My Empty Carriage

Birthing self esteem

December 10th, 2010

It has been some time since I have been able to write. I recently came across the word birth rape and it struck a cord with me. I believe that rape is when something is taken from someone against ones will. So the definition is not exactly the same as an actual rape. But the word is clear to create a feeling amongst woman who have gone through a difficult birth. I am one of the many out there who had a crappy birthing experience. I felt like something was taken from me from the doctor who delivered my baby and to the nurse who was his assistant or accomplice.

I will take you through my experience.
I was 36 weeks and experiencing full blown contractions. I went to a top nyc hospital that begins with a W. I was met by triage nurses who said you have no idea what true pain is. Go home, you are not ready to deliver it’s too early.
I did go home and began to bleed. I called my Dr and said I am in agony. And his response to me was ” since I like you, have a glass of wine and zanax, you are experiencing contractions but there is no dilation of your cervix. This happens to some unlucky woman.” I said ” how long will it last Dr?” Dr” It could last a few weeks.” I first of all had no idea this was a possible scenario for giving birth. I called my mother who was an rn nurse. She said it sounds like labor. I went back to the hospital only to be sent back home again.
The pain was excruciating and the contractions were minutes apart. I settled in for the night, taking steaming hot showers every 15 minutes to ease the pain. I meditated and cried and showered all night long. Finally at 5 am I felt myself pushing. At this time I woke my husband and said I think the baby is coming. And yes I let him sleep because I was so irritable and in so much pain, being alone was what helped me get through the night.
I was too embarrassed to bring my overnight bag that was packed. We also did not bring a camera with us.
I felt already shamed by the nurses in triage and my Dr, so we just brought ourselves to the hospital.

At this point walking was close to impossible. My husband and I shuffled to the nyc streets and it was rush hour at this time. A man jumped in front of us and stole our taxi. I was in full blown labor at this point. Thats the kind of day I was having. We eventually got to the hospital and the Dr looked at my face and said ” it looks like you are in pain now, more like labor.” And sure enough I was 10 cm dilated. At this point I was exhausted, shamed and fearful. They said I could still get an epidural as the baby was high. So I went for it. They tried over and over and said we have to get the head Dr in here. it is a teaching hospital. If I had know this I would have demanded a senior Dr and not a resident. I was told by the head doctor that my back was “unfavorable”. I did not know ones back could be unfucking favorable. He managed to get the epidural in, after traumatizing my back and me.
Well, when it came time to push I was told that my breathing technique sucked. Those were the words of the nurse to me. My Dr was so annoyed with me he picked up a people magazine while I was pushing. He could not deal with how crappy I was doing, threw down the magazine and said ” I do not have time for this bullshit.” Then he left the room. At this point I looked at the nurse and said “what is wrong with him?” Her reply to me was ” He gets very involved he treats it like a baseball game.” I was in disbelief, shock and once again felt shamed. How could my Dr talk to me this way. At this moment I truly felt something was taken from me. Something that was already hanging by a thread and needed tending to and coaxing. My dignity, my birthing self esteem.

I did finally deliver my baby to his threat of ” If you don”t push this baby out in the next hour you will get a c-section.” I did not need tough love, I did not need a nasty coach. I needed time and compassion and love. My baby came out. She was the wrong way up or sunnyside up. I found out this would require a c section in most cases. My husband said that he took out his scissors like they were his guns from a western. He went in a cut and stitched without really consulting me. He also cut the umbilical cord and did not wait for my husband. This story rings true . It sounds so harsh but I know that birthing does not have to be this way. I went on to have 2 more children in a loving relaxed environment. I felt this Dr was so out of line and unethical. I was in no danger nor was my baby. I did need to be made to feel like an incompetent idiot. It all happened so quickly that neither my husband or I was able to see what was going on. It has all replayed in my head like a horror movie. Some people say but you got a healthy baby and you were fine. But I feel so much more is required for one of the biggest moments of your life. I feel humanity is necessary for labor. I feel compassion should be present. And yes even when things go wrong these ingredients should be a part of the birthing experience. I knew in my heart that what happened was so wrong. And so I made it my business to find a Dr that would give me the qualities I needed. I did go through quite a few obgyn’s. And some friends said to me “are you ever happy? Why is something always wrong with the Dr’s, did you ever think it might be you?”
This comment did give me pause to think is it me? And what I came up with is no, I knew what I needed and I felt I was worthwhile enough to search for it. I wish I knew all of this before I had a baby. I wish I knew I could say No. I do not like how this is going. I do not like how I am being spoken to. I want another Dr and nurse in here. I would have loved to have taken back the power I turned over to the team that delivered me. I feel like many woman out there have gone through birthing trauma. It feels good to share my story.

