When I found that April is C-Section Awareness Month, I knew that I needed to share my birthing story. In 2014 I had an emergency c-section with my firstborn . Consequently, I then had a planned c-section with my second born in 2016. Both experiences were like night and day. After my second one, I really thought that I was over the stigma around having c-section… but then I tried to write my story.
Now I’m at the end of April. Still having trouble putting words to paper. When I think about my experience, my emotions range from happy to sad to guilty. Really, I’m all over the board. If I was anyone else, I’d be the first to tell someone to stop beating themselves up. Mothers are mothers no matter how your baby comes into your life – natural birth, c-section, adoption… it doesn’t matter as long as the love is there! Logically, I get this. Logically, I know that I had to do what was best for my babies. Slowly, but surely, the more I try and think logically, that guilt creeps back into my head and my heart.
It’s funny. I’m a c-section baby myself. I don’t think any less of my mom for having a c-section. It has in no way affected our bond as mother and daughter. When I hear about other people giving birth, no matter how the baby was born, I always think, “Wow! What a strong woman!” So, why do I feel like I’m a failure for having had c-sections? It probably didn’t help that one of the midwives in my group reprimanded me for not waiting it out to 43 or 44 weeks before inducing labor. Thankfully every other midwife was 100% supportive.
The first time around was filled with a lot of emotional and physical trauma. When it came time to being induced, my body never made it past the first stage. For those of you who have been there – I wasn’t able to use Pitocin. My body never took to the initial medicine. I never dilated beyond 1cm. The only time I felt contractions was when the docs ran a stress test to see how my girl was doing. For 4 days straight, I was on full body monitors because her heart rate would drop about once every 12 hours. Later we would find out that she had the umbilical cord wrapped around her leg and depending on how I laid or sat, it would cause stress.
“We can take you in for a c-section now or you can wait. We can’t guarantee you’ll be able to be awake for it if we wait any longer to make a decision.” My eyes still tear up remembering those words from the doctor. In that moment I became consumed with emotion. I was scared – for my baby, for myself. I felt guilty – what is wrong with my body? My anxiety levels were through the roof. I cried and I cried, though I knew I was making the only decision that made sense. Everything happened so quick after that.
Shaking. That’s what I remember the most. Laying flat, with my arms stretched out and tied down, I was cold and I couldn’t stop shaking. They pulled down the blue tarp and let us watch as our baby girl was pulled out from my uterus. They quickly cleaned her and let us see her. She doesn’t look like an Ellie, but her middle name has to be Maya. My head grew heavy and my husband was asked to leave the room for a minute.
I was hemorrhaging blood and they couldn’t get my uterus to contract. Why do they keep asking me my name? Why can’t this guy remember my husband’s name is Denis? All these questions were distracting me from my one goal – stay alive. I was dizzy. My head was heavy. I was nauseated. I truly believed that if I closed my eyes, I was going to die right there and then. It took all the strength I had to keep them open and stay awake. If I was awake, then I was alive. In hindsight, I am grateful for the distraction and the continuous questioning, even if I didn’t realize that’s what was helping to keep me awake.
Eventually, I made it back to the recovery room. I had never been so happy to see my husband and my mom. The best part was that I finally got to hold my baby girl. For the next three weeks I couldn’t be left alone with the baby. I was too drugged up from the pain. I had a hard time standing, sitting, and moving in general. It was awful. Eventually, with every passing day, things got easier.
A couple of years passed by and I found myself pregnant again. My anxiety was high throughout the pregnancy. I lived each day with fear that I was going to die when I gave birth. The doctors recommended picking a date for a c-section, though I really wanted to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section). However, once again I showed no signs of going into labor. My little boy was just as cozy as his sister.
This time around, everything went smooth. The doctors were amazing. The anesthesiologist had me talking about the Yankees and making jokes about sneaking me wine through a syringe. Even my husband was laughing. Next thing I knew my baby boy was here. About 15 minutes later I was in the recovery room holding him. I couldn’t believe the difference. I wished that I didn’t waste the last 40 weeks stressing out about the delivery day.
Even though the second c-section went off without a hitch, I still feel guilty sometimes. Like I denied myself and my kids a “real” birthing experience. However, as I sit here and think about it, it makes me laugh. I mean, how much more real can you get than being literally cut open? Either way, my babies are my babies no matter how they came to me.
The more I struggled with this post, the more important I knew it was to write my story. The more people open up about the realities of childbirth – the good and the bad – the more we are able to accept ourselves. Every pregnancy is a unique experience. No one should feel bad or guilty about the way they gave birth. Though that might be easier said than done, let’s just add it to the list of things I’m working on in 2018!