"As soon as I heard that healthy wail, I exhaled, laughed, cried and thanked God."
I desperately wanted a natural birth. I watched The Business of Being Born (twice), and I read Ina May’s ‘Guide to childbirth.’ My husband and I had tried very hard to get pregnant. In fact, there was doubt I was even able to get pregnant, even with medical help. Eventually, we went through IVF and were successful the first time!
I am a long time practitioner of Yoga, and I practiced almost daily once I found out I was pregnant. I already felt connected to the tiny spark of life growing inside me, and I wanted the whole ‘delivery’ package: the nervousness/excitement felt when experiencing those first contractions, the unexpected rush to the hospital, the hours of struggle with my husband at my side…Wait, I know what you’re thinking: I’m romanticizing it, but darn it, that’s what I really wanted – to be able to join the millions of women throughout history who have experienced the pain and the joy of a natural birth. I was ready for it!
As usual, life with all its twists and turns provided me with a completely different experience. I was 36 weeks, and my amniotic fluid had been dropping for weeks. On Monday morning, May 5, I arrived for my NST test (non stress test where they monitor baby’s heart rate) and my bi-weekly ultrasound to measure amniotic fluid. I knew from the technician’s expression that the fluid had dropped lower. It turned out that I had hardly any fluid left. The doctor came in and confirmed my fears. The fluid was getting dangerously low for baby, and I needed to be admitted immediately for IV fluids and rest. I phoned my husband at work. While we were discussing this new development, the doctor popped her head back in the door and said, “I just spoke to your OBGYN, and we are going to deliver the baby today at 3 p.m. via C-section.” She smiled. My jaw dropped.
I explained what had happened to my husband who was still on the phone with me. Silence on the line. Joy, elation, fear, wonder, anxiety and excitement all rolled over me in a wave of mixed emotions. I had been waiting (patiently) for so long to have a baby of my own, and now finally, suddenly, that day was here, four weeks early. I was going to be a mom by four this afternoon? Was I ready? (No.) Is anyone every ready? (Doubtful.)
Immediately, my thoughts turned to practicalities, someone needed to babysit our Chihuahua mix, Toby, as I would be in hospital for three to four days. My hospital bag was packed and waiting by the door, but someone would have to bring it to me. My truck was in the parking lot and couldn’t stay there for four days. I needed to call my mom!
I didn’t get a chance to mourn the natural birth experience I would miss at the time. Truthfully, there was a small part of me that was relieved to be ‘let off the hook’ of all the pain and uncertainty of a natural birth. I didn’t have a choice in the matter – it was baby’s wellbeing on the line. The biggest part of me is now having time to grieve the loss of that natural birthing experience.
The C-section was everything I was worried it would be – cold, sterile, clinical and disconnected. Up until now, I had felt a close bond to baby, I talked to her while doing yoga or driving around town. I would sing to her at night. Now, completely numb from the waist down I felt cut off from her, out of control, and completely unable to help bring her into the world that I had been waiting to welcome her into. It didn’t help that the doctors carried on conversations about their daily lives over top of my open abdomen or that the anesthesiologist was on the phone the whole time. For them, this was just another surgery. I don’t blame them. If you do something every day, no matter how miraculous and wonderful, it gets routine. It gets old. It gets boring. But this was my first birth. My first experience of bringing a life, a soul, into the world, and all I heard around me were conversations about what was happening next week on ‘Dancing with the stars.’ It was anticlimactic to say the least. I tried not to let the experience suck any of the joy out, but it kind of did.
Eleanor (Ellie) Mika Yeh was born May 5, 2014, at 3:51 p.m. at 4 pounds, 6.2 ounces. They showed her to me, and she was red, wrinkly and terrifyingly quiet. I did not breathe until I heard her cry.
As soon as I heard that healthy wail, I exhaled, laughed, cried and thanked God. I think I might have said, “That’s what I’ve been waiting for.” Her Apgar scores were 8/10 and then 9/10, excellent, especially for a preemie. Nothing else mattered. They couldn’t give her to me right away as I was being sewn up but they handed her to my husband, who put her against his chest where she immediately cuddled up and stopped crying. I was never so proud. She never had to spend time in the NICU, and for that I am grateful. She gained weight like a champ, now almost eight pounds five weeks later!
I have grieved the loss of that special experience of a natural childbirth, but I am grateful that we have the medical technology to be able to discover problems early and to ensure at-risk babies are still delivered safely.
I could get stuck on my bad experience during the C-section, or I could focus on the end result. I have chosen to be thankful that we could intervene and ensure her health and safety. I accept the grief over the lost experience, but am so grateful she is healthy and happy. As always, I hold out hope that I can still experience a natural birth with the next child, if I am lucky enough to have another.
Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!