Tuesday, June 19, 2007

How I gave Birth.

This was posted at the time on a pregnancy forum but it seems fitting to post it here now. Not long after I posted it originally I was back in hospital for a few days as I couldn't stop throwing up or eat. Somehow I managed to keep on breastfeeding which is miraculous. Thanks again are due to the staff at the Royal Berks - how many times strangers saved my life.

" Isn't she beautiful! Cheer Cheer Cheer Cheer Cheer

Also wanted to say how amazing I personally found the staff at the Royal Berks Midwifery Unit, they were amazing! My waters broke on Friday am about 5am so we went into hospital where they wired me up to a monitor for a short while to check on Deborah as my contractions weren't starting. Not much happened apart from pains on Friday night, and then many more, regular contractions on Saturday around 11 am. I was in the bath, so I got out and rushed to the hospital, throwing up as I went.... When I got there the MW said my cervix was only thinned, not dilated, and that I could go home and control the pain with paracetomol. For some reason I was too scared to go home, and was still being sick, so I asked to stay. I had some pethidine as the pain was so bad, and they put me in a non-delivery room. At that point it all gets a bit weird. I'd tried some gas and air, but it made me feel soooo drunk, but after the pethidine I could hardly speak. A new MW took over took one look at me and got really concerned. I was really out of it by this point, and all I could say was "I can't do this". I was still having contractions, but my cervix was opening really slowly. It was probably about 4pm by now. Fairly soon after they suggested an emergency c-section, and to be honest I was relieved. I was thinking of asking for one as I could feel the contractions weren't doing anything. So funny, I kept on needing to pee and wondering off to the loo shakily, hooked up to a drip, with just a t-short on and my kecks hanging out, past a tv room, but I just didn't care lol. The fetal monitor showed that Deborah was in distress, so they got me in theatre for about 6 ish. Honestly the moment I had the epidural it was bliss! I was so terrified of it, but it was like putting my legs in a warm bath. The anesthetist was brilliant, he spoke to me throughout the whole op, and kept a close eye on my drugs, so when the stuff they were using triggered my asthma he bought a nebuliser, when they made me sick he bought a little bowl, he was really good.
Deborah was born at 6.29pm and she gave everyone a little shock as she was still quite high up in my uterus, still at 3/5ths engaged. They think that after my waters breaking I caught a womb infection, and that this, plus the total loss of my waters made my womb clamp really tightly around poor Debs so she couldn't engage properly, and the contractions couldn't have worked. For anyone reading this whose waters do break before labour this is very rare, so don't worry! Most times it is absolutely fine. I'm really good at picking up bugs, so if it was going to happen to anyone it would be me lol.
Debs needed some facial oxygen but had good apgar scores. She weighed 7lbs 7oz's and is totally healthy thankfully. After she was born they were trying to put my womb back, but it started to bleed heavily every time it contracted, which meant I had a hemorrhage loosing about 2 litres of blood. I was on the table for another couple of hours to sort me out, and they sent Debs up to be fed as she had low blood sugar. Eventually they managed to sew me up, with the help of a rouche balloon? to control the bleeding. Luckily before the op I'd managed to warn the surgeon that I do bleed heavily with this sort of thing (although I've only ever had dental surgery before) which she said was helpful. No idea how I remembered that in the state I was in, but someone was looking out for me.
We went up to the HDU where we stayed until Sunday evening, after which I went on the main wards and I had a whole variety of MW's squeeze my boobies into amazing shapes to feed Debs. I was still hooked up to all sorts of drips, so it was quite difficult. On Sunday my colostrum dried up and I was in bits all day. I didn't expect to have a c-section, and still feel like I haven't really "given birth" which is silly. I had to start with formula feeding, and it's only really today that my milk has come in and with 2 visits back to the breast-feeding clinic that I've been able to feed Debs. I'm really hoping to able to keep on feeding her, it's been really difficult trying so fingers crossed. I still dont feel brilliant as am strong anti-biotics, but am making a good recovery. The most important thing is that we have our beautiful baby daughter - I keep on gazing at her in awe as she is so lovely, and OH is so in love and a dab hand at nappies lol. Apologies for the length, this is all bit long-winded! But, I'd do it all again 10 times over as I'm sure any mum would as Debs is beautiful!"

Quick recap - and joy!

Some of you know that my mum was recently admitted to a psychiatric unit under suspicion of a suspected suicide attempt. It wasn't that, it was actually that she'd taken too many of her anti-anxiety drugs in order to stop thinking for the day. The trigger for this was that she had just been to visit us when Debs was 3 weeks old and she found it very difficult as it brought up too many memories of past stillbirths/miscarriage that she had before she had me. Anyway we've been talking on the phone as I have not felt strong enough to see mum, and last week I sent her some lovely photographs of Debs. Last night I got a phone call saying she has been readmitted to a psychiatric unit for intensive medical therapy. In a way it's been really helpful as something inside has finally clicked and I no longer feel responsible for any of it, just really, really sad. I always used to feel really responsible as when I was little I was told mummy got ill when I was born, and I figured that therefore her being ill was my fault and that it would have been better if I hadn't been born. She was also a serial abuser and used to regularly hit me leaving marks as well as lots of shouting and emotional abuse. She only stopped hitting me once I was big enough to hold her off but she was still hitting dad in a "play" way before he died. I did stop her when I saw it happen. Obviously I love her as she is my mum and I do think that it's quite obvious that she has never had adequate medical support. Also I'm aware that somehow our family slipped through the net to a certain extent to allow the abuse to continue. As a child I didn't realise it was abuse that realisation came later, also accompanied with the realisation of how awful it must be to be the perpetrator of all of that. As the survivor of it one can go forward and be joyful about the future but as the perpetrator the guilt stays with you. It certainly stayed with mum and many of our conversations during the time I was pregnant dwelt on my childhood and and even more so on her previous stillbirths (2) and miscarriage. It was always very hard as I actually want to leave my childhood behind and don't feel I can absolve mum of her guilt. I have said many times it's ok, as I do understand she was ill but it's up to her to drop that final burden. The times when she talked her children were particularly difficult as Debs was growing fast within my womb and I was extra vulnerable then. I asked her a few times to not talk about these issues, the last time was 2 weeks before Debs was born. Then I wrote her a letter asking her to seek help elsewhere I was unable to give it. This triggered some major psychosis which also involves feelings of guilt about my father's death. This then led to her first admission into hospital after meeting Debs.

Last night was a blessing in disguise. I have finally twigged that I am not responsible for any of this and despite the fact that many of mum's episodes seem to be triggered by good things happening to me I've finally realiesd it's not punishment. It's not mum beating me up anymore which it felt like but just her irrational brain doing irrational things which I can't hope to understand. So although I naturally feel very sad about it and want to cry I no longer feel at fault. This is such a huge relief it's like dropping the biggest ever piece of luggage so in a way I am grateful to mum right now. It is good she is back in hospital - the mental health worker I spoke to last night feels that mum has been treated for too long with the wrong dosage of the older type of anti-psychotics - mainly because mum has refused newer treatments and will not take stronger doses lol. Hopefully that choice will be taken away from her in order to benefit her which seems a funny thing to write.

As I write I can feel my neck extending upwards. For years I have suffered from a huge emotional flinch that has dominated everything. Like many other survivors of abuse I felt compelled to re-create this flinch as it was the only form of love/attention I felt happy with, hence when I was presented with real happiness I had to re-produce my flinch through fear and perfectionism. But now I see my flinch for what it is a conditioned response not a crutch and its ok because I can make friends with it. it's good to make friends with my flinch as this I can do. I can't undo the past, I cant stop mum from hurting, but I can make friends with my flinch :)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Here and Now

I like meditating! It's so nice to reconnect with that softer side that allows space for all of me all the nice and nasty bits without discrimination. That softer space is pointing to all the perfectionism still governing my relationships - guess what with mum lol. I've realised it takes 2 to tango and although there is love between us there is a lot of other stuff too and its ok for all of it to be there. So next time we talk on the phone and she complains about hmmm well everything lol I'm going to try and remember the middle path through it all, I dont need to jump and solve it, or feel guilty that I feel resentful for being placed in a "saviour" position, I can just allow it to be there and smile at my perfectionism.

Deborah is wonderful - nothing like a small baby as a teacher. So much love which gives me a nice break from the fear and perfectionism, giving me a good opportunity to appreciate all of me. Gazing in her deep grey eyes which sparkle like heamatite while she nurses is mind-blowing. Such a thing to be born a female and to have offered a ride to someone else for 9 months! Gratitude to all the Buddha's but especially Green Tara.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


As you can see Debs is being introduced to yoga already :) I'm proud to report that the first thing she has officially grabbed at was my mala (Buddhist rosary) whilest I was meditating, but that could easily be explained by the fact it's an easy object for a baby to grasp at.

Debs is now 13 weeks old and is a wonderfully happy child. She has a lovely infectious grin and charmed lots of our friends on a recent holiday. She enjoys time by herself and also with people, and loves watching other babies. She is teaching myself and Ian an awful lot about being in the moment as that's what babies do an awful lot of, it's a privilege to be around.

