I was the pregnant woman all the other pregnant women love to hate. Not a stitch of morning sickness, perfect weight gain, a little basketball belly. I wondered at every flutter and kick and eagerly awaited each doctor’s appointment. Textbooks could have used me as their poster child.
When the Birth of My Child Meant the Death of My Dream
I read the books and took the classes and was prepared for birth as much as any first time parent can be. Given my fairly laid back personality, my birth plan was simple: Have a baby. I didn’t have strong feelings about whether or not to do it naturally or with the aid of an epidural, so I went into labor with the notion that I would play it by ear.
I did, however, have a dream of how my pregnancy would end. Whether numbed or feeling every pain, I would give one strong, final push to release my baby into the world. I would hear his sweet cry and they would lay him on my chest, face to face for the very first time. This was the way I’d always imagined it, since before I even knew I was expecting. Something about that moment was magical. It was the moment that always made me cry while watching A Baby Story. It was the moment, more than any other, that I knew I would remember for eternity.
When labor began exactly the way it should, I assumed my textbook run would continue. So when I found myself being wheeled towards the OR 12 hours later, my baby’s heart rate plummeting with each contraction, and medical personnel rushing to prepare me for an emergency c-section, I was shell shocked. As we hurried down the hall, doctor walking beside me, I half asked, half begged him, “Can I have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) for my next baby?”
In hindsight, it seems silly, asking about the next baby before I’d even birthed the first, but that dream was so strong and disappeared so suddenly, I had to grasp at whatever I could to keep it alive.
Before I knew it, my son was born, healthy and whole. I fell deeply in love the moment I heard his cry. I was immensely grateful for the team who not only detected that my baby was in distress, but who also had the expertise to deliver him safely.
But I also felt cheated.
My plan, my dream, had not materialized. That magical moment I’d been waiting so long for had been lost. And so, although I didn’t realize it at the time, I began the mourning process. Two more c-sections occurred before I finally came to terms with the fact that I would never deliver a baby the way I’d always dreamed.
Some may think I’m ridiculous. Perhaps they’re right. I have three healthy children after all. Mourning the fact that I didn’t deliver vaginally seems trite compared to those who have lost a child in birth or who can’t conceive at all.
Others may think I have a problem with cesarean deliveries, something akin to the craziness being spread a few weeks ago that women who give birth via c-section aren’t real mothers at all. Honestly, until I saw that foolishness spreading on Facebook, I didn’t know such people even existed. If you are a woman with a child, you are a mother, regardless of how that child came into the world.
Today, I do not write for either of those groups. Today, I write for the woman whose birth didn’t go according to plan. For the woman who finds herself mourning something she didn’t know she could lose. For the woman who feels guilty for feeling as though she’s lost something even while she holds her greatest gift in her arms.
To that woman I say: It’s okay. Let yourself feel those things. Let yourself mourn. And then, let your experience shape you into the woman you want to be.
The birth of my child was the death of my dream, but it also taught me one of my greatest lessons; one that I’ve learned over and over again since then. Motherhood is a fragile balancing act between having a plan and being prepared to throw that plan out the window when life intervenes.
I may not have gotten the birth of my dreams, but I did get the life of my dreams; one filled with excitement, joy, and more love than I ever imagined possible.
That could be the cutest baby picture ever! And I had no idea women who had c-sections felt this way. It’s not trivial if it’s important to you. But we all have to let go of our plans and just let life happen right?
Yes! That’s exactly it!
The Imp says
I understand. My first was a csection, and that was a hard thing, emotionally and physically. I *have* been lucky enough to have VBACs after, but there’s a whole schmozzle of things that go with a cscection that nobody warns you about. And there are those who dismiss you with, “Be glad the baby’s healthy, that’s all that matters!” and you feel like a jerk, because while that’s true, it’s also true that you’re mourning.
Exactly! I’m not one to wallow in self-pity, but I also think that the ‘get over it’ attitude has made a lot of women feel guilty for their feelings and probably in some cases has contributed to further problems, like PPD. I just want other women to know they aren’t the only ones who have experienced those feelings and that it’s okay for them to have them.
