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Parents of lost babies and potential of all kinds: come here to share the technicolour, the vividness, the despair, the heart-broken-open, the compassion we learn for others, having been through this mess — and see it reflected back at you, acknowledged, understood.

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« Half a Mom | Main | what they say »
Monday
May052008

birthday take two

Robust, medically unremarkable babies are almost comical to me now, all linebackers and lumberjacks and riveter-rosies. Despite the safe arrival of these strapping boys and girls, labours that deviated from a triumphant ideal send some of their mothers into post-performance despair and the beast inside me tugs at its chain, lusting to snap.

But it's pointless folly to deny a hormonal, sleep-deprived postpartum mama her disappointment—like scolding "Think of all the starving children in Ethiopia!" to a teenager who sulks in front of a plateful of creamed spinach.

+++++

One year ago this morning was the dawn of disaster.

If we don’t do this right now we’re going to lose both of them. We can barely find just the one heartbeat, and it’s extremely faint.

I lay strapped down and shaking and a masked face next to my ear whispered urgently through the chaos make a fist, make a fist… and the eyes behind the green paper were glassy and full of doom.

Then the world went black.

Instantaneously I awoke wondering if there had been some mistake, wondering why it hadn’t been done yet, clattering uncontrollably. The fluorescent, sterile room looked as it does when people come to their senses again in movies, shot through a vaseline-smeared lens, all sounds muffled as if underwater.

Which was fair enough. By fault of my own body, one of my sons had drowned.

+++++

This is my goddamned territory. Stop choosing to be here. You don’t belong.

In my imagination I take birthers who mourn their lost goddesshood by the shoulders—especially those held dear—and prop them up in front of a billboard of my beloved Liam at his end, make them look as I had to make myself look. Turn them to stone with my snakes until the slats of the billboard rotate with that whirring click and these small, white words punctuate jet black:

 

BIRTH MATTERS.

UNTIL IT DOESN’T.

 

+++++

In a pre-publish fit of uncertainty about this post, of which you see only excerpts, I spoke with Bon about potentially being the first bridge-burner here at Glow in the Woods.

I know it might be pain olympics, I know. But it’s totally true and don’t you think it’s justified and it has to be said and doesn’t that infuriate you too and there’s Us and Them and dammit, I’m tired of them thinking they can use the word ‘grief’ when Liam and Finn are gone.

In the space of this tantrum the post shrank in my head against my will, the venomous bits falling off with shame and imminent dissection.

A woman who calls her body a failure because of an unwanted c-section of a healthy baby leaves me with If you're a failure, what the hell am I? One of my babies is dead because of my body. Don't you dare presume to own my words.

Backed into a corner by the school of uncynical birth, I want to punch my way out. That’s all this is. One year later I’m still angry, blindingly so, hissing through a peephole at the rest of the world's sunshine-dappled daisy meadows.

+++++

What does birth mean to you, now? How do you support birthing friends after what you’ve been through?

Most important: how is it possible to be up to your neck in self-pity and still have compassion for the relative heartbreak of anyone else?

 

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Reader Comments (57)

Hi Kate,

I woke up thinking about you this morning, on this 1st anniversary. I can offer no words of experience and in some ways feel out of place on this site, not having "been there". Added to that, I am officially one of those women that suffered a horrible funk despite the safe arrival of a recent linebacker girl. I berated myself for my mania by thinking I had no right to feel anything but joy and thinking of what you've been through.
But I can say that I know I'd be angry too, and probably not capable of making it through this past year as well as you did. You amaze me. Happy birthday to Ben.

May 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSteph

I think I get post partum depression now, so I'm not going to begrudge anyone theirs, even if they do have a linebacker to tend to. But the birth process has always tripped me up, probably because I never got it in the first place, probably because I have always been denied mine (vaginal births yes, but hospital and drugs) and never understood after my live daughter what all the fuss was. Birth to me has always been a means to an end, and it is even more so now.

Thinking of you today, Kate. I was angry on Maddy's "birthday" too. Interesting it's not "Livebirthday," but just "birthday" -- the day we exit these ones into the world, regardless of their state. It's a hard day to fathom, having so much taken away from us, so much we should be doing now that we aren't.

May 5, 2008 | Unregistered Commentertash

I just want to clarify that I understand postpartum depression - maybe better now than I ever have. Especially as you've experienced it Steph. That's chemical, and has nothing to do with the relative luck or shit-luck of anyone else.

What I find difficult to hear is women who call themselves birthing failures - which is sometimes connected to hormones and PPD, but sometimes not.

May 5, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkate

Even before we got pregnant, I always wondered why women who didn't get the birth they wanted were so upset. Back before we were even trying, I figured, as long as a get a healthy baby out of the deal, the hell with everything else. I guess I understand wanting to feel some control over an uncontrollable situation. Perhaps the grief is over the loss of that control -- or the *sense of that control.*

Back in college in a "skilled helper" counseling class, we talked about how if someone is in pain about something, that pain is valid. Even if we think to ourselves "oh, that's not so bad" it is bad to the person feeling it. In recent years, I have had mixed feelings about that. Acknowledgment of pain is important, but (once the rawness heals) perspective is, too.

In a recent post, my husband describes the parody of birth we experienced with our sons:

"Never mind the blood and pain and screaming, the aching loss, the hideous parody of childbirth, me clutching S's hand, telling her to push like we'd always planned, except now it's all in the service of the dead, of an end, not a beginning. The exhaustion of parents meets the exhaustion of mourning. The swaddling clothes are all we have to remember them, and the pictures are too painful to look at, let alone show off. The nightmare version of pregnancy and childbirth, the outcome we thought too horrible to contemplate just months before." (letting-days-go-by.blogspot.com on 4/30/08).

Clearly, at four months out, I'm still in the anger phase, so bridge-burning doesn't scare me. Bring it on. I have some matches to share.

May 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSTE

I posted about this a few months ago on my blog after reading about women feeling robbed of the birth experience they dreamed of. I just don't have that much sympathy for it, even after some good arguments. Bottom line, rip that baby out of me with no medication as long as he is alive instead of dead.

I don't support birthing friends or family, so I can't really answer that. I treat them with my best coping mechanism: avoidance. Which is fine, they do the same to me.

I am sorry Kate. I will be thinking of you today.

May 5, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterg

I am like STE. I never had an idealized notion of what birth would be like, or what I wanted it to be like. Just give me a living baby at the end of it. And, three times, I have been fortunate enough to be given just that. I never once questioned my epidurals, the forceps used on my oldest, or the antibiotics given to me with my youngest because of Group B Strep. They were alive. They came home. Even before my loss I had some small sense of the miracle of that. A very small sense, mind you.

But the quiet birth of my twins- quite literally, the means to an end- has left me with some permanent scars. I will never be able to look at pregnancy and birth the same way. And, like you, I don't want my grief equated with something else that, in my mind, just doesn't measure up. Disappointment? Sure, okay. But grief? I don't know...

Thinking of you today...

May 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLori

Happy angelversary, mama. I was there this past January, the first one is (I hope, think and pray) the worst, so much time for me anyway dreading it, and the actual day was quite peaceful and anti-climatic.

And my answer to your post, is that birth *doesn't* matter to me now. At all.I've gone from vehemently pro-homebirth with Mairi (Living older child), to wanting as natural birth as possible with Catti (my angel), to not giving a f*ck. At All. If my baby is alive, that is what birth means to me. And I could give a crap how it comes out. My mouth, my nose, an incision in my belly, WHATEVER. WHO CARES. Mourning the loss of Catti for the rest of my life is far worse than the DISAPPOINTMENT of not having a homebirth with Mairi. B/c that's what it was, disappointment. disappointment and grief, NOT.THE.SAME.THING.

