Tag Archives: Birth

On Death and Birth

VennThat’s right, I’m going there, in my blog which is about parenting and children, and by inference birth and life. On a few occasions, while watching my kids play around, it has occurred to me that they have absolutely no idea that, at some point, they are going to die. Of course I don’t think this really matters since they are only two years old, but it has made me think back to my introduction to the harsh reality that is death and how my understanding of death, and now birth, has grown and changed over the years.

Death

In my life, there have been a number times when I have had to say a final good-bye to a person very close to me, and every time it has been a deeply saddening experience. Just before the twins came along, there was quite a drama unfolding within our family, as two close and beloved family members passed away as a result of unrelated health problems. This certainly cast a pall over the lead up to our children’s birth, but my experience of these two deaths was significantly different to the death of anyone else who had ever been close to me, and it was, in part, because of the imminent birth of my children.

In every instance that I have had to deal with death in the past, there has always been this incredibly simple, yet baffling thought that has occurred to me. There is a person who exists one minute, and then a moment later, all that made that person what they are, is absolutely gone. Every part of their body still seems to exist in front of you, but they are no longer there. What a feeling of loss and emptiness this gives.

Birth

With the arrival of my children, there were a number of thoughts on my mind that seemed somehow familiar. They were familiar because they were similar in form to the thoughts that I’d had when someone close to me dies, but these thoughts were different in content because they gave me feelings exactly opposite to those that surround a person’s death. In this case, first there was no one, and moments later there were two new people that formerly didn’t exist. In the same way that I had always found it hard to comprehend that after someone dies, even though the body remains, they no longer exist, I found it equally perplexing that out of nothing, there was now something.

I have always found it difficult to get used to the reality that a person has died. Seeing something that makes you chuckle, for instance, might make you think “I should give X a call and tell them about this because they’d love it” and shortly after having this type of thought, you’d have to make the realization that there will be no more phone calls to share the details of your day with that person any more. It’s a sad and hard reality to come to grips with after the death of a loved one. With the birth of my twins, however, I was making the realization over and over again that now there were two new people with which I could share the details of my day (once they learned English, that is).

With the death of these two family members, there seemed to be a poetic balance about the situation. Two lives lost and two lives gained. Of course, in a literal sense, my children could not possibly replace the lives of the family that we lost, but they were a reminder that each death is the result of a birth, and we were witnessing the whole process of renewal within a very short time. I remember it being an emotion packed experience, and in this instance there was both intense sadness and joy all within a very short period of time, and a lot of reflection upon the whole event.

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My Hospital Postpartum Experience

This is a continuation of my previous post called My Hospital Birthing Experience. For the whole story of the birth of my twins, I recommend reading the previous post first.

Healthcare Hooligans

To Swaddle or Not

SwaddleAfter the delivery, while Jenn and I were recovering, nurse Ratched came in to show us how to swaddle our babies and explained that it would help them to sleep. We visited with family and then after a short time were taken to the maternity ward where we were told that they don’t swaddle at that hospital. Exhausted, we explained that we had just been shown how to swaddle by another nurse and that we were now going to get some sleep. Our new maternity ward nurse awkwardly grumbled something about nurse Ratched and left.

Breast Feeding Nazis

The hospital that we delivered our children at has a “breastfeeding friendly” policy, which in retrospect seems like a poor name for their policy. Jenn and I had always been fully on board with breastfeeding our kids and needed no convincing. Every nurse that walked in was astounded to find her tandem nursing both kids within hours of their birth. However, they were hungry hungry kiddos. Jenn’s milk production wasn’t what it needed to be for two mouths, and so I started making visits to the nursing station to get some formula to help supplement Jenn’s milk. Each time I went I was given what amounted to a stern talking to about how we shouldn’t be using formula, and that you need to increase the demand for milk for the production to go up. Yes, sure, but you see we have two and they are hungry, so give us the formula.

After visiting with the lactation consultant and our original “cool” OB/GYN and explaining how long Jenn was breast feeding every day and how the kids didn’t seem to be getting enough, they 100% agreed with us that the kids needed more, and they told the nurses to lay off and give us formula when we asked. Relieved at the conversation with the “professionals” Jenn and I spent some time enjoying our new family members, which meant that I waited too long and went to get formula from the nurses after a shift change and apparently they left no notes, so again we were given the runaround when asking for formula. They even suggested that we shouldn’t be asking for formula because, since they were giving us such small amounts, they had to throw away most of the bottle of formula they were giving us after a short period of time. Really??? Hey I have an idea, how about you give us a whole bottle?

Jenn was an absolute hero when it came to breastfeeding our kids, and put in a ridiculous amount of time and effort to get her milk production up. The result of the hospital policy, however, was to make me feel like 1) an ignorant parent 2) an incompetent parent and 3) a beggar any time that I asked for formula. What’s worse than that was Jenn was made to feel inadequate as a mother. Ironically, when we finally went home with our kids we found some orange coloured crystals in our son’s diaper and so we called the nurse’s hotline and learned that was a sign that he was dehydrated. Hmmm, how would that happen, oh yeah by not being given the formula he needed in the hospital.