The difference between wanting a baby and actually having a baby

October 3rd, 2010

I remember months before my first daughter was born having everything all washed and ready to go. All of her tiny socks and onesies, bibs and bottles.
I could not believe that I was actually having a baby. I truly in my naivete picture a gap ad. My baby would be happy and never cry. A regular gerber baby. I had no idea what sleep training actually meant, or that it was a much debated over topic.
My mother raised 6 of us kids and it all seemed to just work. I guess she made it look easy which was of no help to me.

All I pictured was watching my daughter smile and coo and walk. And how I would be her whole world and she mine. Boy was I in for a reality check. My daughter was born 6 weeks early. Many of these babies have acid reflux which means every time they eat they projectile vomit. I also never knew that could be possible until it happen in my pristine New york apartment. I watched vomit shoot out like a cannon all over my sisal rugs and yes white couch. I hoped that would be a one off. Let me tell you that she did this every time she ate for close to a year. Yes a year. She cried non stop and was always uncomfortable. She was born with something called torta collis which means that she remained in the same position in utero. This meant that one side of her neck muscles were shorter than the other. So we had to do physical therapy 3x a week for almost 2 years. While other babies were rolling over and sitting up she was not.
My entry into motherhood was not what I had anticipated especially wanting it so much. But nothing ever is what you think it should be like in life. It turns out that we had our own journey to go though together and the education I got from dealing with it all helped me be a better mother to her and all of my children. I would go out tomorrow and do it all again. In fact I did 2 more times. But those are another story.

October 1,2010 Remembering When

October 1st, 2010

It has been quite a long time since my last entry. Life has taken over and left me zero brain cells for my writing. Recently I have been going through the journey of infertility with someone who is very very dear to me. It brings back all the old feelings of feeling helpless and out of control. I remember like it was yesterday when one of my sisters got pregnant when I was knee deep in my infertility struggle.
I wrote a poem about it that I have never let anyone see. I thought this would be a great time to put it out there.
I feel like my sister has been stalking me for days. She is always here now, when before I never saw her at this house. She has a guilty look in her eyes but I have no idea what it is. I hear her whispering something to my little sister. I hear my name and “did you tell her?” I wonder if it is a surprise party that they are planning for me? But how could they be it is December and my birthday is in May. Something is in the air but I truly have no idea what? It’s Thanksgiving and my sister slips into our bedroom at night as we lie watching “Friends.” Something is on her lips but I ask her to please be quiet. She skulks out. I feel bad but I don’t care. And then she’s back with her husband waiting for me at the house. They won’t leave. I feel trapped by them. Why won’t they go home and leave me alone. I slowly walk home praying that they will not be there when I open the door. I see her new prada bag. She is here waiting for me. I say hello and she follows me to my room. There is a strange look on her face. “There is something that I need to talk to you about.” I can see the gravity of the situation. I ask her if we can talk another day because I am having a really emotionally bad day. She shakes her head not through the smile that sneaks through her lips. I ask her if she can e-mail me the news. Again she shakes her head no and say’s “ I think you know what this is about.” My mind races. Do I? How can I? Then it all hits me. “ You’re pregnant.” She shakes her head yes. Time seems to stop and the room seems to spin. I hold back my tears and smile through my rage and sadness. Congratulations.

Disclosure down the line

July 1st, 2010

Disclosure Down the Line

Disclosure of personal information can be a funny thing. The definition according to Webster’s is “making a secret public” The process of sharing information between sides.”  That definition is not very specific because it doesn’t tell you if disclosure is a good thing or if it is something that should be carefully measured. My maternal grandmother, for instance, was under the impression that disclosure of anything personal was bad regardless of the subject matter. She believed that any and all personal family information should always be kept secret. If a family secret was made public she viewed it as a criminal offense. She and all her sisters believed whole heartedly that secrets were private and should be stored in a deep dark place. My grandmother and her family arrived from Italy in the 1920’s. Many of the families that entered Ellis Island at the time had their last names changed by the immigration officials that registered their arrival in America. This was done often because the immigrants did not speak English and the agents could not understand their names when they were told them. So when they entered America many families did so with either shortened versions of their last names or entirely new ones that did not reflect their heritage.