And sadly, for some women, they don't get that difference. IF for them, that's the worst thing that's happened, not getting Their Way when it comes to birth, they'll never get it.

I don't know how I support friends. I guess I don't. I just hope their babies don't die, and anything beyond that is success. It's NICE if they get the birth plan they want. But that's all it is, nice. A bonus. Cool if it works out. No big deal if it doesn't, if they bring their baby home, they are a winner!

I can understand and validate disappointment. B/c who hasn't felt that, even if it's something someone else doesn't find important. But those that act like they, and their baby, are forever damaged b/c they had a csection or an epidural or any sort of intervention, or a hospital birth, they disgust me. They have no idea what it's like to be forever damaged until they have given birth to death. Then you are forever changed.

May 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJEN

I treat my birthing friends with honesty and as much compassion as I can but frankly, I will tell them that in comparison of losing my baby girl.. their "failed perfect birth" pales in comparison. YES they may be disappointed that it didn't go as planned but yet here they have a healthy baby to show for it.. no matter how said baby got here. My body was the ultimate disappointment. Not only could I not birth her, I couldn't grow her. I couldn't keep her safe and healthy. And ultimately.. I killed her. And sometimes instead of telling them what I'm thinking I give them the answers they want to hear because who am I to take away from their experience just because their reality can't possibly understand the reality that I have come to know. And yet when all else fails.. I just simply tell them the truth, "As much as I want to be here and be compassionate for you in your moment of disappointment, I just don't have it in me right now." If they are truely my friend..they will understand.

May 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCheli

Kate, I'm thinking of you today. A million hugs.

Before, I just wanted the safest birth. I hoped for a vaginal birth because I was scared of complications of a c-section (insufficient anesthesia, infection, et cetera), but not because I thought birth should be "natural" or a certain way.

Now even more so, if I am ever lucky enough to be pregnant again, I just want the baby to get big enough to survive and then OUT. I've even told my husband that if we have twins again I will do everything in my power to induce labor once we hit 32 weeks, because preemie babies are better than dead babies and if any child is not out by 37 weeks I will demand a c-section - better to sacrifice myself than the baby(ies).

At this point, birth to me just equals getting the baby or babies the hell out, ASAP. I have no sympathy for someone who has an easy pregnancy, a healthy, full-term baby, and feels sad because the baby came out the wrong way. They can't compete in the pain olympics.

May 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBusted

I would take a cut up body over a dead baby any day. Of course, it took birthing a dead baby to really make this clear.

As for supporting the births of friends and family, I've had two friends birth babies since I lost C and I've completely shit the bed on providing any support whatsoever. My reserves are pretty much tapped with regards to offering anyone support for anything though. I could berate myself for it, but there are too many other things to bemoan: Namely, how I was able to birth a dead boy. Call me selfish. I know.

I'm so very sorry about today's anniversary. I wish I could take away even a tiny bit of the pain and anger you feel. Wishful thinking, I know.

May 5, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterc.

I was one of those..."mourning" over the slice across my belly after "failing" to deliver my first naturally. Then two babies died in my belly and I begged to be sliced for my fourth baby. I understand it now as I never did before. When I come across those women who are like I used to be I just thank the heavens that they don't understand. I let them pity themselves and quietly thank whatever benevolent force lets their grief be of the kind that doesn't require burying a child.

May 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

Interesting. Looking at it objectively, there's obviously no comparison between a birth that wasn't all you hoped it would be and one that ended up with a dead baby. But, clearly, subjectively, some people seem to feel as devastated by the first as most people would be by the second.

Why they feel that way is a little harder to understand. Maybe they simply haven't experienced any more significant losses, so the "failed" birthing experience is truly the worst loss they've ever had.

Or maybe they have something similar to a very low tolerance for physical pain or having a phobia about something that wouldn't really bother most people. Some people just seem to have more intense emotional reactions -- either about everything or about specific things -- than others.

May 5, 2008 | Registered Commenterniobe

Kate, I am thinking of you an all of your boys today. I hope the day is as gentle for you as possible.

Three thoughts. One, I think if you are needing to get from point A to point B, and you are needing to fly there, you would most likely be happy just to get there. It would be nice, no question, to fly first class, get a nice dinner, some free booze, a nice comfy chair, etc. But ultimately, the goal was from point A to point B. Of course, there are people who will bemoan not getting their first class experience. I would sincerely hope that most onlookers, though, would understand if survivors of plane crashes or relatives of those who died in same would think that such bemoaning is not exactly something they need to validate.

Two,I had previa with Monkey. I had a small tantrum in the car on the way home from my first hospital stay, when it wasn't yet clear what the placenta was going to do, and there was a strong possibility of the c-section. It wasn't having a c-section that I was bitching about, but never getting to feel a contraction. I remember telling JD, how can I be a mother and not know what a contraction feels like. Ahem. Chalk it up to stupid, shall we? I have to say I got over that soon enough and refocused on the whole live baby outcome we wanted. My placenta bled a few more times, but ultimately moved enough that I had a vaginal birth. Even drug-free, because it was fast progressing. So I got my first class flying experience, even if I was in the hospital. But see, by then I saw it as a perk, because the real things I was attached to were 1) live baby, 2) live me, and 3) keeping my uterus. Everything else was gravy. Literally millimeters at the time of implantation separated my first class from an ultimate c-section. And I resent the shit out of anyone who thinks that the accident of the locale of implantation should have anything to do with how I value the birth of my daughter, and out of anyone who thinks that the manner of her arrival defines anything about me at all (other than, you know, being attached to the three things above in the order above).

So this brings us to my third point. The people I am angry with are not actually women who buy the birth matters propaganda as much as the peddlers of the same. The ones who should know better, but don't. The ones who dishonestly go on about how women have given birth at home for millennia without also including the small unfortunate tidbits on what the maternal and infant mortality rate and complications rate was in those rosy yesteryears. I think there are responsible advocates of low-intervention birthing, and then there are those who just aren't. And it is for them I reserve my greatest vile. Because, seriously, is there anything more damaging to women being supportive of each other than to put into the heads of some women that their sisters who make a different choice, or who don't have a choice, are somehow less, or are somehow damaged? To put into their heads that they themselves can be less based on what happens during an emotional and unpredictable, and, actually, potentially dangerous time?

None of this takes away from the responsibility doctors and midwifes have to respect a woman's wishes and to make things as comfortable emotionally as possible, provided nothing dangerous is happening. Strong-arming women into unnecessary c-sections is not cool (and medically unsound, may I add), but that's not what we are talking about here.

May 5, 2008 | Registered Commenterjulia

I'm not sure you are required to have compassion for anyone else, especially on this day. And while mothers who do not get the birth they wanted are entitled to their feelings of loss or whatever, they are not entitled to ask you to validate that. I'm not sure they're entitled to ask anyone but themselves to validate that.
I'm so sorry, about all of it.

May 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

I am like many others. Even before I was pregnant I never really could see what the problem was for people that didn't get the "perfect" birth and ended up with interventions or a c-section. From the time I got pregnant, then miscarried, and got pregnant again I always said "as long as the birth ends with a healthy me and a healthy baby then I will consider it a success". In a perfect world I would have had a "granola" birth with no intervention and a minimum of pushing. Of course every intervention in the book was used and if the vacuum hadn't worked when it did then we would have immediately had a c-section. And I would have been just as happy because we both came out of the birth alive and relatively healthy. That's just my perspective. Thanks for letting me share it.

