Monday, April 23, 2012

My Birth Story Part 3: Recovery

Again, this part of the story must be told. But I pray that I can do it in a respectful way. It is no way intended to hurt or offend those closest to me.

It begins as I was being wheeled to a recovery room. It felt as if I was rejoining the world after being away for a while. I'm not sure how I could have prepared myself for this next part. Everyone was so excited. I felt like I had just been through the battle of my life. I was still in a state of shock. I know why they were excited. Our long awaited baby was finally here, safe and sound. But I felt anything but safe. I was afraid of what was happening to my body. I was severely swollen, for one. My legs were as hard as rocks, and it wasn't muscle. My abdomen had just been cut in half. I felt like if I moved, all my stitches could not possibly contain the inside of me. Yes, I had read the c-section portion of What to Expect, but it wasn't sufficient. When my doctor finally came, he said the words I needed to hear most. He said, "You feel like you are going to fall apart, but don't worry. You aren't." He also made a comment about having removable shower heads in all 6 of his bathrooms. We're still not really sure if he was serious, but we laugh about it to this day. My mom also stepped up at this point and asked the doctor things I couldn't have thought of at the moment. She also convinced him I needed a script for an extra massage because of my legs. (The hospital provided one post-natal massage as part of it's routine care.)

Elizabeth did have some trouble nursing later. Not much. Mostly it was hard to get her to wake up to nurse. My intense anxiety over her welfare began to exhibit itself. I was so fearful that she was not getting enough. The lactation consultants helped some, but overall I credit my success breast-feeding to my mother. Her steadfast "you can do it because I did" attitude is part of what made giving up not feel like an option. Fortunately, this is a bright spot in this story. I loved breast-feeding. Knowing that I was providing something only I could provide was the most comforting thing.

After I got home a few days later, problems began to arise. First, I started experiencing extreme discomfort in my back near where the epidural needle was inserted. I couldn't lay on my back at all. Sitting was uncomfortable. When it came time to go to sleep, I was exhausted, but couldn't sleep. Not only could I not get comfortable, I felt like I was artificially being kept awake. I would fall asleep only to pop awake a few moments later. At five days post-partum, I was experiencing rapid heart rate, and my doctor advised a trip to the ER. That was an ordeal in itself, but I won't go into details. After many hours and lots of tests, nothing alarming was showing up. However, in the mean time, I had been without pain medicine for my back. I talked to a nurse about the potential side effects of that medicine. She told me it was very possible that the medicine could be causing the symptoms I was describing. I stopped taking it (it wasn't really helping the pain go away anyway) and eventually I was able to sleep again.

Josiah is the real hero at this point of the story. I often couldn't fall asleep without sitting up leaning against him. His warmth and listening to his heartbeat was the only thing that seemed to calm my racing heart and mind.

I never wanted to be alone--not even for an hour--but I wasn't good company. I was fearful, anxious, stressed, tired, and still so confused about all that had taken place. I enjoyed caring for Elizabeth, but nothing else seemed to bring me any peace or joy. Normally a people-person, I couldn't relax in the presence of my friends. Television proved almost impossible for me to watch. Any scenes of action or intensity only heightened my anxiety. For many years I could not watch a medical drama. They still really aren't a favorite.

My back pain wouldn't go away, but Josiah had to return to work. Lifting and holding a baby for long periods during the day was very painful. We decided to "move in" with my parents for a little while. Maybe a few weeks? I don't remember. My mom came to me when she could, and when she couldn't, we went to her. I never could have imagined that this how my birth story would go. I was so embarrassed by my lack of being able to stand up on my own two feet. When we were at our house, our church family continued to provide meals, as did other members of the body of Christ. Never had I been so thankful for the way God ordained community to work. I knew there were people praying for me, and that, too, was invaluable.

Unfortunately, it took me a long time to recover emotionally. It was one baby step at at time. Around four months after her birth, we began support raising in earnest for the job God had called us to with Fellowship International Mission. I saw God do amazing things, and my faith was strengthened. Still, there remained this dark spot on my journey. What had gone wrong with my baby's birth? Why had God allowed this to happen? Would the pain in my back or my heart ever go away?

Would my battered and broken body ever be able to carry another child? It was never our plan to have just one child, but maybe that would have to be enough. Oh, how I grieved for Elizabeth! To never have the joy of siblings! It was my greatest disappointment in the whole ordeal. (Though the following is certainly not true for every woman who has gone through a c-section, I have heard the same thoughts echoed in more women than I can count, often through the haze of our tears.) I felt like a failure as a woman, and a mom. When the time came to be there to bring my baby into the world, I couldn't do the one thing my body was made to do. I had failed her, and myself. I was broken. Going into future birth experiences, this will be the largest mental hurdle to overcome.

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