Being a mum is wonderful and my heart flows over with gratitude. To spend time with my daughter is the most precious time in the world. To think that 2 beings passing through time and spce in the way we do can form such a relationship is awe-inspiring.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Deborah Samantha Cotton

Born 6.29 pm, 10th February 2007 and obviously the Best Baby in the World.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


This from Ian... Only if baby takes after dad though, if it takes after me it will have the anti-knack!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


It's late and I'm awake finishing off sewing cushion covers for a rocking chair I plan to use for nursing. It will also be good to use it now for getting up, especially as it is newly covered. On my windows media player is a tape of one of the senior monks from Ian's tradition talking about mandala's. Although these figure predominantly in the Tibetan tradition I have little idea about them or how they are used, so I've been listening along.

From this, I get the gist that the 5 Buddha families are represented as points on the mandala, and that each of these has it's own representation as a "hindrance" ie greed, rejection etc. That the nature of each of the points is both hindrance and Buddha is wonderful. It means that each hindrance is to be considered a Bodhisattva.

In this light, it's is pertinent for me to realise that mum is my very own Bodhisattva, symbolising for me hatred, and ignorance. As I mentioned before there is a dark side within me that is almost glad to be able to use my own upbringing as an "excuse" for "failing" with my child. If these feelings are understood to be points on my own personal mandala, and often personified by the various people I meet on the way, how much more useful are they? I have been so grateful for this situation arising, as it's one I have always struggled with, and I have felt that I am really getting somewhere on the very superficial level of addressing my relationship with mum. On a more personal level, then what does this mean? In the same teaching, the monk talks about how women need to avoid hiding behind inadequacy and over adequacy - ie behind a traditional female role, or the more aggressive persona often adopted when we find ourselves battling in the workplace etc. I can see the link here between my fear (the inadequacy) and perfectionism (the over adequacy). So again, I am dealing with my two friends, but it is at a more subtle, certainly less physical level than the ME operated. Mind you today I have been fighting nausea, so maybe it is manifesting there too.

As the monk says, the guardians of the mandala points often have terrifying appearances, and it has been a bumpy ride recently. I am grateful however for the bumps and the scary faces, and for the continual power of Dharma to point me back to myself. I have written to mum with much love, I do feel it is a kindness to someone to say "its ok to let go" which in some ways was the essence of my letter to her. But, it is more important for me to take that kindness to heart and practice again just recognising and letting go of my 2 good friends, fear and perfectionism.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Health Visitor

Had my ante-natal visit from the health visitor today which I knew was going to include screening for the likelihood of post-natal depression. So I got in first and discussed the condensed version of the past few weeks... Happily I score low risk for it - she asked me what did I think was it about me that meant I was able to overcome the abuse. I said determination, and I wish I'd also said practice, but the two are related. Without the Lama it would be much higher.

Thanks are also due to Rev Olwen, we talked yesterday about drawing boundaries for my mum. Apparently Eckhart Tolle talks about the existence of a pain body - this feeds on pain in order to survive, and is why we crave pain, and cause it. Mum needs a lot of pain to feed her pain body, and on reflection as I was dropping off to sleep last night, so do I!. I see so many relationships I have soured to cause pain, it really is a comfort zone. Even in my thoughts about child -rearing I sometimes catch glimpses of a darker side that is pleased to have been abused, as it will be a get-out clause for any failures I make with my child. I haven't read "The Power of Now" yet, so I don't know what Tolle recommends one does with one's pain body, but I shall certainly start to honour it's presence.

Mum is getting to quite a handful again, according to Rev Olwen it is her child desperate for attention. I agree, Mum's pain body is also addicted to drama (as is mine) so she realistically only has a few weeks to get in there before my real baby is born. I'm going to write to Mum asking her not to mention her dead babies or expect me to solve her problems. If she feels like she needs support for that, then please seek it elsewhere - if she does persist, then I shall lovingly, but firmly refuse to speak to her. That way, the ball is in her court, she know's what the problem is, and also, she is empowered to do something about it. I think one of the problems of the long-term mentally ill, is that people around you are great at saying, "Oooooo aren't you doing well now...", which realistically can only be helpful for a bit. After a while I feel there must be the recognition that doing well is actually a long-term project, and the longer I make it ok for mum not to do well, the less viable that long-term project will seem to her.

My belly is growing every day, I now have beautiful stretch marks which means baby is growing ever bigger, and becoming more of a presence. As we are approaching the end of one phase, plus the beginning of the next, I feel the need to both honour and enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Beautiful Sunset

Sitting upstairs pulling a few rogue hairs from my chin (pregnancy is SO glamorous) I looked up and was spellbound by the glory of the setting sun. A chimney stack with aerial was highlighted in front of the setting golden globe, and white clouds scudded across the deepening blue sky. I pray for baby that it will see the beauty in moments like that and that they remind it of it's real nature. In fact, it's a nice thing for all of us, young and old!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Wheel turning

I think Wibbles put her finger on it - the wheel is turning! I also think it will probably always be difficult to some extent with my mum but that's not something I can resolve. Christmas showed me that. I now see it as an opportunitiy to really sit tight and sit deep. And that's cool! Very cool, as obviously that's about having confidence in me. Confidence inspired by Buddha nature and the strength of my practice. Rather then denigrating my meditation all the time, perhaps it's about appreciating the beauty and power of the practice for what it is and letting it ROAR! Roar dharma indeed!

