Post by contributor, Erin Long of Home & Grace
‘Erin, you have to wake up. You have to wake up. You need to feed Audrey’
My husband had been trying for several minutes to bring me to consciousness but I wasn’t responding, I didn’t want to respond.
‘She’s beautiful – she looks just like you. Don’t you want to meet her?’
I don’t know what held a tighter grip on me: the pain, the anesthesia or the disappointment that my daughter was just born via C-section.
I had planned on a natural birth in the hospital but when Audrey’s heart rate began dropping drastically with each contraction early on in labor the doctor wanted her out now and I was not in a position to argue.
She was born healthy and I was so happy to be holding my precious baby girl in my arms but I mourned not bringing her into this world by the strength of my body with a clear mind and an open heart.
Though I knew there was nothing I could have done to prevent the C-section I was determined that my next birth would be the natural and empowering experience I hoped for.
Twenty-months later I was once again in a hospital, this time pregnant with my son. It was 8 weeks from his due date and I was having intense and regular contractions. The next three weeks would see me in and out of triage before I went into labor 5 weeks early.
Despite the fetal heart monitor strapped to my belly and IV in my hand, I labored naturally with the support of my husband and midwives. Everything was going as planned until I began to push.
My son’s heart rate dropped and because he was moving through the birth canal quickly the 2nd midwife lost track of his heart beat. She knew he was coming soon and she needed to be ready to receive him so she called for a nurse to come and hold the monitor.
Because I was a premature VBAC, the full medical crew showed up and took over.
One moment the midwife I knew and trusted was delivering my baby and the next it was a doctor I had only briefly met and I knew didn’t hold to the same birthing philosophy as my midwife and me.
Because she believed my son was in danger the doctor gave me an episiotomy to speed things up and he was immediately taken to an exam table rather than placed in my arms.
While my son’s birth was a much more natural and empowering experience than my daughter’s, there were aspects that left me disappointed and frustrated.
– – –
Child birth doesn’t always go as planned, does it? You might plan for the most gentle, natural home birth conceivable only to still need interventions, or for it to end as an emergency in a hospital.
You might not even be able to plan for a natural birth, much less a home birth. There might be medical conditions or location restraints that dictate you deliver in a hospital under medical supervision.
Sometimes your preferred options aren’t available. Sometimes people make mistakes. Sometimes people make the wrong decision or a decision was made and you’ll never know if it was the right one. Sometimes your body needs help.
And all of this is okay.
Yes, you carefully chose a birth care provider, you know the advantages of natural deliveries and the reasons why a home birth can be better than a hospital birth. But the reality is that sometimes what is a beautiful, completely natural expression of the female body turns into a medical condition that requires intervention to save the life or health of the mother or baby.
You do the best you can with the options you have available and you respond as well as you can when labor throws you a curve. No matter what has to be done to bring your healthy baby into your healthy arms you should never be made to feel like less of a mother, less of a woman for it, by others or by yourself.
You brought a new human into this world and that, in and of itself, is amazing.
It is disappointing, maybe devastating, when your ideals and desires don’t match your reality, especially when your desires are what’s best for your baby. Other people probably won’t understand this. They might say, ‘Your baby is healthy – that’s all that matters’. Yes, the most important thing is that your baby is healthy but that does’t mean how you experience your baby’s birth is insignificant. For most of us giving birth is a deeply emotional and vulnerable experience and when it isn’t empowering or satisfying we can be cut deep into our beings.
And that’s okay. It’s okay to be disappointed, left wanting, to cry, to mourn.
But remember: how you brought your child into this world is a very small piece of how you raise him. It’s an important part of your story as your child’s mother but as time goes on you’ll write whole new pages and chapters and books together that will far outshine the birth.
The shared memories and laughter will cast redemptive light on the shadows of an imperfect beginning.
– – –
When Audrey first noticed the long horizontal scar on my lower abdomen she asked what it was. I explained that it was from the cut the doctor made so she could be born.
‘Mommy, it’s beautiful’
She gently touched it and I cried, but unlike all the tears I shed because of her birth before this moment these tears were ones of acceptance and grace.
You can read Audrey’s full birth story here and Alistair’s here and you can follow my new series about being pregnant in Macedonia.
All this whining about having a c section you need to read about the women who turned down c sections in favor of natural birth that had babies who will never be normal because of lack of oxygen. C sections save lives!
I love this! I think too many women are too hard on themselves when they don’t get the birth plan they wanted. This is why I don’t have a real plan set because anything can happen and change. As much as I don’t want to have surgery I know it is a strong possibility and I have learned to accept that. My midwife and I have discussed several approaches, I will go as natural as possible until I can’t stand the pain anymore and if a C-section is needed so be it. It’s more important to me that my son is healthy than having a “perfect” birth plan. When you set yourself up to be disappointed it’s all to easy to fall into post partum depression. Thank you for this article. Probably one of my more favorite reads I have read lately.
Hope for the best, plan for the worst is a philosophy I have used for years.
Thank you for sharing your stories and these wise words! We actually have nearly identical stories…I planned a natural birth in a birthing center with my first and ended up being rushed to the hospital for an emergency c-section after 2.5 hours of pushing. My daughter’s birth was a successful VBAC, but she came out 23 minutes after we arrived at the hospital and had to spend the first hour-and-a-half of her life in the NICU due to oxygen concerns. It made me realize that there really is no such thing as a “perfect” birth. And while the loss and pain of not having the birth I hoped for felt impossible to overcome, you’re so right…we have years of memories together to make up for the precious moments after they’re were born. Thank you for this post!
Erin @ Home and Grace
You are SO right! There is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ birth! It’s a hard ideal to let go of but I think if we do it can make the whole experience better (at least that’s my attitude going into birth #3!)
Thank you for sharing your story and I’m glad my post connected with you!
Such an important message! Though I haven’t had a c-section, there are elements of each of my kids’ births that didn’t go as I desired, and it’s a great comfort to be reminded both that it’s ok to mourn it, and it’s ok that that’s how it happened. Seems like a contradiction, but it’s a juxtaposition that is true.
Erin @ Home and Grace
It is a juxtaposition! There are so many things that can not go the way we hope or plan and we do just have to accept it for what it is and accept it as okay, no matter how big or small of things they were!
Neither of my births went as planned, and both ended in c-section. It has taken awhile, but I have slowly accepted them.
Erin @ Home and Grace
Milissa, it does take time to accept, doesn’t it? I hope your acceptance continues to grow and grow!
Birth is exactly what you say. The hurts done during a birth can last for years. I didn’t have a C-section, but an induction with my first, but I still walked around traumatized and terrified for the next 2 years. I’m thankful, so thankful, that God healed me through birth.
Erin @ Home and Grace
It is amazing how deep the hurts from birth can go and how long they can take to heal. Did you have a positive birth experience after your disappointing one? Even though my son’s birth wasn’t perfect it did heal a lot of the wounds left from my daughter’s. It’s amazing how God works in our hearts!
Thank you for that. We made the decision for a C-section 2 days before my youngest daughter’s birth. The reminder that the training of my children is more than the birthing of my children is timely and powerful.
Erin @ Home and Grace
Jenn, I’m glad this was a timely reminder for you! It’s something I need reminding of from time to time, too!