Changing My Life
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 3, May-June 2001, p. 89
Everyone said becoming a mother changes your life. You become less self-centered and focus more on your child. The realization of this comes to each of us at different times and in different ways.
The birth of my first child, Isaac, began as I had dreamed. I went to the gynecologist for my annual exam and she said I had a beautiful uterus when I told her of our plans to start a family. I began taking prenatal vitamins and focusing on a healthy diet, abstaining from all alcohol and limiting refined sugar, though my cravings for frozen yogurt were strong in the heat of summer. A couple of months later, my husband noticed my breasts swelling and we knew it was time to take a pregnancy test: positive! We were thrilled.
My pregnancy unfolded with no unpleasant symptoms other than my gently growing tummy and a touch of wooziness for a few mornings. I continued taking my weekly ballet class and even performed in a show when I was six months pregnant. I began taking an exercise class for pregnant mothers before I was even showing. On the off days from my classes I swam or walked, right up until the day before Isaac was born. I gained about thirty pounds, right in the middle of the range recommended by my doctor. I think some of that was muscle, by the looks of my arms and legs.
I signed up for a class in the Bradley method of childbirth several months in advance so my husband and I would have plenty of time to practice the exercises. I was committed to an unmedicated birth. I looked into the local birth center, but they were in the process of closing (now they have reopened) and my husband said he would be more comfortable with our first birth in the hospital. We went for a visit and signed up for a private room so we could be together as a family.
I attended several La Leche League meetings in my third trimester. Breastfeeding was definitely a top priority as we planned to care for our child. Our birth plan was written months in advance and circulated to my midwife and doctor. By the time I was nearing my due date I felt well prepared to give birth. In fact, I had never worried about the birth. I had talked to many people, read some books, was in great shape, and knew my mother and sister had had uncomplicated births; though they did use some medication. Everyone said I'd have an easy delivery. I believed it, but a part of me always added, "but you never know what will happen." And, of course, something did happen.
At my thirty-eight week checkup, my midwife examined the beautiful expanse of my tummy. She felt gently all around, especially at the top, where what I assumed was my child's rounded bottom stuck out like a small melon. She looked at me with a little bit of concern in her eye before doing the pelvic exam. "Don't be alarmed, but I think your baby may be breech," she said. I wasn't alarmed; I still had two weeks until my due date, many first babies are late, and I had heard of breech vaginal births.
An ultrasound exam confirmed her suspicion. Not only was my bundle of joy head up, he was facing outward, and sitting in what we used to call "Indian style." Isaac was meditating in the lotus position, we joked. Now I was a bit concerned. My baby was not only breech, he was posterior. I met with the doctor who discussed my options: try to turn the baby or plan a cesarean birth.
This was the first obstetrical visit my husband had not attended during the whole pregnancy. I called him immediately and we met for lunch. We called everyone we could think of: a friend who is a midwife, the labor and delivery nurse from my pregnancy exercise class, the instructor of my Bradley class, family members, and friends. What were our options and what had other people done? We learned of several old wives tales that were thought to help babies turn. I spent the next week lying upside-down on an ironing board, putting ice on my babys head, visualizing him turning, singing songs to him like Stevie Wonder's "Moving On," and reading books like Dr. Seuss' The Zax.
We went to the appointment for the external version to attempt to turn the baby head down using manipulations of the uterus. He had not turned and that child still refused to budge. We were sent home for the weekend and told to think about when we would like to schedule a cesarean. All of our sources said babies in this position are very unlikely to turn this late in the pregnancy. We picked a date several days after the due date to give the baby time to grow and perhaps miraculously turn. But when we met with the doctor, she suggested scheduling the cesarean for the next day and trying to turn the baby after administering an epidural. We agreed.
Now, as I mentioned, I had no fear of the pain of labor, but imagining a needle in my back and my uterus being cut frightened me. I spent the afternoon walking and swimming to relieve my anxiety. Michael and I went out for a wonderful romantic dinner. Then we went to bed to toss and turn in anticipation for the last time with baby inside.
Though I knew what was going to happen and my exercise teacher was my very calming labor and delivery nurse, the epidural made me shake uncontrollably. Even under its influence Isaac refused to turn, so the operation began. Contrary to popular belief, I did feel pain during the procedure, especially afterwards as they put me back together. Michael sang soothingly into my ear the whole time. At last our beautiful Isaac was born. We finally met face to face. He did have some of the negative effects of a cesarean birth and anesthesia. The rapid breathing meant he was taken to the nursery while I recovered from the surgery. In retrospect, I realize reluctantly that I felt so beat up and drowsy from the medication that I wasn't in much shape to care for my baby. Luckily, his father was by his side all of the way. I believe, it gave the "boys" a special time to bond that fathers and sons might not usually experience. In fact, for the first days Michael was not only primary caregiver for Isaac, he was also primary caregiver to me. He was wonderful.
As soon as possible, Isaac and Michael joined me in our room and I began to nurse our slightly sleepy son. In spite of all we had been through, he did manage to latch on with Michael wiping his forehead with a cool cloth to keep him awake. Tears of joy rolled down our faces.
Eight months later as I write this, we are still breastfeeding and plan to continue into toddlerhood. It makes me a little sad to think I didn't even get to go into labor. However, it gives me great comfort to know that even though I didn't get to have the birth I had planned, I am able to give Isaac the best nourishment and comfort in the world. Those few hours in the hospital seem short compared to the thousands of hours Isaac has spent in my arms. I learned the first and most important lesson of motherhood on the day he was born. Life will not always go as I wish or plan, and what is best for my child is best for me.