Not Natural

Sometimes I don't feel like I have the same badge of honor as other moms. I didn't accomplish the great entrance into motherhood as I thought I would. Sure, I pushed and strained, grabbed my husband's hand and wanted to punch him. I looked into the eyes of my doula and made connections that aren't possible anywhere else. But in the end, my crying baby was not placed immediately on my chest for bonding and feeding, how I had imagined. That thing I thought everyone had to have, the moments of gazing into one another's faces, that was swept away for later.

Instead, there was a bit of a panic, things being unplugged, people speaking a medical language I didn't fully understand and darting glances. There was talk of heart rates and a tilted little head... can't make it through...stuck...

What? What does that mean?

There was splitting pain, breaking through the medication that had left me so numb I couldn't feel myself pushing at all. There was a quick trip down an endless hallway and an entrance into a bustling room. A very cold room. The operating room. There were straps on my arms and a blanket quickly lifted to block my view. There was a doctor-looking Ryan entering, tears in his eyes, covered in hospital garb. There was the fear that I was disappointing and scaring my family. There was cutting, pulling and tugging, a nausea that left me feeling as if someone was pushing my stomach into other organs. Because they were. I could hear myself asking if I should be able to breathe more normally. I was pretty sure I was going to stop breathing. There were voices reassuring me that I was fine, according to the blinking and beeping monitors. But I didn't feel fine.

It was ugly. It was feared and than brought to reality. Then everything changed again. In a moment where a doctor stood behind Ryan and said, stand up! Look at your son! He's coming out now, stand up, as he pulled a timid daddy to his feet and grabbed for the camera. That doctor became a human being, not just an administrator of anesthesia. He pushed Ryan to action, handing him the camera and joining in the excitement.

Ryan started to repeat over and over and over, there he is, there he is, sweetie, there he is as tears ran down his cheeks. But I couldn't see him.

It took a few moments for our baby to cry and I started to panic, to want to get up and go to him, knowing fully I couldn't. Ryan went silent, and we waited for what seemed like forever. The nurses cleared his nose and mouth furiously. And he gasped, choked and screamed the most beautiful scream I will ever hear.

I still couldn't see him. There was a mixture of pain, joy, excitement, fear, and grief. Grief at the loss of those first moments with my son and fear that he wasn't going to be okay. I was frozen. Attached to a strange bed in a strange place and suddenly, most of the people who had seconds before been brimming with excitement and joy were gone. Even Ryan, gone with our baby, weighing and measuring.

I waited, cold and shivering, wondering what new form my body had just taken. Thinking hard about how badly I wanted my baby back, dying inside that I didn't connect with him first, that a nurse was holding him long and wrapping him tight, a stranger to me.

And yet I was so tired. So listless. So nauseous. I didn't know what to feel first. Until Ryan came back in the room with that baby boy. That scrunchy red face, quiet and peaceful. He brought him to my side and we stared at each other in disbelief, those little blue eyes gazing over his Mommy.

I cried without stopping, laughing through my tears. Ryan said, he's Miles. I wanted to jump up and down then, after a long name debate, me finally winning! I knew it too, though. He was Miles, it was written all over him, and still is.

His name means forgiving and merciful, two things I can only aspire to be. But Miles himself epitomizes those words. He puts people at ease with simply his presence. There is something disarming about his approach to others, so sweet and careful, and then sprouting with joyful laughter and a kind touch. I've had to ask his forgiveness over the last three years a number of times. Each time he has climbed into my lap, hugged me and cried with me, gazing over my face.

I've struggled with worrying about what people think. Only because too many unkind things were said to me about how it all happened. It was the pitocin, or the epidural or I was too nervous...

But I'm done comparing myself to other mothers with more "natural" birth stories. I have even made excuses or blamed outside forces for how things turned out, trying to somehow save face. I've finally started to realize that all of that is just plain ridiculous.

All I should really be focusing on is that Miles is here, forgiving and merciful, gazing at my face. There is no reason for me to grovel or compare. I have two sons. Ask any woman who struggles along a road toward a much wanted baby, or one who has lost hers, and she will tell you that the end is certainly more important than the means.

31 clicked right here to comment:

Amy said...

Good post. I was devastated when I found out that James was breech the day before his due date. We tried everything to flip that kid, but he just wouldn't go.

But he's fine and he's happy and he has a great fro. I have nothing to complain about.
Also, I'm not tied down to c-sections forever....so really, it's water under the bridge.

And when some judgmental woman asks about his birth, tell her that you had an unassisted birth at home with noone but your husband present. I guarentee that will top her story!

