Thursday, May 16, 2013

A controversial decision.

There is something I would like to confess. To just throw out there in the hope of diminishing the power it holds over me.

I want to have a caesarian, and if all goes to plan and nobody makes a sudden early appearance, I will. There is no medical reason for me to have a caesarian, and so I'm painfully aware of what this might look like, and the judgements that people might make. 

This hasn't been a quick decision to come to, and although I feel happy to have made it, I still feel ashamed. Which is a shame. It's difficult to not get defensive about why I have made this decision, and it is very tempting to use last year's surgery as an easy way out of a difficult conversation. I want to understand more about why I'm ashamed, and to explore it a bit.

I know loads of people who have had children, and none of them chose to have a caesarian. I am full of admiration for them. A high proportion of those I know did actually end up having sections, as an emergency measure in the late stages of labour in order to save either the mother or the baby's life. I am the first person I know to choose to have an elective caesarian.

A few different things contributed to this decision. 

Past experience of childbirth.
I am very close to my sister and was there for the births of her two daughters. Both were traumatic, and ended in emergency sections, for different reasons. The second in particular was touch and go, with both their lives being in quite some danger. I know this has no bearing on how childbirth would be for me, we have different body shapes (people have been known to mention my "child bearing hips", much to my delight) and we are different people. 
What happened to my sister is unlikely to happen to me. But it isn't just my sister, it's loads of people. I don't actually know one person who's giving birth experience wasn't traumatic. This isn't a good thing in my book, especially because...

I'm a chicken.
I have always been afraid of pain, and childbirth is well known to be painful. Obviously I realise that people have been doing it for ever. It's a natural process that the body is perfectly designed to manage. Pain relief or no pain relief, this is arguably what I'm here for. But I really don't want to do it. Just thinking about it makes me really anxious. 
I know I could do it if I had to, last year taught me that. But if there is an alternative then I'd like to take it. Last year there was no alternative, and that was a horrible feeling. I had to be brave and I had to agree to my skull being opened. There wasn't another option. 
Clearly, a caesarian will hardly be pain free, but it's a pain that can be anticipated and understood. And prepared for. 

I want to know what to prepare for.
Childbirth is unpredictable. And unknown things happen. I don't know where to start in preparing myself for it, or for any of the things that can go wrong. I feel that choosing to have a caesarian from the outset means taking control. I can prepare for the operation and can look into exactly what it entails and how to best be ready for it, and best recover from it. 
An added benefit is that I'll know when it will be in advance, so we can make sure we're ready for whoever is going to be joining our family, and I can plan properly. We also won't have lost a night's (or two nights') sleep labouring. Although I reckon maybe lost to nerves instead. 

Additional bonus things.
I really don't like the idea of tearing. There, I said it. Or incontinence.

Having made the decision, and being whole heartedly supported by Olly (the only person who's opinion really mattered to me - it's his baby too), I immediately felt a whole weight of anxiety lift. There was a big black cloud over the pregnancy that I wasn't quite allowing myself to think about, and now it's gone.

I believe that it is better for the baby if I am less anxious during pregnancy and this decision has certainly achieved that. If he arrives unexpectedly then I will obviously cope. But by then I will have progressed through the majority of the pregnancy anxiety free, and the benefit from that will have already been banked.

I haven't really spoken about the risks here, but have gone through them with my midwife and various consultants. I'm sure I will go through it all again with them before we set a date. If there was a clear indicator that a caesarian would be worse for the baby, then this would be an entirely different matter.

I still feel like I'm being defensive about it, having just reread what I've written. It's a difficult subject that many people have strong opinions on. Having said that, everyone I have spoken to so far has been really supportive, so I don't quite understand why I'm so defensive. Maybe it's the selfishness of the decision - am I doing this for me, or for the baby? Realistically, I am the one benefiting.

Being honest, I would have always wanted to have a caesarian, but before brain surgery I wouldn't have had the conviction to ask for one. I'd have felt like I had no right to take the "easy" option. Now though, I'm less afraid of what people think (although clearly still bothered by it, just not enough to change my mind).

I have new priorities now. I am going to do what I think is right for me, and our family, based on our situation.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A life in three phases.

In a discussion a long time ago, Oliver first introduced me to the idea that humans typically like to make patterns out of the data they have access to. In order to make sense of things. Things that happen to themselves. As a species, we would rather have a bad explanation for something than no explanation at all. (He can explain it much better than me, and I may have misrepresented what he said a bit here).

Since this discussion I have noticed I do it a lot. I always have some theory going on why I feel a certain way or think a bunch of things. On why my feelings or thoughts might change or take an unexpected turn. It comes out a lot in this writing, because it drives me to think about things so much... and assign wild explanations.

And so, I have created for myself a new life model that I'm feeling rather pleased with. Bear with me, it may take a while for me to get to the point.

Not long ago, I saw my life as a period of time up until the present moment only. I felt frustrated and frightened that it was almost over, that somehow I had wasted it. Made some terrible decisions and lost time in the wrong places. The future was invisible to me, something I didn't acknowledge.

