Tonight my husband and I went on a tour of the labor and delivery ward at the local hospital. This was a big step for us: we haven’t set foot in that part of the building since I delivered our daughter at 18 weeks last September, and we knew it would be emotional. It absolutely was! But it was also bearable. As my husband has been saying, we didn’t really need a “tour,” since I have in fact given birth there before, but the goal of tonight’s visit was to get us back in that space that holds so many sad memories, (hopefully) well in advance of when we have to go back so that I can deliver our son. We figured it’d be less awful if we did it early, while labor is hopefully still far off, and I think that was ultimately a good decision.
Things started off with an info session about labor and delivery at this particular hospital. One thing that I was excited to hear, which is a new development since we were there with our daughter last September, is that they now offer nitrous oxide (N2O) for pain management during labor. (Those of you in civilized countries will probably be thinking “so what?” but availability of N2O has been extremely limited in the US until just the past year or two, and apparently they are one of only two hospitals in our state that currently offers it!) That already made me feel more positive about this hospital, since I like that they’re keeping up with still fairly cutting-edge (in the US) medical trends, and since I had read about N2O and had wanted to try it but didn’t think I’d be able to.
After that positive start, the nurse led us into and through the labor and delivery ward. It was hard to be there again, to remember the night that we walked ourselves in and got settled in a room only to experience some of the saddest and most traumatic hours of our lives. We both remembered exactly which room we had been in, and I’d been nervous about going near the room, but for better or for worse, we weren’t allowed to go in that part of the ward anyway since there was a woman actively giving birth in that wing. So we saw it from a distance, but didn’t actually walk past. We went into another birth room, and saw the same furniture and equipment, and that was quite enough, thanks.
I had somewhat anticipated the difficulty of dealing with naive, bubbly first-time pregnant women, but it was still hard. One woman’s only question or concern was to ask the nurse how to make sure she could tell everyone that she didn’t want to hold the baby until after it had been washed off. Oh, if only that were my biggest worry! Another woman in the room kept asking questions that made it clear that her biggest concern was totally minimizing any medical care for her or her baby — she wanted to know if the hospital would let her deliver in water, wanted to see where the tub could go, and she practically jumped on everything the nurse said with “is that required or can we opt out?”. I’m not sure why this bothered me so much — I believe that women should be supported in giving birth in the way that they want, and I won’t judge any other woman’s birth plan. I know that unmedicated birth can be beautiful and powerful for many women, and I thoroughly respect (and to some extent share) the desire to minimize unnecessary medical intervention.
I think I was more rattled by the juxtaposition: while my husband and I were actively fighting our anxiety about dead babies and placental abruption, which was brought back more strongly than ever by being in the place where our daughter was born, this woman was clearly primarily worried about having her birth go the “right” way — which is just really far from where we are right now (which is more along the lines of “we want a live baby and a live me at the end of all of this and anything else that goes well along the way is a bonus”). I liked the nurse’s eventual response to the incessant natural birth badgering, which was that she was happy to help us come up with a “wish list” and do her best to make the birth happen exactly as each of us wanted, but that we should realize that birth is unpredictable and might not live up to our expectations, and that to avoid being disappointed in our birth experience we should think of the birth plan more like a Christmas list of things that we would really like to have, even if we know we might not get all of them. That seemed reasonable to me, and quieted the hyped-up natural birth lady as a bonus.
I managed to hold it together pretty much until the end of our tour. At the end, the nurse gave us each her card and asked each couple personally whether we had any questions. My husband and I had talked about our main requests from the hospital, namely that we not be put in the same room or have the same nurse as when our daughter was born, but I didn’t really want to ask those things in front of everyone. So we stayed and listened to everyone else’s questions, and then when they had left or were talking amongst themselves we went and talked to the nurse quietly. She was very nice about it and said that they should easily be able to accommodate those requests, which really helped put me at ease. But still, having that conversation, and having to put into words why we were making the request, sent me over the edge into weepiness, and as we walked out of the hospital I started sniffling and then totally lost it in the car on the way home. I’m not even sure I can articulate why — it was just such an emotional evening, and brought back so many memories of the night we spent at the hospital and the birth of our daughter. I still miss her so much. I want her back, and I want to know what our lives would be like today if she hadn’t died. I know that these wants are nonsensical, and I’m very grateful that we are fortunate enough to have another baby on the way, and therefore thankful for the situation that is making us revisit these difficult emotions in the first place. But the tears were just an uncontrollable emotional response to being back there and revisiting everything that’s happened to us over the past 13 months.
So, anyway, that was our evening. I’m also grateful to have a loving and supportive husband with whom I can both cry and snark about people who are afraid of slimy babies. As I write this, I’m about to hit the 23-week mark with our son, who has been kicking away in my belly for what now feels like ages. Earlier this week, he kicked me so hard in such a weird and constant way in my side that I got extremely ticklish and started writhing in bed. My husband thought I was nuts! Our little guy also kept running away from the doctor’s doppler at our appointment on Tuesday. I would have been more worried, except that instead of his heartbeat we heard the “zip”s of his movements as he scooted away from the doppler every time she tried to get a measurement of his heart rate — and on top of that, I could feel him moving away from the wand, so I was never really worried that there was a problem. It was more funny than scary, for once.
I hope all is well with all of you out in blog land. Thanks as always for your incessant support and kind words!