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What is your most embarrassing moment?

I’ve never really had a good answer to that question. Until now. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve inserted my foot in my mouth and committed social gaffes plenty of times. This wasn’t actually anything I did on purpose – it just happened, but I’m as embarrassed and confused by it as I’ve been about anything in a long time.*

I have a friend whose birth I attended early last Thursday morning. It was an awesome, amazing delivery – just perfect. Afterwards I took lots of pictures of mommy, daddy, and baby and talked to the midwife while she stitched up a tear and performed the necessary but unpleasant (for the mom) task of pressing on my friend’s tummy to stimulate uterine contractions and control the bleeding. Never at any time did I have a conscious feeling of being upset or disturbed by anything – I’ve given birth eight times, for goodness’ sakes! – but I suddenly had the overwhelming feeling that I was going to throw up. I had two thoughts simultaneously: that I was sick and had brought a virus into the delivery room, and that I was not going to detract from my friend’s big moment by going into her bathroom and getting sick.

I left the room and headed for the nurses’ station, telling the nurse there that I was going to get sick and asking for a pan. That was the last thing I remember before waking in the floor with people standing over me. I have never passed out in my life! I was totally embarrassed, especially when they wanted to take me back to the delivery room in a wheelchair. I let them wheel me to the door, but there was no way I was entering that room in a wheelchair. This moment was about my friends and their new baby – not me!

I got some kidding about it at church, and was asked if my husband was teasing me a lot. I am pleased to say that I don’t think it ever even entered his mind; he was as concerned and dumbfounded as I was.

*The writing of this post was spread out over the course of a week, so I actually have an answer now! Thanks to some helpful friends, I know that what happened to me is called a vagal response. Apparently some sort of emotional stress triggers the response, which causes your heart rate and blood pressure to drop. Not enough blood is going to your brain, which causes you to pass out – exactly what your body needs you to do, since when you lie down it’s no longer working against gravity. Then your blood pressure goes back up and all is well.

This is the quote which freaked me out the most: “People with vasovagal syncope typically have recurrent episodes, usually when exposed to a specific trigger.” If I had to guess my trigger, I would guess it had to do with the postpartum uterine massage. That poking on your tummy after birth gets more painful with subsequent pregnancies; to me it feels like being back in labor again. After my seventh birth my mother (who passed away six months later) was in the room holding my newborn daughter, and I wasn’t paying much attention to how I felt physically. I was aware that there was a lot of bleeding, but I didn’t mention it because I didn’t want that awful poking and prodding. By the time (two hours after birth) we realized there was a hemorrhaging problem, my blood pressure was dropping and three nurses were trying to get an IV line in, but the veins kept blowing. It was all very scary.

The next morning my midwife said, “So you thought it would be better to bleed to death than have someone poking on your tummy, ” to which I replied, “At the moment, yes.” My husband and I agreed to not talk about what had happened, knowing how upset my family, especially my mother, would be. I’m guessing the uterine massage was my trigger.

Those of you who’ve read this blog for very long know that I’m in the process of applying for certification as a childbirth educator and birth doula. Because I have young children (making my schedule less flexible) and my blog design business is doing well, I’m currently in no rush to complete the certification process. After reading that quote about “recurrent episodes when exposed to a specific trigger,” I’m wondering if this is something that would happen again! Can you imagine me saying, “I know you just had a baby, but could you scoot over a minute so I can lie down, so I don’t pass out?” Good grief! 🙂

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