Friday, August 19, 2011

Preparing for Joyful Birth – Making Peace with my Body

Earlier this week I posted the original birth story I wrote in the weeks after SchoopyBoy's birth. In the post, I wrote that things had been left unsaid. Things that I now, more than ever, need to face if I am to prepare for a joyful birth this time. In this post, I want to talk about body image, and how my birth experience combined with two consecutive miscarriages left me feeling broken and disconnected from my body.

First, I want to talk about developing pre-eclampsia. I know every woman probably says this, but it really wasn't supposed to happen to me. I was diagnosed with hypertension in my first trimester. This was unexpected given my reasonably healthy lifestyle - lots of fresh and healthy foods, regular exercise, etc. My OB told me I would be lucky to make it to 36 weeks, and told me induction might be likely. I wanted a natural childbirth and I knew I needed to stay healthy if I were to achieve this goal, so I took proactive steps towards that goal. I got nutritional advice and made dietary changes, I took self-hypnosis classes, I went to pre-natal massage, I switched providers to someone who was more supportive of my natural childbirth goals. My risk of pre-eclampsia was about 25%, and I was determined to be in the 75% that does not develop it.

One could say my efforts paid off a bit. I did make it to week 39 before the lab results indicated that my health was indeed heading south. But I was disappointed. Angry. My body had failed me. It hadn’t merely denied me the natural birth I envisioned and hoped for. It threatened the proper function of my critical internal organs. It downright threatened my life, and in doing so my baby’s life.

At 39 weeks, SchmoopyBaby was fine. Better than fine. He was released from the hospital to go home before I was! (We did leave the hospital together just one extra day later.)

Given that both of us ended up fine and healthy, I could have moved on, and in fact did.

But then my next pregnancy, two years later, ended in miscarriage. And then so did my next pregnancy after that.

Now, being a feminist, I do in fact believe that I am more than my fertility. I am a complete and whole valid and worthy human being whether I have 8 children, 2 children, 1 child, or no children. That being said, I also identify spiritually with the feminine Creative Goddess, and desire a connection with what I refer to as the Light of Creation.

Given my body’s failings during my pregnancy with SchmoopyBoy and the fact that my next two pregnancies ended in miscarriage, it’s safe to say I’ve been not too pleased with my body’s performance as the feminine Creative Goddess, and felt decidedly unconnected with any Light of Creation.

A couple of months ago, I wrote about how my blood pressure was showing signs of going too high again, so my doctor once again put me on medication. I totally freaked out. I was (am) terrified of reliving what I went through at SchmoopyBoy’s birth. I went into such a state of anxiety that ‘it was happening again’ my blood pressure spiked even more, I got a 3-day migraine, and my digestive system went into a spin. It took me checking into the hospital foe an afternoon and getting labs done – all which came back smashingly normal – to calm down.

This time will not be like last time. This time, the medication is controlling my blood pressure, and at a much lower dose. My blood pressure never got this low during my pregnancy with SchmoopyBoy. I am not swollen the way I was. At this point in my pregnancy with SchoopyBoy I was going to a perinatologist for monitoring twice a week. This time around, my doctor hasn’t even brought up the possibility of needing any kind of monitoring. Everything is on track for a healthy, low risk birth.

I’ve had a few unfortunate experiences along my journey to motherhood. These experiences have taught me a lot, and led me to a path of appreciation and gratitude. I have one wonderful, healthy, energetic, spirited child. I am approaching the end of a surprisingly easy pregnancy. My current physical discomfort this time around is not an indication of impending health crisis, but an indication of a growing, thriving, healthy baby. After all I have experienced, my body appears to be redeeming itself.

It is easy to make peace with my body when my body appears to be making an effort to make peace with me. But what if once again I developed pre-eclampsia in the final weeks and have to face another induction? Would I be able to maintain peace with my body? One of my many learnings is that there are some things in life I can control and some things I cannot control. I cannot control the way my body responds to being pregnant. I can control the food and pharmaceuticals I put in my body, in an effort to optimize the way my body responds to being pregnant. Accepting the limitations of my own power over my body is key to finding peace and acceptance with whatever turn my pregnancy may take (assuming, of course, that whatever turn it takes still results in a live, healthy baby and mama).

I have a lot more to write about my birth experience with SchmoopyBoy. My next post on this topic will delve more into the visceral experience of the birth itself and how it impacted bonding with my newborn as well as my headspace heading into this birth.

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