Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January UFO - Done!

Linking up with Judy of Patchwork Times. Go visit to see other January UFO's.

Here it is - my January UFO is done! First, I need to apologize for the following pictures as it is very overcast today, keeps switching between snow and rain. Yuck. This quilt was inspired by Oh, Fransson's Billboard Quilt, which can be found here. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to make one and put this quote on it.
Ok. Here is the story to this saying and why it means so much to me. I first read this about 9 1/2 years ago in the NICU of the hospital where my daughter was born. It was a round wall-hanging, about 10 inches across and above her isolette. I don't even need to close my eyes to remember sitting in the ugly pink chair and staring at it while the nurse rattled on about our daughter and the progress she was making; realizing that the little girl she was talking about was lying there crying and all the nurse would do is put a pacifier in her mouth instead of handing her to me. Calliope would spit it out and the nurse would get out another one and shove it in. The NICU experience was incredibly frustrating, and we only had to deal with them for 4 days! (Yes, I know that they do good; lots of good for babies and families who really need them.)

How did we get there? I'm sure that was one of the many thoughts that went through my mind those first four days of her life. This wasn't what we planned. After a very textbook labour - I was amazed that contractions were really like riding a wave and all those silly breathing exercises were working - this wasn't where we were suppose to be. We had planned with our midwives (daughter born in Canada) to leave the hospital within hours after the birth, not stay for 4 days. If the labour was textbook so was the pushing phase, but I just wasn't ready for it. The control I had over contractions was completely gone as the urge to push was overwhelming. I was scared and wanted it to be over and the midwife and I made the only mistake of the day. I asked her how long would I have to push before the baby would be born. She said 45 minutes since she was already so low. Almost 2 1/2 hours later my daughter was finally born. I felt like a failure. It had taken me about three times longer than the midwife had said and my baby... she wasn't crying.

The midwives went back and forth debating whether or not to contact the NICU and eventually decided that they should and before I knew it, 3 doctors in white coats rushed in. I still laid there naked. The first midwife helped deliver the placenta while the second stayed with Calliope. I think this is where I checked out, I just didn't know it yet. Although my memories of those days are quiet clear, I don't think I was really there. 

They brought her over to me so I could hold her for a minute. They explained to me, she had gone into shock and was breathing too fast and wouldn't be able to nurse until some time the next day. They were going to take her to the NICU for 4-6 hours to observe her and then we would probably get to go home. 4-6 hours turned into 4 days. The biggest hurdle? They wanted her to soak a diaper. However, they wouldn't let me nurse on demand, so my milk wasn't coming in and she would spit out the formula they tried to give her. They threatened to put a feeding tube in. This was definitely not what we planned. I fought back and by the third night I was able to get them to bring my daughter to me when she cried so I could nurse her. Lucky for me they brought her just before a nurse change and forgot that she was with me! We spent hours together and then they came in and said, "Oh I guess she's fine since she's been with  you this whole time. You can go home."

The first few months were torture. My tailbone had been injured during the birth and took about 2 months to heal (although it still causes me problems), nursing was painful and I felt robbed of those first precious hours. I loved her, but I had not bonded with her. At our 2 week appointment I asked the midwife, if it had been a homebirth, would we have gone to the hospital. She said no. All she really needed were some extra cuddles and time to adjust, but in the hospital they had to follow certain rules. This broke my heart and cemented the feeling of failure that had been haunting me. I blamed myself. If I had pushed her out sooner, she would have been okay and would never have gone to the NICU. We would have bonded and everything would be fine.

During that first year, and many times since, "Each new day is a beautiful adventure" ran through my mind. Especially on dark days where nothing seemed to be going right. And I wanted to believe it, even when the only thing I wanted to do was run away. And I did leave. Once. She was about 4 months old and I waited for my husband to come home. I handed him our daughter, put on my shoes and left. But. I couldn't even cross the street, I just walked around our block several times. Eventually my husband and daughter joined me and I cried many tears. All I knew was that I wasn't suppose to feel like this. I couldn't get past those first 4 days. He tried to help by saying we had a healthy daughter now but I couldn't move on. I read books trying to find the answer. I began researching becoming a midwife, doula or childbirth educator. Anything to try and find the answer - why had I failed and why do I feel so terrible? 

