When I was a kid, I was sad. And I would hurt myself because I was sad. So isn’t it interesting that instead of blaming shitty genetics for my kid’s problems, I’m instead looking under pretty much every other rock out there?
My new favorite way of blaming myself for my son’s problems dates all the way back to his birth. I gave birth to him in Nairobi, Kenya. The hospital was good. It wasn’t like I popped a squat in a muddy field and hoped for the best. I gave birth in modern facilities. My son spent the night in the only NICU in the country, thank you very much. But although the hospital was good quality, the physician was a bit of a wingnut. I don’t know. Maybe they all are. I’ve never given birth in the States, so I can’t really compare it to much. Estelah was delivered by a midwife in Abu Dhabi, so again, not much to compare it to.
I was adamant that the birth process be as natural as possible (well, as natural as possible outside of the muddy field). I read everything I could get my hands on. I took classes. I did research. I knew my shit. I knew my rights. I knew what I wanted. And his birth was basically a giant clusterfuck. It was natural; I got that. But as they wheeled me into the general ward after his birth, I watched the cleaners come in with mops. There was blood on the wall; the floor was soaked with it. At one point, the doctor put his foot on the freaking bed to pull that child from my body. If you were looking, and I’d hope that you weren’t, at my crotch while I had a bikini on, you can see the episiotomy scar, because it extends that fucking far out.
My second stage of labor pretty much refused to progress. Baby boy was stuck in the birth canal. Baby girl was too. Because I had a midwife with her (maybe?) and not a doctor (maybe?) nobody batted an eye when I turned onto all fours and pushed my daughter out with little fanfare. My doctor with my son though was a big fan of women giving birth on their backs. Which is nearly impossible for some women to do. So I just sat there and pushed uselessly through contraction after contraction. For hours. Eventually, the vacuum entered the room. Not too much longer after that, my son did too.
I wanted a drug-free birth, and I got it. For the most part. As they were pulling him out, they injected something or other into my ass, in an attempt to relax my muscles and make it easier for him to come out. The meds didn’t really kick in until he was lying on my chest, and then the next twelve hours were a blur because of it.
He was okay. He was huge. And kind of blue. He spent the night in oxygen, but his Apgars were fine and we went home two days later.
We went to the pediatrician a lot during his first month. He cried nonstop. Non. Stop. He never slept. He didn’t sleep at night, which I had heard rumor might happen with an infant human being. But he also didn’t sleep during the day. He howled. My pediatrician gave me the ultimatum that I could check him into the hospital for testing or I could try formula feeding him and see if that helped. It helped. So we assumed he wasn’t getting milk from me, and called it a day. He started sleeping. I started sleeping. The world became a brighter place.
But I wonder now. And what I wouldn’t give to go back with what I know now. The things I would change. The opinions I would seek. The things I would try. I thought all babies cried all the time. I didn’t know until the girl came along that they’re kind of supposed to sleep a lot at first. He didn’t sleep. Ever. Was that an early sign?
So I blame myself for the following well-thought-out reasons:
1) I was the idiot who decided to give birth in a third world country
2) I was the idiot who insisted on a natural birth when any other woman in the world would’ve insisted on a c-section at that point
3) I was the idiot who moved so far away from her extended family and all of her friends and therefore had nobody in her immediate world who would say to her, “Sweetheart, that baby never ever ever ever sleeping thing? That might not be normal. Here, let’s see what’s going on.”
4) I was the idiot who gave birth in a country where we didn’t yet have internet at home or on a phone or, ya know, anywhere outside of dodgy cafes. So I couldn’t Google shit like crazy to get answers.
5) I was the idiot who so wanted for things to be normal and to get through it intact that I wouldn’t let myself wonder what if there’s something more going on here.
You don’t have to tell me that all of this is irrational. I know it is. And the number one reason why I know it is is because I did the exact same thing 18 months later when my daughter was born. And she’s fine. I hemorrhaged with her, and she’s fine.
And even if there is something I could’ve done differently, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Because you don’t get a do-over.
I guess I’m just doing what all parents do–looking for a way to make this my fault so I have someone easy to blame.