ICAN


Meet Casey Yu: A Dissertation on Motherhood 1

In honor of Mother’s Day and a special birthday, I interviewed Casey Yu. I remember the first time I met Casey but it was so HOT that day as I was waaaaay too pregnant for Summer, I’m not even sure I said more to her than a grunt or a defeated sigh. I met her for real when we hired her as our maternity photographer, and we became fast friends. Tallahassee NICU

So, what special birthday? Two years ago today, Casey’s son William was born. The Will of #freewill and #feedwill hashtag fame. His birth was the first planned cesarean I ever attended as a doula, although it was planned last minute for very emergent reasons, as you’ll read below. I remember being nervous and scared for both he and Casey in the days and weeks leading up to his birth, although on the outside I did my best to remain a calm source of support. I spent every single moment of his birth sending good thoughts out into the Universe for the two of them, hoping it would help get them through the hard times ahead. And today, Will and his family celebrated his second birthday halfway around the world! Casey is now using her experience as a photographer and a mother via cesarean delivery in her dissertation research.

What made you interested in writing your dissertation about motherhood?
I have been writing on and off about mothering online ever since I started my doctoral program at FSU, but it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my youngest that the focus started to change. Will was diagnosed with IUGR in utero, I had high blood pressure, and was on bedrest from 24 weeks until he was born, in all of his 3lb 2oz glory, at 32 weeks in an emergent cesarean section. In all regards, my experience birthing Will was not too bad. I had a really supportive birth team, with a doula, helpful family members, and surprisingly, a midwife from my practice that I’d had my doubts about but she was perfect at the time. The culmination of events from his birth and my recovery led to my interest in writing about and learning about cesarean sections and their impact on women as a whole. His birth, the support I received, the recovery (both physical and mental) path I took – all of this had a profound impact on me as a person, so it was pretty much inevitable that I would end up writing about it for my dissertation!

My dissertation topic explores the use of cameraphone photography in how knowledge is gained and shared by women who have undergone cesarean sections. I argue that the act of capturing images on a cameraphone and sharing them socially can be considered a powerful act, capable of effecting change. I am in the midst of editing the prospectus of my dissertation, which is essentially the first three chapters outlining my argument, the literature review I have conducted, and my proposed method of
answering my research questions. Getting there!
Tallahassee Parenting
How do you hope your research will change the future of motherhood?
One of the most unique experiences women have is the ability to give birth. This process has become progressively more complicated and murky with so many women who have given birth feeling less in control of their bodies than ever. It is my hope that this work will culminate into photographs captured by mothers to describe the experiences they are having, and encouraging all birth professionals (obstetricians, midwives, nurses, doulas) to consider the impact of cesarean birth on women as a whole. The United States performs over 30% of births every year via cesarean sections, when the World Health Organization indicates that the optimal rate for cesarean deliveries is between 5-10%. This huge discrepancy needs to be addressed by everyone – pregnant women and their birth teams.

Perhaps most simply, though: my hope is that my work can empower women in their quest to birth their children – however the baby is born.

Who has inspired you?
Oh gosh, so many have inspired me. I have grown up in a long line of amazingly strong women with my surname – my mother, my grandmother, my two aunts, and my two cousins. They are some of the most badass, strong, passionate women I’ve ever known. Josh’s family boasts some amazing people too – my in-laws have been incredibly supportive of my education and have helped me shape what I want to do. My advisor is amazing as well and has understood the fervor and anger I feel when I write about some of the things I have had to write about to get this prospectus off and running. My husband Josh is, as I term, the best girlfriend I’ve ever had. My three kids are inspirations (and also cause premature greying of my hair!).

But mostly, I am inspired by the stories I have heard from some of the most amazing people I know who have given birth via cesarean section. Having a child in and of itself a transformative experience. Having a child via cesarean section takes amazing courage and bravery that is not recognized nearly enough. They are my inspiration, through and through.

Tallahassee Newborn PhotographyWhat is something about you that we would be surprised to hear?
I asked Josh to answer this for me, and he says, “I think they would be surprised to know that you are actually capable of emotionally connecting with other humans.” I have a pretty tough exterior and my kids will be the first to tell you that I like to get my way, I am sometimes mean, but secretly way down deep (probably inside my little toes), I am a softy.

And now for the fun questions! Where did you grow up?
All over! I was born in Illinois, lived in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia, California, and Florida. I spent two months in Alaska at one point too!

If it won’t make you homesick, what is your favorite part about Tallahassee?
The parenting community! I love the small town feel of Tallahassee – every time I went out to run an errand, I am bound to run into a friend and have a moment to stop and chat. It made me feel connected to an entity of motherhood far greater than the effort I put forth at home.

What is your favorite food/thing to cook?
My late grandmother’s sticky rice stuffing, with pork ribs, dried shrimp, and shiitake mushrooms. Mmmmm!
Tallahassee Motherhood

Have you ever won a trophy?

Yes! I ran a 5K in Chicago – my first one. I am 99% sure I got a medal.

Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Both! I am the first one awake in the morning, usually due to the sun that rises early here in Dhaka. And I get my second or third or fourth wind around midnight.

What’s your favorite holiday?
Chinese New Year! Josh and I make a ton of Chinese food and invite all our friends over for a grand feast. I look forward to it every year!

What’s your biggest moment?
Hasn’t happened yet. The second I get to have my advisor hood me and call me Dr. Yu – that will be my biggest moment and you can come back and edit this post to reflect that when it happens.


My Labor Day: Who Doulas the Doula? 2

I wrote my birth story when my daughter was 13 months old. I’m sharing a revised version for this year’s Labor Day Birth Story Link Up over at Mother Rising (MY doula!). I was a doula for several births before my own and those experiences helped me immensely. If you are reading, please make sure you read all the way to the end. The journey wasn’t an easy one, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but my experience overall was a positive one and the final paragraph of my birth story is the most important one.

 

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I awoke on a Thursday, two days after my “due” date, to my first REAL contraction. I’d been having contractions on and off for week since my last cervical check showed I was 3-4cm and maybe 70% effaced. But this one was for sure the real thing. It was 3:45am. I went to the bathroom and woke my husband to let him know my labor had changed. We napped and snuggled until around 6am – I couldn’t stay lying down anymore. I showered and made us breakfast, yummy French toast, and used the counter for support during contractions between cracking the eggs or flipping the slices. It was still early, so we were taking things easy.A few hours passed and my contractions were getting much closer together: 3-5 minutes apart if I was sitting on the birth ball, 1-2 minutes apart if I was standing, but they still were not hard enough that I was sure it was time to go. We called our doula, Lindsey, at one point earlier in the day and called her again around this time. I was starting to feel it was time to go to the hospital, but was worried I was making a rookie mistake — it’s one thing to watch a woman in labor and see in her face and actions if it’s time, it’s another thing to make that decision myself! When she arrived, I was hanging out on the birth ball in the kitchen. I remember laughing because I was worried I was jumping the gun. I think she thought I was, too, until she saw me in a contraction.I wasn’t in control of my actions anymore, I couldn’t help but stand, my body hovering, squatting, my face pressing into the side of Dan’s neck as he sat next to me. I rode the surge in the quietness and warmth of that space, and found the same comfort later in labor pressing my face into him, squeezing his hands or arms. It was time.The car ride to the hospital was interesting. I was kneeling in the passenger seat, facing the rear, and I could see Lindsey in her car following behind us. There was a gush of fluids and I said, “I either just started peeing or my water broke!” It had! We arrived at around 11:15am.Even though I’d registered at the hospital I was still able to scare the crap out of a waiting room full of people with a few contractions while I waited for them to take me back to triage.I was 6 or 7cm when they checked me and I was allowed to move freely around the room after they gave me some antibiotics since I was GBS+. This is the awesome nurse who was with us for the first half of labor. I don’t think she works at the hospital anymore, but I want to give that woman a HUG!

I got in and out of the bath, especially as my labor got more difficult. The power of the water coming straight out of the faucet and onto my tailbone was glorious! The breaks in between contractions were a treasure, a little treat during labor, and I appreciated them so much – it was like I got to take a little lunch break from work and visit. I would smile and laugh, and then go back into my space refreshed. It wasn’t too much longer before I was in transition and missing those breaks, they were long gone and not coming back ever again!

I started laboring on the toilet, which is a wonderful place to labor! They checked me because I started talking about pooping and asking when to push and they found me to be at what they called 9+, meaning I was fully dilated with a small lip (as an aside, this is typical with malpresentation because baby’s head isn’t pressing uniformly onto the cervix).