On arrival in America my grandmother and her sisters learned the English language as quickly as they could to assimilate themselves into their new culture. My great-grandparents did not want their children to be teased or shunned because they were immigrants. Italian immigrants were considered at that time to be the absolute bottom of the social ladder. My grandmother and her sisters were told by their parents to always speak English, even though they themselves did not speak the language. Any new siblings born into her family in America were taught English only to insure that they were true Americans born and raised. Italian was spoken only at home in the presence of family. This is the point where I can trace the lack of disclosure in my family. It was thought best that what their children did not know would not hurt them. At that point, in my opinion, my family of origin was compromised. The foundation they were building in America was built on untruths even though they felt they were protecting their children and helping them to succeed in their new country. There was no malice intended but in those years many of the traditions and mores of my Italian culture died because my ancestors felt that abandoning those would insure success in future generations.

My great-grandmother and my grandmother in turn did whatever they could to protect their children from public shame. My mother was taught and firmly believed that if a man touched her breast she would get cancer. She was also taught as a fact that if a man’s penis brushed up against her, even through his pants, she would get pregnant. The shame of being an unmarried pregnant woman in the fifties especially in an Italian family was insurmountable. Therefore preposterous lies and crazy stories were told to their daughters that they believed would protect them and their family name from misfortune and shame. My mother learned through embarrassment that the facts her mother had taught her, to help her lead a healthy and good life, were indeed false and in many instances plucked from the dark ages. So when my mother started a family of her own she made a promise to herself that she would tell us the truth about the facts of life always. She believed that teaching us word’s like vagina and penis was healthy and would not bring disgrace upon us or our family. She was living in a more progressive time and knew how it felt to not have knowledge on her side. She never wanted any of her children to feel uninformed and therefore ashamed by a lack of factual knowledge.

My mother kept her promise to all six of her children to be honest and because of that we all developed healthy attitudes about our bodies and intimacy. In fact much to the dismay of my father and my own husband they have been gently nudged into a world of expressing true facts and details to their own children about subjects that they never thought they would be discussing aloud.  But they understand that power is knowledge and no matter how uncomfortable a conversation may be for them they are willing to suffer so that their children are always armed with the truth.

I have decided to carry on the tradition started by my mother to give my children  information that is actually their’s for the taking you mean with The facts of where they came from and how they got here. It may not always be what they want to hear but the facts are what they need to have a healthy and true sense of who they are. It is amazing to see the evolution of disclosure in my family. Disclosure didn’t really exist generations ago because of fear and recrimination. But as my family evolved in the new world and became educated instead of fearful it took them to a place where truth and freedom reigned. They say the truth will set you free and I wholeheartedly agree. I believe that disclosure of the details of life’s big events, at the appropriate age and time, gives our children the chance to process and incorporate these truths into the fabric of who they are and to teach the generations to come.

Making Infertility Mainstream

May 17th, 2010

Infertility has been kept on the down low for quite some time now. Millions of people do it but it is not recognized as it should be.

The weight of what families go through it in my opinion is down played. Infertility is popular among the families that experience it’s wrath. But if the statistic is 7.3 million families are using assisted reproduction in some manner  in the United States alone shouldn’t this be a more mainstream topic? Shouldn’t there be more readily available services to those in need of it? And shouldn’t it be more reasonably priced. Cheaper! Why do families have to be penalized if they do not have the means to use assisted reproduction. The penalty being that they cannot have  the children and family they so deeply want. Or being forced to sell everything you hold dear homes, cars to make your dream become a reality.

I feel there should be a more even playing field out there. Now I am no accountant  but if the number sits at 7.3 million and services can go as high as 50,000 a cycle. That means that the drug companies and doctors are reaping many of the benefits of infertility. While families are going broke. I see something wrong with this picture.

When I did IVF in New York City at a very well known clinic I was amazed at the fertility wing. I have never seen a hospital like it. It was a sight to behold. It was like the hospital was paved with gold. I felt like I walked onto the set of the Matrix. Now I also delivered at the same hospital. And when they wheeled me to my room I was looking for the place  had had my transfer. But that was the other wing I was told. I was truly disappointed.

So it would seem to be that this is a mainstream condition that is being more than compensated for by extremely wealthy investors. IVF clinics are in competition with one another with the latest scientific break throughs and live birth counts. That is how they judge it at the end of the day. How many live births did the facility have that year. The personalization of the process is reduced to numbers.

I feel like the families doing it should also be compensated in some way. And yes being able to get pregnant is a compensation. But what about the lead up to becoming pregnant. The psychological stress that woman are under. That should be addressed in the process, for everyone. The toll that takes on families should be factored into the process a family goes through before and after. Perhaps that is a lofty unrealistic thought but accurate.

I think the world of infertility has not been truly tapped into yet.  Well that’s my 2 cents.


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