It was ten o’clock on Halloween night. I looked up at my husband in between bearing down and pushing with every bit of force in my body, “I’m sorry, honey, I don’t think we’re getting a Halloween baby.”
The midwife, who’d been with me all day, piped up, “That’s not what I’m worried about.”
By twelve thirty in the morning on November first, I was meeting with the anesthetic team as I proceeded to a c-section. Although I had made it to nine centimeters without an epidural, (something I’ll always be proud of), my body just wasn’t meant to deliver babies vaginally. My sacrum and pubic bones are fashioned too closely together, making an extremely difficult — if not impossible — maze for a baby’s head to squeeze through.
“Maybe you could deliver a preterm baby at twenty-eight weeks,” my doctor told me. “Otherwise, you should plan to schedule c-sections with all of your future babies.”
It was news my husband and I hadn’t expected to hear. I exercised nearly every day of my pregnancy. I’m healthy and strong and not a petite woman. But this was how God made my body, and there was nothing that could change that.
Lying flat on my back on the operating table, I could feel the pulls and bouts of pressure on my abdomen. I remember my sister-in-law telling me the doctors hadn’t adjusted the mirrors and lighting properly for her c-section. She could see them cut her open and pull her daughter out. Before I went under the knife, I asked my surgical team not to let that happen to me.
It wasn’t long before I heard that wild and unbridled first cry. My child had entered this magical world. Not necessarily in the way I had planned, but there the baby was — breathing earthly air (or at least trying to). When instructed, my husband peeked over the blue curtain that separated us from the operation.
“It’s John!” my husband proclaimed, tears tumbling down his handsome new-father face.
Those first few moments as a family of three can’t be described in any language. To be honest, they didn’t even feel real.
Recovering from the labor and two and a half hours of pushing and a cesarean offered me plenty of moments to say, “Damn, women are amazing.”
I’d been in and out of the tub. I’d squatted and birth-balled and swayed on the toilet while clenching a washcloth between my teeth. My husband sang church hymns to me through every contraction. My doula guided me to new positions and provided support we didn’t even know we needed.
While my vision had been to go unmedicated for the delivery, being a week past due (with two membrane sweeps) required me to lean on Pitocin to jumpstart my contractions and keep them regular. Once I made it to nine centimeters and leveled out for over two hours with no progression, I called for that epidural like a dying hyena. In fact, I told everyone in the room I was dying about thirteen hundred times. They all reassured me I wasn’t.
I figured if they made a painkiller specifically for labor, the process must be pretty flipping painful. Turns out I was right.
I’m also convinced the epidural is the best invention. Period. My good friend had told me her labor story and remarked, “I wasn’t sure why I was so against one.” She was happy she got hers, and I was elated I got mine too.
I’m honestly dumbfounded by any woman who has made it through the whole labor progression and then literally pushed a human being out of her body. I’m in amazement of any woman who has done this or will ever do this — with or without an epidural. You won’t know what it’s like until you get there, and then trust me, you’ll understand in vivid screaming color.
The pain of contractions, the mental fortitude each one requires, and the ability to keep at it for hours — into days — will forever blow my noggin. I will never look at a mother the same again. I will think, “You did that?! You baby-birthing badass.”
And for you c-section moms out there: holy incision, that is painful. From moment one, your abdomen is wrapped tightly in a burning, stretching mind-numbing sensation. You initially can’t get up to pee, and it is days before you can walk as far as you did in your first steps as a toddler. Recovery is long, and you have to battle through your abdominal muscles weaving themselves back together. Those doctors cut a slit so big that your baby’s shoulders fit through; did you know that?
Birth plans can and do go as expected, though not always. While we thought a c-section would never happen for us, it did. And it will again.
No matter how you got your baby into this world — lifted, pulled, or pushed — you are sensational. You have grown a baby inside of you and added him or her to the human race. You have made the miracle of life possible. You are woman. And you are amazing.