May 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBrandy

Kate:

It had to be said. I am glad you said it. I have never been able to wrap my mind around the idea that a c section is somehow a failure. There is a part of me that tries to reach for a glimpse of the understanding of this you must have...that I will never have. The whole birth matters thing angers me to the core. It is like saying that my son is some how "less than" because of how he arrived. I choose instead to look at my c section scar and think of it as a reminder of the day the doctor saved my life...saved Aidan's life.

This story is of little comfort to you, I am sure. It may even anger you a bit inside. Birth trauma is a strange thing. It is hard to find bedfellows.

Just know that I think your feelings are understandable and yours to have. No apologies necessary.

Hugs,
Lori

May 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLori

Relativity is a bitch isn't it?

But you are right. Losing a dreamed of birth has nothing on losing a child. And what people fail to realize is that without intervention, they would be dead.

I have a friend who had an emergency c-section due to preeclampsia-thankfully, her daughter got out of the NICU and is now fine. She speaks wistfully of wanting a "normal" birth, but is well aware of what the consequences of a normal birth would have been. My own births had their own problems, and maybe weren't what I envisioned. But what natural process is? I have never mourned my births in anyway because I know the consequences.

Perhaps you're helping to remind people, myself included, that we take our blessings for granted far too often.

You have every right to your anger Kate. Every right and more. You were very courageous to put this out here.

May 5, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterthordora

i am not yet brave enough to support any birthing friends. this weeks marks the 9th friend who had a healthy baby in the past year since my personal thunderclap and the aftermath. i feel like a black cat that stays off the sidewalk for fear of crossing anybodys path. i feel like they view me as a bad luck charm. its unhealthy and probably mostly untrue.

May 5, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwendy-o w.

This is good perspective, Kate. You offer posing questions here. The circle of emotion that surrounds a woman after birth, much less after one where arms go home empty...crap, I can not fathom what you all have endured. But I am here, listening (so as to be a better friend), cheering you on as you 'unwind' it all...

May 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCheerleader

Right now all I can do is acknowledge to myself that people are allowed to feel however they feel. But that I don't have to understand, or agree, or even be supportive. Especially right now, when I am fragile - I walk away. There are other people who can be comforting and say the right things.

Because really, after losing my son, nothing else seems to matter.

May 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

Drives me crazy too - good grief, pull the baby out my nose and stuff me in a clown car with a bunch of pigs while you're doing it, but let me take a living baby home after all is said and done - I'm not gonna care. If I thought it would have helped - I would have eaten nothing but raw carrots and stood on my head through the entire first trimester . . .

Though, the rational side of me does allow that if I am entitled to my feelings, I suppose others are too. Even if they do annoy me.

I've had PPD after loss and after a live birth and it's no picnic either way.

Sorry for the day. Life is never the same again.

Peace to you.

May 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJuliaS

Kate -- I cannot even begin to fathom what emotions come to you from this day. I hope you are doing well.

And I am so, so glad you wrote this post. I have been wanting to write something similar ever since I read those words -- equating a c-section with failure. It hurt me to the quick. I have been obsessing over the cruelty of it, especially when I read the comments from others, mostly in response to trolls mind you, on how only those who choose to birth in an informed matter can understand that. This whole informed birth concept is one of the most demeaning concepts to women I have heard, every time I read it I want to throttle the person who wrote it. But generally they are nice people, in all their condecension, and I am not brave enough to tackle it.


It makes me so angry. You don't mourn a disapointment, you don't grieve not getting exactly what you want. It makes me wonder about my generation's ability to cope at all. I read your stories, and those from these other brave women and I don't think it's the pain Olympics -- it's common sense. Your loss -- is unfathomable to those who haven't experienced it. Howevere, not having everything the way you want it just because you wanted it that way (such in a birth different from those blessed Birth Plans) -- well, sorry -- but while unfortunate -- it's something that we should be able to "get over." I would never post that to a woman I don't know, on her blog, her private space, but I wish we (as a society) could understand the difference between that which is awful, and that which is merely inconvenient.

May 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJenn

Julia, that part about "rosy yesteryears" is exactly how I feel. Took the words right out of my mouth. I didn't do a VBAC the second time and have had grief from many mamas who really don't know better (and even a bit from one who I thought should have). My aunt gets quite up-in-arms about c-sections being forced on women while she is sitting in the room with me and my 2 c-section kids, and my cousin and her c-section son. I finally had the guts to ask her, "What about us? Our sons wouldn't be here without c-sections." And while she agreed that was true and there are times that c-sections are necessary, it didn't give her pause the next time she got on that soap box and preached in front of us.

I'm totally willing to allow that I cheated because I have 2 children and never felt a contraction. But don't act like I did it for convenience or because I wanted to pick their birthdates or something. I did it for their lives. It wasn't my dream birth experience, but MY WISHES WEREN'T IMPORTANT AT THE TIME.

Sorry, but this kind of crap really pisses me off. I got sent a link to "The Business of Birth" the other day and I've been on this rant since. I cannot begin to imagine how mad it must make someone who had to birth a dead baby.

Perhaps, like the Shaken Baby Syndrome video they had me watch hours after giving birth to my daughter, there should be a video shown of a woman birthing a baby she knows has already passed. They would have to show it in birthing classes -- or to the mom's that had that perfect first-class experience so as to keep them off of their high horses. Or is that just gruesome and cruel to the naive women who want to look down on me for saving my son with medical intervention?

May 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKYouell

Here's the difference. Reasonable minds could disagree over whether, in fact, having a c-section is a negative outcome. I've heard all the starlets in Hollywood have scheduled c-sections. It's de rigeur! More earthy types may see it differently, but neither point of view is necessarily more valid than the other. Losing a baby shortly before, during, or after birth, is bad no matter how you look at it. It's not a matter of perspective, it is horrendous. So I've got to take your side on this one. Moms who "grieve" the loss of a perfect vaginal birth are, quite frankly, narrow-minded and ungrateful.

