I originally posted my son’s birth story shortly after he was born. I’ve wanted to rewrite it from the perspective of my own journey for quite some time. Finally, two years since that journey began, here it is. This is my story—of a pregnancy that didn’t go as I’d imagined, a birthing experience so counter to my dreams that it crushed my spirit… and of a healing deeper and more magical than I could ever have conceived. My son’s place in the story is secondary to my own. This is intentional, although he is—and has been since I conceived him—central to my life, my being. But it was my Self that was wounded. So this is my story of my journey away from, and back into, my Self.
Pregnancy wasn’t what I’d been expecting it to be. I’d always imagined I’d barely blink—that my body, solid as it is, was built for it, and I’d breeze thru pregnancy with a hearty laugh and a glow. It was going to be wonderful.
Instead, it knocked me sideways, upside down, inside out, and any other completely-out-of-myself phrase you can think of. I was exhausted. Drained. And just not “me.” I felt constantly nauseated, continually tired. Then, I had migraines… oh, about every other day. I wasn’t “excited” to be pregnant. I didn’t want to tell people, because I knew I’d cry if they said “Oh! How exciting! Aren’t you thrilled?!” I was thrilled—in a deep, intimate, and spiritual way… not the externally exuberant way I was familiar with—but I certainly didn’t have the energy to express it.
So I went inward. I withdrew almost completely into my belly… it was as if my true Self spent those nine months inside me with the baby, leaving my external self on her own. My calm, my center, my solace—was definitely in my belly. I felt this amazing energy from within, taking my body over… all my being, all my Self-ness went to the baby. I think I might have resented it if I’d had the energy, but fortunately, I didn’t. I did feel disoriented and distanced from others, though. I had expected to connect with the women in my life more, but instead I felt distanced from them. I was grateful to be so ill that I had to cut to part-time and work from home, so that I could escape—even though it meant losing the best parts of my job. I holed myself up with the babe and nestled in.
One thing I comforted myself with was that the Birthing Experience I was planning was going to be so splendid, so magical, so healing, my total goddess moment… and that would be so powerful that it would wash clean not just the disappointment and exhaustion and un-self-ness of the nine months of making the baby—but also all the disappointments I’d suffered over the past years… failing at grad school, losing the potential for my dream job…. Birthing my baby was going to wipe it all clean, allow me to start anew. I was so excited for that experience. I’d found the perfect place, a wonderful birthing place with three amazing midwives with whom I felt so comfortable, so safe, so loved. The best part was going to be the water birth. It was going to be so primeval, so elemental, so cleansing. We would wear orchids in our hair, be enveloped in candlelight and mellow sexy music, we would be goddesses. I couldn’t wait.
One day, when I was 39 weeks pregnant, huge, sore, and exhausted, but calmly waiting for a babe I’d thought would come early, but who seemed to want to hang out inside me for a while longer… we were on our way to the birth center for an appointment. My babe—who had been very content deep within my pelvis for weeks, still wiggling here and there, but no longer the constantly moving babe of previous weeks—was all a squiggle. It hurt, but I positioned myself to allow for whatever movement babe wanted. At the appointment, the midwife, who had gotten used to babe’s deep down position, had a hard time figuring out where its head was, as it was no longer engaged, but she had a nagging feeling babe had turned breech. She begged me to go for an ultra sound—just to be sure (breech births are not allowed at the birth center because of state law). Annoyed that I’d been able to avoid ultrasounds til this point only to have to have one now, I nevertheless agreed to go the next morning. That night however, I knew for certain the head was at my heart, not in my pelvis. Hiccups had always tickled my cervix. That night, they bumped my ribcage.
I’d done my research, and knowing that I needed to get the head back down to get my water birth, we started a barrage of treatments I knew had worked for many others… Webster, acupuncture, walking, pelvic tilts, flashlight, music, bag of frozen peas, visualization, reassuring babe we were ready… I didn’t find a hypnotist, but everything we could, we did. But something wasn’t right. None of it seemed to be working as it was supposed to. Once we had some movement, but then, nothing. My usually active baby had become unusually still and quiet. When I caught myself getting angry with the babe, I made myself stop.
I was so desperate. I was certain that a caesarian would be the end of me, that it would crush me, “ruin” me. I needed to do whatever I could to avoid that. I was more upset than I’d ever been in my life, and I was fighting the thought that my being upset was not good, and was possibly going to make the baby want to stay breech. So, I let go. I went back inside where I’d been for the past 39 weeks, and sat with the baby and meditated. I talked the babe thru the wonderful birth I had planned, told the baby all I knew about why vaginal births are best, and how I wasn’t going to be allowed to try to birth vaginally if its head wasn’t down. And then I told the babe that if it needed to be born surgically, if that was what was best—for whatever reason—then that was what we would do. I had my hand on its head, right at my heart. And for the first time in a week, I felt calm and peace and a wave of love. I felt the connection that had sustained me for 39 weeks—a connection that I’d lost in the barrage of treatments that week. More than that, I felt totally flooded with the most amazing feeling that my child was trying to communicate with me—“Momma,” it seemed to be saying, “Be at peace. This is as it is supposed to be.” I cried. I didn’t want this! I needed my water birth. But I couldn’t escape the feeling the voice was right… and the feeling of peace that it brought me when I gave in to it was surreal and otherworldly. It seemed to ooze from my every pore, filling me with a glow. The bruises, the hurts, the pain of the week of “treatments” faded. I slept, finally.
