Wednesday, June 2, 2010


As an adoptee, I found it extremely difficult to imagine giving birth to a child.

During my pregnancy, I repeatedly tried to visualize giving birth, I read lots of birth books, looked at lots of birth pictures, and attended birthing classes and even hypnobirthing classes.

But I had a really hard time picturing all this happening to me, and week before my due date I had a crisis of confidence. I sat in my living room, huge and gravid and undeniably pregnant, and I still couldn't figure out how the baby in my belly was going to join us on the planet.

Intellectually, I knew that every person who has ever lived has gotten here essentially the same way, but since I had no connection to my own birth, I could not imagine that birth could actually happen to me.

I called the hypnotherapist, who talked me through a visualization of it, and reassured me in as many ways as she could. I felt a little better for a while, but when the rubber hit the road and I finally went into labor, my troubles returned.

I was as physically prepared as a woman could be for birth: I had all the right equipment: yoga ball, gatorade, candles, a detailed birth plan, a supportive partner, and an awesome doula.

But my labor kept stalling out and stalling out, no matter what natural route we tried: walking, cohosh root, showers, baths, you name it.

At one point, after about 24 hours, my doula asked me, "Is there something that's holding you back, something that's keeping you from doing this?" Wild-eyed from sleep deprivation and painful contractions, I answered "I don't think so," feeling as if I were being accused of purposely holding back (although I'm sure that's not how my doula meant it.)

But I knew even at that moment that my lack of connection with my own birth and my birth mother was somehow stalling out my labor, but I couldn't think of what I could do about it--I had already tried everything I could think of to prepare for this birth.

I labored for 35 hours, without much progress. (But not without pain!)

Finally, I allowed the midwife to give me pitocin, and things started moving along. As the pitocin was administered, I noticed that the contractions felt very different. I remember thinking that they were foreign contractions, not my own.

Those foreign contractions did the trick, and a few hours later, I was dilated enough to push.

Finally, I was able to take action, rather than enduring the contractions while hoping I was dilating. At that point a doctor was preparing a operating room for an emergency C-section for me because my baby was now in distress. But I was determined to do it myself--something had changed for me, and I knew I could do it myself now. Once I was allowed to push, my son was born within an hour, safe and healthy, and naturally. The way everyone else got here.

Having a child of my own has helped heal some of the scars of being adopted; it has helped me feel more connected to other people, it has helped me feel more grounded, and it has helped me appreciate my adoptive parents more.

But without the pitocin, I would definitely have ended up with a C-section, and I wouldn't have gotten to experience birth the way I wanted to. Even though I really, really wanted to go through labor and birth without drugs, I really needed that pitocin to get where I needed to go.

Sometimes when we are stuck and we can't unstick ourselves, we need an intervention, an unanticipated shot in the arm of something foreign to jumpstart our progress.

Right now, I'm stuck in the process of writing my book about adoption, and I have been laboring with it for a long time. I know I have to write it, but I don't know how to get to the next step with it.

It's very scary to write because I'm afraid it will make people in my families angry (that old fear of abandonment rears its ugly head again), I'm afraid people will discount what I say ("Everyone feels lonely and alienated sometimes"), and I'm afraid it won't be good enough.

I am very tired of being in this place and letting this loop play in my brain.

I hereby open myself up to an intervention. But what will it be?


Von said...

Very hard for us to give birth especially with no role models..took me 29 hours but got there in the end.
Birthing for adoptees deserves a chapter!

JBH said...

Wonderful post - thanks for opening up for "intervention." I know exactly what you mean! All of those fear demons come rushing in...and you realize how much courage it takes to step out and say what needs to be said.

Let me be one voice to encourage you:
Say what needs to be said. I'm here for you. And perhaps, between the two of us, we won't let the fear demons win.


George Jarrett said...

You might check out Elizabeth Stark's new project, Her goal is to help people get books finished and published.

I admire your courage and honesty in writing this blog, and think your book will be quite powerful. Best of luck finding your pitocin.

Andrea said...

Thanks, Von, Jenny, and George, for your support and encouragement. I'll keep trying!!

Lola Canola said...

Andrea, what a powerful description of Owen's birth. I feel very emotional reading about it. I found giving birth such a raw and overwhelming experience. I identify with you a tiny bit....just because Rory's birth was so fracking long too. I somehow kept feeling that I wasn't "getting it," but just lumbered along anyway. You prepared. You needed help. You did it. There is something about that your inner power, to the earth, to some kind of life force...that pushes you forward. The book will be the same way. I'm sure you're going to find a book doula!

Lola Canola said...
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