Saturday, July 08, 2006

lotsa stuff, musings on birth and behaviour etc

Something that's been on my mind lately, and brought to a head by a post on AB, is the idea of home birth for my next pregnancy. (If indeed there is a next one.) At first I was pretty divided. On one hand, my birth with Laurent had a lot of stuff I'd rather not repeat but I wasn't confident a homebirth would be personally right either.

I didn't like having to argue with the midwives about every little thing like keeping a spew bin handy, when all I should have had to do was focus on the birth. I didn't like the midwife disregarding our birth plan which said no non-medically necessary augmentation and nothing happens barring a medical emergency that I'm not informed of and agreed to. First thing she did was say I'm just doing a VE and then after told me, "and while I was down there I stripped membranes". I didn't like the fact they were planning to cut me when I was flatly saying, "No, I don't want an episectomy!" (It was NOT a medical emergency.) The MWs attitude toward it was disgusting and unprofessional; they were getting out the sterile packet (instruments) and laughing, joking about how it was her first one in six years and she was *so* excited about doing it, while ignoring me as I hollered protesting. Anywhere else but birth forcing a non-emergent procedure on them against their consent would be unethical at the least and malpractice at worst. Here we call it normal procedure.

At points, I think they were also using it as a blatant scare-tactic as well. After the birth, after DH left to take care of the dogs, it got worse as they had to get me out of the delivery bed and made me get up and walk to the wheelchair with no painkillers or anything, despite plenty of stitches and just being very shocky, while I kept passing out every time I moved and warning me if I dropped she wasn't going to break her back catching me. Stripping me and sticking me in the shower, smacking water in my face with the wand repeatedly as I was passing in and out the whole time telling me not to pass out as she wasn't going to hurt her back catching me. Then a whole bunch of incompetence when Laurent got sick... I'm sorry, it should NOT take an hour and all four limbs to get a line in a baby before you finally catch a vein and don't freaking LOSE it. You get it right the first time or take a break and come back later. Stupid doctor told me, "Oh, I knew this was going to happen. Guess we'll go up to NICU because they have better lighting and proper equipment so it'll be easier up there." WTF... so WHY didn't you just go up there in the first freaking place?!

That said, at the time I felt very strongly that I WANTED to be at a hospital. I wanted those doctors a few paces away in case we needed them. I wanted the peace of mind of knowing that we wouldn't have to wait 15 minutes for an ambulance and then however long to get to a hospital for treatment when seconds might count bouncing around in the back in agony. I honestly did feel a lot more relaxed in the hospital, up until the point they started lying and bullying. And if I'm really, really honest... as much as I wanted his birth to be as natural and intervention free as possible, I liked the idea KNOWING painkillers were available if I decided I wanted/needed them. Not that I wanted them but I wanted the OPTION yk? Of course now that I've been reading more about the long term effects of those.... *head spins*

And to be fair even with all this crap, his birth was a good birth overall to me (sounds weird but true) and I was really impressed with myself and DH, we did have some good experience in the hospital - the midwife student who was with me almost the whole time was AWESOME, wonderful, caring and compassionate... and several of the staff members were great, there was a ward MW I would gladly have adopted and brought home if I could've and who was largely responsible for Laurent and I being kept lost in the shuffle instead of my getting discharged after day 3 and them keeping him in NICU. So, a mixed up jumble of stuff.

In hindsight I'd definitely have had a doula. A rabid one with a chip on her shoulder the size of Texas and big teeth to chew up and spit out nasty midwives and doctors in lil'bitty pieces. I would have loved to have had the beautiful blessing ways ceremonies I've read about... gods, those are just sooooo beautiful and I love the idea of being surrounded by that positive feminine energy of other mothers and connecting to the whole feminine-creation-earth goddess aspects of life. I love the idea of birth the visualizations and affirmations... wow, why didn't I know about those the first time? That would have been so much nicer than just trying to "ride the wave" of pain out.

But... I still wasn't totally comfortable with the idea of a homebirth for myself. Did the good bits to a home birth outweighed the personal negatives? There aren't lots but they're big ones. Would I be comfortable with it enough that I wouldn't be freaking the whole time thinking I should have been in a hospital? How would I deal with it on the off chance something went wrong? How would I deal with it if (and I realize this is a far fetched worst case scenario) something happened and the baby died because of it when it could have been prevented if we'd been in hospital? Heady, heavy stuff.

I've also been thinking, not only on the birth being fully empowered for me but also in terms of it being a non-violent birth for the baby... the more and more I read about the long-term effects of the mother being distressed during pregnancy and birth, the more I read about neo-natal memory, the more I read about early trauma sensitizing our children for years... the more I want a gentle birth. (Ref. a bunch of studies on early memory, a study showing boys circumcised, w/out anesthetics, remained sensitized for a long time and at 4 and 6 months were much easier to distress and more distressed by vaccination procedure; children who have experience extreme trauma in surgery or treatment (all surgery was carried out without painkillers or anesthetic until 1986, so these babies were simply immobilized and subjected to major surgery fully awake and aware for hours) as newborns carrying phobias years after the fact.) I really would like to have a birth that is BEAUTIFUL for the child instead of traumatic. Have a baby come out smiling and calm should be the norm, not crying and wailing in distress and rage. Maybe do something like the Panthuraamphorn program. So I know I need to learn more. You can't make an informed decision only half informed neh? But right now HB is definitely looking more and more like something I'm interested in.

Now that aside, something else rather unrelated that's been weighing on my mind...

Laurent had another doctors appointment and to get him to hold still she gave him a second stethoscope to entertain him. It worked but invariably sticky monkey paws managed to grab her stethoscope, pen, shirt collar etc. etc. etc. She tried to gently pry it out of his hands, nicely but prying. I stopped it and rubbed the back of his hand with a finger in a little circle saying, "soft hands please" and *poof* he lets go. After a few times seeing it repeated and realizing it wasn't just a fluke he let go when requested she commented what a useful little trick it was. Very eruditely I reply, "Um. Yeah. I'm a dog trainer, so kind of a behavior geek." I got a really weird look.

To most non-dog people, that is a REALLY weird answer. I need to remember this. If I go onto one of my training lists, no one is going to blink about it. If I go to a training session or seminar, same deal. The rest of the world... not so much. One day I'll learn just to nod, smile and say thank you but I'm either a slow learner or a sucker for punishment so it keeps falling out my mouth and I keep getting "hey, you've sprouted a second head and announced you're from outer space!" looks.

As best I can tell, everyone who objects falls either figures it's degrading humans somehow or has an image in their head of the trainers who promoted the alpha-wolf domination nonsense (no matter how outdated or erroneous that research has since been proven) waltzing about with pinch collars punishing them into submission. One teacher Nic's mum knew from his schooling days got in a real huff and snarked "wait till he's 2 or 3 and then we'll talk!" Hate to burst her bubble but but in a daycare setting, my own babysitting and a number of hours in the 2 and 3 year old room at BWC over the years I've found 2 and 3 year olds respond nicely to fair, consistent, clear, compassionate, respectful interaction. They do well with instructions being broken down into manageable chunks and respond nicely to positive reinforcement and being set up to succeed. In fact, the nicest kids I know have parents who use the same techniques, even if they don't know it as such! I'll grant people are a bit more complex in what they deem rewarding or aversive, especially older kids but the theory is the same.

There also still seem to be a whole lot of folks who have a hard time believing you can teach a baby anything, especially very young babies which is when I started teaching Laurent, by 3 days old he opened his mouth wide on request to the amazement of the MW's and by a few weeks old knew the mitty-game which also taught him the give and take of communication and that there was another way to communicate than crying. This is despite research that shows they are capable of conditioning and habituation and various types of learning (anyone interested in refs LMK and I'll look them up but off the top of my head there are several studies by David Chamberlain published in pre/perinatal psych journals) and have memory such that they can remember rhymes and songs heard in utero (DeCasper), come out recognizing their own language and can understand words enough to use Sign Language by as young as 3 months old when basic motor skills are in place. All of those things are far more complex than just opening a hand when requested but you have hold-overs from the tabula rasa era of infant amnesia and that mentality is strongly in place. (IMO this is the reason so many parents are okay with a detached style of parenting young babies!)

I'd rather spend a short time teaching to let go and using trading games** to get away items I don't want him to have, than spend the next few years attempting to pry objects away from an unwilling child. It avoids creating a conflict where they try to hang onto it, think what happens when someone tries to grab something - you clutch it harder to you and jerk away. Do I want him doing that if he's holding a piece of glass or something dangerous? NOPE. When he's older and his thoughts are a bit more sophisticated it'll help avoid creating a need to 'hide' things, especially 'forbidden' items, he thinks I might try and take away. It'll also avoid teaching him through my actions that it's okay to grab stuff away from someone if you're bigger/stronger. (How many times have toddlers been chided not to grab something from a sibling when that's what's done TO them?) See? Now this is why I'm a dog trainer. I'm too freaking lazy to be bothered dealing with all those situations if I can avoid it just by teaching him to let go by stroking his hand and saying "soft"!

** Trading game: start by trading him a super cool object for an boring object he's already got, then returning the boring object after looking at it. After awhile we start working with him giving up cooler objects as well, always for something at least as nifty in his eyes. Lesson: Letting me see your stuff when I ask is valuable and not something to worry about - you'll get it back if I possibly can (if it's not dangerous) and get something extra. The 99 times I give it back make the 1x I don't an ignorable anomaly. Also teaches I respect you enough to give you the same consideration I would anyone by asking instead of just grabbing. And yes, this is the same game I do with puppies and dogs to avoid creating a resource guarder!


katef said...

oh you and I sound like we are in the same odd headspace with regards to some things.... 6 months ago I'd have NEVER contemplated this, but now I can't get it out of my head! Hope we both settle on the right thing when we need to!

loz said...

OMG I can't believe the treatment that you and Laurent received well actually I can and that is what sucks the most. :'( Your story saddens me alot and makes me so angry at the same time. The best piece of advice I can give you is to go and talk with a independant midwife you will be able to ask all of those questions on your mind and work through the fears that you have and be able to make a decision after getting those fears out in the open to someone who understands and can offer medical knowledged feedback. i know a couple wonderful midwifes near you! Happy to talk more about how I worked through my fears with homebirthing but don't want to crowd your comments section;) HUGS

btw I think using some positive dog training tools for our children is a wonderful concept especially in the face of some other parenting choices out there i don't think it is weird at all. Although we had a command word for our dog 'BAH" and I could imagine it would be frowned apon should we try to use that for our children ;)

Sif said...

Just found your blog, Amanda!

Wow, that stuff about dog training and kids, very challenging to me (yeah, I'm in that group that tends to think it's degrading to the human race, you should hear me rant about my FIL telling me that if you can toilet train a puppy you can toilet training an 18 month old Erik, LOL)... That said, I found what you had to say fascinating, and would love to hear more!

Re: birth, if you do decide to have another, I'd love to host a blessingway for you! And if Bryn is another year or more older, I'd be happy to put my hand up for doulaing too!