"You Got This!"
Bringing a child into the world is a beautiful, magical, miraculous gift from above. It all starts the day you find out you’re pregnant. Suddenly you just feel “different” and every decision you make for the next 9 months is centered on what is best for that baby. It is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting and also so worth it because soon enough, it’ll be time for the life-changing grand finale. Your baby will be born, and the nurse will bring that crying baby to your chest, and all will be well in the world. Well, at least that’s what I feel like I’ve been hearing for the past 33 years. I just gave birth for the second time. And now that I’ve experienced a c-section, a miscarriage, and a vaginal birth, I’d like to share my thoughts on the matter with the goal of hopefully relieving some pressure for any newly pregnant moms out there.
My daughter’s birth ended up in an emergency c-section. I had to be put to sleep and I didn’t wake up to meet her until she was about an hour old. I remember being so depressed those first few days because I felt like I had been robbed of that special moment you have when your baby is first born. While everyone else was meeting her and holding her- I was asleep! Over time, I was able to let it go and focus more on just being grateful that my baby and I were both healthy. I knew I was so blessed to have that be the case.
Fast-forward four years to planning for the birth of my son. My doctor was clear that in my case, a vaginal or c-section birth were both perfectly safe and acceptable options. She suggested I take a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) class to gauge whether the VBAC option felt right for me. I took the class and learned a lot, but I didn’t leave feeling confident that a VBAC was the way to go. Instead of focusing on my own apprehensions, I tried to focus on the opinions of all the women in my life who I trusted and who had much more experience with childbirth than me. They all seemed to think a VBAC was a great idea. And when pinned down, my doctor (whom I love and trust) told me she felt a VBAC was the better choice too.
This feeling of unease about how to have my baby stayed with me all the way up until the end. I never had an “aha” moment or felt confident about what to do. I felt selfish for not feeling great about a VBAC and just wanting to schedule a c-section. Was I not willing to “put in the work” for my baby? "This shouldn’t just be about me", I thought. Eventually I decided to go the VBAC route; influenced by the opinions of women I trust and influenced by comments like these:
“Isn’t scheduling a c-section basically just taking the easy way out?”
“You’re planning a VBAC?! Good for you!! That’s so awesome!”
“You’ve got this! Your body was MADE to do this!”
According to everyone involved in my delivery, it was completely textbook and totally normal. I pushed for 2 ½ hours, which apparently is typical for a first-time vaginal birth. Still, all of my vaginal-birth fears came true. I got my epidural too early, which meant I wasn’t completely numb once it was time to push. My doctor wasn’t on call and I had never met the doctor who ended up delivering the baby. And as well-intentioned as they might have been, the two nurses present for the pushing did not leave me feeling encouraged. My husband and I still joke about their chant of choice- “you got this!” -spoken on repeat with extremely artificial enthusiasm every 30 seconds or so until the baby was born.
Outwardly, I was remaining as positive and motivated as I could. I decided on a vaginal birth and it was happening. But inside, for the entire 2 ½ hours, I was so mad at myself for being in this position (literally). All the previous comments about my body being made for this, or Mother Nature knowing what to do, did not ring true to me. Not one minute of it felt intuitive at all. Why did I allow the opinions and comments of others to outweigh what felt right for me?
I tried to set my frustrations aside. Our precious first moments together would surely make up for it all! But instead, when he was born and set on my chest, he was not in good shape and had to be rushed to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) immediately. I blamed myself for the fact that he had to be taken away upon delivery.
“Surely if I could have pushed him out faster, he would be in my arms right now and not all alone in the NICU”, I thought. “This is all my fault.”
I could do nothing but cry for the rest of the evening. I turned off my phone so I wouldn’t have to deal with any texts or calls about how the baby was or about my delivery. And yet again, I know I am beyond blessed because, after 5 nights in the NICU, I was able to take my healthy baby boy home.
I’ve been so hesitant to write this blog for a few reasons. First, I didn’t want to seem like I was promoting one way of giving birth over another. I know that women choose to deliver their babies in many different places, and in many different ways. And I am completely in support of each woman’s childbirth decisions. In my case, the doctor was clear that repeating a c-section and trying for a VBAC were both perfectly safe, acceptable options.
Second, I didn’t want to come across as just complaining. I recognize and am grateful every day for the two healthy children I have been blessed with. And I know that for many, many women childbirth IS a wonderful experience that makes them feel a million euphoric feelings. This just wasn’t the case for me. Too many women I know have had less than desirable childbirth experiences simply because they felt persuaded to believe that one way of giving birth was less desirable than another.
I would like to advocate for celebrating the 9 months prior to childbirth with as much enthusiasm as the childbirth itself. And I would like to advocate for celebrating childbirth in all its forms. As far as I’m concerned, one woman’s c-section deserves as much praise as the next woman’s epidural-free hypnobirth.
A note on NICUs, birth plans, and skin-to-skin:
I am totally an advocate of childbirth classes. My husband and I took several before the birth of our first child and found them to be very worthwhile. We learned about the importance of skin-to-skin contact immediately following birth and planned on doing it. There are so many proven benefits. But what if circumstances aren’t ideal and skin-to-skin isn’t an option? When Sky was born and taken away, it left us feeling like we were depriving our child of all those lovely skin-to-skin things! In fact, the night he was born we weren’t even allowed to touch him at all. Not a fun feeling. So if skin-to-skin is an option for you and you’d like to do it- wonderful! If it doesn’t happen, that is OK too.
Birth plans, in my opinion, are also great. With my first birth, I wanted dim lights, soothing music, and all the essential oils flowing. I had a lot of plans. None of them included a c-section. I actually hadn’t even considered a c-section as a possibility. And that’s what ended up happening. Having a birth plan is great- if you want one. Remembering that you’ll most likely have to veer from that plan is important, too.
And NICUs. God bless the mothers who endure extended NICU stays. As I’ve said, Sky was only in the NICU for 5 nights and I truly can’t imagine him having to spend even a minute more. As lovely and caring as those NICU nurses were, I just wanted my baby to be home. Sky was born just one day before his due date. I knew from scans that size wise he was measuring right on target and we knew of no complications in the womb. The NICU just was not on my radar. So aside from being prepped that birth plans often need to change, I wish I was prepped that the NICU is always a possibility.
In conclusion, as helpful and informative as my birthing classes were, I wish a bit of focus would have been placed on reminding me that a less-than-ideal childbirth was not only possible but also OK.
I think another reason writing this blog stressed me out, is because I try to keep my posts positive and maybe this one would come off as doom and gloom? Definitely not my intention. I just want the pressure to be relieved from pregnant moms a bit. It’s OK if you’re ideal birth situation doesn’t end up happening. It’s OK if you don’t get that perfectly lit, perfectly matching mommy-and-me glamour shot in the delivery room. What you’ve done- grown a human for 9 whole months and then brought them into this world- is a selfless, phenomenal feat that deserves to be celebrated no matter what.
For real, mamma, you’ve got this.
First moments with my daughter