My first was a medically necessary, semi-scheduled c-section. We knew at 24 weeks that we were doing a c-section due to a cord issue. I immediately started asking about a VBAC. For #2 I even traveled an hour away for my OB visits so I could have my VBAC. Unfortunately there were problems and I had to deliver at the hospital with the better NICU and by emergency c-section at 34 weeks. Now I’ve been told I’ll never have a VBAC and if we have another baby they’ll deliver before 36 weeks. I’m okay with it, but not okay with it at the same time. I realize it is for the best, but I am mourning that loss at the same time.
It definitely takes time. It wasn’t something I thought about or mourned constantly, but it definitely popped up now and then. I think after we had our third and we knew she was our last, I finally let myself ‘get over it’, for lack of a better term.
As a first time Mom whose first question was also, ‘Am I a candidate for VBAC?’ Did you attempt VBAC the second time? What were your reasons?
My doctor came into my hospital room the day after I had my first, sat down, and we talked about it because he knew it was heavy on my mind. Due to a variety of circumstances (including policy and malpractice concerns), at that point my doctor couldn’t do vbacs. If I had been really set on one, I could have switched doctors and/or hospitals, but when the time came to have our second, I decided to stay with the doctor I knew and trusted and the hospital that I knew had the staff and equipment to take care of me and the baby if anything went awry.
Every doctor and hospital has different policies on VBACs so I would definitely talk to your doctor about it and decide what the best decision for you and your next baby is.
tove Maren says
beautifully written. I had four c sections, but I always knew that was the plan. It’s true – allow yourself to mourn – that’s essential for any healing
It’s so hard when things don’t turn out as we planned. I think mourning that loss and recognizing it can only help.
I agree. The sooner we’re willing to recognize our feelings, the sooner we can work through them.
Susanne/The Dusty Parachute says
Such a wonderful post. I think that very few births do go according to plan. Those articles about c-sections that were going around were disgusting. Fortunately they were so crazy that no one can take them seriously, but I’m glad that your post is out there in the world to counteract the crazy.
Ann Alford says
i know I will probably get some nasty notes but I feel that this is very condescending and inconsiderate to those of us that have lost children because our doctors failed to do c-sections. You make not having a vaginal delivery a life altering experience. I have had both. What is life altering is the death of your child. What is life altering is the devastation this takes on your family. What is life altering is those women who desperately want children and can’t have them. I am so grateful that c-section was available when I had my second daughter because she is alive. I am so grateful that c-section was available for my daughter to deliver my grandson safely. So, please reconsider how the birth of your child was the death of your dreams. Please consider all those who aren’t fortunate to have what you have, healthy, thriving children who wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for a c-section. Vaginal birth would have been the death of your child. You are so fortunate that you did not experience that pain.
Ann, I am so so sorry for your loss. I can’t think of anything more heartbreaking than the death of a child. I apologize that I offended you and I hope you know it was not intentional. I am thankful every day for the c-sections that enabled me to give birth to healthy children. If faced with the same situation 100 times, I would choose the c-section 100 times.
My point in saying that it was the death of my dream (not dreams) was that I pictured things going a certain way, had read the books that told you to have a birth plan, and was very caught off guard when my plan fell through. The books don’t tell you that birth plans don’t usually go the way you want them to. So what I meant was that it was the death of my dream of a ‘perfect’ birth. I know that many many women have had similar experiences to mine, but because we end up with healthy babies we feel guilty for feeling disappointment over the way things went. Because of the guilt, no one talks about those feelings which only leads to more feelings of guilt because ‘surely I must be the only one who ever felt that way’. When I wrote this post its intent was to reach out to those women so they would know they are not alone and it’s not wrong to feel those feelings.
When I decided on a title, I honestly thought that most people would think I meant that I had to give up on my career aspirations. In the future I’ll be more careful to consider all the situations people might come from when they read my posts.
Thank you for having the courage to comment and for doing so in a kind way. I’ve gotten some rather… unfriendly… comments, so I appreciate when someone can disagree with me without attacking me.