Guest Post by Zen Dad Raphael Costa
I can clearly remember the long chats I had with my wife regarding the birth of our daughter. We gave her a name, we pictured her face… Yes, all of that 2 years before we actually had our girl! It was such a thoughtful event, full of details and joy mixed with perfection.
In April 2010 we got married, a very pleasant experience and the whole idea that now we are a family ready to expand was phenomenal. It didn’t take long actually, and on the 16th of March 2011 we had our sweet little girl, Hannah - and that’s exactly what I want to share with you.
I’m a Brazilian born and bred in Rio de Janeiro, and my wife (Lisa) is South African. I know that might not mean much, but it’s just to make a point that we both came from a background that is very family oriented. So, family is a BIG thing for us – even before we met each other! With that in mind, everything related to our new family was really thought upon and planned with every single possible detail. And of course, the birth of our daughter wasn’t any different.
My wife, Lisa, was very specific about the way she would like to birth our angel. So we had our birth plan lined out : Water Birth, Non Medicated labor and in case of emergency C-section, we would like to have a skin-to-skin delivery process. Of course, in order to make sure we didn’t get to the “emergency” piece of the plan, we got the most ‘pro natural’ doctor we could find. Although 300% beyond the cost our Medical Aid could cover, we did it because we wanted the best possible scenario to make sure our plan would come to pass (we live in a country that has a very high csection rate, in fact at the time Hannah was born we didn’t know one person who had a normal birth).
What an exciting moment!
Yes, we are pregnant… Let’s test it again! Yes, we are pregnant! Awesome! Let’s celebrate.
For a dad, there’s no better thing to hear than you have one of your own on the way! It’s just amazing. As the Greek culture says, a man is not a man without a child. Even though it’s radical, I can fully agree with it. There’s just so much that goes on with the news of being a father that your whole life changes around.
We were getting ready! We started our pre-natal class at the best pro natural school we could find. For a couple of months, every week we would sit in a class full of moms and dads that were sharing the same dream and the same expectation: Normal Birth and NO CESAREAN!
We’ve learned about the statistics of “Emergency C-Sections” in South Africa and how RIDICULOUS they are. But somehow, we felt comfortable that we had a good doctor that – by the way – brought the first Water Birth bath to the country. We were happy with that; we placed all our hope in him! He will make our plans happen!
At that stage, I was at a very hectic job which really prevented me from spending some more time on birth preparation, but I certainly was a very involved dad! I went to all check-ups and I cheered every time I heard about my baby.
The time was getting closer and the not-so-bright-side of this started coming to me - all those worries about provision, sustainability, schooling (I was still a young dad!), and all that jazz. So, I found myself throwing myself even more into my work, which gave me a great sense of security. Little did I know that a child doesn’t need provision as much as she needs a present father. Anyway, my wife passionately reminded me innumerous time that my priorities were skew, which I’m now very grateful for. So, I manage to fix myself up and I managed to carry on worrying less and really acting more in preparation for my girl’s arrival.
At an earlier stage of her life, my wife had some complications with her blood pressure, which raised a red flag, but she was and is a champ! She took the pregnancy very easily without any issue. All was doing well! We had the bag packed with all the massage oil, snacks, the birth cd full of songs, we had everything!
It’s countdown time Houston, we are ready to launch.
Ok, this is the part that might not be that important to most of you, but I really feel I should explain to you all so that you can understand the reason why I’m actually writing it. My childhood wasn’t a very confident one. I wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, nor the cutest. So I had some serious self-esteem complications that lead me onto a deep path of insecurity. THE FACT THAT I COULD FAIL MY DAUGHTER AND MY FAMILY WAS NOT ON! So I want this to be right and I want it badly.
Three weeks prior to the due date my wife’s blood pressure wasn’t settling. Yep, our precious bubble had somehow been affected by something that was out of our control! We took her to the doctor and we stayed in a monitoring machine for about 30 minutes and according to all the result, all was ok and we just had to monitor it and return in case of a lack of improvement. Good deal! We got home, she went to bed and we monitored!
On our next visit we were made aware of the fact that the doctor we’d painstakingly selected and paid 300% our Medical Aid coverage will not be working in the week of our due date because of a Bike Race that he would be participating in! What the hell!? Does he realize that he’s not doing me a favor and that this moment is the most important moment of my life? We carried on; I kept that anger away from my wife so that I could make sure she wasn’t affected! But Ah! If I could only….
