Saturday, March 19, 2011

How Death and Dying is Like Labor and Birth (an assignment for my doula course)

My Grandmother died almost exactly one year after my first vaginal birth after cesarean. She was the most accepting and loving member of my entire family. I do believe that she chose to die the way she did in order to give us all time to accept her death and to say goodbye. She spent three weeks hooked up to machines before she passed. It was probably quite a harrowing experience for her but it gave us, as her family watching her, so much peace to be able to see her and hold her hand and say goodbye.

My birth with the Explorer, my second born and my first vaginal birth, was very similar. It took three days of labor to birth him. I feel like I needed those three days, as difficult as they were, to come to terms with what was happening in my own body. When the Explorer was born, I was so tired and so happy to be done. Obviously I was happy about my new baby, but the prevailing thought in my mind was relief that the pain and exertion were over.

I feel like my Grandmother, when she finally passed, felt some relief. She had rheumatoid arthritis since age 13 as well as lupus. Most of her life was spent in pain, ever increasing until she died. I was living in San Diego at the time, 2000 miles away. I flew out to spend the three weeks watching her in the hospital and finally flew home after that three weeks. She died while I was on the plane to San Diego. I was very sad at her going. I still miss her every day. But the part of me that worried about her being in pain, or being sick, or being unhappy, that part of me is glad for her. Just as I felt relief when the Explorer was born, I feel relief that my Grandmother is no longer suffering.

It was a struggle for my Grandmother to live and it was a struggle for her to die. She had to labor, there in the intensive care unit, we all had to watch her and know that we were powerless to stop it all. In the same way, my birth team at the Explorer's labor and birth could only watch and support and know that it all had to happen. I had a team of family, neighbors, midwife, and doula to support me. My Grandmother had a team of family, neighbors, doctors, and nurses to support her. I got a baby at the end of my struggle. My Grandmother got peace. We both got a reprieve from pain and suffering. We both got to rest.

No comments: