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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Cut, Stapled, & Mended:  When One Woman Reclaimed Her Body and Gave Birth On Her Own Terms After Cesarean by Roanna Rosewood

©2013 by Roanna Rosewood.

Cut, Stapled, & Mended tells the story of Roanna Rosewood’s journey to motherhood and how the births of her three children changed her life.  Fiercely independent, emotionally detached from her painful childhood, and with rebelliousness against modern medical treatment instilled in her by her holistically minded divorced parents, she faces the birth of her first child with the self-assuredness of a proud warrior as yet untested in battle.  When her planned home birth goes awry because her water breaks but labor does not start, she finds herself in the midst of a hospital birth overseen by an unknown doctor who is not supportive of Roanna’s efforts for a natural birth and on the hospital’s timeclock to force her slow labor to speed up.  Exhausted and overwhelmed, Roanna consents to a cesarean delivery.  Roanna is tied down to a surgical table, and when her son is born and screaming at his entrance into the world, she is unable to go to him, to comfort him, or even caress him.  She begins her journey to motherhood feeling like a failure.  Her body feels broken and scarred, and visions of the surgery replay in her mind while she believes that the first experience her son has had in life is one of abandonment.

When Roanna is pregnant a second time, she pursues every alternative therapy she can find that might heal her body to help her have a vaginal birth.  When this pregnancy ends in a cesarean birth as well, the doctor informs her that she had dense scar tissue, called adhesions, growing throughout her abdomen and her uterus actually tore during the birth.  She refuses her midwife’s attempts to process through the birth experience, instead choosing numbness and a grim acceptance of her belief that she is not strong enough to bring life into the world.

During her third pregnancy, Roanna takes the opportunity to go on the trip of a lifetime to Hawaii.  While away from daily life, she is able to reimagine herself as different person and mentally process through many of her life experiences and her beliefs about herself, her relationships, and her needs.  She is able to connect with some core truths, and strip away some of the armor that has shielded her emotionally since she was a child.  Finally, she is able to have an unmedicated vaginal birth.  But, even that experience, which she has dreamed about and fought for tirelessly for years, leaves her with feelings that are completely unexpected.

Birth stories teach a number of important lessons to everyone who is involved in birth.  Women who will give birth need to hear them in order to learn more about what to expect.  Men who will be fathers need to hear them to better understand how birth transforms their partners into mothers.  Doctors, midwives, nurses, other caregivers, and hospital administrators need to hear the stories of the women they work with to hear firsthand the effects of the care they give on the women they care for.  While each birth story is as unique as the woman who is telling her story, there are themes and similarities that one can identify after hearing many of them.  Ms. Rosewood’s birth stories share similarities to many other birth stories which can act as guides to help improve birth in our country.

Ms. Rosewood eloquently speaks about the physical and emotional effects of cesarean surgery on women as they enter into motherhood.  She writes about the desire for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) which many women wish for but few achieve in this country.  She writes with refreshing honesty about the surprising nature of birth and how even a seemingly “perfect” birth demands to be processed emotionally and integrated into a women’s life.  In my opinion, the value and the beauty of this book are the depth of description and the honesty about the emotional components of Ms. Rosewood’s journeys through birth because few women give voice with such clarity to this side of the experience.  The emotional truths she describes are her own, and they are similar to the truths of thousands of other women.

Birth in this country is treated as a medical condition to be managed, not as the rite of passage which contains physical, psychological, and emotional components that all must be addressed.  The mind plays a vital role before, during, and after birth.  Cut, Stapled, & Mended thoughtfully explores the side of birth that is often ignored.  In doing so it highlights both the damage and the growth that can occur during any kind of birth, and that is something all people involved in birth should be paying attention to.

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It would be simple to say that the problems in maternity care in this country, including high intervention rates, poor outcomes and high cost, are “women’s problems,” but it would be untrue.  Men are deeply affected by the crisis in maternity care now too.  On a personal level, as fathers, they carry the heavy burden of caring for their partners throughout pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period.  Expectations of parental involvement in pregnancy are high now, and many men must juggle the daily demands of their jobs with medical appointments, prenatal testing, ultrasounds, which require time off during working hours and pull them away from their workplace.  Finances and job security are high on their list of concerns at the same time that they are called away to support their partner and participate in the pregnancy.  Managing childbirth classes and dealing with major life changes such as finding space in the house for the new baby, or having to purchase a bigger car or baby furnishings weigh heavy in men’s minds.  Stress is increased if their partner or newborn needs extra care, which can further affect their attendance and performance at work.  Their income is affected in the form of insurance premiums, co-pays, and deductibles when paying for care that is more expensive than it needs to be, and fosters poor outcomes that demand even more care. 

