If you have a cruel sense of humor, you might think that I had it coming.
It’s okay. Some day’s I think it too.
Here is the thing: I drank all the “natural birth” Koolaide.
And, I mean All. Of. It.
In my defense, I was in the whole “natural,” green-living, “crunchy,” world and had been for years. I gardened and canned. We raised chickens. I worked in food and nutrition. I had green cleaning and beauty products. I did yoga and had a daily meditation practice. I knew better than to waste food and invested in reusable water bottles, bags, coffee mugs, and more.
At the time that I was pregnant with Theo, I was contributing to three different natural living blogs- four, if you happened to count my own. I wrote articles like “Using Chicken Poop as Fertilizer,” “How To Grow a Windowsill Garden,” and created recipes for things like chemical free marshmallows and sugar free ketchup. My bylines appeared on the same home page as my peers Home Birth Recap or Water Birth Story and articles with debates about vaccines.
Before I had a crib, I had cloth diapers.
Wooden toys and organic cotton onesie’s filled my registry.
I had a Pinterest board dedicated to “Feeding Baby” full of homemade baby food recipes. All real food and organic… obviously.
In my third trimester, classes like breastfeeding basics and Lamaze filled my calendar.
I read Ina May and studied The Bradley Method.
I listened to birth story podcasts and watched YouTube videos of natural births. I cried single every time. Mother’s laughing and crying as they lifted their baby to their chest. Husbands nuzzling into their necks in awe of their wife’s strength and gift. It was so beautiful.
I wanted it. I wanted it all and I knew I was prepared.
I was prepared to embrace the pain and shun all interventions and labor augmentations. I was prepared to recognize the natural, beautiful process of childbirth. To steel myself from an epidural- the ultimate enemy. Only rivaled, by the intervention to end all interventions: The C-Section.
I didn’t study c-sections like I did natural birth. In fact, I actually knew very little about them, except for they were for high risk pregnancies and complicated births. For small, dainty women with health complications of their own or tall husbands. They were for weak women or those with lazy doctors.
I didn’t need to worry about c-sections. That was extreme. I was normal. Boring even. Baby looked great. Head down and low by 36 weeks. We were good to go.
And, as for a natural birth? I had it in the bag.
I was prepared and well studied. Women had been giving birth for centuries without medical intervention. Sure, some people died… but, not people like me.
I ate right and worked out through my due date.
I definitely wasn’t scared of pain. I had kidney stones and had been fine.
Plus, I was a high capacity woman. I was capable. I hustled. I did grow my own food. And, I rocked the corporate world. I was healthy and rarely sick. I could run half marathons. I wasn’t afraid to stand up for myself. I could mind over matter anything. I could persevere. I was in control.
I was a mentally and physically tough person.
And, I had a c-section.
Both times, technically willingly (because there are signed papers to prove it); but, unwillingly.
Heart broken and scared, I cried both times on the way to the operating room. My mind racing with the same questions: How had it gone so wrong? How was this my story? Why did my body fail me?
These tears and questions would reappear for weeks after Theo’s birth. But, not after Savannah’s.
Theo’s c-section was an emergency. After fifty hours of induced labor, where Ina and Lamaze went out the window, and two hours of pushing (… told you I could persevere), Theo’s heart rate skyrocketed towards the 200s. My kind doctor knew my wants- she wanted it too- told me we can’t wait much longer and the room snapped into action.
The medicine that was quickly pumped into my IV combined with the fear that also pulsed through me, caused my body to shake and shudder so badly I honestly worried I would bite my tongue off.
I was terrified. Scared of feeling it all, seeing it all. Scared of major surgery with no time to think, to panic Google, to talk about it with Adam or to call my mom. I considered for a moment that maybe it would be better for them to just knock me out, but the room was moving too fast.
Instead, I slammed my eyes shut as they started the race down the hallway to the OR. I didn’t want to know what direction the operating room was. I didn’t want to know what it looked like. I didn’t want to see the people in it. I thought that with my eyes shut I could pretend like it wasn’t happening.
Theo’s c-section, after the long days leading up to it, was a blur. In the days that would follow I would tell Adam there was nothing beautiful about it.
Savannah’s c-section was scheduled. My same great doctor delivered a similar line at my 41 week appointment as we waited for my body to go into labor on it’s own- my only hope of a VBAC: We couldn’t wait much longer. So after an afternoon of tears, we scheduled the operation for two days later.
There were tears as we prepped for the surgery that morning. Softer tears than they had been with Theo, but full of similar disappointment and a little tinge of bitterness. How had it gone so wrong? Again. How was this my story? Again. Why did my body fail me? Again.
This time, without an epidural or an emergency, I had to walk myself to the operating room. I had to get myself onto the operating table. I had to do this with my eyes wide open.
And, that is when I saw it.
Nearly 42 week pregnant me, curled over my doctor as another administered the spinal tap. I looked down at my feet, dangling off the table, and they were shaking. Nerves, worry and fear- even though I had been here before and in a far scarier situation… they were still here.
But, I was doing it anyway.
I was doing it solo because Adam wasn’t permitted in the room yet.
I was doing it with my eyes open able to see the bright lights, every tool, and messaging on the wall for catastrophic situations.
I finally saw what I couldn’t see with my eyes shut in the emergency that was Theo’s birth and the months after: I was brave.
C-Section mom’s are not dainty, lazy or weak. They don’t fail. They don’t take the easy way out.
They have to muster up courage. They face fears because it’s all they can do and they do it alone as partners are not permitted to join them until things are just “so.”
They have to be crazy vulnerable trusting others, letting go of the control, and baring our body- inside and out with strangers.
C-Section mom’s put their bodies in physical pain for weeks to come, not just for the moments of birth.
All to bring our babies safely into the world and make sure we are safe too because they need us. They need their brave mom.
That is beautiful.
Recently, Theo has started to ask about my scar.
I have struggled with the mark, seeing it as a sign of defeat and shame. Something that shouldn’t be on my body. A reminder of the fact I wasn’t woman enough- mom enough- to give birth.
But, he is curious about the raised line on my belly and watches it as I get ready in the morning. He wants to touch it and at times it feels like he has a stronger, spiritual pull to the thin pink line under my belly button.
Thanks to the many pregnant teachers at school, he now knows that babies grow in mommy’s bellies and the line is where he came out of mommy’s belly. Just this week, we got to talking about it and he called the mark a “door,” likely thanks to me using words like “open” and “closed” and “in” and “out” to explain how the doctor did it.
At first I laughed a little, thinking this preschool observation was cute. But after a little more thought and a bit of digging through the photos of both of the kids’ births, I came across this photo from Savannah’s C-Section.
Adam, not one to get squeamish, snapped a series of photos of our girl coming out of my stomach. Into the world.
Through the door from one world to another.
Theo was right. It’s a door.
It’s the threshold my babies passed to join us here in this wild world from their cozy home they knew for ten months. The door frame they had to cross to make us parents.
If I had had it my way, I would never have this photo. I wouldn’t have this amazing perspective of the actual moment where she was straddling the inside and the outside. And, I wouldn’t have the ability to have Theo run his fingers over the jagged line that allowed him to enter the world. That brought him to me.
There are times that I still do get sad that “birth” is something I didn’t and won’t experience in my lifetime.
But it’s this that reminds me that I did.
And, it was beautiful.