Category Archives: Childbirth/Healthcare

About the Missing Years (plus bonus PSA)

I have been missing writing lately, but the couple of times I have opened up my blog to add a post after a 3.5 year absence it hasn’t felt quite right, so perhaps I should clear the air. With April Fools approaching it seems a good time.

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I have always strived to inject a humorous undertone in my writing, even when I’m actually quite worked up about an issue. Even the serious posts have been sprinkled with sarcasm for some comic relief. Over the last few years life has just seemed a bit too heavy to find the bright side, and try as I might I could not find my voice. Circumstances plus postpartum depression (and lets face it, the circumstances probably fuelled the PPD) did not make for a happy time. Some of this I will keep private (2014, you’re dead to me), but I feel it is important to share the struggles that J & I have faced these last two years because maybe somebody will read my posts and feel less alone. God knows how often I searched the Internet late into the night, looking for others who were sharing their similar stories.

Today, this image showed up on my Facebook newsfeed:

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I cried because it reminded me that last April 1st was not a good social media day for me. In February 2016 J & I, after a year of trying to conceive without success, received a general diagnosis of Secondary Male Factor Infertility and the prognosis only got worse from there after each embarrassing and painful test. Although we did eventually beat the odds late last year (much to the shock of our medical team), pregnancy after infertility or pregnancy loss is not experienced the same as a pregnancy achieved by a couple who have never experienced either. I know because I have now experienced both. I’m grateful for people that are spreading the message that fake pregnancy announcements are not funny. Not. Remotely. Funny.

Did you know that in Canada 1 in 6 couples experience some form of infertility? In the United States that number is 1 in 8. Worldwide, the figure jumps to 1 in 4. I can tell you right now that before February 2016 I was unaware of these stats, and at that point I had been on this earth for 32 years. Male factor infertility? Literally didn’t know it existed. Secondary infertility? Nope. Wasn’t aware that was a thing either. Pregnancy loss is more visible, but no less painful. In fact, couples experiencing pregnancy loss are often expected to return to life as usual within an incredibly short period of time even by those who were privy to the loss. Their pain is minimized by society at large, which must only bring on a whole other level of pain, guilt and shame.

Infertility carries a lot of guilt and shame too. Infertility takes over. It destroys marriages. It destroys happiness. I’m not saying that it always does, or that everyone copes (or fails to cope) in the same manner, but what I am saying is I just didn’t know it could, and if you haven’t experienced it you probably didn’t know either. People say a lot of dumb stuff to infertile couples, and they just don’t know how painful it can be to have to hear them. I do hope to share more about different aspects of our infertility journey with you in the coming weeks and in typing this I hope it serves to hold me accountable to my intentions. For now I will leave you with this PSA from us Womb Warriors:

Don’t be a social media fool this April 1st. Fake pregnancy announcements haven’t ever been and won’t ever be funny. I assure you that someone you love has suffered in silence with infertility or pregnancy loss. Guilt, shame and/or embarrassment keep many people from speaking their struggles aloud. These posts are heartbreaking to a woman who may never feel life quicken in her womb, a woman who has lost a life that once grew there, or a man who may never know the joy of holding his precious newborn.

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Besides, just turn on the news. You can find plenty of April Fools fodder to share there, like this one that the Washington Post published hilariously prematurely:
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Oh…

The Way it Went: Part 1

I’m not really in the mood to write at all right now. I’m tired, headachy and my boobs are killing me despite having been drained by the milk obsessed baby (I’m totally glad he wants to eat so much though, since his weight loss during our hospital stay created a bit of a hoopla and made me hate hospitals even more than ever). However, I have a minute to myself which is rare these days, so I’ll try to write about it, as uninspired as I am. I’m working on a more thorough version, but I don’t want to publish that. It’s more just for me, or us as a family really.

Deciding to do the c-section was very hard for me. I happen to believe that birth is a natural thing, not a medical procedure. Sure, sometimes instances occur where medical intervention is needed. After all, there is a reason that both mother and infant mortality rates have decreased with medical advances, but for the most part intervention is unnecessary and is just used to speed up the process.

Image courtesy of uvahealth.com

The hospital where Baby H was born is understaffed and there are no longer enough birthing rooms to support the growing population of the city so they have to keep people moving through. Why let a woman labour for 24 hours when you can get her out of there within 24 hours? But I digress… I chose the c-section because when presented with all the best available information on my pregnancy and the health of my little (big) fetus, it seemed the best decision. I don’t even want to think about what may have happened back in the day when sections weren’t an option.

On Tuesday Oct 30th I arrived at my doctor’s appointment thinking that he’d tell me I was on a wait list because they couldn’t get me a date, as his secretary had informed me the previous week. Nope. He whipped out his phone and said “How about tomorrow afternoon?” Uhhhh…

Image courtesy of inquisitr.com

I needed more time! So he found me a spot the following morning, Nov 1st, All Saints Day. I’m not religious but I figured it couldn’t hurt to be born on a holy day. It felt better than being born on Halloween anyway!

Needless to say I didn’t sleep for the next 2 nights, which made getting up at 4am on the morning of the 1st very easy. I was nervous all the way to the hospital and though I’m loathe to admit it, even had a little tiff with J about smoking. We recovered from that quickly though and he was amazing support for me from that moment through to the second we heard that first baby wail.

I have never had any kind of surgery other than having my wisdom teeth removed and back then I was so high on nitrous by the time they inserted the IV that I didn’t even notice. This time was noticeable! After taking several vials of blood quite easily the nurse found it very difficult to find a vein that would comply with the IV and I felt like a pin cushion by the time we made the walk down the hall to the OR. Here they separated J and I because I had to be given the spinal before the surgery. I can only imagine how antsy he felt in the waiting room by himself.

At least if he was panicking he had this disguise to hide behind

I felt totally out of it. The OR was full of nurses (I think there were three at the time, but it felt like there were people everywhere!) prepping the instruments and one to support me during the insertion of the spinal. I also remember being worried and then slightly pissed that my midwife hadn’t yet arrived since she’d said she’d be there during the spinal as well. When thinking about childbirth I’d always been more afraid of epidurals than the process of birth itself (epidurals are similar to a spinal, and more common for vaginal deliveries. Spinals are faster acting as the drug is injected directly into the spinal fluid and are more common for c-sections)!

Image courtesy of theadequatemother.wordpress.com

Anyway, the anesthesiologist applied the local freezing, but then we had to wait for my doctor to arrive before inserting the spinal. He walked in 5 minutes later so they had me sit up again to prepare. The next thing I knew three people were yelling at me to lie back down. I hadn’t even felt a damn thing! They were concerned that I wasn’t lying down because the spinal takes affect very quickly and I could have fallen off the table.

I lay there staring at the ceiling as the numbness started to creep up my legs. The first thing to go was my feet. My brain kept sending out commands like, “Wiggle your left pinkie toe” or “Flex your butt cheeks.” It’s the weirdest feeling to have your brain insisting on things that your body can’t fulfil.

Before I knew it the curtain that blocks the patient’s view of the procedure was up and J was seated by my head. At first I didn’t even realize the surgery had started. The doctors and nurses were nonchalantly chatting about plans for the weekend as they passed sterile tools back and forth over my belly. Then J began saying reassuring things to me so I figured my guts were probably splayed out on the table by then and I couldn’t feel a thing. SURREAL. I don’t know how else to explain it. But J was talking to me about our future, how great our life was going to be together, how much we’d love our kid, so I just let myself get lost in that, which was probably a good thing because at first I didn’t notice that the doctor had stopped the inane chatter about his recreational time. Apparently he’d tried to get my little Baby H out with his hands, but to no avail. The kid’s noggin was just too big. He attempted a vacuum extraction but it popped off three times. Then came the forceps and finally out came the baby at 7:19am EST. He wailed right away. The doctor held him up for me to see, and I just remember feeling so strange. There was my child, the little boy that had been a part of me for 9 whole months, out in the open air of the OR… but I hadn’t brought him there. A man had cut me open and extracted him from my womb and although I was so thankful that the baby had good colour and was crying I couldn’t help but feel a bit empty. I cried from joy and grief in tandem. And then they placed him cheek to cheek with me as I lay there getting stitched up and the grief mattered less and less with each passing minute. It’s cliché to write it, but truly in those first moments I knew that I’d never loved anything so much. It was obvious to me that daddy felt the same. How do I know? He cried even more than I did… but don’t tell him I told you.

Cheek to cheek in the first few minutes of Baby H’s life… poor bruised baby :( Those forceps did the job, but they left their mark.

Proud Papa

More on the hospital stay later.

Red, White and those Baby Blues: Why I’m Glad I’m not Pregnant in America

Being the first of my close circle of friends to be pregnant, I’m finding myself feeling a bit alone from time to time. It’s hard, amongst the people I see on a weekly basis, to find any true kind of understanding of the changes that I’m experiencing both mentally and physically. I say this not to complain, because really how can people who’ve never experienced it really relate to it, but rather I say it to explain why I find myself turning to online communities for support. There are some great ones out there, such as babycenter.ca. It’s just a nice forum where pregnant women can connect with other pregnant women, swap stories/hopes/fears and ask questions (of course, some of this can cause more anxiety… it’s amazing how people can worry about things that you’d never think to think about, but the second you hear about it you can’t stop thinking about it!).

I first accidentally signed up for babycenter.com, the American site. Still a place to talk to other pregnant women, but our healthcare systems are just so different. The more I read these women’s concerns the more I couldn’t relate to them. Some of their difficulties included:

  • Not having medical insurance
  • Being in the process of switching insurance companies and temporarily lacking coverage
  • Trips to the ER being put off because of fear of the cost of a trip to the ER
  • Limited number of ultrasounds covered regardless of whether the pregnancy is considered low, moderate or high risk
  • Family doctors’ pregnancy tests coming back negative despite multiple at home positives. This becomes a problem because insurance companies will only cover the OBGYN if the pregnancy has first been confirmed by the family doctor. Result: Pregnant women unable to get care from an OBGYN!

This list could go on and on, but man does it ever make me glad to have been born on the north side of that Canada/US border.

I also recently watched the documentary The Business of Being Born. Talk about a horror movie… I truly recommend it to anyone who is ever planning on having a family or is planning on extending their family. The main premise is nicely posed as a question on the IMDB website, which I’ve stolen for you to read here: “Should most births be treated as a natural life process, or should every delivery be treated as a potential medical emergency?”

While I don’t want to give it all away since I’m hoping everyone will watch it, I do want to say how bizarre I find it that midwives are the norm in most of the world, but in North America what they do still remains a mystery to the general public. Food for thought: In the United States, where less than 1% of births are attended by midwives, both the infant and maternal death rates are the worst or second worst amongst developed nations.

My own personal battle for the week: home vs. hospital birth. I am using a midwife no matter what. I would prefer a home birth, mostly because yes, I do associate hospitals with emergencies and they really do scare the bejeezus out of me. Creepy creepy sterile yet somehow dirty places! That being said, I have no objection to being transferred to a hospital if deemed necessary. On the other hand, my dear J is really opposed to the idea of home birth. I think it really scares him and I can’t really blame him. I’m probably comfortable with the idea because I’ve witnessed a home birth, and two of my brothers (10 and 12lb babies might I add!) were delivered at home with no complications (other than a broken collar bone for the former). I wouldn’t be entirely opposed to a hospital birth if I could still do it my way. I don’t want to be glued to a bed and hooked up to IVs without truly understanding what is being pumped into my body.  So much to think about! Luckily, I’ve still got 6.5 months to decide. Regardless of how difficult the situation, I’m grateful for the gift of choice. Merci Canada!