 

The psychological effects of managing the conflicts and dealing with the additional stresses of parenthood as a working father can take a toll in terms of productivity on the job.  This can create a vicious cycle of stress reducing productivity, which further increases the stress.  This level of high anxiety can affect a man’s health, his ability to do his job, his connection to his partner, and his connection to his baby.  Extended periods like this can ultimately even effect his partner and child if it leads to illness or abuse.

 

Businesses that provide family friendly work environments create programs that reduce these types of conflicts and stresses.  Flex-time, telecommuting, in-house support resources including financial planning and childcare can go a long way towards making a work/family life balance achievable for working fathers.  Men who are given the tools they need to manage the demands of both work and family are happier and more productive on the job.  Businesses that strive to go the extra mile to help their employees reach that balance will find that the costs associated with these programs are offset by lower healthcare costs, less absenteeism, and a more loyal workforce.

 

The ultimate program that businesses can work to implement though, is a reworking of our healthcare system so that the system is more efficient, less costly, and produces better outcomes.  That would reduce everyone’s stress levels.

 

Reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” has got me thinking a lot about the nature of work in America. I agree with Ms. Sandberg’s theory that there is a “chicken and egg” paradox at play.  Women are limiting themselves because they believe they can’t navigate through the system, and therefore the system doesn’t change to accommodate women’s needs.  The system hasn’t changed to accommodate their needs, so women continue to choose not to participate in the system.  There is a cyclical nature to the problem, and both women and men are affected.  Our work culture has become more demanding and less fulfilling.  For many women, the question of whether or not to engage and continue climbing is highly influenced by their choice to have a family.  Many men also want to participate more actively in family life than in past generations.  Corporate America is not keeping up with the changing times.

Americans work more than ever before.  In “Lean In”, Sandberg quotes a study that shows that in 2009, married middle-income parents worked about eight a half hours more per week than in 1979.  Typical hours used to be 9 to 5, with an hour for lunch.  Today, it is 8 to 6 and we eat lunch at our desks or on the way to our next meeting.  Also, technology allows us to access our work, and be accessed by work, almost anywhere, anytime.  We can be reached by telephone, texting and email day or night.  Those without set hours or who have the privilege of using flex-time have the flexibility to work even more hours unless they have firm boundaries for their time management.  In addition, the volume of work that occurs on any given day is much more than what it used to be.  Before computers, letters were sent and it took days to move a deal forward.  Today, that same transaction might happen in a matter of minutes, and those transactions happen multiple times in a day.  Yet pay for the average worker has barely kept up with the cost of living, and our expenses, such as healthcare, continue to grow.

While work life has bled into our personal lives, our personal lives have been shut out of the office.  We are asked to compartmentalize our lives at a time when we need more integration of our work and personal lives to function.  Throughout “Lean In,” Sandberg writes about times when she has made the decision to include her needs as a mother in her business life because she was making a conscious decision to change the culture in her workplace.  It seemed risky for her to do so, even though she is at the top of the management chain.  From my perspective as the spouse of a corporate worker I have seen that family has been forced out of the workplace over the last twenty years.  When my husband started working, we had annual company picnics, holiday parties, and the occasional dinner out with the boss.  His managers and co-workers met me and our children and in that more casual and relaxed setting developed a better relationship with my husband because there was a personal connection.  As the years have passed, those picnics, parties and dinners have all been done away with in the name of budget cuts.  The personal connection is minimal.  There is no more time or money for developing those relationships.  The businesses have decided that those relationships don’t have value for them.

And yet, in this same hyper-focused work environment, working women are supposed to be advocating for accommodations for pregnancy and breastfeeding, for bringing their infants to work, and for onsite childcare.  Working fathers and others with family needs, like aging parents, are supposed to figure out how to juggle the demands of their life in a work environment that is taking over their lives without providing the tools necessary to allow for success.  People grow and are energized by interactions with family and friends.  Those interactions are necessary, and we suffer without them.  As a workforce we are becoming less happy, less healthy, and ultimately less productive as we burn ourselves out.  More and more young people are choosing to opt out altogether.

In our drive to maximize profits corporate leaders have neglected to understand that the foundation of corporate success is the workforce.  If the needs of the workforce are not being adequately met, then the system will not thrive.  If we truly value our position as a great nation with a talented, driven, creative, and unstoppable workforce, then corporations will need to widen their focus from the bottom line.  They will need to take the initiative to solve these work/life balance problems in a way that serves the workforce that serves them.  The equation that more work + more hours = bigger profits does not hold true.  When the fight is between corporations and the American family, all of America loses.

If we could lift our eyes from the balance sheet and look out over the horizon, we would see an incredible potential for growth.  It exists in activating our whole workforce in a way that allows for happiness, health, and balance which will feed creativity, productivity, and longevity.  This means creating a workplace that allows men and women to thrive as employees and as whole people.  It’s not just a question of the chicken and the egg – it’s breeding a whole new bird.