This birth journey was quite that--a journey! It is my own story of welcoming my second baby and my first daughter in a way that I never imagined or even wanted. However, even the worst of situations can help mold and define us--if we let them. I hope my work with women as a doula encourages them to do just that--use all their life experiences to become better mothers!
Tomorrow is my daughter’s 7th birthday. She is such a joy—easy to parent, fun to be around, full of desire and love for life. She is the complete opposite of me. She is quiet and she thinks things through. She loves cuddles—her eyes light up at just the thought of a hug. She loves sports and she really dislikes anything pink or purple or overly girly in any way. Being a girly-girl myself, people joke me about this all the time. Honestly, I love that she knows who she is and that she is not afraid to be different. I love to watch her play with intensity on the soccer/baseball/basketball/swim team. She never takes a short-cut or chooses the easier road—I have learned a lot from her, my first daughter Addy.
Her pregnancy was easy—the joy I felt to be carrying a girl after my first son was immense. At 36 weeks when my water broke unexpectedly, I was excited to meet this child that I had dreamed about for 9 months (or really, longer than that—as my greatest desire in life has always been to be a mommy.) I went to the hospital, was hooked up, and was told her heart-rate was too high and I would need a c-section. At the time, I knew nothing about birth—I went into my first birth totally uneducated and it turned out fine (or so I thought at the time—it was a vaginal delivery with an epidural—that’s how we have babies in America, right?) Here I was, about to have my second baby, and I still had no knowledge about the process of birth. If I am to be completely honest, when the doctor said c-section, I was not upset. I am sad to admit it now, but I thought to myself: “Well I thought I had a long labor in front of me, but I will be holding my baby in less than an hour.” That, mixed with the fact that the doctor used the fear that every mother carries about her baby being healthy, sent me happily into the OR.
The experience in the OR was intense. I was aware of the anesthesiologist warning me not to freak out: “One false move from you, and I will put you all the way under.” I remember being scared, as my arms were strapped down and the curtain was raised, but everyone seemed so calm—like this was something that happened all the time (which it is.) I pushed my fears aside, prayed silently, and held my husband’s hand. I fought the urge to scream and vomit when I felt them tugging on my uterus, when I felt them moving organs and placing my stomach contents on my belly—this is normal, I kept telling myself. It was not long before she was born with a healthy cry—7 pounds, 1 ounce and perfect heart rate. They held her up, Dad snapped some pictures, and they wheeled her away. This is how I met my first daughter—the little girl I had dreamed about for so long.
The recover was painful. I remember them lifting the sheet to move me from bed to bed. I remember being cold and shaking uncontrollably, I remember thinking: “Where is my baby?” The nurse told me I had to be able to wiggle my toes before I could see her—I tried so hard. Eventually (after 3 or so hours) they brought her in. I was overwhelmed with love for her, but also overwhelmed with wondering how I was going to take care of this tiny baby when I could barely even wiggle my toes. I told the nurse I was in pain. She said: “Of course you are in pain, you just had major surgery.” I was shocked—no one had called it “major surgery,” instead it was just a c-section, as routine as a root-canal.
My painful recovery did not end in the hospital. I went home, and after a day or two the pain became unbearable. I began to spike really high fevers, followed by uncontrollable chills. I would soak the sheets with sweat at night, telling my husband that I would just rather die. The entire time, I was trying to nurse (around the clock) and take care of my baby, which seemed like a major chore. People kept telling me: “Just be thankful you have a healthy baby.” I was thankful, but I could not fight the feeling that something was taken from me. I was not enjoying anything about her, which added more guilt to my already wounded heart. I know you are wondering why I did not go to the hospital, as everyone knows that these are signs of infection. We called my doctor every day—something multiple times a day. Every time we called, she told us not to come into the office that she thought I had the flu and she did not want to get the other patience sick. She told me that recovering from a c-section was hard, that it was in my head, and that I might be struggling with postpartum depression. If someone who you trust, who is an educated, experienced doctor tells you this enough, you being to think that you are going crazy. I was sure that it must all be in my head, that despite the temperature readings, I was making myself sick. Besides, I thought, I just had major surgery—I guess the recover must be this hard.