Parting Parental Competency Check

We were only in the hospital for 3 days, but honestly I was so frustrated by the experience that on the final day I was ready to bolt out of there. Hold on though, before you go there is one last hoop for you to jump through. Brought to you by the health care professionals that brought you:

  1. Assisted delivery without discussing the course of action to take in the event of a breech delivery
  2. Breech delivery
  3. Swaddling contradictions
  4. Implied parental incompetence which resulted in #5
  5. Withholding formula to the point of dehydration

So, as our parting gift, we had to demonstrate that we knew how to properly buckle our kids into a car seat. I actually think this is a good idea, but the irony of being evaluated on my ability to perform this task by these people was really frustrating to me.

Needless to say, I didn’t really enjoy my birth or postpartum experiences, but I felt significantly better and comfortable in my role as a parent once we got home. I would absolutely love to hear stories from others about how they feel about their birth (dads included) so feel free to make use of the comment section below.

My Hospital Birthing Experience

On a Monday in early May of 2011 we got the call in the early afternoon that it was time to come to the hospital to have labour induced. Everything seemed so civilized and orderly. We would arrive at the hospital in the early afternoon, induce labour and then after a few days, go home with our new family. Driving to the hospital was like going to the airport for some kind of trip, bags packed and feeling excited. Oh, it was a “trip” alright.

Induction Hormone Injected, Catcher’s Mitt On

Partly because everything seemed so “civil and orderly” as a result of having labour induced and planned out, and partly because of our fast food culture, after the induction hormone had been injected I think I expected a pretty quick delivery to unfold. Don’t get me wrong, we were parents by 9:06 am the next morning which, now I understand, is still actually quite quick, but I didn’t know that when the hormone was first given. So, long story short (and entirely skipping the drama that my wife experienced), we played the waiting game overnight.

We had an amazing nurse with us all night long, and Jenn’s OB/GYN was working overnight. That was great for us, since we had a good relationship with the Dr. and overnight we had grown quite comfortable with the nurse. It was the opinion of our OB/GYN that we could plan for a natural birth because both the twins were head down as we went into this whole process, so things were looking good.

For a little context for those who have never had multiples, if both fetuses are head down when the first child is born, then there is a risk that subsequent fetuses may shift their position and end up becoming breeched births (feet first and not the way they should ideally come out). If this happened, it was the opinion of our OB that it would be safest to deliver the second baby via C-section, as breech births are more of a risk to the fetus. Understandably, this was my wife’s least favourite option because it meant that after delivering, she would be recovering from a natural birth and a C-section.

Back to the story, at 7:00 am, still pregnant, it was shift change at the hospital. Good-bye nice nurse and cool OB/GYN, hello nurse Ratched and unknown OB/GYN. Jenn had been working hard for a while already by this point, but there was no significant change in the progress of the birth, and by 8:30ish, the new Dr. is telling us that it is decision time. Will it be a C-section or an assisted birth using forceps? Without going into the details of the conversation, it was obvious that the new Dr. thought that a C-section was the wrong choice and the assisted birth was the right choice. We were feeling exhausted and had never discussed the details of an assisted birth with our OB. After asking some questions as to why the Dr. thought the assisted birth was the better option, it became apparent that we were annoying her, and so we decided to go with the assisted birth. There was, however, no discussion as to what would happen if the second baby shifted and it came out breech.

The Assisted Birth

A-birth While the hospital staff were prepping themselves and Jenn, I was all dressed up with nowhere to go for the 15 minutes that I was in the “holding tank”. Finally I was let in and things got underway fairly quickly. My son came first, and although they used forceps, the process seemed fairly quick and routine. I was overwhelmed at the sight of my son, who was now an actual little person, not just an idea. Seeing him make his first uncoordinated jerky movements and then hearing his first cry took me on a mental roller coaster ride into the future, imagining some of the life events that were ahead of him and us. It was a truly emotional and eye-opening experience. I had a comfortable intellectualized notion of how I was becoming a father, and seeing my son in front of me forced a new and daunting reality upon me. I was both excited and making the realization that I wasn’t aware how real all of this was.

After my son was born, and before my wife could really even see him, he was taken to another part of the room and they started the work of delivering my daughter. Nothing was said by the medical staff to us about what was happening, but after a minute or so it became apparent to me that my daughter was now in a breech position. The mood had gotten more tense and to make things worse my wife had started throwing up again. Not being able to roll over, Jenn was concerned with choking, and at the same time the OB, in a very urgent tone, started saying that Jenn really had to push now. I remember looking at Jenn and saying with a tone that, from me, meant this was now very serious “you have to push now!” Jenn fully understood how serious I was, but she was in a bout of nausea and she replied “I’m trying!” I felt horrible for Jenn and very powerless and frantic about the situation.

B-O2Four minutes after my son, my daughter was born but the sight was very different. Instead of a healthy bright red crying infant, my daughter was bluish/purple, silent and motionless. Time slowed, it felt like my breath was sucked from my lungs, and for a second time I made the realization that I wasn’t aware how real all of this was. Again, they whisked my second child away to another part of the room and my attention went back to Jenn, who wasn’t aware of everything that I had just seen. I tried to help her through her nausea and simultaneously figure out what was happening with my daughter, and then Jenn asked “how are they?” I put on my best game face and told her they were both fine, then nurse Ratched and I caught one another’s eyes and I could tell that she wasn’t sure either. I told Jenn that I was going to go and take a look at them and that I’d be right back. When I arrived they had just covered my daughter’s mouth with an oxygen mask and she was starting to breath. It was truly amazing to see her colour change from purple to red after only a few breaths. As stressful as it was, it seems this is not uncommon and it was not a big deal for the hospital staff. Our new daughter was evaluated and found to be totally healthy and normal despite her awkward entrance into the world!