Ever since I was a toddler, I’ve wanted to be a mom. I’d dress up my baby dolls, push them in strollers, and wrap them in blankets—playing “mom” was fun for me. And I couldn’t wait.
So when it finally happened, I started by planning and preparing everything I could for my son’s arrival. Things were going well for my pregnancy—aside from baby boy measuring a tad bit small at routine scans, everything was smooth sailing.
At one of my first appointments with my OB, my doctor asked me what my birth plan was. I explained to him that I definitely wanted to do everything possible to avoid a C-section. I felt like I was being a wimp when it came to avoiding it so adamantly (almost desperately!), but I had done research and read “What to Expect” and just felt very strongly that a C-section would be difficult for me to cope with (I often get woozy just with flu shots. It’s embarrassing).
I read all the articles about how postpartum recovery differs for C-section births, and I would nervously tell my husband all that I had read. One night he stopped me to say, “Rachel, it could happen. You need to accept that a C-section could be the way that it goes.” I heard him, but I didn’t really listen.
When my labor began a few days before the baby’s due date, I felt nothing but excitement. Most of the labor went just fine—and it went even better when I got the epidural.
It was only when my doctor started me on a Pitocin drip that things started to get bumpy. My baby struggled on the Pitocin. His heart rate dropped a few times which resulted in pairs of nurses rushing in and trying to get it to go back up. Each time, he would recover and we would be left alone again.
Later that evening, the nurse checked me and said she could see the baby’s head, and that it was time to start pushing, I turned to my husband and I felt so elated. We were going to meet our baby boy soon!
But then, all of a sudden, a handful of people rushed into the room, an oxygen mask was strapped on me, and the doctor was yelling for the OR to be prepped. Everyone seemed to be yelling and rushing as they wheeled my bed out into the hallway and down to surgery. Getting wheeled into the OR at top speed had been my nightmare, and it was quickly becoming my reality.
When my husband joined me, I told him that the baby was going to be ok, and that I was ok—I had to say it to believe it myself.
My OB got to work quickly. As soon as he started cutting through, I knew something was wrong. “I can feel that,” I said through gritted teeth. My doctor murmured something and then said, “You’ll feel some pressure and tugging, but you won’t feel more than that.” I let him continue for a few more seconds before I yelled, “I can feel everything you’re doing. It hurts!”
My doctor paused and agreed that that was not normal, and the anesthesiologist leaned his head over mine and explained that he was going to increase my drugs to help—but that I might feel a little sick. I focused on my husband’s face and the room started to spin, and then everything went dark.
When I came to, I was still in the OR. I could feel that the doctor was still working on my stomach, but there was less urgency. I realized that he was closing me up, and that I didn’t hear a baby or my husband.
“Where’s my baby?” I asked the nurse. She looked at me surprised. I started to sob, fearing that the worst had happened. I repeatedly asked where my baby and husband were. She tried to calm me and said that the baby was fine, and that they were in another room.
It’s not that I didn’t believe her, but I couldn’t believe that I had missed the birth.
Finally, my husband popped through the door, carting a little bundle of fabric before him. He stopped the bassinet next to me and I looked over to see the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. I felt that he was too beautiful to be mine. I asked if he was healthy and the nurse said that he was perfect.
For the first few weeks, I had a hard time accepting the fact that I don’t remember my baby’s first breath or cry. I don’t remember seeing my husband tear up at the sight of his son. I had placed a lot of trust in my OB, and I felt like my trust had been broken by his efforts to speed up my labor.
I had so wanted a vaginal delivery, I wanted to see my baby’s first breath, and I wanted to be there in the first few seconds of his time on this side of the belly. I didn’t get those things.
My son is now 5 months old, and I still carry a lot of guilt over my son’s birth.
I know that there are many birthing stories much worse than mine. I know that I should be thankful and happy for what happened and the fact that I have a happy, healthy baby in my arms (who am I to complain?) but to be completely honest, it has been difficult to accept.
I have recognized that I am struggling with PTSD surrounding my son’s birth, and with my husband’s help, I am learning to work through it.
It’s natural to have hopes and dreams for ourselves and for our children, to create goals and expectations — and then it’s easy to let our mama hearts become set, focused, dependent on these dreams.
But a mother’s heart is at the same time an amazing, beautiful, resilient place. In any one given day, we can feel so many things — joy, pride, fatigue, love, frustration, thrill, guilt, heartbreak.
In motherhood sometimes our goals, hopes and dreams don’t turn out the way we’d planned, sometimes leaving us racked with guilt that we have failed ourselves and our children. But these types of feelings are only crippling, and will only steal our joy—if we let them.
As I work through these feelings of my own, instead of focusing on the facts of what happened during my son’s birth, I am learning to be grateful for the truth that exists.
The facts are that, yes, I had an emergency C-section and blacked out for the birth of my son.
But the truth is that I was strong, I did everything I could for my baby, and today I have actually become what I have always dreamed of becoming since I was a little girl — a mother— and I wouldn’t change that for the world.