If you would’ve asked me how I dreamed of giving birth to my first child, at the very bottom of my list would’ve been a C-section. I had read the books, I had poured over the articles, I had heard all the birth stories. I thought C-sections were the easy way out (a thought that is shameful to admit) and I made up my mind that I was going to give birth as God and nature intended.
I also didn’t want to be cut open and I secretly feared the painful, debilitating recovery from surgery more than any pain involved with natural labor. And I dreaded the thought of having to look at a jagged scar for the rest of my life reminding me that I had failed at what should have come “naturally.” I was determined to push through any obstacle that threatened to wheel me into the operating room when it came time to deliver my son.
Then life happened.
I was 11 days past my due date with no sign of labor when I woke up in the middle of the night to discover I was bleeding. Heavily. It was not good. I texted my midwife and doula (at 12:30 at night and they both responded immediately) and they told me to get to the hospital. Now.
My husband and I dashed through the streets and broke many laws to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. I used the 15-excruciating-minute drive to practice my breathing techniques in order to keep calm. While I feared a surgical birth, that fear was entirely dwarfed by the threat of losing my son. I had lost two pregnancies before and was keenly aware that being pregnant is no guarantee you will get to hold your child no matter how far along you are. By the grace of God my son decided to kick me the whole way to the hospital, politely letting me know he was still there and giving me the courage to hold back the tears that were just waiting to hear the bad news.
“A dead baby doesn’t move,” I kept chanting to myself.
We entered the hospital and demanded to be seen immediately and were probably less than friendly to the staff. I was asked to reveal how much blood loss I was experiencing. As if to make a point, a heavy amount of blood decided to rush out of me right at that moment.
After being examined and hooked up to machines and waiting precious seconds to hear a heartbeat, I was told that the baby was okay. My OB, who knew my dreams of going the natural route, kindly held my hand, took a deep breath, and told me what was about to happen. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember she delivered the message with equal parts severity and stillness.
I had no choice. My placenta had ruptured. The thing that had so faithfully supplied my son with life-giving oxygen was now dying. Attempting labor wasn’t even an option. It was time to get the baby out.
“Okay,” I said. “Let’s do it.”
I signed the papers to agree to the much-dreaded surgical birth, waited for the anesthesiologist, and then was wheeled into the operating room. Against all expectations, I didn’t feel disappointment or fear or anxiety, I felt a quiet peacefulness.
As I lay on an operating table waiting to be cut open, all I could think of was I had done everything I could do and it was time for the doctor to take it from here. I had wished, hoped, and prayed for a positive pregnancy test month after month. I had waited three years and said painful goodbyes to two babies. I made it through an uneventful and healthy pregnancy. I carried my baby safely to term and beyond. I had come all this way.
In every way possible, I had delivered my son as far as I could. It was time to lie down, surrender, and let go.
Minutes later I met my healthy, 8 pound 7 ounce baby boy. His utter perfection has astounded me ever since.
Friends and family who knew I had just walked through my worst case scenario were quick to ask how I felt about it. My answer has always been simple. I love my C-section. I’m proud of my C-section. I’m proud of the physical and mental toughness it took to go through it — a toughness I thought was only reserved for natural births. I feel deep twinges of sadness as I watch my sweet scar fade day after day, much quicker than I had anticipated. I see my son grow and think how completely foolish I was to have such a strong opinion about how he was to enter this world. The details of that one day matter very little when compared to whatever present moment is currently filling our new little family with unprecedented joy.
In the end, control was taken away from me at the most intimate, precious time and, for me, that’s what needed to happen. I needed that to happen to understand that life as a parent is rarely going to involve any amount of control. I know that now and it makes me smile. The lessons my C-section taught me I’m not sure I could’ve gotten from a natural birth. And for that, I’m grateful I didn’t get what I wanted.
Most importantly, a surgical birth saved my son’s life. How could I ever thank my doula, midwife, and doctor enough? How could I not get down on my hands and knees and be grateful for the gift of a C-section? How could I have ever judged C-sections so harshly, as if a life-saving miracle is somehow an inferior or ignoble experience?
Yes, I had to be cut open. Yes, recovery was difficult. But every stitch and scar is a part of my story, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Photo used under Creative Commons.