May 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

Kate--
I was thinking of you too (hello from your friendly blog-stalker!), and of sweet Liam. I too detest the Pain Olympics, and yet sometimes I find myself going for a little jog, getting carried away, and taking the gold in the Pain Marathon inadventently. Whoops. As I told you before, all three of my children are alive, and therefore I am pretty sure I could only compete around here at the amateur level (I am so kidding; there is of course no comparing pain but I have a sick sense of humor and just got back from a particularly discouraging doctor's appointment where I got "scoped" and had some Valium--LOOK out!). It happens to me when people complain about their babies being fussy and Satan rises up in my larynx and tries to make me say something like "TRY SOOTHING A CHILD WITH SEVERE SENSORY INTEGRATION DYSFUNCTION, WHO SCREAMS AND SCREAMS NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO AND ONLY SLEEPS IN ONE-HOUR INCREMENTS," or else they tell me, wide-eyed, that THEIR BABY HAS REFLUX and they have to give the child ZANTAC. "OMG," Satan says, hand firmly up my...back..."DID THEIR ESOPHAGUS ERODE UNTIL THEY NEARLY DIED OF MALNUTRITION? DID THEY ONLY WEIGH NINE POUNDS WHEN THEY WERE FOUR MONTHS OLD AFTER A FULL-TERM BIRTH? DID YOU HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO SHOVE AN NG-TUBE DOWN YOUR OWN SCREAMING, GAGGING CHILD'S THROAT IN ORDER TO TAKE THEM HOME FROM THE HOSPITAL, AND FINALLY HAVE A G-TUBE INSERTED THAT THEY HAVE TO THIS DAY? OH AND BY THE WAY IS IT ALL *YOUR* FUCKED-UP GENES' FAULT?"
Not that I'm bitter.
I know full-well that these are minor concerns compared to not HAVING a screaming, gagging child to torture with NG-tubes, and that survivable heritable genetic ailments beat non-survivable ones any day of the week and twice on Sunday. In fact, reading blogs like yours has helped me to be a little less wrapped up in my own personal pain and gain a sense of perspective for which I am grateful. On good days. On bad days like today when a doctor marvels "WOW, you're a FREAK OF NATURE, you REALLY got the short straw in the genetic straw-pull, I mean, WOW" I want to punch someone. Especially if they complain that their child's ears stick out like theirs did, and oh woe is them, the surgery to tuck them back was painful and they don't know if they have the heart to do it to their child, but otherwise what will the child's PEERS say (as an aside--my otolaryngologist shares a waiting room with a plastic surgeon and someone was wondering out loud why THEIR baby, who was about a year and a half old, couldn't have nice flat ears like MY baby, who looks the same age but is in fact almost three)...
I think the thing that has made me less of a bitter bitch (oh yes, I USED to be WORSE) is (therapy aside) the fact that I finally realized that everyone feels their own deepest pain, whether it be losing a child, unknowingly passing horrible genetic ailments on to all three of their children, or simply having transmitted the sticky-outie-ear gene to their perfectly robust and developmentally on-track offspring, with the same acuity. Whatever your own personal worst is, it is a ten on your scale, and everybody freaks out about hitting a ten. Now, I DID stop teaching freshman English after my baby got sick, because I found that I simply COULD NOT STAND the whiny, self-pitying excuses people had for not turning in a stupid essay and was becoming rather...prickly...with them. I could probably stand to do it again now, if my health allowed, but when the pain was fresh and the snowball was still gaining in mass as it rumbled down the mountain toward the quaint little village where my heart used to live? No way. Even now, new things are still popping up, and once again I find myself struggling--not the way I did when it was all new and unknown and I was constantly having to raise the bar on "ten," but just in the way that the day-to-day monitoring of four (my three children and myself) chronically ill people's various conditions, and scheduling everything, and rescheduling it all because someone is sick, and finding out that your disease is progressing as predicted, and worrying about all of the above can suck the joy out of your life. I have very few bitter days, having finally reached the acceptance stage of the grieving my-former-life process, but they do happen and I never know what will turn a regular Tuesday into a day of great wailing and gnashing of teeth.
I think your feelings are entirely valid, and you shouldn't feel guilty at all for feeling them (we can't control what we feel, after all, only what we do with those feelings) or even voicing them. Everyone here chooses to be here, and I'd like to think that no one would or even COULD be offended by your words, but...people, y'know? I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. On really bad days I try to only interact with people who I know won't be asses and tempt the devil to take over my voicebox. Sometimes I fail. But I'm getting better with practice.
I don't have any rage toward birth-disappointment, because all of mine made it out alive. But I do have some issues in the area of "sympathy for the relative disappointments of others." I think the fact that you are even able to consider others after losing a child speaks volumes as to what sort of person you are--if worst comes to worst then just practice emotional triage and worry about the person with the gravest wounds first. The rest of them will be okay; if something like the WAY their healthy baby came into the world or the tilt of their (otherwise physically perfect) child's ears gets them all militant then chances are they can take the hit and you don't need to feel TOO bad for being less than perfectly sensitive.

May 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEliza

Kate - sending you much light and warmth at this difficult time.

I just found this site today and I have been completely and utterly moved by the honesty, the rawness shared in this space. It is very much needed.

This post was one of the first that I read. Having given birth to my daughter just over two weeks ago (after five miscarriages), I was immediately drawn to a post on "birth." I've been wrestling with many complicated emotions for the entirety of my pregnancy and during the postpartum.

My entire pregnancy filled me with anxiety and fear, especially as we found out about complications with each doctor visit. I had complete placenta previa, and bleeding throughout my pregnancy. When it seemed certain that I would need to have a cesarean birth to bring my daughter safely into the world - and to protect my own health - I was devastated. I really struggled with not being able to have a vaginal birth, to not be able to labor. To me, it seemed that after all of my losses and all of the challenges my body threw at me during this pregnancy, finally having something go "according to plan" would be very healing for me. But life continues to teach me about having expectations.

Anyhow, as I said, I was having a lot of trouble reconciling that I would need to have a cesarean birth. In fact, I am pretty sure that I even wrote on my blog about feeling like my body had failed me once again.

Then, at 32 weeks, I started hemorrhaging. That night, all of my reservations about having a cesarean birth vanished, and I finally understood that having a c-section was necessary to preserve my health and the life of my daughter. It became even more clear a couple of weeks later when we found out that my placenta was anterior and that performing the c-section was going to put both me and my daughter at risk of hemorrhage during birth, that we would both likely need blood, that I might lose my uterus.

Looking back, I think that all of my wild emotions about the c-section were really just an outlet - an event - and aspect of my pregnancy - onto which I could project all of my fears about losing this baby. I was terrified that after 5 losses and finally making it this far, that we might lose this baby too. While I faked it pretty well, I found it hard to *really* believe that it might actually work out this time. I think it was a place to direct my fear, my exhaustion, my anxiety, my frustration with feeling so out of control. Looking back, how she arrived doesn't matter at all - what does matter is that she is safe and healthy - and alive.

As for supporting others, I am just getting to the point where I feel less raw about other people's pregnancies. When I am feeling particularly strong, I remind myself that we all have our own journeys, our own mountains to climb. I try not to compare my pain or my journey to someone elses. I offer hope for the safety of their babies, that they never know the pain of losing a baby. Those are the strong days.

Most often, however, I still retreat into myself, I practice avoidance. It seems easiest for me. And this is with my long-awaited daughter in my arms. I wonder if I will ever again be able to fully open my heart to celebrate with others who have had a less difficult journey to having a child. Time will tell.

And then there are the days, like today, when I read stories of such tremendous loss, and I wonder if I would be strong enough to carry on. I try not to compare my losses, the depth of my grief, to that of others, but it's hard. Sometimes I end up feeling bitter and angry - that I have suffered so much. And sometimes I feel so incredibly fortunate. But really, where I am is just where I am. And I'm learning each day to be okay with it.

Again, keeping you and your boys close in my heart at this difficult time. Thank you for your honesty.

May 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNikole

ps - I meant to add in my previous comment that anyone clicking on my site link should be warned that there are lots of pictures of our new baby there. I apologize for the oversight and for clicking to post so soon without including this warning. I would not want to cause anyone more pain.

May 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNikole

So many thoughtful, heart-moving, provocative and challenging contributions from everyone. I'm so honoured to be here among such company. Nikole, congratulations on that long-awaited baby. I'm happy for you. And smart to give people a heads-up, too... thanks. That's probably wise.

JuliaS, you made me laugh. Now all I can think of is nose-birth. Sounds most gratifying.

You all made me feel a little less venomous (or at least rightly so) and a little more sane. Thanks.

May 6, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkate

First of all Kate, you blow my mind. You are incredibly courageous and IMO, are really opening up dialogue that perhaps has never existed.

I know what you are speaking of, and I know that women who 'grieve' the birth that didn't happen is in no way the same grief you have experienced.

But, I just think that the language doesn't EVEN exsist yet...

I think a woman who has a c-section after a painfully planned spiritual home birth has no words to describe her pain and when she does will get chastised for her expression with the same words you use to describe losing Liam.

It is not the same pain, but it is painful. And how do we express it without robbing YOU of your language...

I've thought of you and your family this whole weekend. Your words have taught me SO much wisdom. I hope you are finding peace. Oh, and Ben is just. so. gorgeous.