C said...

Naturally, the baby came out... both of them. Now, if they had STAYED IN . . . that would just be . . . well - unnatural.


Melanie J said...

A C-section is my worst nightmare, not because I'm so bent on a "natural" birth but because I'm terrified of the procedure. I think a "natural" birth is what gets you your baby safely. I have a cousin who manages to drop into every other conversation how she had her three kids in a tub at home with the help of a midwife. I think it's wonderful that she gave birth on her terms but I did what got my two boys safely to me and I think anyone who does that gets credit too. The most important thing here is that you do have Miles to climb into your lap and love you now and that's an incredible thing. How can that in any way be second best? You did exactly what good moms do: what was best for your kid, even in a horrifying circumstance. Hooray for good moms!

JustRandi said...

Oh, baby, you accomplished plenty.
Any way of bringing someone into your family, where you anguish, smile, cry, and bond deserves the very same badge of honor.
I love your story. Love it.

joolee said...

Silly girl! Why the heck would you struggle with what people think about you having a c-section when the kid wouldn't come out!!!!??? I'm so thankful for modern medicine.....it's crazy to think that not too long ago women actually died from complications giving birth! I thought I was gonna die.....maybe even wanted to for a split second....but never mind that.

I love this post...especially the way you describe your lil boy's personality...like a lil love song:)

joolee said...

Oh, and is that you lookin totally smokin hot after labor and having your innerds ripped open!!??

Peanut said...

A beautifully written post. Childbirth, however it happens, is such a profound experience. And seems to be very core to who we are as women. I'm sorry that your experience wasn't what you had hoped for. The being a mom part IS more important than the childbirth part, but it is normal to grieve the loss of the ideal experience.
I had two very different birth experiences with my children. I had several complications with KK and was very hurt when I felt unsupported by some for the choices we and our doctor had to make. It's taken me a few years to (mostly) get over that.

Heather of the EO said...

I must add that my second c-section with Asher left me with much different feelings. Yes, the first time I felt the usual mix of emotions when things don't turn out the way you think they will. And I did get REALLY tired of people's judgmental remarks (then I realized I need to toss these opinions out the window)

BUT with Asher there was pretty much nothing but relief in the decision to have a scheduled c-section (after struggling with whether or not to have a vbac, knowing he was pretty large in there). Especially when he turned out to be 10 lbs 10 ounces. Yup, relief.

Brightonwoman said...

Having plans changed on us (taking away our choice) is always hard. I was blessed to have a birth that moved pretty smoothly, but there are so many that do not. But it's not a reflection of you as a mother! I am grateful for modern science and the lives it can save...even when it's a rough road to do it.

The Three 22nds said...

I hear you. Having a c section was one of my biggest fears. I cried all the way to the operating room when I suddenly was forced into an emergency c section with my third. I never have heard anything so sweet as the MD saying with surprise..."He's pink!". It is different and somewhat disappointing, but the point is...your boy was pink too :)

Eowyn said...

I really do not understand why people would possibly judge a woman by whether she gave natural birth or not. I mean, would they rather the baby die, and possibly the mom? But then, some people just don't think before they comment.

Phew, I'm indignant on your behalf.

Kimberly said...

Oh honey...wow...that was incredible. You put it into words so vividly.

HeatherJo said...

oh gosh, im just crying. that was beautiful..and has just made me want to meet him all the more. i dont think i've ever anticipated anything as much in my life! and as much as i, loathe, being pregnant...i just love how much he is with me already. im holding him closer now than ever again in his life.
nice to "meet" you, heather jo ;)

Christine said...

Bless you. I know how hard it is to not have your birth of your baby go as planned. But I love your attitude and your honesty. Thank you for sharing.

BaronessBlack said...

I planned two natural home water-births, and ended up with two emergency c-sections. The message I took from this experience is that we hope and pray and plan for the best for our kids, but they are their own people from day one and sometimes they choose different paths. I think it was a good parenting lesson for me to learn early on not to worry too much when things look like they're not going to plan!

Lisa said...

Heather, to be honest, I read this post right after you posted it and LOVED it, but I didn't understand what it was that people would judge you for. I had to come back to read comments to get a clue. I cannot get my head around people comparing birthing stories like that.

My first was born in America with an epidural and my second and third were born in Poland in small towns where there is absolutely no anesthesia given, except during post delivery stitching. I'm SO not an all natural kind of girl.

I think I'm still not really getting it. So having a baby vaginally with an epidural that makes you unconscious of almost any sensation would be considered natural, and having a C-section with all it's difficulties wouldn't? Whatever. My point is, your story is gripping. You have such a way with words.

Kristen said...

Yes, I also can't fathom the judgement. I am all for doing things "naturally", but then one has to remember that back when everything was TOTALLY natural, women died in childbirth all the time. So let's not champion those times, right! ;) Thank the Lord for modern medicine.

Abra said...

Okay... so unfortunately, I'm going to have to quit reading your blogs.

At work. I'll have to quit reading them at work.

I'm sure my staff is recording and preparing a packet for Human Resources right now.

The other day I was laughing so hard I had to shut the door. Today, you had me in tears.

What a raw post and I love the emotion that evidently went into this and I appreciate your sharing this experience.

PsychMamma said...

I love birth stories and yours is beautiful! Traumatic for you, but a beautiful ending. Thanks for sharing it, and any kind of "judgment" is just silly and should definitely be ignored.

brentandsarah said...

I had two babies vaginally and my last one C-section after a very tramatic chain of events. I say that it takes more out of a woman to have a C-section, so I'd think of yourself as tougher! That recovery is way more work. The important thing is that they get here and that you love 'em.

happygeek said...

My first birth didn't go according to MY plan. It was good training for motherhood where nothing has gone according to my plan yet.

Sabrina said...

You topped Matt today. I cried when i read this. So beautiful! Heather, so beautiful!

charrette said...

Wonderful post, Heather! Wow. I felt like I was right there living it with you. I hope you never EVER feel subconscious about the way you brought a child into the world. That story is heroic.

Lauren said...

This is a great post. You put into words many of my feelings. My 1st sons story is very similiar to yours. It took me months to get over the fact that it wasn't "natural." I somehow felt like I was robbed of those first moments. I remember being so annoyed at all the nurses in the room gushing over how cute he was and I hadn't even seen him yet. I wanted to scream "Shut-up and give me my baby."
It took me 16 months to realize that birth is birth and anyway you cut it it's amazing. When I found out I was pregnant with my second son we prayed and prayed for a vbac. It was much easier on my body but very much the same outcome:)

S'dizzle said...

Wait, people actually pass judgement on women who have had c-sections? I had no idea, how appalling.

MoziEsmé said...

What a beautiful birth story - thank you for sharing it!

I had Esme naturally and as planned, but I kept telling myself ahead of time that I needed to be flexible in case things didn't turn out as I wanted.

My calculations were that statistically, there was only a 15% chance of being ABLE to have the water birth I wanted, and then most people don't choose that option even if it is available.

So your story is the far more common one, and there are so many women I know in the same boat. You have a beautiful kid, and that is really what matters.

Kelly @ Love Well said...

I've had this bookmarked for DAYS, waiting for a few free moments when I could comment. Because the story? Vivid. And the conclusion? Powerful and true. All births that end with a healthy mommy and healthy baby are miracles.

The Mama's said...

I feel like at the end of my life there will be handfuls of moments that just stand out. Two of those are the moments that I first layed eyes on my babies. Oh my word...there is nothing more precious than the meeting the person you have been longing to be near for so long. The gazing, the soaking up of all the details, the counting of the fingers and toes, the exhale and "Thank you, God". I, too, devoted so much time to my preparation for giving birth. But, the process of the birth was forgotten the moment that my children were born.

As I was reading this, I was thinking about adoptive mothers and how the moment where they first lay eyes on their children must be such a phenomenal-world pausing moment. It is just this universal thing... we look ...we love.


Emily said...

Someone on twitter sent me here to read your story. Wonderful - it made me cry. I had an unnecessary c-section December 27, 2009, for the birth of my first baby. I still don't really know why it happened, but I had been in labor for over 24 hours and was exhausted and confused. I still cry about it and I constantly blame myself (and everyone else... but mainly myself). I appreciate reading your story because you don't see as many like this. Thanks for sharing - you have given me some strength.

Vanessa said...

Thank you for writing this and sharing. (Btw I found this from O My Family's tweet).
I just visited my friend in the hospital two days ago after her 3rd C-section. HOW baby Naomi was brought into this world made zero difference to me as I held her and marveled at her perfect little eyes and just gazed at her as she peacefully slept in my arms.
Honestly...the hardest part of being a Mother is the part that FOLLOWS the birth. And it's so clear that you love and adore your son. THAT'S what is important.
Beautifully written.

Beana said...

Great post that you tweeted today! I've had three c/s and there is so much stigma attached and emotions to work through. I don't think I'll ever completely get over the disappointment of never giving birth vaginally. But I DO focus on my healthy babies, and that's what matters most.


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