Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Never say never again

"Over and over and over again
The world only spins one way
The past is a distant flicker by now
And a lesson for another day."

For the last week or so I've been a bit haunted by a story I first read about on Facebook. The great niece of one of my online friends, lost one of her twin baby boys just before birth, after a 39 week pregnancy.

It made me wonder whether it is harder or easier to lose a twin than to lose a single baby at birth. Part of me thinks that having one baby to take home would be less unbearable than going home without a baby at all. Yet part of me wonders how much harder it would be to gieve intensely while caring for a newborn, to have a daily living reminder of that which you'd lost.

Obviously losing both twins after more than a 39 week pregnancy would be far worse than losing the one. But you'd also bear the sadness for the child who lost the brother he'd shared his life with for all those months.

The answers may be obvious or there may be no answers, only the starting where you are, only the going on, because time only moves one way, and they have a new life to look after.

One of the most haunting things the mom wrote was this: "In the western medical world babies are safer on the outside at 39 weeks where in the midwifery world they are seen as safer on the inside until baby wants to come out- as long as baby and mama are showing signs of being healthy."

So when the doctor spoke of risks and statistics and standard recommendations, it made her feel that she was not being treated as an individual. She wrote these words:"To move through fear and go against a doctor with years of experience and knowledge is not an easy thing to do. But to go against my intuition seemed even harder and was not emotionally or physically possible for me to do."

If her words haunt me, it's hard to imagine how much they might weigh on her. But people are human and make mistakes, and hindsight has 20/20 vision. It's easy to judge. It's even easier to have immense compassion.

I loved giving birth but I also feel like I didn't have a fully true birth experience. K.C. was born four days after her February 4 due date. Her father and I diligently went to all of the childbirth classes. A friend of mine was pregnant at the same time as I was and gave birth on her due date, February 6. I spoke to her the next day and asked how her labor went. She hesitated then said, I don't want to say anything because it might discourage you. I thought, you just did.

February 7 was my birthday and my weekly appointment with my OB-Gyn. She cheerfully checked me out and said that I was 1 percent dilated and to schedule an appointment for the following week. I was dismayed. I said, but this baby is getting so big. She said, your baby isn't getting too big and we love erasing appointments.

That night I had my first contractions. We'd been warned in Lamaze class about false labor and Braxton-Hicks contractions. I'm not sure why I was so uncertain whether I was in labor, given that I was three days past my due date. The contractions were mild and sporadic. I remember we went to dinner that night with my parents, who'd arrived a week earlier, at Michaelangelo's. I was timing my contractions and the waiters were joking that we'd have to name the baby Michaelangelina. Hah.

My contractions continued erratically through the night. We'd been told to wait until the contractions were coming five minutes apart to call the doctor. I'd fall asleep for 10 or 20 minutes and one would wake me. Eventually I got up and read until morning. Although my contractions still were following no pattern, I was getting punchy from not sleeping, so we called the doctor at 7 am. She told us to meet her at the hospital at 9 am.

By the time we arrived at the hospital my contractions had stopped. My doctor examined me, said that I was now 3 centimeters dilated. Today would be the day. They had me change into a hospital gown and then told us to walk around the hospital for 45 minutes. That brought the contractions back.

It was Friday, February 8, 1985. It was still in the dark age when an enema was part of the prep. I endured that indignity and got back into my hospital bed. My doctor came by, checked me and said that I stretched to 4 centimeters and she would be doing an amniotomy. Breaking my water. She did it with an instrument that looked like a crochet hook. She also started me on a pitocin drip. Pitocin ratcheted my contractions right up there. I was getting uncomfortable. My doctor nodded and said, a little Nubain I think. She injected the drug into my IV tube.

Nubain is an opiod. It made me feel loopy and I think I even dozed for a while. The contractions started getting stronger so an epidural was offered, which I accepted. Somehow the day had gone by because it was after 6 pm and time to push. I was moved to a delivery room. In Lamaze class we'd been told that some women liked to squat to push. I asked to squat and the nurse laughed and said, honey, you've had an epidural, you can't squat.

I know, I should have figured that out, but I didn't. I had no feeling from the waist down. I couldn't push. I couldn't even feel the contractions, at least not that I recall. My doctor whipped out another instrument, one that had never been mentioned in childbirth classes, a vaccuum extractor. She attached a cup to my baby's head. The cup was attached to some kind of mechanical suction device. There was a loud popping noise. The cup had come off the baby's head. It was quite scary. The doctor reattached it and this time she was able to extract a baby from my body. Kandace Claire was born at 6:55 pm. She weighed a whopping 6 lbs. 11 oz.

I'd missed dinner by the time I got out of recovery and into a room. They brought me a sandwich and a small can of grape juice. I ate and drank. Then I vomited into a basin.

But I had a healthy beautiful baby daughter.

I spent the weekend in the hospital. During our day of labor Jon started feeling sick and when my parents got to the hospital, he went home with a full-fledged cold. My doctor wasn't on call that weekend, the doctor on call didn't want to discharge me with a sick husband, so I got to stay in the hospital an extra couple of days. I didn't really mind. Jon didn't see Kandace again until she was three days old.

I was a clueless new mother and I sent Kandace to the nursery between feedings and at night. I let the nurses change all her first diapers. You might think I was smart to do that, to get some sleep, to take an amazing sitz bath. But later I felt guilt and regret. Perhaps irrationally (perhaps not), I felt as though I'd been a bystander at my child's birth. I didn't really labor to deliver her. I didn't keep her constantly with me during my hospital stay.

I did and still do love her to pieces. She'll be 32 years old in a couple of weeks. And I'd go through childbirth again, tomorrow, in a heartbeat, and I'd do it better, more naturally, without drugs if possible, just for the fun of it. I'd skip the 9 months and 4 days of pregancy though. I didn't love being pregnant. I did love giving birth.

And I wanted to do it again, and do it better the next time. But I didn't get a chance to with Chelsea. I'll write her birth story next time. Because there are some other things on my mind.

Neil even asked me why I was so affected by the story of the lost twin when so many somber things are happening in the world right now. After all, it was a distant connection, people die, children die every day. And there is so much drama in America at the moment, and I do worry about it. Because I feel so helpless. I even wonder if this is how the average German felt with Adolph Hitler at the helm. Maybe they didn't like what they were reading or hearing or seeing. But maybe they didn't think there was anything they could do about it.

It's so much easier to just keep living your comfortable life, thinking that if the situation deteriorates, some other powers that be won't allow it to happen. Thinking that morality and conscience and ethics will prevail over supremicism and racism and myisogyny and unfairness and cruelty and barbarity. Surely those in positions of influence will draw the line. Surely the best of the worst will summon up some conviction to counteract the passionate intensity of the worst of the worst.

Yes, surely someone else will take a stand and not allow another holocaust, another genocide. Because what can I do? What should I do? Should Neil and I have been out at the airport on Saturday, holding up signs? Should we march, should we demonstrate, should we organize, should we go to jail? Would that make a difference?

Or should we keep living our lives, enjoying the retirement we worked for so long and so hard, hoping someone else will step up and figure it out and make a difference and change history?

On Facebook I keep quiet. I have unfriended no one, argued with no one, agreed with no one, liked very little. I probably risked losing half my customer base because I made and posted pictures of pink cat hat beads.

Never again, we said about the Holocaust. But did we believe it? Did we mean it? How far will we go to defend it? And will it be far enough?

Tell me the truth
Don't ask me to lie
These are the things we say
You don't need proof and I'm not going to try
But I think we have lost our way

I don't own the sun and I can't raise the moon
So now as the darkness falls
Love so hard won then over too soon
And another cruel ending calls

All I can do is turn now to you
Holding my hand to my heart
All that I know is I'm watching us grow
Closer and closer apart

Now all the kings horses and all the kings men
Wait for their clarion call
Pride hears its voices and fear wins again
And there's nothing to break our fall

Over and over and over again
The world only spins one way
The past is a distant flicker by now
And a lesson for another day

Now my sad little boat floats on ou to sea
And you're almost out of sight
I'll remember you
Please don't forget me
I whisper with all my might

All I can do is turn now to you
Holding my hand to my heart
All that I know is I'm watching us grow

All I can do is turn back to you
And wave with one hand on my heart
All that I know is it's so hard to go.

(Mary Chapin Carpenter)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz