Posted by: emjb | December 28, 2005


Most days now are “good” days. Days when I don’t have any reason to cry or feel the depression that is still close to the surface. Days when I’m too busy to think about it. But I have to feel my way carefully when I start thinking about the future, or just about trying to move on in my life, about what I will and won’t be able to tell people about this time in my life. Because powerful emotions can still come at me and knock me down.

Like I’ve posted before, it’s tempting to throw myself into planning another birth, a re-do. But that’s pretty shaky comfort, and not just for the ethical reasons. What I find when I look up things like VBACs is that the cards might still be stacked against me if I tried; not only was I wounded when I had my c-section, but that scar will make a lot of doctors and midwives reluctant to give me much leeway on a natural birth. Any little thing that goes wrong, back to the surgery. It might make a homebirth (which is what I would want) impossible, or possible but illegal and therefore risky. And thinking about that double blow brings on the tears. Again. Once again, I have no good choices. It is crystal clear to me now that only a small minority of pregnant women in this country do have any good choices or much autonomy about their births…and that’s only if absolutely nothing goes wrong.

Why does this lack of control matter? Why do we care so much about how we give birth, if, as the doctors scold us, the babies come out ok and we don’t die either? Why don’t we just all suck it up and schedule our inductions and epidurals and c-sections and enjoy all this modern technology that is there to protect us?

I can’t articulate it exactly, I can’t explain this deep need I share with so many women, to have a natural birth, to go through the whole experience of giving life in a way that creates good memories, not sad ones. To at least not have had the experience taken away from me, the way mine was. Nathan’s birth is something I don’t feel even belongs to me; it happened to me, but the moment he entered the world isn’t something I really experienced. I didn’t see him except briefly, didn’t get to hold him for so long. I was drugged and distant, and after that, in pain and only able to take care of him because I knew I should. I don’t think I felt much love or attachment to him for many days. I was in shock, physically and mentally, and I was just going through the motions. There must be a way to make a c-section birth better than that, to overcome the shock and pain and help the mother bond with her baby, but the people charged with taking care of us didn’t have time for or interest in that. We survived; that’s all. They gave us the bare minimum (and in some ways, not even that) and sent us on our way.

And it’s not enough. I know hospitals need to make money, I know they’re not charities, but not creating room for humanity and compassion for your patients, any of your patients, hurts them. It has to slow their recovery. In my case, it certainly had something to do with slowing mine, with my depression that I’m still grappling with, with, I’m sad to say, a little distance I sometimes still feel from my son. I know that part will go away as he and I get to know each other, but right now I can’t help that the sadness and anger I feel about his birth makes it harder for me to rejoice in him sometimes, to appreciate how beautiful and special he is. None of it is his fault, but I want to be happy when I think about the day he was born, and I can’t, and that makes me angry–because how will I explain that to him? I don’t want him to feel guilty about it or something stupid like that. But I can’t just lie and make it all a happy tale.

Because of the system we have, the HMOs and the malpractice insurers and the overworked, stressed staffs being pressured by investors, to give birth in this country is to go into battle, and the odds are ususally against you. You are not entering a place where you will welcomed and cared for and guided through a difficult passage; you’re processed into a system that is either indifferent or actively hostile to your emotional needs, and not even that good at meeting your physical ones. So long as no one dies, so long as there’s no lawsuit, your birth is a success, even if you stagger away scarred and bleeding and dealing with massive depression and pain. There is no billing code for a patient’s feeling bewildered or violated. It’s a system that keeps good doctors and nurses from doing their jobs, and forces them into an adversarial role with their patients for fear of lawsuits or just getting in trouble for not processing enough patients fast enough. It’s a broken system, or one that is breaking down. I just read an article about OB-GYNs deciding to drop the obstetrics, because the malpractice fears were so intense and insurance premiums so high. Who will deliver their patients’ babies now?

I don’t know how we find our way out of this insanity. Being a practical person, it seems abundantly clear to me that we need national healthcare, plus some kind of reform of malpractice laws,* plus a lot else, to make healthcare work. It doesn’t work in a strict marketplace, because all the incentive is on the side of not insuring or treating those who most need it. More and more of us are uninsured or poorly insured. Or lose our insurance once we do get ill. It just isn’t working.

Guess I’ve wandered off topic, but I needed to get that all down. Off I go to bed, until Nathan needs his next bottle and dry diaper.

*One of my theories about malpractice lawsuits is that lack of national healthcare is part of the reason juries give such high awards. After all, someone permanently disabled is going to need lifelong medical care, and their family is going to have to find some way to pay for it, even with Social Security and Medicaid. If I were on a jury, I would want a big enough settlement to be sure the victims could have their treatment however long they lived. But if we had national healthcare, that would be less of a factor–it would be more about lost wages and pain and suffering, that sort of thing.



  1. Great blog I hope we can work to build a better health care system as we are in a major crisis and health insurance is a major aspect to many.

  2. That has got to be the weirdest comment spam I’ve ever received. I think I’ll leave it for that reason. Dude, you do know I’m not praising health insurance companies, right???

  3. You said you couldn’t articulate it exactly, but you exactly did. It describes the experience so well.

    But for yours and for Nathan’s sake, you do have to be able to deal with this. Does your current employer offer an Employee Assistance Program? Maybe you can take advantage of their free or very cheap (maybe $5) counseling fees before your two weeks runs out.

    Hope you’re both sleeping better soon.

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