This week was my daughter’s eighth birthday. My beautiful, kind, laughing child is growing up. She likes dolls and boys and climbing trees. She’s so friendly and into other people’s business I’m convinced she’s the next Mrs. Lynde. One minute, she’s a little girl, the next, a young woman, way older than I'm ready for her to be. I am blessed to be this child’s mother.
Her birth is what made me a mother. She brought light and love into my life in a way I’d never experienced and changed me forever in ways I could never have anticipated. It shaped me to be the person, mother, and doula that I am today. But the circumstances of our lives at the time, her birth, and our following complications were one of the most difficult times of my life. I’ll never be the person I was before she was born.
My daughter’s birthday is a day of joy. It’s a day of celebration and I don’t allow the trauma of her birth to cloud that joy. But especially the day before, I remember. I remember my naivety as I walked into the hospital on that Ash Wednesday night eight days past my due date. The feeling of inevitability and disbelief that this was happening.
What followed was a medically unnecessary induction which, from its starting point, I had nearly a 50% chance of needing a c-section. But I didn’t know that. I’d been told an induced labor was the same as a natural labor. Finally, 30 hours after the first dose of cytotec and 18 hours after pitocin, I was taken into surgery for the surgical birth of my child that I’m still not convinced was necessary at the time and am absolutely sure had been completely avoidable. But that’s not where it ended. My doctor also messed up the surgery and didn’t get everything out. After ten weeks of cramping, bleeding, and not having enough milk for my baby, I passed the last of what should have been removed in surgery.
During that time, I was completely blown off by my doctor. By several doctors and everyone else actually. I was told by my medical team that there was nothing wrong with me, that I must have an intestinal bug, that some women just can’t produce enough milk, that there was nothing wrong. To this day, none of that is reflected in my medical records. I was told by “friends” that the problems we were having were my own fault because I never should have consented to an induction and epidural. People were terrible and no one listened.
To add to the equation was the fact that we’d just moved over 4000 miles less than a year before and my husband’s employer refused to allow prearranged time off because the baby hadn’t come "on time.” I had to go back to work before it resolved and then my grandfather passed away when she was four months old. I know about birth trauma. I know about postpartum depression. I know about feeling alone. I lived it. It’s not supposed to be that way.
Birth is more than the safe delivery of a baby and a woman is more than a vessel for that baby’s growth. Birth is a physical and emotional experience that helps create a family. So often that’s forgotten. Emotional health is as important as the physical. And so I work. I work for the women I serve so that their experiences are better than mine. So that they know what they are choosing and look back and own that decision. I work for change so that my daughters have better care than I did. As a doula, I don’t save people. I help them find information, I hold their hand, I rub their back, I help them through, and I make sure someone is listening.
This post has nothing to do with birth, being a doula, or surviving postpartum, but it has everything to do with parenting and doing the best we can for our kids. And it’s important. I’ll get back to the more birth related topics another day.
My daughter is almost 8. She was just diagnosed with Amblyopia, more commonly known as “lazy eye.” The fact that it took this long to find may impact her sight the rest of her life. Why did it take so long? How could I, a reasonably competent parent, have missed this? Her eye doesn’t wander. I had no idea this condition could exist without her eyes at least occasionally being asymmetrical. She’s almost 8 and I’ve never seen an eye wander and I’ve watched for it. Relatives on both my husband’s and my side of the family have this and I was on what I thought to be high alert.
But we never took her for an actual vision screening at an actual vision clinic. Why? Our pediatrician did yearly “screenings” and said she was fine; no problems were detected. We thought that was enough. She’d never complained about headaches or not being able to see.
At her last well visit I had both my kids with me. The younger one followed big sis down the hall to watch her vision screening so I followed too. This was the first time I’d watched. She did fine in the right eye and then it was time for the left. She acted like she couldn’t see so the tech coached her and hinted at the letters until she got them right. The tech told me her vision was 20/20 when we all made it back to the exam room. I thought maybe I ought to get her a real exam just in case she really couldn’t. But I still wasn’t in a hurry.
Three weeks ago, I finally got her in. Her brain does not recognize sight from her left eye. Peripheral is fine but nothing straight on. Not even now with her glasses. Next month she gets to start wearing a patch on one eye for probably six hours a day.
Needless to say, I’ve spent hours reading and talking to people who’ve been through this with their children. Please, please don’t depend on your pediatrician’s eye screening (or the school’s for that matter) to catch problems with your children’s eyesight. Although, I still think they should have caught my daughter’s under the circumstances I witnessed, they are just not equipped to give adequate exams.
I encourage you—implore you!—to get your child’s eyes checked. If your child is under a year check out InfantSee. They offer free eye exams for infants under a year. In fact, did you know that the American Optometric Association recommends scheduling your baby's first eye assessment at 6 months? I didn’t. It’s likely there is nothing wrong, but the earlier a condition like this is caught, the better the outcomes.
So, in February we go back and begin the process of patching and strengthening her weak eye. This will take years and it might not work. I’m sad about it. The Mommy Wars are at their fiercest within ourselves. But, you know, to quote Maya Angelou, “when you know better, do better.” My three year old will be getting checked that day too.
Adina Nelson, CD(DONA)
I am a birth & postpartum doula and chlidbirth educator practicing in North Idaho.
She was there every step of the way for me and my husband...I thank Adina for everything she helped us with. She truly is a special person and we will be forever grateful for her! ~Erin