Guest Post: Standing Up

Monday, February 21, 2011

I met Jess and her sweet son at a moms’ group in Brooklyn. That was almost two years ago. Back then, getting out of the house with our newborns wasn’t just a good idea … it was necessary.

As we introduced ourselves around the circle—many of us nursing, holding back tears and clutching a suitcase of rumpled emotions waiting to be unpacked—I remember listening to Jess’ story and thinking, “Now that there is a strong woman.” Her tiny darling was born three months premature and had to put up quite the fight in his first weeks of life.

I’ve long admired Jess’ strength. And hearing about her experience with her second pregnancy only affirms my earlier assessment: this mother is tough.

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Standing Up

By Jessica Myers-Schecter

My path to motherhood? Rife with you-wouldn’t-believe-me- if-I-told-you curves in the road. In the last three years I’ve had a miscarriage, gave birth unexpectedly at 28 weeks, discovered I have something called cervical incompetence, and spent 14 weeks on bed rest during my second pregnancy.

But nothing was as frightening—or as soul-revealing—as my last C-section, the one planned under the guidance of a high-risk doctor in a Manhattan hospital.

No one could explain why I gave birth to my first baby so early. But one thing was clear: the funky, inverted T incision from that first surgery—commonly used in preemie Cesarean deliveries—meant that it was really dangerous for me to have ANY contractions at all during subsequent pregnancies lest my uterus rupture. And that, everyone agreed, would be very bad. Death’s door kind of bad.

So for my second pregnancy, we planned a C-section for 37 weeks, long before labor could happen on its own.

It seemed simple, really.

Flash forward to week 36. Despite over three months of bed rest and 19 weeks of progesterone shots, I started having those dreaded contractions.

Freya resting a few hours after birth.

At first the they just felt like a minor tightening. Probably Braxton-Hicks, I thought. Any other pregnant woman would have downed a gallon of water and put her legs up. But I was high-risk and had spent weeks panicking at every twinge. So I cabbed it to the hospital without even a hint of a hesitation.

The contractions didn’t seem significant to my doctor either, but she decided to monitor me overnight. And at first, all signs pointed to me making it another week to my scheduled C-section. At least until 1 a.m. when I was rocked awake by an intense contraction. Three more in half an hour and I paged the nurse. This just didn’t feel right.

The nurse and the resident on call brushed me off. Despite the contractions, I wasn’t even dilated, and so technically not in labor. (Labor = contractions that result in dilation.) There wasn’t even any point to administer pain medication because, well, I wasn’t really in labor.

Over the next four hours the contractions became more and more painful, but after being brushed off multiple times by both nurses and residents, I thought that maybe my pain threshold was just really low. Besides, after so many traumatic medical situations, I’d developed an insidious “good patient” psychology. Good patients complied with doctors’ orders, even if they seemed counterintuitive.

When my husband arrived early the next morning he knew in a heartbeat something was wrong and had no illusions about good versus bad patients. He argued with a series of nurses, residents and even a midwife until he finally got to my high-risk doc and into the OR we went.

“Your uterus is so thin I can see right through to the baby. Like a window. It could have ruptured any minute,” she muttered as my little Freya entered the world. Good patient, indeed.

I’ve evolved in a thousand ways during my short dramatic stint as a new mother. My son’s nine-week NICU stay alone was enough to irrevocably change me, not to mention those 14 long and lonely weeks on bed rest while pregnant with Freya. But by far the hardest-earned lesson I’ve learned is also the simplest: you have to trust yourself and you have to stand up for yourself.

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Jessica lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and their two children. She blogs at BrownstoneBaby.

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