Last year's brain tumour experience immediately jolted that view of my life into a totally new perspective. I suddenly saw my life as a much longer whole, extending way into the future and I was only (hopefully) a third (for example) of the way through.

Immediately I felt incredibly positive, in contrast. It was a very strange shift - instantaneous, and significant. One end of the spectrum to the other. I tried to explain this at the time, in a post about some of the positive parts of the experience (point five in the list). I realised that there was so much for me to still experience and learn. There's a lot of football to be played yet.

In the vast amount of self analysis and writing I did throughout that time, I started to think in terms of "pre brain tumour" and "post brain tumour" as a way of explaining to myself the different ways I had started to think, and in some cases, act.

I only mention this as I find it really interesting that I had this way of explaining things about myself, to myself, which worked very well for a short amount of time - until I found out I was pregnant. One small (but very significant) additional piece of information changed the pattern again. And now I have my new model. Here it is: my life, in three phases.

Phase one.
This phase is from when I was born until the day my first child is born. Overriding characteristic of this phase is selfishness, but not necessarily in a bad way. All I really have to do is look after myself. I can do what I want, go where I want, when I want, for whatever reason I want. I am bound only by the choices I make and the rules I choose to live by. But essentially, they're my choices. I am responsible for only me.

Phase two.
From when my first child is born, until all of them (eek) are grown up and "ok". There is a weakness in this part of the theory, which I am overlooking for neatness purposes. This phase basically boils down to responsibility for others. I am anticipating a big shock when our first child is born, that my first priority will for the first time not be me. I will need to forego sleep, independence and choices. I will make sacrifices - in terms of working and sharing food (I am Smithy in this clip) and plenty of other things that haven't even occurred to me yet. 
Although I am ready and willing to make these sacrifices, I won't really understand how it feels or how well I will do it until it happens. It will no doubt be difficult and scary - in fact phase two is the hardest work of all the phases (according to my model), but also the most rewarding. I get to see our children grow up, achieve things and become independent themselves. This is the goal of phase two, to give them the best possible start in life that I can, in order for them to successfully reach phase two, too. 

Phase three.
At which point, I will move on to stage three. Grandparents! This isn't just defined by my kids having kids, but more on them becoming settled and happy and responsible for themselves. There is the weakness, how on earth do you know when that has happened? (I know my mum still feels responsible for me now - but I think it will be just become obvious when the time has come).  
Hopefully by the time they do have kids they will be as settled as I am now. I think the relationship between us (me and my children) will change as they grow up and enter phase two themselves, and they become more aware of their own journey.  
And I can become selfish again, and do all the things I've been making a list of during phase two. It will be a time of enjoying a renewed freedom, as well as a growing family that all stems from our initial tiny family. Phase three sounds like awesome fun.

I realise I am writing this from a completely naive standpoint. People are keen to tell you when you're pregnant that you have no clue what's coming. Gleeful, and sometimes patronising, reminders that we don't understand how things are... yet. But that's the beauty of my model - it's just mine, so I can (and most certainly will) change it when I get access to more information. To help me make sense of what I am feeling.

But what's really great about this model is that I'm still in phase one - admittedly not for long... but there is so much more to come. Which kind of brings me back to where I started, the future suddenly is an exciting place, full of opportunity and fun as well as hard work and challenges. It's an action-packed future - there's loads of it still to be experienced.

This is in major contrast to my previous suspicion and bleak view of what's ahead, the future was something to be mitigated, prepared for, second guessed.

I'm really looking forward to the future it's going to be brilliant. But right now we have less than three months of phase one left, so I'm off to make the most of being selfish.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Good eggs.

It's struck me recently how great people are. There are clearly some pretty nasty people around (the news this week is full of sex offenders and kidnappers) but when you meet a good one (Olly calls them good eggs), it has the power to reduce me to tears. Although most things do now, thinking about it.

The masses of people, some of which I'd never met or heard of, that sent well wishes when I was ill was astounding, and played a huge part in keeping my spirits high. But it's some individuals who really stick out as having made an unexpected difference.

Here are just two examples out of the many.

My hairdresser. I'll always remember how well she dealt with the whole thing. Didn't make a fuss, just cut all my hair off while I sulked. She continues to be wonderful and just make life easier for me, I don't have to explain why my skull is bumpy. And she gives me a discount - just because.

And my support nurse, I've mentioned him before I'm sure, he's consistently gone beyond the call of duty throughout all of this. Out of the thousands of patients he must have seen since me - and I was only in for two days - he firstly remembers me, and secondly is so goddamn efficient. This week he personally helped me try to tackle the DVLA (although it will still take them six weeks to look at a fax - a FAX, like how last century? Just LOOK at it people. And give me my licence back grrrr. I cannot resist a DVLA rant whenever the opportunity arises) and then emailed me to tell me what was going on.

This isn't new but has been repeatedly obvious to me over the last six months. A spot of kindness when you're least expecting it can make someone's day. Maybe even make a real difference to how they're feeling and will subsequently cope with a situation they're facing. You just don't know what anyone else is dealing with, so on the off chance it's best to be kind by default. I'd love to have that kind of influence on someone else.