Monday, January 5, 2009

The Birth Story of Miles

The Birth Story of Miles
Labor Pains and Birth Stories
Catlytic Book Press

I remember everything about that morning. I remember thinking “remember every moment as it will be the last time that you give birth”. The last time you are pregnant, the last time you will be in labor. Remember, so that you can tell him years later the details of how he came into this world. I remember that I was wearing a black V-neck T shirt and maternity jeans and black DocMartens. I remember leaving the house before my 2 year old was awake, kissing my husband goodbye, and driving myself to the hospital. I remember thinking about all of the possible things that could go wrong, but by the end I would return with my new addition.

The induction began in a routine fashion. As an OB/GYN myself, I had struggled over whether to try to have a VBAC or just go for the repeat cesarean section. I decided on trying to deliver vaginally so that I would be better able to take care of my two year old and keep her life disruptions to a minimum. I also felt that I should follow the advice I gave to hundreds of patients, that there should be one set of rules for everyone.

Eventually my husband arrived, now that our daughter was fed, dressed, and happily playing at a friend’s house. The day was calm and peaceful and we chatted about the future in relative peace. I got my epidural, my doctor broke my water, and things progressed. Ten centimeters dilated arrived right on schedule. I allowed myself to think that this might actually work, that I might actually deliver vaginally. That my decision to try to labor was correct and all was right with the world. My husband even mused that this was much better than last time as he excitedly prepared to start coaching me in the pushing process.

Then all of our lives changed although we didn’t even seem to notice while it was happening. The posterior wall of my uterus had ruptured and the baby died inside of the place that had helped it to grow and thrive. In retrospect, all of the signs that something was going wrong were there, but were not clearly seen at the time. Errors in judgement became the groundwork for new errors. The monitor recorded my elevated heart rate while my baby was dying inside of me in front of numerous witnesses. After pushing for an hour, my doctor became concerned about the baby’s heart rate and I was rushed back for an emergency cesarean section. As in most emergencies, my husband was forced to wait outside imagining the worst. I was intubated and so all memory was lost until I awoke in the recovery room.

I remember asking “is he alright?” My answer came as my husband bent over to hug me and started crying. The baby had died. Miles was dead. I wanted to see him and as soon as the anesthesia had worn off enough and I could keep my eyes open, I was given Miles. He was dressed in a ridiculous outfit that must have been collected and saved for situations like these. I undressed him and looked at all of his body parts individually. He was so beautiful and new and perfect. Then I placed his naked body against mine and just held him while tears poured from my heart. The thing that I remember most is how he smelled. Someone, someone who I never met or got to thank, had washed him, had made him smell deliciously clean, and then had lovingly dressed him. Someone had understood that this is what I would remember and that he was important enough to have gone through this newborn ritual. Someone had taken care of him, as I would have, while I was unconscious in the operating room. That same someone had also lovingly took pictures of him in various poses, dressed and undressed, to document the existence of my son. Although I do not wish to meet that person she must know that doing these things have meant more to me than words could ever express.

I needed to hold Miles again the following day. I needed to show him to my family (all of whom did not agree to look at him) to prove that he had been here. My sister-in-law picked up the corpse, dressed and swaddled, and held him close and announced to the world “I love you and I will always love you”. When I remember that day, it is this moment that that brings me the most tears. There are loving, open people in this world who feel deeply.

It’s been several years since the birth and death of our baby. He still lives among us, but life has gone on. I am thankful that this was not my first child. My daughter forced me to go on with the day- to-day needs of life. Her smiles and laughter have made us recover faster. The most difficult thing for me now is to look at pregnant women, which has made my profession a little harder to work in. I know in my head that most, if not all, will be bringing home babies. But I worry that they will not, that they could experience the same loss that I have. They are so full of hope.

We are expecting again. This time it is a child from Korea. He will magically arrive on an airplane without epidurals, IVs, or surgery. It will be a painless delivery, for me. As I look at pregnant women and see the possibility of future sorrow, I also look at the arrival of our new child as a great source of sorrow for his mother. How do you give up a child, how do you recover from that pain? I guess you just go on and a small part of you never gives him up. I still look at his picture everyday. I still think about my birth story every time I do a delivery. He is still with me.

If memories keep your hopes and dreams alive, I hope that my son’s mother will have some good memories to get her through the difficult days that lie ahead. A picture, a footprint, a loving glance. My wish is that his mother knows that he is safe and clean and loved. In honor of his mother, I will try to remember every minute of the day of his arrival into our lives, so that I can tell him how he came to live with us and be ours.

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