Tuesday, May 6, 2014

On Hippie Birth Plans and Bonding

Remember when I planned a hippie home birth for Will?  

Though having a home birth was Plan A, we ended up having to move to Plan B...and then Plan C.  Bummer.  

Several of my friends who know how "granola" I tend to be have asked me about planning for Baby #2, and if I am preparing to labor differently this time around.  My answer to that question is sort of complicated...  

I'm not sure if my greater web of blog followers really give a crud what or why I am planning for Baby Dos, but after all, this is my blog, my soapbox, and my chance to process things in black and white.  So here we go...

I have gotten the feeling - maybe I am too sensitive in this - that some have thought our home birth "failed" or was botched in some way, since Will was not born at home, and that we ended up in the hospital, and then the NICU.  And further, since it "failed," certainly we would change our minds, this time around, and be a little more mainstream in our birth planning.  I would like to take this opportunity to say that these things are not true.  They are not true of what happened, and they are also not true about our decision-making process.

Our home birth did not fail.  I labored over 24 hours at home, and those 24 hours are my best memories of Will's journey into the world.  I was on my own turf, had the privacy I desired, enjoyed the cozy atmosphere of my own house, I felt centered and strong.  My midwives and Mark supported my body's natural process and encouraged me along the way.  Will and I were safe, monitored and cared for.

Though a home delivery was our Plan A, our midwives, Mark and myself were united in holding safety as the number one priority.  If anything out of the ordinary happened, or if safety was ever even close to an issue, we were happy to transfer to a hospital for extra assistance.  So, when labor continued to progress very, very slowly...and when I continued to grow more and more weary, we were happy to move to Plan B and transfer to the hospital.  Nothing failed, nothing was botched, nothing was an emergency.  Our midwives were wise and proactive in recommending a transfer.  They saw I was exhausted and saw that medical intervention would be helpful.

Hours later, Will finally made his long-awaited appearance and was as healthy as could be for the first 12 hours of life.  The strokes and seizures that occurred later on were not a result of a long labor or a home birth or anything in between.  His MRIs have shown underdeveloped blood vessels in his brain, which spawned all the complications.  His problems were anatomical and could have caused problems at any point in his life.  Praise God for His faithfulness in leading us to the hospital - exactly when we needed it the most!

In looking back, though I am extremely thankful for all of the medical intervention, I am also thankful for the precious hours we were at home.  In fact, a huge part of me wishes that we could have Baby #2 at home.  Heck, everything about hospitals drive my overly-sensitive self nuts-o.   It's just that...well...like I said earlier, things are just a little more complicated than that...

I have been doing a lot work in processing some of the trauma of Will's journey.  At first, it seemed like a big and heavy cloud of darkness and yuck - too foggy to sort through or make sense of.  It was just...there...hanging over my head and raining down hopelessness and despair every day.  Recently, with the help of a Christian counselor, I was able to process through the story and start to pinpoint the specific things that were the hardest to handle and the toughest to get over - the particular things that seemed to be holding me in bondage months later.

You'd think the most traumatic things would be related to Will's injuries - to the fear and worry, etc.  Oddly, though, the toughest things for me are much more related to bonding...  Weird, right?
There's a picture tucked into the hard drive of my computer that continues to haunt me.  I can't even bear to look at it, let alone post it on this blog.  It's a picture of Will's very first moments in the world.  He is wet and gooey and laying on my chest, his head looking to the right.  And my head is pointed in the opposite direction, away from him, checked out (or passed out?)...I am not holding him, my arms are not around his tiny little body, I am not looking at him or marveling in his beauty.  I am not welcoming him or telling him how much I love him.  Though Will is laying on my chest, he is alone, exposed, and vulnerable.

The first hours of his life continued similarly.  I was too exhausted to care for Will, so he spent many of those first hours in a cold and sterile nursery - away from my, his mama's, familiar heartbeat and warmth.  When I was gaining some strength, and could have begun to be more available, Will started having seizures and strokes and was whisked away to the NICU and put in an even more sterile, plastic box, invaded with needles and wires, and inundated with pokes, prods, alarms, schedules and medicines - further away from anything familiar or welcoming.  He was even more alone.

