[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest Warrior Mom is Sierra R., who blogs at Everything Is Coming Up Roses. She’s sharing her frustration and disappointment with not having the natural childbirth she hoped for, and it’s contribution to her postpartum depression. -Katherine]
When I was pregnant, one of the most frequently asked questions I received was, “Do you have a birth plan?”
Normally, I have a plan for everything. I make lists for my lists and I love to be in control. And yet, ironically, I never really had a set birth plan. I was fine with having an epidural, being induced (if medically necessary), and I didn’t care if I had an IV.
There was only one thing that I wanted, or rather, didn’t want: a c-section.
When I thought about my perfect labor, there was one image that stood out. I would visualize the moment immediately after my son was born. He would be placed on my chest, and I would look down at him in wonder and feel an overwhelming sense of love and peace. Then I would look into my husband’s eyes and we would smile at each other, softly crying tears of joy. We would snuggle together, just the three of us, as a new family.
I replayed this over and over in my head for months. It made me less afraid of my impending labor and even more excited to meet my baby, because I couldn’t wait for that moment to come true.
On the advice of our doctor, we decided to induce. I was five days late, my blood pressure had shot up, and I was showing signs of developing pre-eclampsia. The induction started out smoothly enough, thanks to our wonderful nurses and my husband. We hunkered down for a long night of waiting, but that’s not exactly what happened.
Every time I would stand up and sit back down, the baby’s heart rate would drop. My husband and I would hold our breath and listen to the heart rate monitor as it slowed from 130 down to 80, from 80 to 50, and on down. Our nurses kept telling me to flip over as they anxiously watched the monitor. I remember thinking, “What happens if his heart stops beating? How will they get him out in time?”
The tension in the tiny hospital room was palpable. I remember lying in the bed thinking, “What happens if he doesn’t make it?” After a few minutes, his heart rate came back up and we could all breathe again.
When my labor progress came to a halt, my OB broke my water and within an hour, I was ready to push. I pushed and I pushed, with all my might. The nurses tried to keep my spirits up by saying, “He’s right there! Keep pushing!” and I did. For two hours I pushed, but with every push, I knew.
Another memory, still clear as day: My OB leaving the foot of my bed, pulling down her mask, and walking to my side. She took my hand and gently said, “You’ve done a really great job, but your baby needs to come out now. I think you need to have a c-section.”
The rest is a blur: Me sobbing hysterically, the nurses wheeling me into surgery, hearing my baby cry for the first time. He wasn’t placed on my chest; instead, a nurse held him next to my face so I could see him and then he was whisked away to the nursery.
My c-section had complications. I lost quite a bit of blood and came very close to needing a transfusion. When my husband came to see me in recovery, he said my skin was green and I was shaking uncontrollably from the anesthesia. I didn’t get to touch my baby for more than three hours, and when I finally held him, I was in so much pain and so utterly exhausted, I just wanted to hand him back to the nurse.
This is how I became a mother.
I struggled with feelings of disappointment, rage, guilt, failure and anger for months afterwards. I struggled with postpartum depression. One of my closest friends had a baby five months after I did, when my grief was still fresh in my mind. Her pregnancy had not been planned, but was welcomed just the same. She had an all-natural water birth, just as she had hoped for, and I remember sobbing at the perceived injustice of it all. Why did she get to have a natural birth? She wasn’t even sure if she wanted kids in the first place!
I would try to explain how I felt to my friends and other moms, but no one seemed to fully comprehend the depths of my grief. I got a lot of well intentioned, “You and your baby are healthy, that’s all that matters!” Saying this to a mom makes her feel that if she is upset over her birthing experience, she doesn’t appreciate the healthy baby she has. You are made to feel ashamed for grieving over your birth, like you’re ungrateful for the child you have. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
It is okay to wish for something you didn’t have. This does not make you ungrateful for the healthy child that you have been blessed with. I love my son and I realize how lucky I am to have a healthy child. I know things could have been worse, much worse, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is a deep hole in my heart. A hole that may never completely heal.
I believe that is okay to grieve for your lost childbirth experience. In many ways, I actually think it is necessary to grieve. I lost something that meant so much to me, the dream of holding my newborn baby on my chest, the loving glances, the immediate bond you have with your child, and I will never get that back.
So allow yourself to shed some tears, even though your child is healthy, and to be angry that things didn’t turn out the way you had hoped. Only when you purge this grief, guilt, disappointment, and sadness, can you move forward and be the mother you were meant to be.