[full of it]

What I Need Now

Posted in Uncategorized by susieyarbs on September 1, 2010

(written originally for a different blog, but wanted to post here as well)

“When you consider birth as an involuntary process involving old, primitive, mammalian structures of the brain, you set aside the assumption that a woman must learn how to give birth.  It is implicit in the mammalian interpretation that one cannot actively help a woman to give birth.  The goal is to avoid disturbing her unnecessarily.

I love, love, love Michel Odent.  This is from a book he wrote called The Nature of Birth and Breastfeeding that my mom found in a thrift store with my sister.  It’s perfect, exactly what I need to be reading right now.  I’ve read plenty of books full of statistics and politics and modern obstetrics and doctors vs midwives and research based care.  I don’t need to be convinced, so books like A Thinking Woman’s Guide or Pushed or Your Best Birth aren’t going to do me any favors at this point.  I need broader philosophies, I need stories, I need a certain attitude.  I need to lay a serious foundation in my soul that tells me that I can do it, I was made to do it.  Even growing up in a family and around people for whom natural childbirth was the norm, homebirth was default, extended breastfeeding a given, I know that I haven’t been immune to the culture of intense fear that surrounds pregnancy and birth.  I still have to defend my choices to most people.  When I mention having a homebirth, very few reactions are outright positive, most are fairly neutral and naive.  They ask about the endless what-ifs, they tell me that they or their child would have certainly died if not born in the hospital, or that I’m so very brave, which implies that I’m taking some enormous risk by following my gut instincts.  And sometimes even when I don’t mention homebirth, strangers will ask, “Are you scared?”  What, exactly, should I be so scared of? I’m made to wonder.  So few people have a positive story to share, good feelings to pass on.  What I need is to re-train my brain away from all of that, so that I know in my deepest self that my body can, and will, do what it is supposed to.

I feel like this is doubly necessary after everything I’ve been through medically this past year.  I had always been so healthy, so fit, and to learn that my body was attacking itself and that I had a permanent, degenerative disease was nothing short of devastating.  Talk about losing faith in your body.  All of a sudden it wasn’t functioning normally, I was in constant pain.  With every new affected joint came a new bout of depression.  Where was it going to end?  How long until I couldn’t walk?  When it was only my elbow and my rheumatologist and orthopedist were so confident that it wasn’t RA, I felt good.  I thought I might need a surgery or two, but we’d find the problem and even if it was autoimmune, if it stayed confined to one joint I would be fine.  Then my wrist pain started, and I just knew from the first twinge that it was going down the same path as my elbow.  The meds I was on weren’t working yet, I was told to give it time.  We added another med to the first.  Then my knee.  That was the big one.  So swollen I could hardly bend it, I could barely get up and down the stairs at work.  No more kneeling, getting up from sitting on the floor was a nightmare because I couldn’t put pressure on either arm or bend one leg.  This was also happening while we were trying to conceive and I wasn’t ovulating.  So many things were going on that I couldn’t pinpoint what might be causing what.  Was it post-pill amenorrhea?  Or was it related to the RA?  Stress?  I knew that pregnancy would cause a remission in my pain, so rather than wanting to be pregnant I felt like I needed to be pregnant.  Once again my body wasn’t cooperating.  Even though all in all we only had to try for about six months (thanks to a round of clomid – needing more drugs certainly didn’t restore any faith in my body), I was already so depressed that I thought it would never happen.  I think anyone who has trouble, even a little trouble, conceiving has the same thoughts floating around in the back of her mind.  What if nothing works?  What if I just can’t?  What if we spend our entire life savings and still can’t?  They’re parasitic, those thoughts.

Almost exactly when I started taking the clomid, my pain was being so poorly managed and the two meds I was on were doing nothing to help control the joint damage, so my rheumatologist put me on a three-week course of prednisone and started Humira, an injectable medication.  I felt better immediately – steroids are miraculous drugs.  It wasn’t until the pain was gone that I realized how bad it was.  Right around then I also watched an episode of Intervention where the subject was a young girl addicted to her RA pain meds.  Depressed again.  All of the meds I’d been on so far were considered “safe” for pregnancy, so I didn’t have to worry too much about conceiving while still taking them.  So, I started prednisone, humira, and clomid all within a week of one another, and got pregnant with that cycle.  I found out on my last few days of the prednisone course, and stopped taking everything, fully expecting the joint pain to return, since pregnancy remissions usually start late in the first/early in the second trimester.  It didn’t.  I had a few “stiff” days, and was never symptom free, but nothing like I was before.  I don’t know still whether it was the Humira that was still in my system (it’s a drug you take every other week) or the pregnancy, but since then I’ve hardly had a single bit of pain.  I can squat on my knee, I can put a decent amount of pressure on my wrist, though not my full body weight.  My elbow feels great, almost normal.

Right now my plan is to get back on the Humira when and if my symptoms come back after baby.  Very little of the drug passes into breastmilk, and what does is not absorbed in the digestive tract (hence it being an injectable).  Everything I’ve read has said that it’s as safe as a drug can be for breastfeeding moms.  There’s no way of knowing when the symptoms will come back.  There are a few stories of pregnancy “curing” autoimmune conditions.

All of that was a very roundabout way of saying that what I need now are positive, confidence-building stories and primitive birth philosophies a la Michel Odent.  I’m reading Ina May’s Guide as well – the birth stories at the beginning are wonderful.  I know I have my mom’s old copy of Spiritual Midwifery around somewhere, but I’m afraid it might be stored in my dad’s attic in TX.

*The birth stories just fill me with good feelings.  Can you imagine living with people for whom giving birth is exciting?  They don’t just look forward to the baby, they look forward to the actual labor.  No one asks if you’re scared, or what you’re going to do if this or that terrifying thing happens.  The standard of care is extremely high, physically and emotionally.  The visual images I get from reading thestories are so powerful – five or six women and a partner focusing all of their attention on the laboring woman, supporting her and gently guiding her through the process.  Alone if she needs to be alone, touched if she needs to be touched, loved on from all directions.  Nothing but positivity.  No beeping, no cords.  It brings me back to being a teenager and working at the birth center.  That atmosphere is impossible to imagine unless you’ve been in it.  It’s so still and quiet but so full of energy.  When a contraction/rush/wave starts, everyone shifts to fill their role based on what’s working at the time.  Someone pours water on her back while someone squeezes her feet and someone holds her hands, and my job was usually to softly say “30 seconds” so that she knew she could start to let go of the contraction, let it leave.  There’s nothing like it.  Listening to those stories actually does make me look forward to the birth, the actual labor.

It’s time to get in touch with my inner cavewoman.


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