Nothing really helped. I trained as a childbirth educator, but never taught. I did a doula workshop and a second midwife workshop and none of it helped. I thought having a second child might enlighten me but it only made me feel worse. The bond with my son (a homebirth in Michigan) was instant. There is a connection between us that is so strong that it still amazes me. I never felt like that with her as a baby and I struggle still in feeling connected with her sometimes. After his birth, I felt guilty about what my feelings had been at the beginning of her life and wondered if they would affect her as she grew up. Could she tell I felt different towards her brother?

However, sometimes there is light at the end of the tunnel. When we were living in Michigan, Midwifery Today had a conference there. I went and heard Penny Simkin talk about Post Partum Traumatic Stress. As she listed off the symptoms I slowly lowered my head as I realized that was what I had after my daughter's birth. After 6 years, I finally had a name for it and the healing could begin. When those 3 doctors in their white coats came into our hospital room, my mind went back to the only other time I have been in a hospital room and had doctors rush in. When I was 7 or 8 my mom had surgery. One time when we were visiting her, she started not feeling well and the doctors rushed in. I hadn't thought about that moment in years and as Penny explained that something often happened during labour or shortly after that connected to a previous experience, I instantly put these 2 moments together for the first time. How I felt as a child was exactly what I felt after her birth. Childlike, completely helpless and in the way. I should just be quiet and let those who know more take care of it. Give up my power to them. There was nothing I could do. 

 I can remember telling my mom when she was a few months old - I was crying, the baby was crying - that I didn't feel like her mother. I felt like her babysitter and that it was my job to keep her alive until her real mother showed up. Penny listed this as one of the symptoms. Feeling detached from the infant, as if you were its babysitter instead of its parent. This was exactly how I felt. Detached and unqualified to be her mother. 
Lucky for my kids and me, I don't feel that way anymore. It took almost 6 years but I was finally able to get over those feelings and forgive myself. My daughter still loves me and I love her. And even though I felt detached most of the time,  I was there. I gave her love and affection and she thrived. Each day wasn't beautiful, but they were definitely adventures. 

When I told my husband what the quote was going to be, he asked if I really believed it. I said, "No. But I want to." And that's why I picked it and hung it up in our bedroom. I know I can't greet everyday like it's a beautiful adventure but I need the hope that it could be. And that no matter what our current problems or issues are, there is always the hope that it will get better.

So, there's the story to the saying.
My February UFO is lying on the bed in the above picture. It is a lap size quilt (just covers the top of our bed, except the pillows) and needs to be quilted. Pulled fabrics from the stash this morning to make the back. Not sure yet how I am going to quilt it or where this quilt will end up. Need to iron it first, then I'll start making some decisions about it.

It's taken me over an hour to write this post and I feel emotionally drained. Think I need to go take a nap.


  1. that's beautiful, Rachel. i too had much guilt/regret over Kaeden's birth not going as planned, and our (bad) hospital stay. they took him from me pretty quickly too, and i had to fight to be with him. i did bond with him quickly, but i blamed myself for going into the hospital in the first place, and not just staying home as planned. for me, healing came from Ellia's birth.. i felt like i finally 'did it right', and i was on a home birth-high for months afterwards. i do wish i could go back and change everything the first time around though.

  2. What painful memories for you - the quilt has so much meaning and the words are so dynamic - peaceful blessings to you and thank heavens your healing continues. Forgiving ourselves is where we start - sending you warm wishes and happiness on your journey. Judy C

  3. Thank you for sharing your story..

  4. Rachel, how brave you were to share that! So many women deal with postpartum depression after having a baby and don't realize what it is or that there's help for it. I love your UFO finish for January and hope that with each passing day for 2012 it becomes truer and truer. :)

  5. What a touching story. I'm so glad you have found answers and have moved on, healed. Lovely quilt BTW.


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