What do I remember about that moment? I still ask myself, nearly five years later.
I remember a deep sense of sadness.
I remember a disappointment so acute it left me without words.
I remember wanting to scream–actually wanting to cry first, then scream.
I remember feeling like a failure.
We’re going to have to do a C-section, the doctor said.
It’s that moment where, after laboring for 32 hours, I tilt my head upward, confused and deliriously tired, to look at my husband, who’s at my side. I want confirmation that I heard the doctor correctly. He nods.
In those hours, I had gone from progressing to pushing… all to wind up here. In the very spot I didn’t want to be. The only place, I told myself, where if I worked hard enough, I wouldn’t be.
I wanted to beg the doctor for one more hour—one more minute, even—of pushing. I wanted this to turn out in the way I wanted.
But all I did was force myself to calm down, gather my thoughts, and say, “Okay.”
I chose to let it be okay, even though every part of my soul wanted to fight it.
I thought about all the times in my life I used my words to get what I wanted—the times I flung words out of frustration; the times I debated and devil’s advocate-d my way through discussions to end up in the exact spot I wanted to be in; the times I cajoled and convinced and verbal-ninja’d my way into or out of any given outcome. But one thing was clear in this instance; no number of words were going to change what was best for me and my baby.
So I put on my damn big girl pants and trusted my wonderful doctor. And I made the choice to be okay.
Now that I look back, I realize I learned the Cardinal Rule of Motherhood that I actually before my child was even born: What we want sometimes doesn’t matter.
It took me a long time to admit to myself that I actually had to mourn my first delivery. I didn’t want to seem shallow and I thought admitting that disappointment made me so. But when I reflected on my labor and delivery in those first few weeks postpartum, I felt angry.
Over and over again, I played a fictional loop in my mind of a labor and delivery that never was. In my mind’s eye, I watched myself take my new baby—still bloody and wailing—from my waist to lay on my chest, and cried.
I asked myself questions–so many questions–about how I ended up “there.” Having a baby “the easy way.”
What could I have done differently?
What went wrong?
Then came the stage where I turned outward for answers. I reached out to other women I knew who had emergency c-sections. And I pelted them with questions:
Were you disappointed?
How long did it take you to heal? No, I don’t mean physically.
Are you upset you had to have one?
And then–as lessons of this sort go–I moved on. Eventually I accepted the very beautiful, very unique, way my son was born. I owned my story, my struggle, and today I take more pride than I ever thought I would in our birth story. And here’s what I took away: I’m proud.
I was strong–physically and emotionally. I adapted. I asked more of my body than I ever thought it could do, and my body and I made it through. And after all of that, I listened to the person who knew best, the person whose goal it was to get my baby into this world safely, and I trusted her–my doctor. And she delivered–literally and figuratively.
And now that I have the benefit of hindsight, I see that what I thought at the time was a massive disappointment was actually a major victory, because of one simple thing: I made a choice to be okay.
It was that simple: Being okay was a choice.
And I’ve made that same choice in other difficult circumstances many times since then.
When my son is old enough to understand, I will tell him that I fought to get him here. That I spent 34 hours of laboring, pushing and pain to get him safely into the world. And I will tell him that even though my plan didn’t go as planned, it still turned out perfectly–exactly the way it should have been, dare I say.
And I will always be grateful to my son for the lesson he never intended to teach me–a lesson I’m certain countless mamas get every day, against their will, too.
So let me tell you this, fellow C-section moms: You are strong. You looked difficulty in the face, faced it, and you marched on. Silently, fighting, however you did it? You did it. And you have your beautiful baby to show for all your work, and to thank for making you someone stronger than you ever thought you could be.
Every birth story is special. I’d love to hear more about yours, too. Please chime in in Comments below!