You know by now where this story is going. I finally went to the ER after a week (and after I passed out at home and my husband became even more concerned) and they admitted me with a ragging Staff infection. I spent 6 days in the hospital, getting IV antibodies, having my wound opened and drained, getting my incision packed and cleaned, and finally getting a PICC line to go home with so that I could have IV antibodies for the next few months from home. I also had Home Health Care, and a nurse (a bright ray of sunshine with red hair and a happy face) came to my house every day to change my packing in my incision. I was not able to nurse or even see my baby (who was just a week old) because of the infection and the medication. It was painful and awful and I was mad and upset—wondering why things had to go this way for me. The worst part was my own conscious and guilt telling me that I was a bad mother because I did not even care about seeing my baby. My mother-in-law brought her to see me at one point, in an effort to cheer me up, and I did not even want to lift my arms and hold her. Looking back, I know that I was so sick and my body was so tired and just needed time to feel better. However, in that moment, I was a shell. My ability to have a baby had been taken from me, and my ability to mother was gone as well. I was worse than upset—I became emotionless.
I went home after a week, and began to feel somewhat better being surrounded by my own things and the people who loved me—the family and friends who were committed to caring for me. In my safe place, I began to hold Addy and even enjoy her. I started to pump (I had to dump the milk because of the medication) and I was hopeful that one day I could nurse her again (and I did—for over a year.) Like a wilted flower—I began to regain my strength—to stand up tall, to open and grow. It was not on my own power—I prayed a lot and I know a lot of people prayed for me. I read scripture with new eyes—as some who was so broken, as someone who needed something, anything to make it through the day. My soul was parched, and I accepted the living water that only the Lord can provide. I began to see glimpse of myself again. My husband took me to get a Christmas tree, promising I could pick out the biggest one on the lot. My sister-in-law picked me up and we went shopping for decorations. My Mom came and pulled all the weeds in my flower bed outside. My mother-in-law, fresh out of surgery herself, cooked and cleaned and made everything run like normal. My Gran came and stayed for a week—she would sit in the chair by the couch and tell me stories, wonderful stories from when she was young. My new friend (at the time) brought cookies, and just sat and chatted with me. I began to see this family and community that God had blessed me with—people brought food, helped take care of my older son, or just called to check on me. I was surrounded by people pouring out love, watering my soul, bringing me slowly back to my former self.
Would I take it all back? Never. During this time in my life, I found a sister who loved me, a new best friend, and a husband who served me faithfully and with no concern for himself. I found a church that was faithful to serve someone in need. I looked at my daughter with new eyes—the eyes of someone who had faced hurt and pain and conquered it.
Most importantly, I found my passion in life. From that moment on I began to get educated about birth. I read—no, devoured, books. I talked to other moms and really thought about how women give birth in America. I watched documentaries, and was sure that there was a better way to have a baby. When I had my 3rd and 4th babies, with midwives, I had beautiful, natural VBACS that made me believe in myself and other women as well—if someone would just tell them: there is a better way.
I’m thankful for Addy’s birth journey, and I think as women who have had c-sections and are looking for other options, we have to get to that point emotionally before we can have future vaginal births. We can’t hold ourselves responsible for the things we did or did not know, for the decisions we made, and for the way we gave birth. We have to move on and see it as part of who we are—tightly woven into every aspect of our being.
On your 7th birthday, sweet Addy, I want you to know that you are the child who helped Mommy find herself. Through everything, you helped me find a rebirth in myself. You helped me see that I am strong and capable. You started me on a journey to serve women, to educate, and to give options. Your birth story might not be one that I cherish, one that was joyful and easy, but it is important—so much more important—because it opened my eyes. If I ever do anything worth while in my life, being your Mommy will be first—helping others find their own strength while becoming mommies will be second.
All my love,