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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I Love the Destination, but Disliked the Journey

artist unknown (if you know, please let me know so I can credit the source)
This is not a popular opinion, I know, but I deeply disliked conception, pregnancy, and birth. I have never loved anything as much as I love being the mama to my son, but I didn't love getting here. No, it's not because I did it wrong. No, it's not because I had the wrong mindset. No, it's not because of anything I did - it wasn't my fault at all, so you can put the blame you're looking to place on me right out of your head.

Conception was not fun. Sure, sex is generally fun. When we were casually trying, it was fun for us, too. When it became an every other day doctor recommendation, it became less fun. When the sex failed and IVF was the only option, conception became a pain (literally and figuratively). I became a walking pin cushion with all the injections and blood draws (and failed attempts at blood draws). Life revolved around appointments and medications, more appointments and more medications. I gained a ghastly amount of weight and my hormones went a rage such that my husband and I often marvel that we made it through still married. No, conception was not fun.

Pregnancy was no picnic. I hear the women who bask in the glory of their pregnancies. I was not one. Right after IVF, I pulled a muscle in my stomach. Ever tried to not move your stomach? Can't happen. Every breath was excruciating, not to mention sneezing. I never got a cute little baby bump, because of all the weight I had on me from IVF. I puked all day, every day from a few weeks in to halfway through and then it cut down to just occasional nausea with the random puke - the exception being teeth brushing, during which I puked every single time for the duration of my pregnancy. My blood pressure was out of control and the only thing that would help was lying down, thus I was on bed rest for the second half of my pregnancy. I once sat up for a couple hours to watch a movie with a friend and my blood pressure shot up for two days. The only time I went out was to go to water aerobics with the old folks at the Y. That seemed to help and did wonders for my morale. Later, I also developed gestational diabetes, which I controlled with diet, so I was eating a lot of peanut butter on toast, which only sounds good to you right now, because you haven't eaten it every day for the last several months. I did enjoy the movement. Feeling that little baby flutter and then wrestle around was a highlight for me. Until that happened, the idea that I was pregnant didn't even seem a reality. I do miss those feelings sometimes and I definitely miss being able to protect him so completely as he was inside my body. I do not miss anything else. My husband misses my pregnancy butt. Aside from that, no, pregnancy was no picnic.

Birth sucked. It wasn't meant to. I planned a home water birth with my midwife and her student who was also a doula. I labored in the heated birthing tub and never wanted to get out. Contractions, though, were long. One lasted a full five minutes. That's not five minutes between, that's five minutes contracting. From that information, my midwife correctly assessed that the baby facing the wrong direction. I went 6 days past my EDD (no biggie, as I was the only one not freaking out about some imaginary expiration date) when my water spontaneously broke at home. Contractions started immediately and hard. I slept not at all from Monday night (when it all started) to Tuesday night, when my midwife and husband finally made the decision to transfer me to the hospital (with my blessing for them to make the decision, as I didn't feel in a position to think clearly). I still hadn't slept when we arrived at the hospital and didn't sleep the entire time we were there. I had an c-section the next morning, honestly believed myself to be dying immediately following (see that story here and here), so I certainly couldn't sleep then. My legs were so swollen, I was afraid. I was in so much pain. C-sections are no joke. Breastfeeding, something I was hell-bent on, was a struggle. He just couldn't latch. The nurses were no help at all other than to continue to admonish me for "starving him" by not giving him formula. I was scolded and shamed regularly, but never helped. I still hadn't slept. Finally, the hospital's lactation consultant came to my room. She tried to force my son's head onto the breast and when that didn't work, she turned around and walked out without a word or any further assistance. Thankfully, I knew of an IBCLC, who we called and hired. Strangely, about 1/2 hour before she arrived, my son latched on and breastfed himself to sleep. It hadn't happened before and, of course, didn't happen afterward. She assumed everything had rectified itself, so she left. He didn't breastfeed again the entire hospital stay. I still hadn't slept. I finally relented to the shaming, admonishing, pressure, and guilt and gave him formula. It was just the latest in a string of failures since labor started. The doctor "let" me leave after three days in hospital if I promised to stay on bed rest for the remainder of a week. We got home on Friday. That was the first time I slept since Sunday night. At one point during that sleepless time, I started to hallucinate. Scary for so many reasons. (Side note: the IBCLC came back after we got home and got our breastfeeding squared away. We're now 3 1/2, almost 4 years into our breastfeeding relationship with a nipple shield - see more about that here - and I couldn't be more grateful to her for helping us with that.) We slowly got into our groove and never appreciated being home more, but I think it's safe to say that birth sucked.

The end result of all of that was and is the most amazing little person with whom I am lucky enough to spend my days and nights. There are not words to express what I feel, but I would venture to guess most of you know the feeling anyway. Yes, I couldn't be happier with the destination, but getting here was not OK...and that's OK. It doesn't make me bad or ungrateful or small-minded or whiny for recognizing such. It stunk and I have chosen not to do it again, but that doesn't mean I'm not endless grateful and thrilled with where we ended up - a family of three that is just perfect for us.

Next time you start to say something to the effect of, "At least you got a beautiful, healthy baby and that's all that matters" think twice and keep that dismissive thought to yourself. Yes, I got a beautiful, healthy, awe-inspiring son, but that's not all that matters. I matter, too. So do you.

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