“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” -Translated from “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns
I never expected to have a c-section (let alone two of them for that matter.) It was not a part of my carefully planned and neatly typed birth plan.
My husband and I had attended birthing classes and I even took a course on breastfeeding. I did research and read an endless number of articles about what to pack in my hospital bag, how to manage labor pain, how to make your own at “padsicles” at home, and I talked to friends about their birth experiences. I knew the “Top 10 Things No One Tells You About Giving Birth!” spoiler alert, number 1 is always that there is a very good chance you will poop while giving birth. I came from a medical background, I had worked in a hospital, assisted in surgeries as a surgical tech and had even been present for births and c-sections while in my clinical internship. I was ready. At least I thought I was.
It seems silly to me now that I never gave any real thought to the idea that I would have a c-section. In my obsessive-compulsive planning for the birth of my first son I had prepared for everything except that. It was a possibility, of course, but one that I waved away like those side effects they list at the end of medication advertisements.
“That won’t happen to me.” I assured myself.
My reasoning? No one in my family had had a c-section, so why would I? My own Rock Star momma had 3 very “normal” uncomplicated, natural vaginal births. Prior to the birth of my son, my older sister also had 2 very “normal” uncomplicated, natural births. Why would I be any different?
It was so incredibly naïve of me to think that I would be the same. No two people are alike and by that fact alone, no two people enter this world in the same way. It seems so clear to me now- thank goodness for that clarity because that hindsight was a blessing when I prepared for my second son. That is motherhood (parenting) in a nutshell. You have no idea what you don’t know until you know that you don’t know it. You can read all the books and make all the plans, but life often has other ideas.
“The best-laid plans of mice and men…”
I won’t get into all of the details of why I had a c-section because honestly, they don’t matter at this point. What’s done is done and I cannot change any of it. The long and short of it is that when my first son was born an emergent (not emergency, I’ll explain in a moment) c-section was preformed after a “failed induction.” Now, emergent means that though my life and the life of my child were not in immediate danger, the situation needed to be resolved quickly to ensure that this did not become an emergency situation.
Though I had a happy outcome, the birth of my beautiful son, the ordeal that my son’s birth had become, left me with more scars than just the one on my belly.
AJ’s birth was a traumatic experience fueled by the feeling that I was not in control of anything that was happening. For a Type A personality like me, control is everything, when you take away that power, fear and anxiety take up residence. I was terrified and angry, so very angry that my body simply “would not do what it was supposed to do.” I had been so determined that my husband and I could do this on our own, that this would be an empowering and special moment for us as a couple and as parents. I never stopped to consider that things would not go according to plan and that we would both need extra support. Instead of feeling empowered, I pushed away those closest to us who could have helped support through the events of that day. More than likely I would have still needed to have a c-section but had I approached the day with a different mindset we could have had a much better experience.
My long, strenuous labor and the actual surgery left me absolutely spent. I had reached a level of exhaustion I did not realize was possible. On top of the exhaustion, I had expected pure euphoria after my son’s birth. Wasn’t the whole room supposed to have a rosy glow? Where was the joy and what was wrong with me that I didn’t feel it?
Even after I had been handed my beautiful baby, I was still reeling from the day’s events. All my feelings of disappointment and shame over not having the “perfect natural birth” mingled with my joy of becoming a mother. I had expected all the negativity to just melt away once he was in my arms, but it didn’t. Instead of having a rosy glow the day had an ominous cloud hanging over it, one that I would become very well acquainted with in the coming months as my post-partum depression took root. I truly was overjoyed that I had finally become a mother, I was holding my sweet baby and counting his little toes but I also mourned for the birth that I had dreamt about.
Even now, I can still feel a guilty tugging at my heart when think about how I felt that day in comparison to how I think I should have felt. I felt like less of a woman and less of a mother because I had “not really given birth.” I felt like a failure. “You failed,” sang in my head like chorus while the internet trolls joined in with their own nasty lyrics, “easy way out,” “should have tried harder,” “didn’t actually give birth.” Online Mom groups that I visited for support were rife with negativity and judgement. I was too scared to seek out other moms in real life, fearing they would hold the same opinion.
I want to pause and take a moment to say this because it is truly the most important piece of information in this post and it is something that I am still working to fully realize, whether you have/had a natural birth, induction, c-section, or any possible combination of them YOU ARE A MOTHER, YOU ARE ENOUGH, and you most certainly did not take the “easy way out” by having a c-section, induction, an epidural or using pain medication. Trust me, there is nothing “easy” about recovering from a c-section or about being a parent for that matter my oldest is now 2 and half and some days are still just about surviving until bedtime.
There are people out there who like to act as if having a child a certain way earns you extra credit and that any other way is simply wrong. Don’t buy into that. You can have a beautiful birth and have it be a c-section or an induction; it can be at home, in a hospital, or in a pool or in a box or with a fox etc. What makes the difference is the mindset that you go into it with and the support you have around you.
I am a planner, “Hello, I’m Type A have we met?” so when we found out we were expecting for the second time, I started planning, again. This time I was determined to have a better experience. I did not want to be scared or make fear based choices. I wanted everything to be different; in my hyper organized mind a better plan meant a better outcome. This isn’t exactly how things worked out BUT all my planning and prepping was not done so in vain. Though I still had a c-section the second time instead of the VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) that I had so desperately wanted, I had/have gotten myself to a much healthier frame of mind which has allowed me to coup with my feelings instead of being consumed by them.
It was an incredible amount of self-work and took a lot of support to get me into a healthier mindset, so much so that I feel that it deserves its own narrative where I can really break down what I did and who helped me. (For the record, I’m not “cured” I still see a counselor because motherhood is hard and I am a work in progress.) Though I was still sacred and anxious, I had one Hell of a panic attack before it was time to go, I felt better prepared because I had confronted my feelings and fears about that day BEFORE it arrived instead of having to sort through that mess of emotions on the way to the operating room.
I truly feel that this made all the difference.
When that long awaited moment arrived and the doctor announced that my little one was “here” and I heard that tiny little cry, I was so very present in that moment. It could not have been more perfect. It didn’t matter that I was in an operating room instead of a delivery room; I was there in that moment with my husband as we welcomed Hudson into our lives.
That is what I mean when I say that you can have a beautiful birth experience even if you have a c-section or an induction, if you can be present in your joy, that’s where you’ll find the beauty. You can’t plan out your entire birth from start to finish; it doesn’t work that way. You are setting yourself up for a huge disappoint that can leave a stain on the entire experience if you try to. What you can do is consider the “what if’s,” confront them, and move on. If you are able unburden yourself of the anxieties surrounding your little one’s birth before they make their grand entrance then when that moment arrives and they are in your arms you can be fully present inside of lost in your own head.
When I look back at the birth of my first son, my only regret is that I let myself get in my own way. I let my head tell my heart what it should be feeling instead of the other way around. I still have some guilt over it and probably always will but it no longer plunges me into the throws of depression. It is an incredibly bitter pill for this Type A planner to swallow that no matter how much you plan for something, control is more or less an illusion.
We can’t make the universe yield to our will or control what happens to us but we CAN control how we react to what the universe doles out. So go ahead and make your plans but do not be shocked and shaken if the fates have something else in mind.