunity to learn, and to be reminded to listen to our patients.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree with anonymous RN. As a nurse I can tell you that like any other job, some days you are just on auto-pilot and what what may be the most important day in the life of your patient (or in other specialties, more often the worst or scariest), is just another day and another patient to you. Hence the nurse not listening to you. And everyone brings their prejudices with them to work as well. This would be a great wake up call and reminder for providers to pay attention to patients and really listen. Sometimes we forget to do that.

Kris

Anonymous said...

Amanda, As a former foster child that was never listened to, regardless of anything else, thank you for seeing the need to listen and realize that just because you are different doesn't mean stupid or unable to make decisions...

Lori

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Carlynne Hershberger, CPSA said...

Thank you for writing this. You're absolutely right. I was alone, without the privilege of a partner, a husband or even family at my side to help. I did not have the privilege of a private doctor. I didn't have the privilege of information about pregnancy and delivery. I was young. I've finally given up the self-blame.

ms. marginalia said...

What an insightful, beautiful post. I would have been honored to be by your side and advocate for you. I am sorry to say that there are too many times in my unit when women aren't listened to in the way that you describe, although I try my best on every shift I work.

I agree with the other RNs and encourage you to send your story to the hospital administrator and the L&D nursing managers. You might open some eyes and change some policies for the better.

Lots of love.
Kara

Litha Jameson said...

A very well written post! (It still doesn't make me wanna have kids of my own... LOL!) I was kinda annoyed that no one listened to you. But, I had that happen when my gall bladder needed to be taken out. They all think they know better than you because they have credentials but sometimes we actually do know better than the docs and nurses. It's a lesson in humility on their part. A lot of people could use that lesson when it comes to adoption.

Amanda said...

Thank you, everyone, for your kind comments :-)