May 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

Kate,

I love your writing and your blog and I've been struggling with what to write in reply to this for days.

I guess what it comes down to is that it's not a zero sum game. To have a live baby, we don't need every intervention on earth, and sometimes those interventions can be more dangerous than not....and having birthed both live and dead babies, I've done a lot of research....I'm not trying to upset you by saying this.

It's just that sometimes that grief those women speak of is legitimate, and sometimes women like us, grieving mothers are used like symbols of freakdom by OBs to intimidate vulnerable women into accepting interventions that are completely medically unnecessary. OBs these days refuse to work long hours, and all across this country they refuse to provide aneasthesia to labouring women any other time besides 9 to 5. Which effectively forces them to accept painful and invasive medical procedures that exposes them to multiple medical risks all because some medical asshole refuses to work nights.

I don't like being used as a talisman of fear.

And the reality is that in our country, even the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists admits that most c-sections are completely medically unnecessary and cause a lot of damage to women and babies, permanent medical damage.

Yours was necessary, and many of the above posters needed interventions as well, but when we have a 30% c-section rate, and a dramatically higher neonatal death rate than most countries with lower c-section rates---something has gone wrong. When we have women who are not being listened to by doctors when they report problems during pregnancy and are then turned into high risk crash c-sections after the fact---something is wrong.

If women got better medical treatment from that start, and were treated like people and not baby-making vessels, there would be fewer women complaining about c-sections against their will, and fewer dead babies after the fact for us to mourn.

We are on the same side as these women, really. In the end, we all want to be respected and listened to by the medical profession, not minimized and used.

I hope you can understand what I'm trying to say. I really do respect your pain and grief and hope this is taken the right way.

May 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAurelia

I think others have made many valid points about the struggles of others but I don't think a mother whose baby has died has to be tolerant of others grieving their perfect birth.
These things are not even on the same plane.

May 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlisa b

Aurelia, I'm totally open to your comment. Just a few thoughts back...

There are asshole doctors just as there are asshole plumbers or teachers - and there are wonderful, supportive doctors too, those who love their work and respect the women they serve. To say that all OB-GYNs have ulterior motives is like saying all cops are corrupt.

I agree with you whole-heartedly that birth can be a slippery slope these days, and that women should be empowered to enter into it with proactiveness and conviction and hope, and most of all, with a strong voice.

But there are women who have partaken of so much 'birth matters' kool-aid that they are obsessed with some notion of the perfect birth. Women who launch themselves into years of despair and depression, egged on by one another and this idealism.

It's those women I wish would just leave it behind. They would like to think they're being true to their grief, or expressing what they feel they need to, but sometimes, perspective is more important.

Do more c-sections mean more dead babies? I can't believe that. It feels to me like a romantic view of yesteryears when we all squatted in fields and such, but infant and mother mortality were high back then.

But I don't mean to debate the pros, cons or misuse of c-section or medical intervention in birth. I'm just saying that I'm in a space right now where I am completely, entirely tapped of any ability to indulge 'grief' at the loss of an ideal.

May 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkate

Oh boy. It has been over 2 1/2 years for me and this has been the hardest thing to let go. I'm not sure why except that a good friend was very invested in her perfect birth at the time of my loss and it always felt like a slap in my face. Not rational, but not everything is.

It's gotten better. It helped to find other women who were not invested in the birth process, but in the end result. And to distance myself from those who were so invested in that process. Just not talk about it if I really wanted to keep the friendship. Once words like empowerment hit the table, it all goes downhill from there.

Generally, it just takes time and healing. For a long time I really couldn't support pregnant friends. Now there's just twinges of the bad feelings every now and again.

May 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRoxanne

Linda, good point about language. I think the word 'grief' is used to be taken seriously, because these mamas want their disappointment validated. The problem is, I *want* to invalidate them - not because I am angry at them, but because I care about them and it infuriates me that they choose despair for no reason other than being demoted in the 'birth matters' club by virtue of a hospital birth.

What I've seen is that this sorority offers only one of two possible memberships: either the triumphant drug-free homebirther, OR the traumatized, outraged, victimized hospital birther.

Somehow it's not in fashion, as a 'birth matters' champion, to say, "You know, the shit hit the fan, my baby needed help, and my birth plan went out the window. But you know what? I'm okay with it, because I'm adaptable that way, and I understand that you can't control everything."

It's not the women that I'm frustrated with exactly - it's the culture, the continued indulging of intervention-as-failure.

It was hard to write this post without hurting the feelings of people I know and care for, and I've spent the days since trying to better explain my thinking. But whenever I try to do so, I only end up getting more tangled up and unintentionally abrasive, as I may have just done with you. I hope not. :)

And Roxanne, yes... totally, the slap in the face. I just have to step away for a while. I would be toxic to these women - they are toxic to me. I think (I hope) you're right about needing more time.

May 8, 2008 | Registered Commenterglow in the woods

I have had various members of the homebirth mafia try to make me feel terrible for having a c-section, and I have lost a few potential mother-friends over the argument. The argument that it doesn't matter. That I am not less of a parent, that I didn't through my own weakness and ignorance rob my son of a gentle entrance into the world. They've tried to find just where I went wrong—ARM? epidural? Aha! But after 30 hours and nine centimetres, all I wanted was to know that my baby was okay. And he is, and I have nothing but gratitude and joy.

I don't understand how anyone who ended up with a live baby—and who knows how deep and unrelenting and painful the love is, how frantic the worry, how devastating the post-partum what-ifs—could possibly compare any little change of plans with the loss of a child. When you know how insane that love makes you, how can you not extrapolate to the grief of loving a baby that can't be held?


May 10, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterp

I feel like my experiences have placed me in between warring factions.
I had a certified nurse midwife caring for me during my pregnancy and planned to give birth at the birthing center where she practiced. Her group partners with an obstetric group whose care I would have been transferred to if my pregnancy had ever shown any concerning signs on sono or blood tests. I had a completely healthy pregnancy so that was never an issue for me. My son Oliver died when I was 39 weeks and 5 days pregnant because of an occult cord. He died before I was having frequent/regular enough contractions for me to go to the birthing center (or hospital, if I had been delivering there.) My midwife took me to the hospital around the corner less than five minutes after I arrived at the birthing center. They confirmed that he had no heartbeat, and hadn't for a couple of hours minimum. I then had my labor augmented with Pitocin and had an epidural. I delivered my son 6 hours later in the hospital, medicated, and under an obstetrician's care.

I loved my birthing center and my midwife. I still do. I felt wonderful being there, I felt confident about becoming a mother, and I was looking forward to giving birth in that environment and with that care. I can understand that if you had hoped to birth like I hoped to and weren't able to (because you had a c-section, forceps, epidural, whatever), that you would be a little disappointed. MILDLY disappointed and GRATEFUL FOR YOUR LIVING CHILD. The use of the word grief in that context is utterly inappropriate, and to be brutally honest, fairly shameful in its self-absorption.

I guess I would say my philosophy is "Birth matters, BUT healthy living mother and baby matter much, much more." And I would clarify that when I say birth matters at all, it matters not that you birth the way I prefer (or your co-worker prefers, or the celebrity-of-the-moment prefers), but that you birth the way that feels most right to you AND can keep you and your child safe. If that's in a hospital with an epidural, fine. If that's in a birthing center without one, fine. And if that's with a c-section and it gets you a living, breathing baby, who am I to judge? Why would I judge?
I don't deny that birth can be empowering. That's great, and if you can safely birth in a way that feels empowering to you, terrific. Some people are just lucky, and I'd have taken that opportunity if it had remained available to me. But frankly, empowerment is a perk, not the point. If that strange obstetrician I did not wish for had said to me at any point: "If we c-section you immediately, there's a 1% chance your son could be saved," I'd have said "Hand me the knife," and never looked back.


May 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Did the unecessary D&C at a podunk hospital when I lost my first child cause damage to my uterus, which meant I couldn't contract and had to do an emergency cesarean, a vertical incision which became infected? Did the emergency c-section with my son cause the levorotation that probably interrupted my daughter's blood supply and killed her brain? Or was that just my body betraying me? We don't know yet, we're trying to figure that out.

I did grieve after my son's c-section; but it wasn't for my body so much, it was for what I feared would happen in future; that my future children would be endangered, or that I would no longer be able to bear children. That our son would be it, and there's no guarantee that he is going to live and grow and have children of his own, there isn't with any child. My friend Blake died leaving no children, there was the end of his line, he was the only one left in his family. And he was a wonderful guy, was supposed to be our son's godfather. My sister probably can't have children, and my unmarried brother is a soldier constantly being deployed. My husbands siblings will never have children, so far as we can tell, due to their health issues. Is this the death of our lines? That's what I grieved for. My body? Well, I've never been a looker, I'm a short stubby thing best suited to digging potatoes. I am a bogtrotter, let's face it. So really, a scar and a poochy tummy, no big deal. But the probable end of being able to be a mother - that hurt. They even took me off birth control pills entirely, saying I wasn't ovulating properly anyway after they did an ultrasound. When I became pregnant again, I was shocked, and so grateful - but then I kept feeling like something was wrong. And it was. Birth still mattered, because had the OB/GYN done what he wanted and just shuffled Aeryn away to the NICU to die there, I would have been devastated. I would not have gotten to see my child alive. We thought we would only have a few minutes, we didn't know if she would even try to breathe on her own - having that time with her was so crucial. The nurses ganged up and kept things mostly the way I needed them to be. That was important. She hung on for 2 hours, breathing on her own, but every minute we had was more than we thought we were going to get. And someone got to hold her the whole time. I think I can understand your feeling that "Birth matters until it doesn't." But it still mattered to me - if I'd been put under with Versed, I wouldn't have been awake enough to remember anything - if the nurses hadn't kept her in the room - and so forth. No, the method of birth didn't matter, but the way they addressed my needs for time with my daughter did.

June 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine

PS: If it makes you feel any better, which it might or might not, I found myself glaring at a billboard for a local hospital's NICU unit that said "Where you're treated matters" and had a graduating preemie on it. I never thought I'd look at an NICU baby and think "that was my happy ending that went down the drain." If it had been "just" hydrocephaly...if it had been "just" shunts and surgeries and the crazy fast driving trips to the ER after she came home...that would have been our happy ending? So maybe it's just part of the grieving process altogether, the anger has to go somewhere.

June 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine

Kate - I know it's not the same, but I had a miscarriage at 10 weeks, and your words have helped keep me sane in these very difficult weeks. You're an extraordinary writer, but more importantly, a beautiful person - thank you for being willing to share your thoughts. - S

June 8, 2008 | Unregistered Commentershannon

Kate,

A belated thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I think I used to be a person who would have compassion for the aftermath of a "not-the-way-I-wanted-it" kind of birth of a happy, healthy living child.

No more.

Like you and so many others here on this site, I, also, did not get the birth I wanted. The one that resulted in that happy, healthy living child.

Rather, the one I got was an induced, pre-term delivery - delivery before the point of viability of a child for whom there was never, ever going to be a "point of viability".

It is hard for me to see a C-Section delivery of a living, healthy baby as a springboard for grief.

Thank you for this post.

July 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

I am brand new here and have read through these posts and must say that I'm utterly aghast. The story of my son's birth is at my website under Rowan's Tree should you care to read - www.freespiritbirth.com - but I won't go into lengths here. Suffice it to say that at 42 weeks gestation, after the most spiritual, profoundly gratifying pregnancy (of which I'd already had three and went onto have another) he was stillborn. I know the moment he left my body; I remember it more accutely than my last breath.

I am also a birth professional and do plenty of birth trauma and preparation work and this experience was now six years ago. On November 8 my heart and soul remember grief that I never saw coming on November 7. And I have to say that in the validation of pain that comes from a child that's died, healing CAN come and so can growth, and the amazing ability to embrace all women in their birth experiences - which is what we as women should be doing.

I once attended a Jamaican woman who stillbirthed her baby and rather than receding into darkness she sat in the postpartum circle of women at the hospital and nursed their babies and received the compassionate those women had for her and her experience. This new mother...who didn't have a baby...was so worried about the American who had such a hard time with the death of a baby...hmmmm....perhaps it's the story,yes?

Her story and now my story are stories of birth as a heroine, in fact, as a goddess...birth never, EVER strips a woman of the capacity to embrace her feminity...only our story of the experience can. This is exactly why when women birth by Cesarean, or with forceps or episiotomy or alone and more they still feel cheated...they feel grief and the grief is deep and real. How do I know? Because I've done that too and believe it or not, a healthy pink baby isn't always the answer. But one must be brave enough to recognize that and find the space within which to hold onto just exactly how brilliant she is as both a mother and a woman.

Birth is not just about babies - it never has been and several posts elude to the fact that our culture looks at birth from an outcomes focused, primarily baby centered view. Ouch.

To anyone who's still aching - remember that ache comes in many shapes and sizes and who are we to judge someone else's grief. Grief is grief; just ask the person who's feeling it. When that makes sense to you, look for....search...delve...retreat from society and before any more time is wasted find the gifts that your babies came to give you!!!! they never come without a message - NEVER.

Barb

August 10, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterfreespiritbirth

Barb. you say you are “utterly aghast”. I can only say to you to find your scolding here: likewise.

I do not need you to remind me to listen for my son’s messages. I do not need you to tell me to ‘not waste time’ or ‘delve away from society’ in order to discover gifts from my son that you presume so righteously that I have not already discovered. This is both deeply offensive and presumptuous.

You wrote, “Birth is not just about babies—it never has been and several posts elude to the fact that our culture looks at birth from an outcomes focused, primarily baby centered view. Ouch.”

On this point I must correct you rather than simply counter you: a healthy pink baby IS the answer. To say that a birth experience is of equal importance to the survival and quality of life of a baby is completely inane—like saying the success of a wedding is of equal importance as the success of a marriage.

You criticize this community for having “an outcomes-focused, primarily baby-centered view”—this community that was founded for MOTHERS OF DEAD BABIES.

With all due respect and sorrow for the loss of your own, please stop and think, Barb. Your criticism, aside from being in incredibly poor taste, is almost comically bizarre in this context. I don’t even know what to say to that without laughing.

I wrote this post in frustration at the refusal to accept anything but perfection in birth that I witnessed within the self-declared ‘birth junkie’ community. The grief women feel at a less-than-ideal birth when they’d hoped to report rip-roaring goddesshood is understandable only because these women have not even come close to the possibility of death or lifelong disability.

Despite your stillbirth, you are able to still validate this grief because you’re in the business of validation. It does not make you a more enlightened griever or birther than anyone else. It is your career and your life’s work. Doulas and birth coaches are there for empowerment—and there’s no better lightning rod for empowerment than a demon to vanquish.

If you’d like to explore the perils of ‘receding into darkness’, I invite you to peruse the birth stories and prolonged angst of so many of your colleagues.

I do not need you to scold me for my lack of compassion—especially in this sacred place of all places, where we as babylost mamas are able to explore what it takes to function again with this gaping hole shot through our chests. You may want to back it up six years and display a little more compassion yourself, and acknowledge the emotional gauntlet that must be walked when we re-enter the ordinary world.

I do not need you to tell me that I should feel ‘heroic’ and that if I don’t, I’m somehow out of touch with the legacy of my child, or out of touch with my femininity.

Since last year when my baby died, I have every right to be fed up with a birth culture that, in the absence of divine perfection, fuels womens’ disappointment and victimhood. I do not judge these women as individuals, only the birth culture that nurtures continued ‘grief’ over a lost perfection—when birth culture should be championing perspective and adaptability.

You say “who are we to judge the grief of another.” After leaving a comment like that in a space like this, I have to ask: are you kidding?

You presume to enlighten me as to how to grieve my son AND scold me on how I should heal from his birth—and you do this for a living to boot. I am ... aghast.

I am sorry for the loss of your baby, but I cannot forgive your contempt and self-righteousness towards those of us nearer to the loss of our own. This is the only community we have to speak plainly about spirit-baby motherhood. You have thousands of communities to wax eloquent about birth goddesshood and experiential robbery. Feel free to go there.

August 10, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkate
kate,
i read this post and all the comments more than a week ago. i came back to this site tonight.
i wonder how you are in contact with these birth junkies? do you read their websites/posts/blogs? are they people you often come into contact with? i'm sure it isn't personal and they wouldn't really express their grief to you knowing you are a babylost mama.
i am one as well, but i am also a birth junkie, one who doens't believe in all the intervention of modern day birthing, one who was planning to birth my 3rd child at home. i did the amnio, the diabetes tests and all the other tests under the sun that told me my baby was perfectly healthy. i ate dr. brewers hi protein diet, exercised and abstained from all the bad stuff.
i birthed him, stillborn, at the hospital because i wanted to see him sooner than later once i knew he was dead. and amazingly, sadly, it was the best of my 3 births in the physical sense.
it hurts, it hurts so much, i want him to be here everyday, every minute. if i could go back for a second chance i would tell anyone with a sharp enough knife to cut him out of me without even so much as a tylenol if he could come out alive, but...there's no going back. nature, god, whomever, whatever you believe in or not took control and i delivered a perfect, full term dead baby boy who died of 'natural causes' whatever the hell that is.
what i believe today, because i have to, is that he was not meant to be here. my baby died july 9 so this is still so fresh for me but i don't believe that comparing my pain, my circumstance to anyone else's will help me get through this grief. i hear what your saying and i think i understand but i still believe that birthing is a natural process, the body should do what it knows how to do and i don't begrudge anyone who wants to have a natural birth in a loving, warm environment. it's best for the mom and the baby. we can't always know the outcome. we don't get the seemingly guaranteed healthy baby just because we do everything right and go to the hospital. sometimes nature does mysterious things and all the intervention and all the nicus in the world can't change that.
i am so sorry for your loss.
i'm in the club too.
August 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlisa
Lisa, I’m so deeply sorry for the loss of your baby. I hope you’re getting through the days with love and support… it’s so hard, and my heart goes out to you tonight.

What prompted this post were websites, posts, blogs, magazines, anecdotes from 2002/2003 on. Some I’ve been in contact with, but mostly not. One essay was a rant against c-sections and a declaration of anyone who receives one as a helpless, pitiable victim, and this was upsetting to me as I tried to prepare for a twin birth.

More important it’s also people in my life—what feels like dozens of mommy groups and playdates. One person in particular who hasn’t had a child yet (but who is very vocal about how she plans to do so) who came into the NICU to lecture me on how I should feel about the birth (and then asked me if the hospital would be throwing away half my breastmilk). And family too, in another flavour—not birth junkies (that term only came into being in the above frustrated comment in response to Barb), but people who wrote off our experience and deemed me to be not over it soon enough, saying that Liam’s life and death was a ‘gynocological mishap that everyone goes through’. This was probably about six months after he died.

All of it adds up to me being sensitive (and, right now, unable) to absorb the complaints of other women of their normal births. I just can’t bear it. That’s when visions of Liam’s death come into my head. It’s no mockery of anyone else, or the choices or struggles of anyone else. It’s my own residual shock and anger.

When my head is screwed on properly, I do not compare pain to pain. Liam’s death made my heart bigger, and has made me more compassionate, if anything.
http://www.sweetsalty.com/sweetsalty/2008/3/28/my-bodhisattva.html

What I tried to capture here is the emotional tantrum that plants itself in my heart despite all sensibility. I may know not to indulge in pain olympics but I am human. I hear women gathered around a kitchen table going on and on about stitches and unwanted forceps and lingering incontinence and I want to scream. It’s not right, but it’s just how it feels for a while.

The whole point of this post is to recognize that tantrum as such. To ask others how we move past it despite having suffered so much in attempting to grow our families, compared to 99% of the population. (and that’s not pain olympics. that’s just the truth of it.)

To be honest, the odd indulgence of pain olympics can help me feel a little more sane. Not so much now, but in the first year. It reminded me of what I survived. In the absence of understanding from some people in my life it helped me to feel validated in the path I was walking (and how I walked it). It helped me to look further beyond my own misery to those who have it worse. It has leant perspective when perspective was desperately needed. Some days, I needed to park myself on that spectrum, look at those I felt were luckier than me, and feel entitled to being pissed off. Then I’d wake up the next day to find the ugliness evaporated, and feeling like a storm had passed… calmer, more clear, grown, more accepting.

As time goes on I’m having less and less of the tantrums, and more of the fresh air. I’m at peace with Liam’s absence, and at peace with how vividly he lives in my heart. I’m just not at peace with what my body did to him to cause that absence, and how he had to suffer for it.

I don't begrudge anyone who wants to have a natural birth in a loving, warm environment, either. To do so would be wonderful. I envy other women with birthing ideals for being so unspoilt, so innocent, so confident (that’s how it looks from where I stand). I only wish I could have experienced birth like that.

Love to you, and I really am grateful that you shared so much of yourself so thoughtfully.
xo
August 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkate
kate,
thank you. i haven't been on since i wrote this post-it took so much out of me, for lack of a better expression, to read and respond so extensively that night. my oldest started kindergarten and i needed to put my grief on the 'back burner' for a bit so i could focus and give to her as much as i could-which doesn't feel like much these days. it's so hard, every minute, some days, feels so very heavy on my heart. i came today and read your responses to my 2 posts and i sobbed. i understand all that you responded, it helped to understand your original post more AND it helped me to understand a bit more of my own feelings on the subject, which today are SO controversial. i ask myself over and over if i was punished for having complained about my 1st 2 birthes; the interventions and over zealous doctors and nurses who wanted/needed to probe, prick and monitor me when just wanted to birth my babies. i ask myself if i had planned a hospital birth would my continued care at the women's clinic been superior to my midwife's care at home? all answers point to no, there was nothing i could have done. but i wonder if my precious son died because i thought i was so smart and could do everything right this time...anyways i could go on and on...........
thank you for your words,
September 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlisa
Wow. Just happened on this today. I would appear to be one of those nasty, self-absorbed bitches you all hate.

My eldest died. I was alone, in a forgein country (US) and flew his little body home in the aircraft hold.

Then came my second. Because of what happened with my son, my second birth was all terror and intervention, and because of the position they made me give birth in, I broke my coccyx. However, according to you lot, the violation of my body, the constant pain(which still persists, 13 yrs on) the pnd into which I spiralled, and which had a devastating effect on my relationship with my daughter....... why, I should have laughed it all off. Cos hey, kid was breathing, right? The mother doen't matter.

But you know what? Mums do matter. How they feel matters. I was so traumatised and exhausted I couldn't even hold my baby. I stared at her, screaming on the other side of the room, and felt nothing. I felt nothing for a long, long time. And she knew it, and tried to cling, and the more she clung, the more I pushed her away. How mums feel matters.

For my third, my husband made sure he kept the midwives out of the way. I walked around. I breathed. I gave birth in a position that was comfortable for me. It was great. My youngest slid out, eyes wide open to the world. I loved her from that moment, it was so easy. No pain, no feeling abused - I just had her, and it was all so easy. How mums feel matters.

So, thanks for judging. I'm not really angry. From what I can see, it seems this site is for the newly bereaved, and my eldest would be 14 now. Perhaps it's okay to dismiss other people's feelings when you're raw yourself - although I'm damn sure I never did. Just try to climb down from the high horse. Is it 'better' to lose a child at 14 weeks, or 16? What about my baby - he was 28 weeks, maybe he wasn't 'real' by the 40 week standard, so my pain is illegitimate? Perhaps you're all right - all those mums who find themselves treated like meat to be sliced should just suck it up and bury that pain, after all, the kid's breathing, what are they complaining about?

I'm not trying to be mean, but the pain olympics is tiring. I have no problem in supporting friends who are pregnant. I don't consider myself some sort of Ubermum, or untouchable, just because one of my kids is dead. I totally understand how horrific it is to experience a horrible birth. And I disagree that none of you have any obligation to be nice to other mums, just because their kids are alive and yours isn't. You do. Compassion is important. Don't lose it.
July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArum
Arum, we do not tolerate incendiary language such as yours at Glow. Dissent is welcome but shrieking is not. Thanks in advance for respecting this.

It's difficult for me to respond intelligently to your comment, since the post you address does not contain any of the language - or even the implications - you claim. I'm sorry that you're so angry, that you would come here to this warm and honest and raw place to scold. I'm truly sorry about that, for whatever energy you're dealing with that drives you to do this in a way that's meant to be a sneer and a stab.

You're berating me for a post written on the occasion of the first anniversary of the birth that caused my baby to die. This post is a struggle. Not a condemnation, not a declaration. It represents a learning and a softening and a very strong urge to feel human again. All this post does is contemplate how tricky it is to step back into ordinary life when you're drowning in self-pity.

I'm too tired tonight to interpret this post for you. I can't be bothered. You can read, presumeably. And I can't seem to write anything in response to you that isn't just anger at you coming to a place like this and calling it uncompassionate.

"It is advisable, after advising someone to get off their high horse, to note one's own significant distance from the ground."
~ancient Chinese proverb
July 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersweetsalty kate
Arum...where did that come from?

Kate wrote this over a year ago now, from a place of her own deep wound. in it she was reaching out for how to find that compassion, how not to feel brutalized by other people's comparison of their disappointment to grief. the post itself is far less righteous - and certainly less judgemental - than your comment. and it is also a shamefaced post...she overtly calls it a tantrum. she knew she was saying what isn't "supposed" to get said in the polite public space that is the world. but she also knew that if Glow was to work as a place people could really be honest and work through their hurting, then those unspeakable things had to find honest expression. and judging from the comments, she was not wrong.

she wrote to me before she posted it, as she mentions in the post. i wrote back, fwiw, a story very much like yours. Kate wrote me b/c she knew our premises were overtly different - for me, birth did matter. first resulted in death. second - as i wrote to her - was a sort of rape, with all sorts of damage. third, luckily, like you, positive and healing. but the third hadn't actually happened at the time this went up.

she wasn't dismissing my position or yours with this post. the positions she dismisses aren't positions of "i was treated like meat, which combined with the post-traumatic stress of birth after death was a violating, dehumanizing experience" but "i lost my perfect birth plan." and that is a loss...it is. but the person recovering from being stabbed does not necessarily need to hear of my paper cut, and unfortunately in this culture the loss of the "perfect" birth gets a lot more airplay than the loss of babies.

you were not being attacked here. part of healing is putting the ugly out there. this post is part of the healing, i hope, even if - again - its position is not my own personal one.
July 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbon
My comment wasn't actually a response to the post, to which I had no particular rection. It was to the comments here. I stumbled upon this, and became more and more horrified as I went through. Women talking about wanting to 'shake' other traumatised women, just because their babies were still alive? Pouring scorn on other women's feelings of failure, just because their babies were still alive? Insisting that they'd have been happy to be butchered, or that 'little changes of plans' are irrelevant? I was really shocked.

My friend is infertile. She has endured years of IVF, to no avail. The last time, they nearly bankrupted themselves, and we all knew it was the last go. She got pregnant. On the day of the 12 week scan, I sent her a text - boy or girl? No reply. I couldn't get in touch with her for over a week. It turns out that the scan revealed the baby had died at about 8 weeks. She didn't want to tell me, because, and I quote, "I was devastated, but I couldn't be upset in front of you, after all, mine was just a miscarrige". WHAT?!! Where did that come from? Well, sadly, comments thread like this. Turns out that over the years, she'd tried to reach out to other mums over the internet, and run slap bang into the sort of attitudes displayed here. She'd learnt that she was lower down the pecking order, and needed to be silent in her pain, as she didn't really deserve it. This sick idea of a hierarchy of experience sets women against each other. It's a continuum, all our experiences are related. We should acknowledge and support each other, not stand there with our arms folded judging others as somehow deluded for being upset. By refusing to acknowledge this continuum, we accept our place as freaks and weirdos, the discrete top of a nasty pyramind which places us so far outside the normal experience that no-one can see us. Belittling and dismissing other women's experience in comparison to our own just serves to silence US.

I'm disabled. I know how irritating it can be when, for example, you're trying to have a discussion about pain management and some non-disabled woman butts in to tell you how, if she has a headache, she never, ever takes asprin, because pain is our bodies way of speaking to us, etc etc. Yes, that's ignorant and comes from a place of privilege. However, I would never dream of stomping up to a woman with a migraine and telling her that her pain isn't real, it'll go away soon, and she's weak and whiney for even mentioning it. Pain is pain, and at that moment it's as real as anything I've ever felt. I have no right to tell her anything about her pain, and I certainly don't have the right to deny it's reality! If she's receptive, I've got a lot of pain-management exerience I can share, but in the moment, it's best to just shut up and go get a cold compress.

It horrifies me that vested interests seek to use my son to frighten other women into slience. I do not give my permission for some Nurse Ratchet to terrify a labouring woman into abandoning her birth plan by using my experience. I am not the boogie man, and I'm not going to dismiss other mum's pain, or wave my dead child in their faces like some sort of trump card to shame them into shutting up. Women need to stop being horrible to each other.

Speaking of that Kate, you may want to check your use of gendered language. You would not have accused me of 'shrieking' if I was a man. Words like shriek, whine, nag, moan are used to silence women by implying that the person against whom they are directed is imbalanced, 'hysterical' in some way, and therefore to be ignored. Their use is never the sign of someone who is female-friendly. Ditto your 'tone' argument. "I refuse to allow the Weaker Sex to express an opinion unless it is couched in terms of butterflies and unicorns, and she tilts her head and smiles in that pretty way they have." No one has stabbed you, this is the internet. Being angry is actually a pretty rational response to some of the comments you have allowed in your 'compassionate' space.
July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArum
Arum. If you'd like to educate the rest of the world as to what flavours of grief you deem acceptable or not acceptable after infant loss, you're welcome to launch your own community with that very purpose. We do not do that here.
July 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersweetsalty kate

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