We were lucky. We got an amazing surgeon. He was kind and supportive. He agreed to turn the light away before he took the head out. He let us play our birthing music. His team agreed not to chat during the birthing—not only did they not chat, they didn’t even need to talk at all… it was almost magical. My hands were not tied down, we had the option to watch (we chose not to). DH got to sit at my head, my mom and cousin got to be in the OR too. Surgery itself was actually kind of amusing. I got all loopy from the drugs and then I felt them cutting (DH wasn’t so amused to hear the anesthesiologist say “huh, that’s weird”), and got more drugs… so that by the time the OB was able to get the baby out (11 lbs and 22 inches, crammed inside me), and placed him on my belly so we could see, I rather yelled in a jubilant voice “it’s a boy!” (After, we remembered that right before the surgery, when I’d been talking to the babe, telling it what was happening, I’d said: “you’re a good boy.”) They put him on me while they got the placenta out, so that they didn’t have to cut the cord right away. We were blown away by him. He was so stunningly beautiful. Joy, pride, shock, bliss… I don’t know what… just shot thru my whole body with such amazing force—it was the most powerful, overwhelming moment of my life. They did take him to the warming table for a bit, but then he was in his daddy’s arms, at my cheek, and stayed there while they closed me up. Within thirty minutes of the start of surgery, we were in the room nursing—his sweet naked body on my bare chest. I’ve heard stories of mommas who felt they didn’t have a connection to babies they had via c-s—I know I am so lucky that I didn’t experience that. I felt astoundingly close to him, after what we’d been through, closer than I had felt during those long, still, and very intimate nine months.
The stay in the hospital BIT. It bit hard. It was worse than even I’d dreamed possible. Ick. But then we went home. And after struggles with slow-to-come-in milk, a bit of jaundice, a lot of weight loss and not-fast-enough gain, a most terrifying night in the ER, a horrible and disgusting allergic reaction all over my face that kept me from being able to smile and lasted about a month… we made it through it all… and we got our “babymoon”… still having it, really.
I had a really hard time coping with not having had my much-dreamed-about Birthing. I saw a “traumatic birth” therapist who helped me to see that I actually felt good about his birth… that I told the story with a smile, that it was my birth story. That helped, but the nagging feelings of failure lingered. I’d done something wrong, surely, or he wouldn’t have turned breech. And if I’d only kept trying to get him to turn—I failed at that as well. I even managed to fail at cloth diapers. How could I possibly forgive myself and move forward? I rethought and rethought all of it so much. I grew even further apart from friends and family—either because they “didn’t get it,” chose not to try, or simply backed off. So once more, babe and I withdrew into our own little world, found solace in each other, and grew even closer and more connected.
Recovering from my disappointing pregnancy and traumatizing birthing experience, while basking in the powerful glow of being a new mom (which was agreeing with me more than I’d ever dreamed possible), wound up being the fresh start I’d been looking for. From exhaustion, dashed hopes, and feeling a complete failure, I decided I had to start over. I already felt totally raw and undone, so I figured I may as well take advantage of that and heal myself from the core up. Since I hadn’t had this thing I’d wanted more than just about anything, I felt justified in pampering myself beyond all measure, but more importantly, I felt justified—felt it was necessary—to treat myself the way I really wanted to… and to do what I really wanted to, be as I really wanted to.
I’ve heard women say that giving birth made them love their body more, for what it had been able to do. I think that I feel that way about my body’s ability to recover from surgery. I had been so certain it would ruin me. And for a long time it sure felt like it. But right around a year after, I finally started feeling like me again—by that point, it had been almost two years since I’d felt like me—that in itself was an astounding feeling of reawakening, of rebirth. Which was the other thing I’d been looking forward to about birthing—that feeling some women talk about of having birthed themselves. I did get that feeling—mine just took two years instead of X number of hours of labor. My life now (DH and I have very different life paths and aspirations than before the baby—paths that are much more in tune with our true selves) is what I know it is supposed to be. I never felt that with any real certainty before—and I know that I might never have if not for my experiences with pregnancy and birth.
Perhaps the funniest thing of all this is that while I’d expected pregnancy and birthing to come naturally to me and be a bit of a breeze, I was worried about being a mom. I think though, that since pregnancy was so hard for me, and birthing was so devastating… that being a parent has seemed, by contrast, about as much hard work as eating cake. Unfortunately, that attitude further distanced me from some women in my life—as some moms I know had easy times with pregnancy and birth, but harder times adjusting to being a mom. I am blessed, I know, with a babe who has been, from day one, laid back and not fussy. But too, I am blessed with having spent nine months in a stupor, and many more months immobile with recovery—which left me in the ideal mode for me to be a mother: quiet, calm, still, endlessly willing to just BE, thrilled to be alive and well, and—perhaps most of all—with no attachment to any sense of how things “ought” to be.
Sitting where I am now, having spent 15 months thinking about it, I know that pregnancy and birth went for me as they ought to have, as they needed to. There are moments when I think rather mystically about it all. There are, I admit, times I try to imagine how it would have been, if I’d had an option to attempt a vaginal delivery, or if he had turned back… but each time I start down that road, I come to a stop. Because I just can’t imagine it any other way. Because I know that it happened just as it was intended to… just as it was meant to be.