Childbirth has been on my mind a lot lately. Not because it’s anywhere in my near future, obviously, but because I have a couple of close IF friends who are nearing their due dates with their second babies and my two SILs who are pregnant. It seems the talk on birth is everywhere I turn – at family gatherings, Twitter, Facebook. Birth plans and birth preferences. It’s all made me realize that I’m still tore up emotionally about how everything with Leopold’s birth went. Salt in still open wounds. I’m trying to work on having more peace about it, but it’s not coming easily.
After Leopold was born, I wrote out his birth story with tears rolling down my face. His birth didn’t go anywhere close to how I wanted it to. I wanted an unmedicated, vaginal birth and what I got was a failed induction and a c-section. But I felt too grateful to just have a live, perfect, healthy child and I felt that whatever my experience, I should just be happy. Champagne problems, right? The unwanted c-section that delivered a totally healthy baby boy. I thought surely with time those tough moments would very much fade into the background and all that is important is that he’s here. He’s healthy. He’s amazing. And he is, but those wounds, man. They’re still there.
Flashback for a bit: when I was finally adequately pregnant with Leopold, I started researching how I wanted him to come into this world. I read quite a few books on the subject and C and I took classes at the local hospital. Ideally, I wanted an un-medicated vaginal birth, my Mom had four and I felt I could manage the same. I hoped with all hope that I would go into labor at home, labor in the early stages there, then head on over to the hospital. My OB told me around 32 weeks that she wouldn’t let me go a day past my due date due to my hypothyroidism. I was upset, but I didn’t want to challenge her on it or switch doctors. She was extremely cautious with me due to my history and said something along the lines of “I’m going to be pretty cautious with you, we need to get this baby out safely.” Of course I was glad she was concerned about the safety of my child, but it also scared the crap out of me and made me trust in my body even less. Fast forward to 39 weeks. I had done everything I knew to get labor going but I was hardly dilated. We decided to move forward with and induction given the estimated size of the baby (at least 9 pounds at that point) and the fact that I was showing zero signs of progress. I didn’t like any of my options then – wait, perhaps get no further as far as progress goes, and be induced with an even bigger baby at 40 weeks, or go for the earlier induction with a smaller baby.
Another factor going into this? Pregnancy was an anxiety ridden thing for this multiple loss and infertile woman. Having that much daily faith in my body was difficult for me. I got to a point where I just wanted my baby in my arms, alive sooner rather than later. As much as I tried to push away those hypotheticals, I knew too well all of the heartbreaking stories that can and have happened from being a member of this community. We went ahead with an induction at 39 weeks and 1 day. Given our situation, we felt it was our best bet at having a vaginal birth. It wasn’t what I wanted to happen, but I felt it was the best of the options we had. I had tried all of the ways to get labor going – I stuck primrose oil capsules up my lady bits, we had sex, I went for long walks, I ate a lot of spicy food, all to no avail. The induction did not go as planned. I was given cervidil the evening I checked in to ripen my cervix and pitocin the next morning, I labored and contracted irregularly throughout the day without meds from 11 pm one night until about 6 pm the next day. I was in a lot of pain, but unable to move from my bed at that point. I couldn’t cope anymore and I was barely making any progress sans epidural, so I got it. I hoped with all hope that maaaaybe if I relaxed with the epidural, I would make some progress. Noooope, nada. By 11:30 pm, Leopold had hardly dropped and I was dilated to maaaaaybe 3 cms. His heart rate was dropping sporadically. The doctor said we were making very little progress, I could wait until it became an emergency, or I could opt for a c-section at that point, but there was very little hope for a vaginal birth at that point. I was upset, but I felt helpless.
All I wanted at that point was my baby, healthy, in my arms. During the operation, no one told me what was going on. I could feel tugging and pulling, I felt like a vessel and not a human. Baby Leopold was born via c-section at 11:51 pm, weighing in at 9 pounds 5 ounces and 22 inches long. As soon as he was brought to me, he attempted to latch onto my nose. He was healthy. I was in love. Then I had to wait what felt like an eternity to hold him while I got stitched up. My heart was aching. If I hadn’t had a c-section I could be cuddling my baby right now. I had a lot of fears – he wasn’t close to my chest and nursing yet, what did this mean for our breast feeding relationship, bonding, etc. I wanted to meet him to hold him and instead I was in a recovery room, shaking violently from the medication while a nurse typed on a computer. IT SUCKED.
I’m so incredibly grateful that he is here and he is healthy, please don’t think that being scarred from the birth experience doesn’t make me any less overwhelmingly grateful. I do know how lucky I am to have a child, I do. But I still hurt that I didn’t get to go through the kind of birth I wanted to, and I can’t really explain why it was so important to me. I kind of wish it wasn’t, I wish i could let it all go. I’ve tried to. I’ve tried to pretend I don’t care that I had a c-section, all that matters is that he is here. But, even nearly 20 months later? It stings when I hear birth plans that I wanted and didn’t even come close to having. Or birth stories that sound lovely and peaceful while mine wasn’t. It hurts when I hear judgement about inductions when I did just that with Leopold for a variety of reasons that I felt were valid, though I knew they were a gamble and each intervention got me closer to a c-section. I felt I was between a rock and a hard place and didn’t have much of a choice. Fear ruled my decisions, I know this. I was tired of fighting for a child. I didn’t trust my body, how could I, after three years of fighting for a child and two losses? If this doctor didn’t trust it either, how could I? I certainly wasn’t in any mindset to fight her on it.
All of these feelings came to a head when I was my family on Christmas eve. (If you follow me on twitter, you might know a bit of the story). My brother’s wife was pretty pregnant, she’s due in late February. My brother and my SIL have been going to hynobabies childbirth classes. My bro was talking about what it was with my Dad and me and how it worked a few times over the night, then started questioning me about how our birth unfolded and how we led to c-section. He interjected a time or two about “if you weren’t induced, everything would have gone fine.” And later, he made a comment that babies who were came into the world via c-section “weren’t born, but surgically removed from the uterus.” It really pissed me off. Are we not allowed to celebrate Leopold’s birthday because he was born via c-section? REALLY? Would he say this about his own child if things didn’t go as planned for his daughter’s birth? I was up half the night pissed off about it an feeling very judged and less than.
I did my best with the information I had available and the situation I was in. I did. But I hate that the fact that I had a c-section makes me feel less than. It’s another layer of loss of womanhood on top of my infertility, my body wasn’t good enough. My body didn’t get the memo that it was time to have a baby. I am not strong enough or woman enough to have given birth to a child vaginally. I didn’t get to have the unmedicated birth I wished for while women around me left and right are popping them out without issue. Or being induced – just as I was – and having babies vaginally without issue. But not me, of course not me. I’m the exception.
I don’t know if I did of anything better with Leopold. I don’t know if I would have fought to be induced instead at 41 weeks if I would have any luck birthing a 10 plus pound baby. (and no, I don’t think I would have gone into labor on my own before then.) I am in the minority when other woman talk about their birthing experiences just like their TTC experience. I hate that I feel so inadequate that I simply can’t relate to many people’s stories. I hate that I keep my mouth shut to pregnant women because I don’t want to scare them about the birth experience.
It still hurts today and I wish I could make it go away. I wish that other people’s birth experiences and birth plans didn’t grate my self-worth like it does. I truly want every woman to have the birth that they desire.
I just wanted that for myself too.