I knew in my head that this day would come, but somehow my heart had hoped otherwise. At thirty-five weeks, my doctor, Mark, and I scheduled my c-section for a day in November to commence promptly at 7:00 a.m. And just like that, we know when we will meet our new baby. I know that brings comfort to so many moms out there, but it brings me fear and anxiety and more than a bit of sadness.
My delivery with Jane was the exact opposite of what lay ahead for this one. She approached her birthday, like she does everything else, on her terms. My due date came and went as did the next four days. Each and every day started with the same excitement and anticipation as we wondered if this was the day she would arrive. While that had its own stresses of wondering when and where and if my water would break, for the first time in my very scheduled and programmed life, I embraced (and truly loved) the spontaneity of it all.
I had grown tired and uncomfortable over those last three weeks and, more than once, was offered the choice of an induction. On each occasion, I almost said yes, but there was something inside of me that wanted this to be on nature (and Jane’s) terms. Late on a Sunday evening, after a day filled with long walks, spicy Popeye’s chicken, and a very stressful Saints game, I began to think that nature was as stubborn as the baby and that my fate would be set that following Tuesday when my induction was scheduled for forty-one weeks. After one final walk, my water bag broke and just four hours and three pushes later, we met our daughter, Jane. It was everything I imagined a delivery could be. In my brand new mom mind, my delivery and my baby were perfect.
What I didn’t know at the time of my delivery was that I had a very rare delivery outcome that would require repetitive repairs to my episiotomy and eventually a surgical procedure to correct the damage to my bottom. At my follow-up visit with the surgeon, he added a note to my file that he recommended cesarean sections as my means of delivery for any births I had going forward.
I was devastated. At the time, I attributed some of the overwhelming sadness I felt about this news to the fact that I was still recovering from postpartum depression. My emotions were so raw that I felt everything more deeply than I would have normally. I assumed that as this news traveled over time and space, I would begin to embrace the pros of a scheduled c-section and be relieved of the sadness I felt about a delivery experience so different from the one I had for Jane.
Almost three years later, as my fate has been sealed and I hold the paperwork covering my scheduled c-section in my hand, I realize that while those feelings don’t travel quite as deep, they are still there.
I am scared. I am scared about the unknown. I am scared that it will feel clinical. I am scared about having surgery. I am scared about being awake for the procedure. But, mostly I am scared about how different it will be from my first labor and delivery memory.
I am also sad. I am sad that I will not face each day approaching my due date with anticipation as to whether this will be the day. I am sad that there will be no story of walking and eating spicy things and walking some more to tell this baby. I am sad that the spontaneity of it all will be taken away. I am sad that I will not experience the feeling of pushing this baby from my body into the world.
None of these feelings come from a place of thinking my first delivery was “the only way it should be done.” I don’t believe that. I believe every mother and every birth experience is special and unique and perfect in its own way. So why can’t I convince myself of this fact when it comes to my own? I guess it’s simply that my first delivery is the only one I’ve known. That’s the irony. It was the unknown I loved the first time, and now it is the unknown I find wholly terrifying.
While there is so much I struggle to understand about how this experience will go, there is one thing I learned in delivering Jane that seems universally applicable, and that is that no matter how this baby comes into our world, my heart will never have known a love so strong and so immediate as the one I feel when I look into the baby’s eyes for the first time. So with each day that passes, I will try to embrace my fears and anxieties. I will try not to blame myself for this but to know that the risks of any other choice are too great. And I will try to remember that, above all else, my delivery will be the means to adding this special person to our family. And no matter how it occurs, is there any greater gift than the gift of a growing family.
Jennifer: I’m the kinda girl people expect to be giving birth at a birthing center with a doula. That wasn’t the safest option for me, instead I had a scheduled-C. Guess what? My birth experience was AWESOME. I listened to my Ob-Gyn yap about his new fishing camp while I was splayed open. My husband was with me the entire time and he got to be the first to hold our baby skin-to-skin. I took photos of them from the OR table and the whole experience remains unforgettable. I successfully breastfed our newborn. My main recommendation is to make sure your hospital practices skin-to-skin contact with newborn and both parents. I’m sending love and good ju-ju your way for the rest of your pregnancy and post-partum recovery!!!