this time around, i didn't labor for three days.
i didn't go to a birthing class, overcome any fears of pushing a watermelon out of my vagina.
i didn't practice any breathing or moaning or have two hour long appointments with my midwife.
I didn't wonder too much about breastfeeding or sleepless nights.
i did still eat as healthy as i could, got sick about every day, and stressed about my water intake.
i managed to exercise even more, gained about 20 pounds less, and set a date with my obgyn to have a planned cesarean.
i intertwine my birthing stories because to me, they are a circle. a balanced scale with the world's weights.
i labored beautifully in the comfort of my home, in and out of the birthing tub, zen thick enough to deny the reality of time lessening between my contractions.
as mellow as a hippy on a marijuana hit, i may have uttered words like "yeah man, i guess i'm in labor. sure, go ahead and call the midwife, dude."
the doppler couldn't pick up a heart rate. i changed positions. i put the oxygen mask on. someone called an ambulance.
emergency c-section. and not enough time to hold the shell of the boy i had so diligently grown the last 41 weeks.
born and dead.
two years later, my daughter was grown with much trepidation. i assumed the outcome of no baby, another stillbirth. i scheduled a csection for a friday in june, nearly two weeks before my due date. too terrified to carry her full term. my obgyn supported my decision but asked me a handful of times over the course of my pregnancy if i was sure i wanted a csection, reminding me a VBAC was possible. My mind was made. Fear guiding it's course.
I cried daily at the realities of being divorced, single and now knocked up. Guilt-stricken at my birthing choices in comparison to everything I had tried for previously. And the thicker fog of having a baby after losing a baby.
I left for the hospital at 6am, ready for the 8am csection scheduled. I had mentioned eating a TUMS at 4am jokingly--though sincerely-- to the anesthesiologist, who then pushed back my cut time for 10am as to proto-call to prevent potential vomit from aspirating into my lungs. Two doctors have to be present during the csection, one of which was already committed to a surgery at that time. I had to wait until noon. Lunchtime. Everyone in that room skipped the only time in the day they had any chance of getting lunch in order to do my surgery, which relieved any frustration I felt for having to wait longer than anticipated.
The operating room was cold. I was covered in warm blankets. I sat up, ready for my epidural and cried before the anesthesiologist even prepared it. I was scared. With all the information I had once read on some websites, I felt like I was either going to kill my baby or she would come out unresponsive. But, I didn't think I could do it. More than that, I think it came down to that I didn't want to do it. I felt a loss of the empowerment I once had to birth my baby and nothing short of a breathing baby to remedy that. Lucky for me, some websites are wrong.
I got some numbing shots in my back and then a larger needle of the epidural. I didn't feel it go in at all. I laid down and started giggling. I felt nauseous but that subsided quickly. I giggled some more. I was David after Dentist.
At some point, I asked when they were going to really start. They informed me that they were cutting the last layer into my uterus. It was weird to me. Not feeling anything and not seeing anything, but picturing my guts hanging out of my body. Here we were, my insides out. My child almost here. I don't think I realized I'd actually have a baby, even after the preparation weeks prior or sitting in the middle of my csection in that moment.
And then something monumental happened.
Of course I cried. But I finally breathed.
I mean really breathed.
I breathed for what felt like the first time in almost 3 years.
They hurriedly showed me my girl then immediately took her to clean her off, and suction stuff out of her lungs. Unfortunately, because of my decision to have her so early, her lungs had a lot of fluid in them, hoping to cook for a while longer in my womb. Sure, I grieved the labor, the immediate baby to breast, the cord pumping out, the "natural" parts a homebirth would have provided....but that all took a backseat to the fact that I had an actual ALIVE baby.
After checking her out some while I was stitched up and wheeled back to my room, and at the advocacy of my birthing partner--a medical student--they brought her to me. I immediately tried nursing her before anyone could give me their two cents on the topic. I've seen how stressed new mothers get at everyone's nursing "tips". I thought I'd stay relaxed enough without everyone else in the room. She nursed nonstop and successfully. She gained over a pound in the first week and has been a healthy eater since. And by healthy eater I mean chubby (:
I always thought people who pushed me to have another baby after my loss were insensitive. But, now with some understanding, having my daughter somehow reconciled so much I lost. The having to bind myself after the first pregnancy, watching my milk disappear down the drain in the shower along with the clots of blood natural healing provides.... Feeling like I was slowly losing pieces of what remained of him, of the mother he made me. I still hold her sometimes, the way I used to hold his blanket when I cried myself to sleep and some of those times I still cry thinking about him and some of those times I cry thinking about her and how amazing she is and how far we've come. Every moment is like another brick pieced in my restoration. I feel really grateful.
If there is anything I've learned, it's that pregnancy and impending delivery--if you let them--work at growing love and overcoming fear. Because love kicks fear's ass. There's just no room for it.
If I should be fortunate enough to get pregnant again. And then fortunate enough to carry that baby to term. And then fortunate enough even still to actually HAVE that baby, I will be considering a natural vaginal delivery in the right-for-me hospital or birthing center with the right-for-me care, honoring everyone's respective role on both sides, hopefully coming at it with more balance and leaving little to no room for any sort of fear. And in the meantime, I will be advocating with many of you for places where that is available and attempting to empower other mothers in their births.
Here's to love. . .