I actually haven’t really spoken about my birth story much throughout the last two years. I think partly because it seems like such a distant haze, but also because I have such a visceral post-traumatic reaction to the whole thing. It was not my perfect birth plan. Not even close. If anything it was everything that I didn’t want and I carried the weight with me for quite a while. A little thorn in my side that irritates me when my mind wanders to that date. The date that was meant to be the best day of my life, and yet I was left drugged, scared and confused. I’ve decided to talk about it here, on my blog because, in a way, it is a cathartic experience to verbalize something that pains you. If this post helps at least one mother who has experienced anything like what I went through and feels some sense of peace and that they are not alone, then my job is done.
October 8th, 2013 my husband and I packed our bags for the hospital. Beyond overwhelmed, ecstatic and ignorantly ready to be parents. (I say that because a first time parent is completely ill-equipped for this next phase of their life. No book, having a niece, or class can ever prepare you for what is about to come. “What to expect when you’re expecting”? Puhleseeee!) Believe me. My child was 10 pounds (you heard me), chord wrapped around her neck (which we didn’t know at the time) and breech (the wrong way), I knew there was no other choice than to have a Caesarean.
Now, let me rewind to two weeks prior when we heard this news. I was waiting patiently in the OB office (which all you moms out there know can be hours, so patience really is a virtue) ready for my last check up before meeting my beautiful, perfect daughter. I had done it all. Done everything “correctly”; I didn’t drink, ate well, exercised, went to yoga and had read every birthing book. I attended 12 hypnobirthing classes, hired a doula to work with us and I was adamant that I was absolutely having no drugs (which was very in sync with the motto of our household). We were very seriously considering a home birth or a birthing centre. Every sign around me led to books like “Birthing Without Fear” where having a “real” vaginal birth is what we were destined to do as a woman, as creators. Images, like Kourtney Kardashian (yes, I saw the episode) where she heroically pulls her child from inside her out into the world like a primal animal and Gisele talking about how her drugless birth was pain free. So, as you can imagine when I heard the words “Tammin, I’m sad to say that there is no way you are going to give natural birth to this child and we have you scheduled for a C-section next week”, my world came crashing down. I felt like I had completely failed. I felt that because I couldn’t have a vaginal birth for my child, I was not a woman. I was just a vessel. I began to mourn my failure and loss. This was not my birth plan.
My husband and I waited before we went into the operating room (operating because it’s a major “operation”- no one really lingers on that part.) I remember vividly when I left him and walked into the freezing room. It was sterile. It was confusing and it was foreign. It hit me like a ton of bricks that I was alone. I was alone in this. This was not the warm image I had in my head with family around me, candles lit and my doula chanting some exciting words of encouragement. It was not where I thought my baby, the baby that I had created in an internal environment that was safe, would enter. And I was scared.
I was told not to move a muscle, which was hard because I couldn’t stop trembling. They injected a needle the size of my arm into my spine. Immediately my body reacted. My body reacted like it had been taken over by an invader, a poison and I began to shake. I started going in and out of consciousness and screamed for my husband. “Something’s wrong, something’s wrong”. I was quite forcefully pushed down on the steel metal table and told I was fine. Then they went to work. At some point my husband was able to join me but I was so confused and scared and unaware of much that was happening. A few things I do remember; the smell of my flesh as they cut me open, like burnt rubber. I think I’ll remember that for the rest of my life. I also remember the aggressive pressure and pulling that ravished my body. The words “chords around her neck” stated in a medical tone. And lastly I remember that scream. That scream when she entered the world. That piercing scream that jolts your core. It is so primal that you would kill anything to protect it. And it kept going. The scream kept entering the room and I was not allowed to comfort her. The feeling of not touching your child after you first meet them is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s a physical pain, anguish, a sense of loss. A loss because you’ll never get that moment back when your child first sees the world, a world you are not in.
After 15 excruciating minutes my child was placed on my chest. I remember the moment like it was yesterday. Even though I was in such a haze from the heavy drugs nothing can prepare you for the first moment you meet your child. I kissed her lips and I looked at her face and I knew her. It’s such a surreal thing but I just knew her my whole life. She had been inside me. Inside my thoughts, inside my goals, my dreams – she was a part of it all. She walked with me throughout it all. And at that exact moment I let go of every “should” I had been tightly clenched to through my whole pregnancy. I “birthed” my child. Believe me, I birthed her. Just because she entered the world in a way I wasn’t prepared for, I will not succumb to the belief that it wasn’t the “correct” way. It was her “correct” way and us Mothers should never live in any ounce of shame that our birth plan was the wrong one.
Today my child is two years old. She’s thriving, she’s strong, she’s feisty. She’s perfect. I look at her and I’m so thankful that in a first world country we are able to give birth in many different, beautiful, and safe ways. I don’t know if my daughter, Phoenix would be here if I had fought to have “my perfect birth plan”. She had the chord around her neck twice and being breech she would not have descended. I’m thankful. Not for my traumatic experience, but for the medical means that intervene to save babies and mothers.
I’m not sure what will happen with my next child but one thing I know for sure, I’ll let go of every steadfast belief I have on birth and I will enter into my birthing experience with the fluidity to change. The process of birth is not always a fun one, but the product is undeniably worth it.