This post is part of an editorial series, “The Stork Stories,” brought to you by the Fort Worth Moms Blog and Texas Health. We hope these pieces provide you with helpful information, encouragement, and answers as you prepare for baby’s arrival.
Two years ago I had a C-section. The results were a beautiful baby boy with a perfectly round head, a small horizontal scar on my lower belly, and to be honest, an unexpected set of emotional scars. You can’t see them by looking. But if you ask me about it, they’ll show up. I still cry when I talk about my experience. I still get emotional and feel a twinge of panic when I think about it.
I was diagnosed with polyhydramnios at 30 weeks. Lots of extra amniotic fluid that could have been linked to a problem with the baby, but thankfully wasn’t. It just was. By 34 weeks, my fundal height was measuring 40 weeks. I was huge. By 38 weeks, I was sore, exhausted, and ready to be carrying a baby in my arms rather than in my womb. But I was healthy. We were getting weekly ultrasounds, and my baby was just fine.
I think my doctor felt sorry for me. That’s all I can figure. He agreed to induce labor at 39 weeks, and let me tell you, I was thrilled — completely naive and thrilled.
But I wasn’t prepared. I really wasn’t. My husband and I had attended a one-day birthing class with a couple of disturbing videos of natural childbirth. I laughed hysterically through the relaxation techniques part of the class. I blame the pregnancy hormones for the giggling, but I learned basically nothing.
I was induced at 6:00 a.m., and throughout the day, there was no progress. No significant contractions. No dilation. No nothing. I ended up with an epidural sometime during the afternoon. My heart rate dropped, and all I could think was that I was going to die. It was a pretty scary moment, and then I felt waves of guilt because my first thought had been for me and not for my unborn baby.
The details of what led up to my 8:00 p.m. C-section are insignificant now, except that nothing was explained in advance. By the time a Cesarean was suggested, I was just ready to have a baby. There was no lengthy consultation. No explanation of how things would play out. Just a doctor’s dubious looks every time she came into the room to check my progress and her obvious belief that my baby wasn’t coming naturally any time soon. She was the expert. I believed her.
The next part is the hard part because my mind was fogged by medication and anxiety. There I was in a room full of strangers. My doctor was one of the few in my practice that I had not yet met. I was lying on my back on an operating table, arms stretched wide and tied down. I was in the most vulnerable position a person can be. The pressure of my giant belly weighed hard on my lungs. I found it hard to catch my breath. As the nurses hustled and busied themselves around me and the medication started flowing, I could not even feel myself breathe. I was numb up to my shoulders. It felt wrong. I felt afraid.
“I can’t feel myself breathe,” I said.
The nurse responded dryly, “I assure you that if you stop breathing, I’ll know about it.” She was no help. I began to cry and ask for my absent husband. I started to throw up. Someone quietly held a small pink plastic tub next to my face. I was grateful.
Finally, they allowed my husband to come in and sit beside my head. Through my tears, I asked him to pray for me, and he did.
I can’t tell you how long it took. I only know that at some point, after a short period of the strangest pulling and tugging, I heard him cry. My son. I finally had a son. A few minutes later, I looked up to my left and I saw him. He was white and waxy, arms and legs spread wide, and he was mad. He was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen, even in that moment.
Healthy baby, healthy mama. According to the doctor, that was all that mattered. She kept repeating it, presumably to make me feel better. Maybe to make her feel better. But I think she was wrong.
I am thankful for that healthy baby and for the fact that my body recovered with no serious complications. But I was, am, emotionally changed by that experience. I have fear when I think about childbirth of any kind. I am halfway through my second pregnancy, and I have no idea what kind of birthing experience I would like to have this time around. I have read so much and consulted with my midwives. I am still anxious. I feel a little bit of failure. I still feel the pain of those scary moments.
But I read these words by Gretchen Humphries, a coordinator for the International Cesarean Awareness Network, and I was encouraged. I will find my answers. I will work through these questions. I will go into this birthing experience a little wiser, more sure of what to expect. I may not be confident today, but I will be. Don’t worry. I will be.
“I also promise that as you do embrace your pain, your feelings of failure, you will find something strong and fine on the other side. I don’t know what that something will be; I just know it will be there. It’s the cycle of our lives. We come and we go and we come again but we are never exactly the same.” –Gretchen Humphries