Thursday, February 16, 2012

On Worry, Pets, and Birth

An update on our beloved cat: we weren't able to resolve the issues and she sadly had to be put down. It's a long story, but it mostly involves seemingly greedy veterinarians out to do every unnecessary, expensive test in the book, but delay the necessary, life-saving surgery until our cat was at death's door. It's hard to look in the eyes of a creature you are supposed to advocate for and keep safe and healthy, and feel like you've done the right thing, when actually you feel like humans have failed her.

Anyway, I have tried to keep in perspective the fact that though she was very much loved by our family, she is but one cat in a world of many cats. And when we are ready to have a pet again (which will be when/if we have a vet we trust to help us make the right decisions for our animal), then there are many other creatures out there for us to love.

I struggle to balance my tendency to over-worry. My tendency is to neurotically worry that my worries are nothing compared to the worries of many people in the world. It's ridiculous, but I so often feel guilt about this that it's actually really unproductive, and just causes me more stress, rather than putting things in perspective for myself.

Speaking of that worry-induced guilt....

At Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me one of those cards that says she gave a donation in my name. The donation was for pre and post-natal care for mother and baby. On Christmas morning, my eyes filled with tears reading that card. Oh, maybe it was the baby hormones, but I cried thinking of how a month after giving birth I read an article about a woman my age in Uganda being unable to access medical care during labour, how she was in agony for 14 hours with her baby lodged in her birth canal. The baby died and she also had to have her uterus removed. (I would link to the article but it can't be accessed now without a subscription to the Globe and Mail's website content.) That article haunted me, it still does, especially because in all the discussions with my friends over choice of birth place and care provider, our conversations and the conversation in general in the developed world regarding birth is so focused on birth as this significant experience in the life of a mother. And it's true, it is. And it should be an important topic for discussion, especially in an era of scheduled C-sections and often of needless interventions that spiral into more interventions. It should be viewed as a life-changing experience that can have lasting effects on the mental health of a mother.
The birth experience that I got to have was so amazing, so empowering, and awe-inspiring (and painful as hell, let's be honest)... I feel so lucky to have had that. Lucky that things went well, that I had such excellent midwives, also lucky that I had access to resources to educate myself about the benefits of midwifery and home birth. I feel lucky that had things gone awry, I would have had quick, easy access to a hospital. And I feel so grateful for the experience that I had. (And here's where that unproductive guilt comes in: I feel guilty that other women I know don't get to have that kind of experience.)

When I told my family doctor that I would be using midwifery care for my pregnancy and birth he sort of scoffed and told me that he sees women all the time with pages and pages of birth plans, that they are so concerned with the experience of child birth, but that those birth plans go out the window once they are in labour. In my mind this was further argument to not use my doctor as a care provider during pregnancy. But I get it, of course the most important outcome is healthy mother and healthy baby. All I am saying here is that we are so lucky to be in a position to move beyond simply the physical outcomes and talk about the experience, because in Canada, healthy mother and healthy baby is almost a given. We are able to move on to talk about the experience aspect of birth because we can be assured that outcomes in Canada are quite good for women and babies.

Writing and thinking about motherhood here in a somewhat sleep-deprived, babbling sort of way makes me miss academic writing, and makes me want to dedicate more time to write focused, coherent posts of specific topics. But I know it's hard enough get chunks of time to write these more incoherent, stream-of-consciousness posts. So perhaps I'll stick to these for now and make it a goal to write more focused posts down the road.

P.S. Oh, and that lovely cat we had? She laid beside me on the bed while I was in labour, left during the most intense pushing, and came back to snuggle at my feet while I nursed my sweet babe for the first time. I'll miss her.

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