I read a couple of birthing books before I wrote my birth plan, and I took away a few of things:
-Epidurals are to be avoided
-Cesarean sections are to be avoided
-Natural births are the way to go
Well, guess what? I had an epidural, got a C-section, and threw away the dream of having a natural birth.
My goal in this post is to help encourage us as women to open our minds to see the bigger picture of childbirth and how our stories can be beautiful- even difficult ones.
I’ve witnessed many women sharing their birth stories in person and read posts online about feeling like a failure for having a c-section or needing to get an epidural. I totally get it. I was there. I knew the stats and facts about why getting induced is harmful to the birthing process, how an epidural slows down birthing, and why C-sections are so hard on mom and baby. I was my own advocate. I had read as much research and findings as I could, hired amazing midwives, and still- my birth plan was essentially ignored.
One of my favorite books was a book called Birthing from Within. In the book, many women shared their birth stories. Some experienced elation from childbirth, some extreme disappointment, some even trauma. The book stated helped me to realize that my story, however it turned out, is one to be celebrated, shared, and to feel gratitude.
I also once heard a woman tell me (and I wish I could remember whom shared this with me), that a birth plan is like a battle plan. It is good to go in with a plan, to train for the big day, to be my own advocate, and to try with all my heart to fight for our lives the best way I know possible. However, like a battle, I had one purpose and one purpose alone: for both me and baby to come out alive. In the end, that was all that really mattered. Having a plan was essential and important, but it was equally important to throw the plan away (and my pride) if need be and willing to listen to a back up plan if things got all out of sorts.
With the hope and strength I gained from that book, along with some wisdom I had heard from that woman, I felt so much peace going into birth. I knew I needed to stand up for myself and be my own strong voice throughout the process, to question and think critically- but in the end, surrender to how my body would deal with the mystery of childbirth.
My body did very poorly. Truth be told, if modern medicine and C-sections did not exist, I admit I probably would not be here today. I am certain my daughter would not. I ended up in labor over 32 hours, at which point I stopped dilating. I got an infection and a fever, starting vomiting beyond control (with no food in my system whatsoever), and pretty much was out of it for a long time. My daughter’s heart rate dropped and they found meconium in the amniotic fluid. I had an emergency C-section. There was nothing I could do to stop it, nothing I could have done to prevent it. It happened so fast, so out of my control, and was so scary.
Yet, I don’t want to scare any woman, because as soon as my daughter was lifted out of me I felt nothing but joy. I remember thinking in that moment, “Yes, now I get it, I would do this again in a heartbeat.” The pain, the fear- all of it evaporated. This sounds completely crazy, but it was the most beautiful and fantastic adventure I have ever experienced. My daughter and I- we made it alive! Yes, we were almost defeated, I felt crushed at certain moments, certainty wavered, failure seemed inevitable- yet here we were- ALIVE together!
The next few days I pondered it all. I had come to realize my goals of having my “dream birth” did not happen. Yet, in light of all that had transpired, I wonder if my dream birth really did come true. Whereas before I viewed C-sections with such scrutiny and criticism, I now felt so thankful that there was a surgical procedure to save our lives in a sterile and safe environment. I felt so thankful for the hospital staff who had labored alongside me with such compassion and care, and above all, for my husband and sister who never took their loving eyes off me and who were my great support while I was in need.
If you are a mother-to-be, I encourage you to look forward to the process with joy. It may not happen the way you want it to, but know that as soon as you hear that baby crying your heart will be stilled and filled with so much love!
There is so much pressure on us as women to do things a certain way. Yet, I hope other mother’s can let go if they feel like a failure or a disappointment over the birthing process. There are so many uncontrollable factors that go into it- all you can really do is try your best to be your own advocate, choose healthcare providers that will share your beliefs and goals, and set your eyes on one precious prize: to have a healthy baby.
Our stories and journey’s are all so different and so beautiful. Just like our babies. I firmly believe there is no “one right way” to have a baby, because each birth story is a beautiful journey and story of love between a mother and her child.
I am aware that some women have experienced great loss during childbirth, and know a few who have. My heart goes out to you if you have ever experienced loss in the birthing process.
Did your birth story happen the way you wanted it to? What beautiful “moments” do you recall during your birthing journey? How do you feel about the process now, in retrospect? Have you learned anything you want to share with all of us?
Birthing books that are highly recommended:
Pushed by Jennifer Block
Childbirth without fear by Grantly Dick-Read
Natural childbirth the Bradley way by Susan McCutcheon