The Fear


I did not intend for a post entitled “The Fear” to have the page ID #666, but there you go.

I’m beginning to become afraid about the birth. I’m not afraid for Janelle and I’m not afraid for the baby, not in terms of health. I’m afraid that things are not going to go as we have planned and I will feel impotent in the process. Our friends have stressed to us the need to adapt and adjust to the fluid process of birth and to remain focused on the end goal: a healthy mother and healthy baby. However, I think I need to have a little more from the whole thing to feel comfortable about it.

I’m rehashing old ground, but not everyone’s been playing along since the first round. Janelle and I are trying for an entirely natural birth as long as complications and safety concerns do not overrule this. Mothers are told to be rigidly vigilant about what enters their body for nine months of gestation and then expected to throw caution to the wind and rock out with painkillers on the final day of the process. They are also becoming more and more easily directed into procedures like the C-section, now the most common surgical procedure performed on women and largely accepted to be something extraneous in the vast majority of cases. A C-section is relatively safe and relatively easy for both mother and baby (though, there are actual, measurable physiological benefits for a baby going through a vaginal birth). But while the procedure is seen as something casual, it is major surgery. And, something mothers are not told, the first C-section might be a piece of cake, but every subsequent delivery via C-section becomes more dangerous for the mother. As we’re not planning on this being the only kid, this is a concern. Turns out, your body doesn’t like to have big holes cut in it. Who knew?

Do I think that every mother should abstain from painkillers and skip the C-section? No. But it’s not what we want and it’s very, very likely we won’t really get much say in the matter.

This Thursday will be a bit of a moment of truth for Janelle and I. We have our final ultrasound, and the baby’s size will be approximated. Based on findings there, we’ll learn how long the doctors are going to be willing to let Janelle incubate the baby. Will they let her go to term? A week earlier? Based on that timeline we’ll be able to figure out when we should start trying to induce Janelle naturally.

If we can get a perfect storm—Janelle is given time enough that labor induces naturally, we are able to let her labor progress far enough at home that we’re not at the hospital very long before second stage labor (pushing) begins, and her second stage proceeds without complication—then we’re set. However, if we miss that then the artificial induction process basically guarantees that we need to take all our plans for the baby, things we have spent months and months researching and practicing and preparing for, and throw them out the window. Pitocin to induce means contractions come fast and hard, at a pace that most mothers cannot handle without painkillers. Painkillers slow the process of labor and contractions, and more pitocin is needed. Rinse. Repeat. Once this process has gone on long enough, doctors will claim a failure to process and start talking C-section.

It’s a view both pessimistic and realistic. After all, studies have shown that there are spikes in C-sections at 4:00pm and 10:00pm. Yup. Quittin’ time.

What concerns me about all of that is of course the pain that it means Janelle will need to be enduring while I hang out and try not to feel too much like I’m glad it’s not me, but more than that I’m worried that I won’t have fought hard enough for what we wanted. I’m not a fan of conflict, even with people who are subordinate to me. So the notion of going toe-to-toe with an MD is pretty daunting to me. If they tell me that something needs to happen and confirm to me that they feel it is the best course of action, am I going to be able to fight them on it? Is it obnoxious of me to even think that I should be challenging the choice of a medical professional? Personal rights dictate that I am, but I wonder how far I can push that envelope before it affects the quality of care we receive. Sure, sure, Hippocratic Oath and all, but medical care is as much a customer service industry as working the register at Blockbuster is and there comes a point where you’re just not going to take someone as seriously as you began.

This is starting to feel like my first test of fatherhood and I can anticipate the flavor of bitter failure. I don’t care to add the birth of my first child to the list of things I look back on with both nostalgia and shame.

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  1. #1 by Oliver Grigsby on May 3, 2010 - 10:31 AM

    My guess is that once you have healthy baby in your arms, the specific events that lead up to the end result really won’t be in your mind too much. That plus you’ll have about 10 million other things to worry about/keep you busy.

  2. #2 by Jessica on May 3, 2010 - 11:55 AM

    I agree with Ollie – this will be such a momentous event, a lot of your concern/worry etc will disappear as soon as the baby is here. That being said, everything up until the moment the baby is here, will matter to you now, so just navigate as best you can. It sounds like you guys have a very firm grasp on what you want – that’s the best thing you can do. In the moment, you will know what’s best – you guys will get through it together. And after everything is over, you will look back and undoubtedly have things you’d do differently next time and then, when round 2 comes around, you will know that much more going in!

  3. #3 by Uncle Paulie on May 3, 2010 - 12:40 PM

    Michael, your Dad, aunt, and uncle were all delivered by way of C-section, and in olden times, before leeches and sulpha drugs. And guess what? We turned out just fine! Well, okay, so maybe we didn’t, but the birth procedure is not to blame. I think Freda smoked and ate lots of bacon.

    And may I make a literary suggestion? Seriously, read Wordsworth’s “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.” I love the epic poem’s bright, hopeful, and wonderful view of birth. Didn’t think Uncle Paulie had a serious bone in his body?

  4. #4 by Abby on May 3, 2010 - 1:24 PM

    I second Ollie and Jessica. If things do not go according to plan, that does not necessarily constitute a failure. Think of your wedding- I bet it did not go perfectly according to plan- but you still had a wonderful time and I would definitely call it a massive success. Also, taking drugs or having a C-section or any other change in your plans does not mean that you are throwing everything you researched out the window. After all, you are not just researching your planned method- you are also researching the hundred different potential changes. And if things do go mostly according to plan, you will be really glad that you did so much research. In short, I think you are preparing as much as possible, while also recognizing that your plan will have to adapt if necessary- in other words, you have already struck the perfect balance.

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