“Resting” through with Lindsey’s help (around 3pm). I was HOT and trying not barf everywhere (thank goodness for lemon oil!):

I wrestled the bed and ignored the kind nurse telling me the beds weren’t made to withstand that kind of rattling… it’s not my fault the birth beds weren’t made for a birthing woman! My body was pushing, so I was grunting through contractions and pushing in little bursts. But once I was complete, there was no stopping me. I pushed in every position, but hands and knees the only comfortable position with relief from the pressure on my tailbone (my daughter was sunny-side up, or “persistent OP” which is why I had so much back labor and the cervical lip and the long pushing stage).

I’m not sure of the exact timeline, but the time between when I was 9+ and the time my daughter was born was about 11 hours. I kept asking why no one was saying they could see her head, and the doctor said it was just inside and was “all but crowned.” He said the vacuum would hurt because it would be pretty much ripping her out the rest of the way and he would only proceed with an epidural. So epidural it was. And then I pushed and he pulled for maybe an hour? I dunno, but it seemed quick to me. The baby’s heartrate dropped and wouldn’t come back up, and the meconium started pouring out of me after having clear fluid for the nearly twelve hours since my water had broken. The doctor said that it was time for a cesarean, that we couldn’t wait any longer. The baby had to come out now. I had negotiated until I couldn’t anymore and I am so proud of the hard work I did. If if it was up to the doctor, I would have had a cesarean long before it actually happened, and I would have always carried around so many What Ifs?

I was wheeled out of the room and past a crowd of my family who were waiting for the baby to be born. I am not sure who was there waving to me as I rolled by, they had taken my glasses, but I remember the outline of my grandmother and my aunt’s voice saying they loved me. I started bawling… the last time I was wheeled into an operating room was at 24 weeks pregnant to have my gall bladder removed after it caused me to have pancreatitis. The last time I was on a gurney, I wasn’t sure if I was going to live, much less if the little life inside of me would survive… The anesthesiologist tried to reassure me by telling me that cesareans were very common… and I told him why I was crying and he apologized…They rushed around me and it wasn’t too long before they were frantically asking Where’s Dad?!? Where is DAD?!? They were needing to get the baby out but Dan hadn’t even made it into the room yet. I didn’t even know he was in the room before I hear his voice saying It’s a GIRL! Our daughter Sarah was born at 11:27pm, weighing just under seven pounds.I had to ask if it was still Thursday because I knew that I had been wheeled back not too long before midnight. My legs and hips were rocking throughout surgery and even into the next day – my body didn’t know that birth was over.I experienced three types of births in my one epic journey: I know what it feels like to labor naturally and push a baby almost all the way out. I know what it feels like to push with an epidural. And I know what it feels like to lay my life and my body on an operating table and hear my baby being born behind a blue curtain in a room full of blue-clad people with obscured faces behind blue masks.Her first moments are nothing like we’d imagined. Her first moments are full of my only regrets. Her cord was cut immediately, she was intubated with a deep suction because of the meconium. No immediate skin-to-skin. So many things happened to her in her first moments that we did not want for her. So many things I wanted for her – and for us – that did not happen.Her first hours are a haze for me because after she was born the anesthesiologist asked me to close my eyes and gave me morphine without my knowledge; the epidural traveled into the nerves in my arms and I wasn’t comfortable holding her by myself at first. I was going to share a photo of me in recovery, Lindsey helping me try to latch Sarah because she knows how important it is to establishing a breastfeeding relationship, but I can barely look at it without feeling sad for what was lost in those first moments and days. I barely remember being there, and I feel almost that I’m looking at something that didn’t really happen, not to me at least.

I am so incredibly proud of what we accomplished during the many hours before her birth, and appreciate that our birth plan was followed completely. I enjoyed labor and really was able to step back and watch myself through each contraction in awe at what my body was doing. I am proud of my husband who was there for me just like I needed him to be. I am happy to have formed a bond with my doula that lasts even to this day. Giving birth was an amazing experience and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

 

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If you have had a cesarean or are preparing for one, the emotional aspect is one that others who haven’t had a cesarean may not be able to comprehend. If you need help in your emotional recovery, please contact your local ICAN chapter. I don’t know where I’d be without my local group.