I think we all have a script that plays in our brain and it impacts the way we do things. If you were always told you couldn’t do something, didn’t (or did) look a certain way, had a certain issue, were a certain way…..those play over and over on a sort of repeat setting in our brain. Often it takes a conscientious effort to stop that track from playing. And even more often we don’t know that track is playing at all, even though it literally touches every part of our life.
While preparing for my baby girls arrival, that is coming soon, I have been reading and reading and trying to emotionally, physically, and spiritually open myself up to labor, birth, and all that it means. In her book, Guide to Childbirth, renowned midwife Ina May Gaskin talks about how women can stop, progress, pause, and quicken, etc labor with what is playing in her mind. This isn’t referring to a weirdo cult type of thing, but rather what we choose to dwell on and live on in our brain effects our body in a very real way. Women have literally helped themselves dilate from 4cm to 8cm in a matter of minutes by repeating, “I am open, I am dilating, etc” during contractions. Conversely, women have stopped labor because of unspoken fears (one woman’s was that her husband wouldn’t always be there for her and the baby) or worries. The more these things are addressed, processed, and dealt with before labor, the better the labor is going to go. I asked my midwife her experience with this type of thing and she gave me an example of it happening just in the last few weeks. That woman needed to be transferred to the hospital (in a non-emergent situation) because fears from her previous labor and c-sect were keeping her from pushing. She was able to talk about it and realize what was holding her back, but yet the fear literally paralyzed her and she needed medical help to force her to push. I believe the mental-physical connection is HUGE and much, much bigger than most of the American medical community gives it credit for. That being said, I want to process my fears and deal with them now and allow God to heal me and make me whole so that I can enter labor knowing and believing it to be beautiful, God-designed, and redeeming.
A fear I’ve been battling has been about my blood pressure. As many of you know I was induced with Eliana at what I believed then to be 38 weeks. Knowing what I know now about when I ovulate, I was actually 37 weeks. I had a meeting Friday morning at 9am in Poulsbo with my boss’s boss who was coming over from Seattle to address issues happening in my bank branch. To get these issues resolved it would require me being confrontational with my boss about things that had been happening to me and to my coworkers that shouldn’t have been happening. Let me tell you, I HATE confrontation. I am a middle child- I am the peacekeeper. I like everyone to be happy and everyone to get along- even at the risk of me being unhappy (granted this blog is helping with that). Knowing I had that meeting coming I was scared to death. I tossed and turned the whole night before.
Guess when my blood pressure reading was scheduled for? 8am the morning of the meeting. So of course, it was very high. I want to say 140/85or90. My Dr. wasn’t in the office yet so the nurse went and talked to another Dr, whom I’d never met or seen. The nurse and Dr came back and said I needed to go get my things from home and check into the hospital for induction as it looked like I might have preeclampsia. They said it was dangerous for me to continue being pregnant and the only cure for my blood pressure was to have the baby. I was young, dumb, and believed every word
After 2 Cervidil (12 hours each), non-stop fetal monitoring (which meant me laying flat on my back for 50plus hours with one 30 minute break), Pitocin so strong my bag of waters ruptured at 1 or 2 centimeters, an excruciating epidural that didn’t work, and a long and very difficult labor, then being stitched while awake and not numbed (OW!), Eliana came to be.
I believe 100% my labor would’ve been different if I hadn’t been induced and had known a few things:
*Blood pressure can absolutely be affected by things going on in our lives. The fact that I couldn’t even sleep the night before shouldn’t said something. I still feel anxious thinking about the meeting that was coming.
*High blood pressure and preeclampsia is not the same thing. You can have high blood your entire pregnancy (which I did not) and yet still never develop preeclampsia. Pre-e is a neurological condition that is a whole picture illness, affecting many parts of the body. You cannot diagnose pre-e based on one high blood pressure reading.
*It would not have been “dangerous” for me to go home, relax, go on paid disability with my employer, and allow time and less stress to help me and my baby (and check my BP at home regularly).
*I had a right to more information, another opinion (God forbid maybe even MY doctor’s opinion, not someone I’d never met).
The way that everything went down and the scare tactics used and then the horrible labor that ensued have left a sort of Scarlet Letter on me. I am afraid every time my blood pressure is read. A track starts playing in my mind that it’ll be too high, I’ll have to go to the hospital, the labor and birth I want will be out of reach, etc. There is a sort of trauma that lives in my brain because of how things were handled with Eliana. This is bigger than ‘white coat syndrome’ in which someone has a higher BP at the doctors than at home. I am literally afraid of having my BP taken. I feel like I have been labeled as HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE and it’s a self fulfilling prophecy.
My midwife does not handle one high BP reading like my OB’s office does. She realizes that stress, anxiety, a bad day, etc all play a role. Especially the mental aspect of it. It’s taking time for me to realize I won’t be banished to the hell I went through with Eliana with one high reading. My midwife is calm, gracious, and understands what I’m feeling. She’s had other clients that went through very similar situations and have had this Scarlet Letter issue as well.
I have decided that one way I can rewrite the track in my brain is to take my own BP at home regularly. I bought a fully automatic Panasonic BP cuff and have used it for 2 days now. Both times my BP was 117ish/ over 73- perfect The more I can associate me being healthy and not broken with having my BP taken the better my readings will be at the midwife’s and anywhere else. The whole blood pressure issue may seem minor to some people, but for me it’s a part of the whole trauma of Eliana’s birth and the big picture about what was done to me. Through reading and spending a lot of time thinking through things I am finding myself a little raw at what happened and what I want to happen this time. I know I cannot plan for everything and I don’t intend to. But the emotional aspect of it all is something I do have some control over; how I deal with things, what I allow to play over and over in my head, and what I hope/expect out of things.
My personal issue is BP, what is yours? When we can find and address these issues and work through them, as painful and raw as that can leave us, we allow ourselves to heal and be better versions of ourselves. This is true whether it’s birth, marriage, our childhood, etc. We all have tracks that play, we can learn to rewrite the negative ones and keep the good ones.