Though we experienced great amounts of fear and worry for Will's health, the worst part, for me, was not being able to be there for him.  I just wanted to be his mama, to hold him, tell him everything would be alright, to welcome him, and show him that he was loved and wanted.  The long labor and tragic turn of events robbed Will and I of those desires and deep (even supernatural?) instincts.  He deserved more.  He deserved more from me.

In the months that followed, I was left with a hollowness towards Will.  I didn't feel connected to him, didn't feel the joy I expected to feel towards him.  I felt scared, fear-filled, guilty, condemned, stressed, overwhelmed, hopeless, and very, very depressed.  

It wasn't until meeting with my shrink counselor that I was able to identify that most of those feelings were resulting from a disconnectedness, and a lack of bonding with my baby.  I had missed out on all those hormonal and supernatural and instinctual things that were supposed to happen in the first moments and hours and weeks of life as a new baby and new mama.  I was living with a baby I had never actually welcomed into the world.

So - this is where it all comes full circle, I promise! - I don't know that I have changed my mind or my thoughts in regard to granola, hippie home births.  I still love them.  I still know they are safe and wonderful, and truth be told, I am jealous of the mamas who have experienced them.  I will still defend and support every granola, hippie mama and midwife in the world!  So, maybe it's not about changing my mind as much as it I feel that I've learned more about myself and what I truly value.

Last time, beyond safety, I valued a natural process, privacy, coziness, laboring on my own turf and on my own terms.  I valued a lot of wonderful and meaningful and noninvasive, tree-hugging sorts of things.  In preparing for Baby 2, I still value those things, and hope to enjoy as many as possible in our second labor.  

It's just that, this time around, I value bonding with my baby even more.  

This time, I am less willing to log ridiculously long, hard hours of labor, and much more willing to ask for medication and help, if it means, in the end, I will be more awake, more aware, more available, and have a bit of strength left to welcome and bond with my little one.

If I am blessed with a quicker, more reasonable labor, with no complications, I hope to make it through hippie-style.  If my body decides to be slow and arduous again, I will take seventeen epidurals if it means I am able to be more present in our baby's first moments.  Well...maybe not seventeen, but you get my point.  And beyond meds, I am writing our birth plan with bonding in mind - more space, more time to be a family, uninterrupted and private, etc.

Though I would recommend home births and our midwives to my dearest friends, we have chosen to labor in a hospital with a supportive doctor and pseudo-doula this time around.  Not because we were dissatisfied, but more because emotionally and psychologically, I felt like I needed a fresh start - a new story, a new atmosphere and a new experience.  I don't want to rewrite a chapter and edit out the parts that were hard...I just want to write a new chapter entirely.

The good news and hope in all of this is that the Lord loves to make beauty out of ashes.  For all of the hollowness and disconnectedness I felt towards Will in the past, I now feel like I've been able to welcome him and bond with him in ways I never thought possible - better late than never, yeah?  We are making memories and having fun together and the Lord has redeemed the brokenness in our little relationship exponentially.

And, though I could be filled with fear and anxiety in looking ahead to another labor, less than 16 months apart, I am clinging to the fact that the Lord loves to renew.  I am praying Baby #2's labor and delivery and first moments in the world will be a story of restoration and hope.

The end.


  1. Liza... If it helps at all, you can totally do this as natural and earthy as you want! I had an incredibly long labor but was able to be very present when Harrison was born and he was with me the whole time, he never left my side! They don't have to take them to the nursery to do all the "after birth" things. You have been on my mind a ton the last couple of days, and have been praying for you and your little one inside of you. I will be praying that this birth is completely filled with lots of bonding and that it would be shorter !

  2. ok. bravo post. love you. but. pseudo-doula? we HAVE to find a new term for this! again. love you. bravo post.


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