I recently read Majandra Delfino’s blog on people.com. If you don’t know of her, she currently stars in the cute CBS sitcom “Friends with Better Lives.” The headline ‘When Did Giving Birth Become a Competition?’ immediately caught my eye. I have definitely sensed a holier-than-thou attitude in some communities of mothers (thankfully, not in my own) since I had my daughter almost four years ago. I’ve seen the subject of birth-comparing and even shaming come up in many natural parenting forums and in the lives of a couple of girlfriends.
A friend of mine recovering from an emergency c-section was caught off guard when the first words out of a visiting friend’s mouth were on whether the c-section was forced on her. Not “How are you adjusting to life as a mom?” or “How is your recovery going?”
When I hear a story like this, it immediately brings tears to my eyes. Yes, I do believe c-sections are much too frequent today and the rate is certainly alarming in not only California, but across the country. But there are instances where a c-section is not only necessary, but mom and baby would have died without it (as in Majandra’s story). And no woman should ever feel ‘less than’ for the method in which she gave birth. We thankfully live in a day and age where it is a blessing such a procedure exists for dire circumstances. Not to mention, it’s traumatic for a mother to give birth via c-section when all along she had planned to do things completely different.
I am also one of those women whose birth plans went awry. Like Majandra, I had planned on a natural birth and went as far as hiring a doula. I even switched from an OB to a midwife halfway through my pregnancy because the midwives seemed more on board with a natural birth than the doc I had been seeing. When my Halloween due date came and went, I wondered how far past they’d let me go. I wanted so badly to control the circumstances, but this was one situation I could not force along.
Anxious for baby to arrive, I tried all of the natural induction methods – walking hills, drinking red raspberry leaf tea, and acupuncture. Even at the advice (and caution) of my midwife, I tried drinking a small amount of castor oil (which I do NOT recommend). Nothing worked. My body was just not ready.
At my 41-week appointment my midwife didn’t like what she saw at the non-stress test. I was sent to an ultrasound to measure fluid level (which they had done 4 days prior also) – immediately, the tech said, “I don’t think you’re going home from here, sorry.” Apparently, the fluid level had diminished to a dangerous level and that, along with baby not passing hours of non-stress tests, amounted to me being admitted that day for an induction.
I won’t go into all the details, but that was noon on a Tuesday and I had my baby at noon on a Friday, 12 days past my due date. 72 hours after being admitted, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter via csection. We tried everything possible to have a vaginal delivery. Pitocin was, of course, required to jump-start my labor and after 16 hours on the hellish stuff, I demanded an epidural. Huge needle I had always been leery of entering my back? Who cares. Put. It. In. NOW.
After days of slow progress, my uterus finally stopped contracting altogether. Well, without contractions, you can’t exactly push out a baby, so into the OR I went. I knew we had given it our all and the team taking care of us had been so conservative and patient with my body – I was grateful for every opportunity they gave me to deliver my baby vaginally.
Recovery was slow-going, I imagine because of the long labor on top of surgery. It took days to be able to walk again – the pain was immense. Baby girl went to NICU her first four days which did not help with bonding. So many emotions flooded me. I felt a loss for having my birth go so drastically different than how I had envisioned and planned it. I wasn’t able to hold my daughter except for five minutes every 3 hours (and not at all during the night). By the end, I had been in a hospital for 8 days – another component that turned out so far from what I had pictured.
It was hard enough dealing with all of those factors and the hormonal shifts post-baby, that it would have been horrifying to have someone judge me for the birth method used for my daughter’s delivery.
For awhile after her birth, I felt like I had to almost justify my c-section. Like I had to explain the details, and what led to that decision. I’m not sure if part of me felt insecure because I knew inevitably some people would feel my surgery was unnecessary? Or maybe it was the feeling that I had somehow failed myself and failed my daughter because it was a bumpy beginning for us in the bonding department. Either way, it took some time to grieve those feelings and the loss of what could have been. I would never know what it was like to have her placed on me in the seconds after birth. In some ways I felt robbed of that experience, but without a doubt, I feel my c-section was necessary.
Thanks to God’s grace, my daughter and I forged ahead with an unshakable bond. She has always been a momma’s girl. I joke that she wanted to stay a part of me for so long that we finally had to give her an eviction notice. We have more than made up for it in the bonding department.
Her birth served as a learning and growing experience in my life. I believe God was showing me how to relinquish control. He flipped my birth plan upside down and a completely different but beautiful story panned out in His timing.
Almost a year after my daughter was born, I was looking through a journal and found a prayer I wrote, asking God for all of the qualities I wanted in a husband (which all came to fruition months later, when I met him). Tears filled my eyes at God’s faithfulness in my life, and then I glanced at the date of the journal entry: November 12. My daughter’s birthday, three years prior. Little did I know at the time the significance that date would hold in my life.
I love when we are able to connect the dots later and see God’s hand clear as day. It certainly gives purpose to those times where we sit and wait.