Every so often, I run across something of my mothers that I have never seen, or haven't seen for years. Sometimes it's a piece of clothing, or jewelry, or an old birthday card tucked into an undiscovered box in my fathers basement. This time, I found an envelope full of essays, short stories, and notes that she had written for what I assume, was a creative writing class. Something about seeing her handwriting always resonates with me on the deepest level. It brings her back to me. I can feel her spirit close to mine when I look at the words that her hands had written. I'm comforted by them, regardless of what they say. This essay in particular, gives me so much insight into the kind of woman my mom was, what kind of woman she would want me to be, and sadly, how much I long for her advice on motherhood. Luckily these little pieces of her were left behind for me to find, always when I need them most.
A Personal Progress Story By Karen Metzelaars
After having Experienced the grief and loneliness of a stillbirth, the agonizing pain of an artificially induced birth and the violation of a cesarean birth, I considered myself to be somewhat of an "expert" on survival. A survivor of modern childbirth. I had endured the tests, the ultrasounds, the OB's, the IV's, the monitors. I had lived to tell about anesthesia, incisions, stitches, staples and gas pains. I could relate to episiotomies and epidurals, pushing, panting and panic. I knew firsthand of grief and sorrow, quiet suffering and the greatest of joy.
I had two beautiful, healthy children and an overwhelming appreciation for the miracle of life. What more could I want? What more did I need? The answer was easy. I wanted more. I wanted it better. I wanted to do it myself! I wanted an unmedicated, natural childbirth. No tests, no tubes, no scalpels.
Some would question my sanity here. All I can say is I (a healthy human woman) had a tremendous need to give birth (without the procedures) to a healthy human baby. I knew it could be done. Women had been doing it since time began. Why in the name of modern medicine are so many women made to feel incapable of giving birth without it?
One who questioned my reasoning and my sanity was my trusted obstetrician. After giving me the good news (I was expecting again), he got out his calendar and asked if I wanted to go ahead and schedule the cesarean that day. I was three weeks pregnant!
"No," I said, "I would like to try for a natural birth here doc, you know, no fuss." He quietly laid down his file, sat down and said, "Karen, with your history, your previous cesarean, you shouldn't try it, if something happened you would surely end up in the looney bin. Best not to take any chances." "But," I argued, "I'm ready for this, it's important to me, I've done the homework, I know the facts, I can do it!"
It was a conversation I will never forget. He tried his best to convince me that I couldn't do this without his monitors, IV's, staff and experience. That without theses, I would surely fail. And when I left his office that afternoon, I was convinced. Convinced I needed a different doctor.
But as I found out, he was not alone in his "professional opinions." Other obstetricians I talked to agreed with him. It seemed that they had all studied the same manual, "How to Make a Woman Feel Incapable of Natural Childbirth." The more I interviewed, the more adamant I became that there must be a way.
Finally, I found my way. It seems I had been talking to the wrong group of people. Instead of talking to doctors, I should have been talking to patients, people rather, mothers in particular, who had accepted the "risks", believed in themselves and followed their hearts.
I was introduced to a wonderful woman, Linda French, a midwife whose philosophy on childbirth was exactly what I had been searching for. Instead of trying to discourage me from taking the risk, she empowered me. She provided me with information. She gave me books to read, encouraged me to "tune-in" to my body and to the baby that was growing within. We discussed nutrition, exercise, stress and all the aspects of prenatal care. Another important thing I gained from her was confidence. Simply by discussing concerns and fears with someone who was experienced and willing to take as much time as needed, I was comforted. She had access to all of the technology, such as ultrasound and fetal monitors. Knowing that I was opposed to these things, she always left the decision up to me. It's nice to know that the machines were there should a problem arise, my objection was using these tools as routine practice.
The pregnancy proceeded smoothly. In the seventh month my husband and I attended childbirth classes. These classes were taught by a good friend of mine. Unlike other popular methods of childbirth that teach artificial breathing techniques and encourage laboring women to focus on something outside of themselves, this class taught natural relaxation methods, deep breathing and encouraged the participants to focus within.
We also learned how to make a birth plan. This enabled us to think about and actually write down how we wanted our individual birthing experience to proceed. This information was shared with out healthcare providers, hospital staff, and anyone else who might be attending.
When the months of waiting, planning and anticipation were finally over, I was very excited. Now was the time to prove myself.
My labor was very slow and easy for the first 12 hours. I was in touch by phone with the midwife, she even volunteered to come to my house to be with me. My progress was indeed slow. I had decided to stay at home for as long as possible to avoid the routine monitoring. Had I gone into the hospital during this early labor stage, I probably would have had to lie down and take the monitors, the IV's, and a number of outer routine hospital procedures. As it turned out I was at home, able to walk about, eat, read, and basically do whatever I wanted. It was a very relaxing time.
Almost 24 hours after my labor had started i knew that the baby was coming. We arranged to meet the midwife at the hospital and away we went.
Just thirty minutes later we had a brand new son, beautiful, healthy, and perfect in every way.
I was delighted with each of my babies. This time I was not only proud of the new life, but proud of myself as well.
Dictated by Katie Metzelaars
My mom had my little brother, Joey, in 1989. She died 17 years before I had my daughter and I found this last week (My daughter is 16 months). There are so many things still that I would like to ask her about her experiences as a mother, but her courage, determination and her beliefs have been made so apparent to me in this piece of writing. Feel free to share your thoughts and personal experiences here. Love and solidarity to my fellow mothers!