Merit to all beings.

Friday, January 12, 2007

36 weeks

We went to the midwife yesterday and she was able to confirm that baby is now 3/5's engaged. This is a measure of how far into my pelvis it's head is. The prospect of labour is exciting and daunting, but more exciting. We did parentcraft classes and the lovely midwife who took them, explained that during labour the cervix and vagina are stretched to become one gate through which the baby comes. I found this really resonated with Dharma but not in a way I can define. Something about that the moment of birth is the moment of passing through this gate and how momentous yet commonplace and non-eventful this is.

I was writing to a very dear friend of mine last night, and was talking about Christmas. I'm being a bit like a dog with a bone - it feels useful and productive now, but I'm aware of the need to drop it in the future. Anyway I said to my friend, " Thinking about it last night I remembered one incident from my teens where she[mum] really put herself out for me, and then took me back under her roof when I'd made a real hash of things, so I'm allowing the memory of that love to sit side by side with the abusive memories." So I feel things are moving in the right direction. Billy Connolly talks about the hidden side of childhood sexual abuse "You know, it feels kinda nice", and although there was none of that going on, it's the same sort of dilemma. I knew I was loved, as when I left home at 17 under a raincloud, I was allowed to move back in after a few months. That takes a huge act of love and courage and faith on my parent's behalf. And of course that same love had also cherished me for years before and afterwards. Maybe it's because I'm trying to resolve the pain of the child who needs things in black and white, needs to know love without fear that this is so difficult?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I just noticed the date

... Baby is due a month from today! How exciting!

ROAR Dharma

I went to see the Lama just before Christmas to catch up and to gain advice for the next few months which will be huge for me. One of my questions was about my continuing inability to get to his teachings - something always seems to come up. For some time I battled it, and all that happened was that my ME symptoms got worse which I was able to deal with. Latterly people and animals around seemed to be getting ill so I felt it appropriate to leave it for a bit. This is not to imply in anyway that the teachings were having an effect on my nearest and dearest, it's just sometimes Dharma seems to have a need to manifest itself particularly clearly! Also the things I'm facing atm are in a very real way for me, much harder than attending teachings, the lessons I'm being offered are getting to my core. I checked this feeling with the Lama and he confirmed it with a kind smile that I'm right in the middle of raw Dharma right not, and it's good to go with the flow. I like the way that raw and roar sound the same, and also the fact that I do feel that Dharma is ROARING at me right now. It always is of course, whether or not it's in Chenrazig's gracious smile or in Manjushri's sword cutting through delusion.

Someone very close to me is having a re-emergence of a long-standing health problem. It's not something that can ever be resolved, and will get worse although it can be helped by pharmaceuticals, so in a way it is to be expected. Pregnancy hormones are not known for making women rational *sigh* and nor does our flawed understanding of the world through attachment to objects. Of course behind and perhaps in front and running right through the situation I can hear the roar of Dharma, calling me back to that place of ... well I don't know really. I'd like to say something wise (well a first time would be nice) about the illusion of shared paths, whilst the reality is that we're all on our way. I think that's it, but the expression is lacking. It feels on the one hand like a very isolated position, but on the other hand of total unity with Buddha nature. Maybe it's like carrying this baby - for 9 months we are sharing almost the same physical space, yet this person is still a stranger to me. As I feel they should be - the Lama said something about a woman's body being a perfect expression of Buddha nature through it's ability to nurture and give birth. Again badly expressed, but the original sentiment was rather better expressed.

The Lama also told me (not literally!) to put my mum in the corner - I think for years I've misunderstood the limits of responsibility and compassion. For me part of the challenge of being a Buddhist is learning to retreat back into me and not divert someone from their path by my mis-guided but well meant love. It's proving hard with mum - she senses change and is resenting it, becoming more clingy and needy in response. So hard to stand in my Buddha nature and just stand. For some time now I've understood that this will do my mum no end of good if she is encouraged to stand on her own 2 feet and not be pitied for living with manic depression, for years the hushed conversations of "isn't she doing so well now!" or the reverse have been my triggers - they are so hard to let go of. Now I'm faced with understanding that I have to make these changes for me, and really for me alone. Like the baby in my womb, me, my close someone, mum is simply another sentient being. Buddhism is beautiful in it's simplicity.