bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

Tag: medicine

cancer wife: thoughts from the edge

June 18, 2013

 

I’m sitting in a wimpy plastic chair.  Mick is snoozing, all hooked up, comfy in his enormous adjustable leather chemo glamour bed.  I can’t complain.  I mean, I want to complain, but I can’t complain.  Because Mick has cancer and I’m fine.  But between us hens?  This chair sucks.  It’s one of many chairs I’ve encountered during fluid transfers.  Some seem to be worse than others.  For example, there was this one chair that I sat in from 3am to 9am in the ER at MGH.  Well, “sat” is not the right word.  More like perched.  Or maybe endured.  Suffered through?  Call it what you will but I ended up in the chiropractor’s office twice that week.  That chair was a bastard.

 

This was my first chair, the little one on the left:

It’s not a great photo.  I think the chair feels so inadequate that it’s hiding from my camera.  This wood veneer piece of real estate with metal legs and pilled polyester seat bottom had a great view of the Charles, though.  Not bad there with the Salt and Pepper Bridge cutting over Boston’s dirty water.  Location, location, location.  The window made the sitting more tolerable.

 

Mick’s afore mentioned night from Emergency Room Hell followed.  Soon after that valuable learning experience I created a trifecta of chairs that worked for me quite nicely.  During Mick’s next infusion, I employed two chairs and a padded rolling stool to create a combination that allowed me to recline.  I call this the “C-S-C”, Chair-Stool-Chair technique.  Hips on the stool, shoulders and calves stretched to opposing stationary chairs.

 

Next came this little number, wedged between a thin curtain and Mick’s glamour bed.

No view to boast but by the second treatment I’d become emboldened.  I asked the nurse for a pillow and blanket.  I eventually arranged my white hospital accessories in just a way that I could comfortably sit straight and tall while my head slumped forward and jerked back up, slumped forward and jerked back up.  The Buddha would not have been impressed but I was surprisingly happy in this seat.

 

Today is the last chemo treatment and I’m finally getting smart.  I have three great things going for me:  a pillow from home, my seat overlooking The Charles, and our nurse who just delivered several warm blankets for padding and comfort.  Not bad at all.  Mick’s been passed out for four and half hours.  He begins to stir and opens his eyes.  He smiles at me and notices I’m really trying hard to achieve optimal comfort.  “Climb in with me.”

 

“Really?” I gasp.  “Are you sure?”

 

He scootches to the right and I squeeze my body into the crack between him and the armrest.  I am asleep within seconds and wake up only when it’s time to go home.  I haven’t slept that well in…  well, in a good while.

Kates New King Comes Naturally

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Kate had natural childbirth!

Kate had natural childbirth!

Kate had natural childbirth!

I’m not sure how reliable the reporting on Access Hollywood is, but I flipped on the TV last night to get the latest royal baby update and heard that Kate had natural childbirth.

After a Google search I quickly learned that Princess Kate was taking steps to prepare herself for a drug-free experience; and if Mario Lopez’s man on the scene is correct, doulas, midwives, and natural childbirth advocates around the United States are jumping for joy.

Here in the US, we boast the world’s highest rates of epidural use and Cesarian section.  It’s hard to decipher exact numbers as some hospitals report childbirth stats and some don’t, but on average well over 60% of vaginal births in America employ an epidural.  Some hospitals report 95% epidural use for vaginal births. 32% of births overall are Cesarian, many of which are scheduled and elective.

We Americans tend to learn lessons the hard way. We think we can create answers to life’s problems and pains by outdoing Mother Nature. (Ahem, GMOs, ahem.) And then we spend generations trying to figure out how to dig ourselves out of the holes we’ve trenched. I place childbirth in this category.

We’ve created a “new normal” in America. Over the past several decades, there’s been a shift from using chemical pain relief only when labor is not progressing to using chemical pain relief before active labor has even started. This is not the case in the rest of the world. This the numbing of America. How deep will we get before having to dig out from this one?

I’m a mom of three naturally born babies. I get it completely. Birth is painful, it’s challenging, it pushes us to our limits – the perfect introduction to motherhood. From a spiritual perspective natural childbirth is an incredible opportunity to awaken. From a confidence perspective, it’s downright empowering.

After I had my first baby, there was a procession of nurses stopping by my recovery room to congratulate me on nixing the epi. I was like a celebrity that evening. One nurse even stopped in and told me she heard me growling and screaming down the hall and felt a thrill.

Really? Just for having a baby like billions of women have before me? Really really?

I can’t count how many birth stories I’ve heard over the past 10 years. The number of natural stories are far and few, but a surprisingly high number of friends have opted for the epidural and not benefited from its effects, still feeling the intensity of labor and the pain of delivery. The epidural is not always a ticket out of the torment.

That said, I encourage OBs to encourage patients to at least try a drug-free experience. The anesthesiologist will be lingering nearby in case she needs to needle up. What I always suggest to pregnant ladies who ask for advice is this – Keep the pain in perspective. It won’t last forever. Focus on the breaks between the contractions. And just when you think you can’t take another minute of pain, have the nurse check you. You’re probably fully dilated and ready to push. Pushing will hurt, but it will be way faster without the epi.

But don’t take my word for it. There are a gazillion moms out there who have forgone that big fat needle in the spine and lived to tell about it. We need more high profile examples like Kate Middleton to let women know that natural is the normworldwide and to inspire American women to look at the anesthesiologist and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

In the end, the most important part of childbirth is healthy baby, healthy Momma.  Modern medicine is a blessing. And we are doubly blessed here in America to have top notch services to provide new mothers and infants with excellent care.

A woman needs to do what is best for her and her baby and take advantage of the resources available to her during this intense time.

That might include chemical pain relief, emergency C-section, or it might include a drug-free-screaming-banshee-spiritually-uplifting-celebrity-in-the-maternity-wing delivery. No matter how that baby comes out, he’s a miracle nonetheless. As is his Momma.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa