Saturday, January 29, 2011

I fear fear.

I like to think of myself as a pretty brave individual. I am not scared to try new things and have about as open of a mind as one can get; fear of the new or unknown is not something I am familiar with. But I do fear the chance that I will be fearful in the future. That sounds very grammatically incorrect. Moving on.

I have been given the green light to proceed with a natural child birth. There was some concern on my part that my cardiac history would warrant a cesarean section. Those were laid to rest after several cardiologists, including the one I saw here in Japan, said they saw no reason I should not be able to labor naturally. Over the two years since having Noah I have become more and more passionate about the process of laboring. Medical intervention vs. letting nature take its course. 

Epidurals are not an option for natural child birth here in Japan. Of course they exist, but are reserved for cesareans. I recently read an article stating that they are starting to be offered in some hospitals in Tokyo, but they are certainly not being offered here in northern Japan. This made my passion for the process of laboring all very real. I'm not just watching "The business of being born", agreeing with the premiss but keeping in the back of my mind that if things get scary I have an epidural I can call on. I have no option of an epidural waiting in the wings. 

I have started reading literature based on natural childbirth. Namely, the Bradley Method and HypnoBirthing. I have fallen in love with the latter. It makes complete and total sense, and I highly recommend any pregnant woman or partner to someone who is expecting to Go. Read. That. BOOK!

One of the main arguments that they present is that child birth is not as painful a process that we, as a society, have been gleaned to think. The fear of the possibility of pain actually does create pain, causing the blood vessels in the uterus to dilate and blocking the natural anesthetics that your body creates (which are 200 times more powerful than morphine). HypnoBirthing offers techniques to quiet  these fears through self-hypnosis. It also helps you to become familiar with the process of child birth; what your body is beautifully designed to do, without major pain, and what the baby does to help become part of this world. 

I fear that I am going to fear the pain. But, ironically, last August I think I was prepared for my upcoming labor in an unknowing way.

This is me, the day after my open heart surgery. My Dad snapped this picture once I arrived to my main recovery room, after spending the night in the ICU. At this point I still needed oxygen and was on a pain pump. In order to leave the ICU I had to pass several requisites. I came out of surgery with the breathing tube still down my throat. I also had two chest tubes that were still in me, just below my sternum, to drain any fluid that might accumulate. To get out of ICU you have to be breathing on your own and your chest tubes should not be draining too much fluid. 

Some people have commented on how brave I was to go through something as big as that at such a young age. Bravery really had nothing to do with it. I made the decision that I had to get better. I was bound and determined, through every step, to just simply get better. That was the only goal I had in mind. Fear was just never something I considered. Of course, while lying on the operating room table, before the cocktail of drugs had been administered, tears were welling up in my eyes and I was shaking with fear. I took a deep breath, pictured Noah in my head, and knew that I would be just fine. I had to be. Getting back to Noah was my goal.

So throughout my recovery I kept my goal in mind; getting better for my son. When you wake up in the ICU with the breathing tube still in place, you want it OUT. My nurse asked if I needed anything and I made a motion indicating that I was ready for that tube to be history. He laughed and said, 'Once you prove you are breathing on your own, we will take it out'. I closed my eyes and concentrated on my breathing. The next thing I know I am being woken up by an alarm. The nurse leans over my bed and says 'See? You aren't doing it yet! Keep trying!'. It was then that I realized how much effort it was going to take. I am not sure how long I laid there, determined to breath on my own while focusing on every single breath, but soon enough the tube was history. The nurse said it was actually not a very long time, considering I was on bypass, and that my young age was going to help me through my recovery.

From that moment on I just looked at every step of recovery as an individual step that needed my total focus to get to my goal. I was out of the hospital in four days. 

One day in the hospital, my Mom asked me which was worse, child birth or open heart surgery. I responded without skipping a beat, SURGERY! We discovered, shortly after the above picture was taken, that I am allergic to any medication that contains codeine (throwing up after your chest has been cut open is a very unpleasant feeling). For the rest of my recovery I was simply taking Ibuprofen for the pain. I really do think I unknowingly practiced some self-hypnosis to get through the first couple of days. 

Comparing child birth to surgery isn't fair, really. After all, I am just pregnant, not sick! But the fear can be pretty similar. The fear of pain, the fear of not being strong enough... the connection makes sense to me. I am hoping that having gone through what I have will give me the strength and courage to know that I can do it.  

Last August I was having open heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. This August I will be having a baby in Japan. Nothing short of a miracle. 


  1. How very brave of you, Bryna. I just know you will do well during childbirth. I went with the Lamaze method with two of mine, many moons ago. Just knowing what to do and what stage the process was at was a tremendous help. It WORKED! The Hypnobirthing sounds amazing. You go girl! I'm sure the surgery you've been through was much worse than your labor and birthing will be :) AND recovery WILL be much better!

  2. (Madame Dragonfly AKA Nan Hahn , Jen & Beth's Mom :))

  3. Pain is a motivatah! Did Sylvester or Arnold say that? ;-) But seriously, not to toot my own horn, (TOOT! TOOT!)... but during contractions that were a minute and a half apart and being less than one hour from giving birth to Eli, and not yet having received an epidural (I had called on one, but I was going so fast that doc didn't make it to my birthing room until just 30 minutes before I began pushng) - the midwife and the nurse said to me "You don't seem like your in that much pain for the length and strength of your contractions." I took this as the best compliment in the world!! In fact, one crazy nurse told me to take a hot shower and a tylenol when I called in to the LND unit from home (little did she know, I was 6 cm and just 3 hours from giving birth) because I told them my pain index was a 6/10 (even though my contractions were 2.5 mins apart and STRONG). To me, a pain index of a 10 means I'm dying, like on the brink of death. I think that whole pain index question is a joke bc not everyone is the same in dealing with pain! Why do they ask that? I should have just said ten to avoid the argument that ensued over the phone when I told her I was coming in. Anyway, I was in a ton of pain, but I was internalizing it, getting through it within myself, not outwardly like they must see so women waste their energy doing (screaming, etc). Don't get me wrong, by the time the epidural came, it was great, but I know that I could have continued without one... And you will too. It's all in the head.