Thursday, May 2, 2013

Healthy Babies ARE NOT All That Matters!

Most people who read this blog know that I developed Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP or sometimes just called CP) near the end of my last pregnancy.  That diagnosis, along with the bleeding I experienced throughout each trimester, effectively made it my last pregnancy as my husband & I are not willing to experience another roller coaster ride of a pregnancy.  Besides, we're old and it was time to stop cheering for Team Babyworks.

I mention ICP because early delivery is the standard practice with those pregnancies.  That is, delivery no later than 38-weeks.  The reason is that fetal outcomes are not as favorable with longer gestation.  That's a very delicate way of saying the one thing that strikes fear in the heart of every single pregnant mother:  longer gestation in an ICP pregnancy is linked to increased chance of stillbirth.

There is a broad swing in what is considered a full-term pregnancy - anything between 38- and 42-weeks.  Generally speaking, baby is better off baking in your uterine oven as long as possible.  That means that delivery (via induction or, as is a fairly common outcome for induction, a c-section) that is scheduled just for the sake of not being pregnant anymore, to choose your baby's birthday, or because your OB is going on vacation near your actual estimated due date are generally agreed upon to not be good reasons to evict your fetal stowaway.

Regardless of the reasons why your baby is born early, you might second guess your decision to deliver so soon.  You may well do this if your baby is perfectly healthy and it's nearly guaranteed that you will if your baby does not fit your mental picture of healthy perfection.  Mother's Guilt is strong, whether it's warranted or not.  Frankly, it seems to me that the ones who have the least to feel guilty about are the ones who agonize the worst.

Witnessing a loved one or a fellow mother beat herself up emotionally over decisions that can't be undone is hard.  Well-meaning people may say things like, "Well, your baby is healthy and that's all that matters."  Or, "Baby was born and his here now and that's all that matters." 

These lines, and those like them, have always bothered me.  I don't think most people are trying to be hurtful when they say things like this, but it is hurtful.  These statements are dismissive and demeaning.  These statements completely invalidate the mother's feelings.  It's like saying that not only is she wrong for feeling uneasy about her decisions, but it's also saying she's wrong for having the feelings in the first place because having the baby here now is all that matters. 

I struggled with years to make peace with my first son's c-section.  My feelings of inadequacy and outright maternal fraud were surprising to me, but they were very real and very painful.  My baby was healthy and I still ached over making the wrong choice.  Was it the wrong choice?  I don't know, but it's the one I made.  I can't undo it.  It took years, but I no longer feel an intense longing when I think of his birth.  I made the best decision I could with the information I had.  Would I make the same choice today?  It doesn't matter, but I would.

Hearing nearly everyone I know and love tell me that, "You're okay and he's okay so it all worked out and that's all that matters," did not help me.  Being told that I'm just as much a mother as any other mother didn't help.  Listening to one c-section story after another didn't make mine feel any more "normal."  Time was probably the greatest source of healing.  Well, that's not entirely true.  It was time and having an experience that made my body feel even more broken.  Having my last baby (high-risk pregnancy, advanced maternal age, early delivery and all), restored me in more ways than I could have possibly imagined.

Healthy babies are the ultimate goal, but they are not all that matters.  Healthy mother matters too. . .physically, emotionally, and mentally.  If she's wounded in any of those areas, it matters - and don't try to tell her otherwise.

Have you struggled to make peace with your birthing experience?  What helped?  What didn't?  Please share in the comments if you'd like and accept a big ol' virtual hug from me.  I know it's hard and I'm sorry that you're struggling.  {{{hug}}}

2 comments:

  1. I just wrote this huge story about my birth experiences and trauma and post partum depression and ... and ... and ... IT's GONE!!!

    Ugh. Nevermind. I'll just tell you later. :/

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  2. It's great! Thanks for all your efforts that you have put in this.

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