Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Best Laid Schemes...

Since before I was even married, I knew I wanted to have a waterbirth.

Since before I was pregnant, I knew I wanted a homebirth.

Since I've been pregnant, I've researched, learned and made decisions very important to me about the childbirth process and beyond. I've made decisions about labour and delivery, breastfeeding, vaccinations, babywearing, co-sleeping and diapering. All the decisions I've made have been carefully considered and are deeply important to me.

I've been preparing for this point in my life to take place for a while. I've visualised it all - from contractions starting to birthing my beautiful daughter in a warm pool of water in my living room and putting her to my breast for the first time. I've looked forward to experiencing this drug-free, embracing all of it, no matter how hard and painful. I knew this would be a defining moment in my life. I wasn't scared; I was excited. I cherished the idea of a gentle birth with no one around but me, my husband, my midwife and my baby.

All along, however, I knew there was a possibility that things wouldn't go as planned, but I remained optimistic. My pregnancy has been great, aside from the usual aches and niggles. I've had no big issues like high blood pressure, swelling, bleeding or anaemia. I've been in good health. My baby has been in the optimal foetal position for weeks now, despite the anterior placenta. I've had no reason to be concerned that things might not go as planned.

Except for the low lying placenta. At 20 weeks, I was a bit nervous but was assured from all sides that these things are common and usually don't interfere with the labour at full term. Always the optimist, I took that on and didn't worry myself.

Three weeks ago, the placenta was still low, but it was uncertain how low. Again, I didn't worry too much. At that point I was only 32 weeks along, with time to spare, and again an optimistic outlook. I continued to plan for the homebirth, with a few precautions. I held off on ordering the birth pool 'just in case' but kept up with the other things I knew were important. I signed up for aqua-natal. I pumped up my birthing ball. I started a list of essential oils and teas and other labour accessories that I wanted to purchase before the big event.

But... 'The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men/ Gang aft agley'.*

My scan yesterday confirmed placenta praevia. At 35 weeks, the placenta is still on the edge of the os (internal cervical opening), meaning there is no real chance it will move the necessary 2cm or so in time for the birth. If left to give birth naturally, the cervix would start dilating, and the placenta would then be in the way of the opening. The baby would start bearing down, causing the placenta to rupture and, well, as dramatic as it sounds, we'd probably both bleed to death. So we can all do the math here: I won't be having my homebirth.

This news, while upsetting, wasn't surprising. I knew all along it was a possibility. But now that the possibility has become the reality, I have a lot of issues to come to terms with. A lot of those decisions I made, which are so important to me, have to be reformed. Probably the most difficult will be seeing my baby's umbilical cord cut immediately. It was one of the most important parts of my birth plan, to keep the cord in tact until it stopped pulsating and the placenta was delivered. It is my strongest belief that the blood in that placenta belongs to my baby, with all its antibodies and oxygen. When confronted with the possibility of having a cesarean earlier on, I'd decided to speak to the surgeon about this beforehand and insist on the placenta being born with the baby, cord in tact, like a lotus birth. It was one of those things that made a cesarean seem a little less awful.

The scan, however, reveals that the placenta is anterior - in laymen's terms, it's in the front of the uterus. In order to get the baby out, it will be sliced through. As you can imagine, this means lots of blood, which means the absolute necessity that the cord is clamped as soon as possible to keep both of us from hemmoraging.

I feel powerless. I feel gypped. I feel like a failure. I feel ashamed. And I know in my head that all of these things are silly, that not a single one is true. Yet deep down, I can't help the utter disappointment presenting itself in these ways. It's a relinquish of control that feels too hard and too unfair. There are feelings of sadness, regret, loss and wounded pride. I feel grieved that I won't get to experience this birth the way I planned it. I feel unempowered. I feel downright selfish.

But it's also so important to explain that I feel thankful. I feel really, really rescued. I keep coming back to the realisation that, were I living only 150 years ago, me and my baby would be living our last days. We would have died. My husband would be left alone to grieve the loss of the two most important people in his whole life. When I think on this, all I can do is praise God for what He has allowed us to learn in the past century! Because of His grace and mercy and love, my baby and I have a chance to live. How can I feel gypped when faced with a truth like this!

Yesterday, I did a lot of crying. I won't say that today I am completely over it, but I can honestly say that I am more at peace with the situation. I will be having a cesarean. I will be having our baby in the hospital. I will have to give up many things that were important to me. But I will have my daughter. My husband will have his wife and child. In the end, the birth of our daughter takes place in one day. While I wanted that first day to be special and gentle, it is only one day. We will have the rest of her life and ours to love her and care for her and assure her that we will always treasure her. In the end, the way she comes into the world is not what counts. I'm coming to terms with the truth of this. I feel okay about being disappointed, but I won't be consumed by it. God has given us the special gift of this child. I'm looking forward to meeting her. I thank God that He does not relinquish control.

*Or, in other words, 'The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.' (Robert Burns, 'To A Mouse')

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