To cut a long story short (although meaningful), on the 15th of March 2011 my wife’s blood pressure wasnt settling. So, we followed the instructions and we sent her back to the clinic – same machine, same time, different results. Now, the nurse had to show the doctor (by the way, he was there – two days before his departure). So, we explained the whole situation to him. After looking at our file and at my wife’s blood pressure takings, he then put on a worried face and said the sentence that names this little article “it’s has been high all along”. Hello! What are you here for? Why does my wife have to have her blood pressure measured before every consultation then? It has been high all along and it was also in your file all along!! But you know, I have a rather peaceful personality and I wasn’t ugly or anything I just wanted to solve the issue.
He said that due to her situation he would have to induce my wife that evening and then start the labor process in the next morning. I can still feel the exact same emotion I felt in his office. We were so naïve, we believed what he said.
They said my wife would have to stay in to be induced. She hadn’t had the time to go back home and get her bag as well as the baby bag that we forever planned! She couldn’t GET READY. Furthermore, they told me that I couldn’t stay with her overnight. WAIT HERE!! My wife and I had never slept a night apart from each other, this is our moment and I don’t want to go. I tried with all my strength, but I couldn’t convince them to let me stay. I attempted to sleep in the parking lot, but my wife then realized that it would be better if I went home and brought her stuff in the next morning after I got a good rest. WE WERE STILL BELIEVING FOR A NATURAL BIRTH.
I went home. It might sound cheesy, but it was the longest night I had ever had at that stage. The fact that my wife was at a clinic and I wasn’t there with her wasn’t too ideal for me. It might be extreme, yes – I know. But that’s who we are, an Attached Family.
I get to the hospital next morning and she was already induced and the “process” had already started. It was funny to us, because it wasn’t really working for my wife. She was normal. The contractions were of someone that – like her – wasn’t ready to give birth. But, we still believed, after all, we had the best doctor.
After trying the whole day (pacing the corridors, bouncing on the exercise ball, trying all of the tricks we learnt at our antenatal class) the contractions weren’t progressing and my wife wasn’t dilating enough to give the doctor hope. He reinserted the gel 3 or 4 times. I remember he said, “Let’s see what we can achieve before 6pm”. He would visit us every hour to monitor the contractions and the dilation [not very comfortable by the way]. After a couple of tries and 18 hours later the doctor said that this was not going to work and we would have to call a C-Section. Boom! The world fell apart. I was feeling hopeless, helpless, powerless and at the same time excited that I was going to see my girl. My wife tried so hard to make this happen and the fact that we wouldn’t make it breaks my heart so bad that I can still feel it. Oils, sweets, music, massage guides, all of that in vain.
According to the doctor my daughter had her cord entangled on her neck twice, which was not allowing her to drop in to the right position. The next day when he visited us for a check up he also casually mentioned that she had an occult prolapsed umbilical cord which basically meant if her head pushed down onto it during contractions there was a possibility she would go into distress and could be deprived of oxygen. Funny, because while we were visiting the doctor almost weekly and paying a fortune for it he would say “if I had to design someone for natural birth, I would design a baby exactly like this.”
We tried to recover. We tried to keep positive. We were tired, it was a long day of much work with no results. We accepted the need for the C-Section. We just decided to stop fighting. At around 21:00 we entered the theater for our C-Section. We manage to get a nice “midwife” to support us and help us with the skin-to-skin cesarean.
My wife was sedated; my daughter is on the way! They cut my wife wide open and they take my sweet daughter out of her tummy quite aggressively. Sorry daughter, we didn’t plan that.
I could finally see and feel my daughter, the most gorgeous little girl alive. Although the whole experience was devastating it all paid off by looking at that sweet little face.
As a dad, I went from UNDER CONTROL to I CAN’T DO ANYTHING. It was massive, it was hectic, and it was frustrating to say the least. The bottom line is that we can’t trust other people’s decisions. We know what is best for us. If it was today, I would take my wife back home with me and we would wait. We could wait! The thing is – the birthing business is powerful and perhaps one of the most secure markets to be in. There are too many hidden (not so hidden) agendas to take the mom and dad into real consideration. Would I do it again? Yes! Would I do it different? Yes, completely!
My wife and I are completely in love with Hannah, our daughter. A beautiful breastfed, baby worn, unvaccinated, babyled weaned and co-sleeping, healthy little girl with two awesome attached parents! ;) We are not getting fooled by any “medical” excuse to push something we don’t want. We are now a well-researched parenting team that makes decision with one person in mind, our baby girl.