• On a Walk at the Hospital: What I Learned from my Scheduled C-Section

    A few weeks ago a couple of our best friends entered the club of new parenthood alongside us, giving birth to an adorable baby boy! They’d kept the gender of their baby a surprise, but I think we all widely suspected their little one would be a girl. I was most certain of the gender of all of us because I'd heard of the supposedly fail-proof Ramzi's Method which said it was definitely a girl according to their 6-week ultrasound.  Yeah, not so much, Mr. Ramzi, whoever you are – thanks for leading us astray, haha. Nevertheless, we’re thrilled beyond belief because our little guy now gets a sweet little guy pal to grow up with.

    Our friends invited us to the hospital to visit their new little bundle, just hours after he arrived. I got Bubs all dressed up in a cute onesie that featured a “Hello, My Name is…” badge patch on it, excited that he’d get to meet his new little friend as an hours-old newborn.  

    As Zak and I arrived at the front desk of the hospital’s women’s center (the same place where Bubster was born, and I would find out later that they were even in the exact same recovery room!), the receptionist greeted us but quickly eyed up our little man.

    “How old is the baby?” she asked.
    “Seven months,” I replied. 
    “He won’t be able to go to the recovery room,” she quickly informed.

    Big bummer! Zak and I made the quick decision to take turns going up to visit our friends, and I would go first. I am a HUGE hospital-phobe and was kind of freaking out walking down the hallways on the labor & delivery floor by myself.  Not to mention around every turn and corner I remembered more and more clearly the last time I’d been there, when I, myself, had just given birth. It was such a peaceful and wonderful experience, though, knocking on that same door to the room in which I recovered and then seeing the cheerful, serene faces of friends and the sweet holiness of the new life they were holding. Still, I didn’t stay too long – half because I felt like I was intruding when other friends came to visit them, and half because I was still freaking out being in the hospital. So, I went on my way and sent Zak up in my place.  Then Bub and I did what we do best – we went for a walk!

    The grounds around the hospital are beautifully forested for being in the middle of a major metropolitan area. I’d never really gotten the chance to stroll the grounds at the hospital before and was kind of giddy discovering there was a paved path that went straight through a treeous canopy connecting two different buildings on the campus. It was under that canopy as the late spring sunlight filtered through the leaves and branches that I let my mind revisit my experience the last time I’d been to that hospital when my little wide-eyed travel buddy entered the world.

    It was a glorious day in mid-October when our little guy arrived.  Literally the sun was shining and the birds were singing.  We strolled into the labor & delivery unit, nervous and giddy, not knowing exactly what to expect. It was so strange to think about the fact that at that moment I was feeling no pain, no contractions, yet knowing that our little guy would be in our arms less than three hours later.  In fact, ten days previous, I was even given a choice of dates to schedule his delivery after a failed attempt in the hospital to flip around our little breech Bub. It felt so strange, a little like I was playing God, when debating my choice for his birthday. I unashamedly admit I’m just a little into astrology and so the implications of one birthday over another was something I was lightly (or moderately) considering. Luckily, my preferred doctor was available to perform the surgery on one day and not another, so in the end his birthday was decided by something more than just me pointing at a calendar date.

    As I waited for his birthday, I remember that a number of very well-intentioned friends and family who heard the news started suggesting ways I should try to help our Bubs to flip on his own so I didn’t have to go through with the scheduled C-section.  I did try a few of them: putting a pack of frozen vegetables where his head would be, applying peppermint essential oil, again, where his head would be, and then doing all kinds of crazy headstand yogic positions. Call it a hunch, but something told me no matter what I tried, he couldn’t move. I mean, if the OBGYN couldn’t get him past a certain point when we tried the version procedure (one of the most painful experiences I have ever undergone, by the way), there must have been a significant hang-up.

    To be honest, I experienced a flash, more like a spark, of relief thinking about not having to go through any labor pains. But after the relief, I felt acute guilt. I’d read articles about other women’s scheduled c-sections and I always made the mistake of reading viewers’ comments at the end where someone, undoubtedly, would say something to the effect that scheduling a c-section is a cheater’s way into motherhood and that mom should seriously consider whether or not she’s even ready to be a mom if she’s not ready to make the journey the natural way. I thought, “How unhelpful – it’s a little too late in the game to be asking a woman if she’s ready to be a mom when she’s gotten far along enough in the game to be planning the method of the baby’s arrival.” But I also thought, “This commentator has a point – is a c-section really just nothing more than taking the easy way out?”

    And here’s where I answer that question as definitively and succinctly as I can.  And that answer is no.  A scheduled c-section isn’t the easy way out.  Not by a long shot.

    I remember standing in my recovery room’s shower for the first time a day and a half after the surgery, my eyes fogged with sleep deprivation and my legs feeling completely disconnected from my body. I looked down at the incision where my skilled doctor brought my little son safely into this world and felt two opposing feelings at once: 1) awe that we have come so far in medical procedures during the history of mankind that after such a major surgery I could actually be standing here with what looked like just a few staples holding everything together 2) pain like I have never felt pain before.  It was a solid six weeks before I could sneeze, cough, laugh, poo, etc. without feeling like all of my insides were going to burst through. It was a solid six weeks that I walked up every flight of stairs backwards because I couldn’t get my feet high enough from the pain and the body’s nerve disconnections to go forwards.  It was a solid six weeks before I could walk more than 100 yards along my beloved neighborhood's lake trail, doubled over in pain from the mild activity. And then just as my body started to heal, my emotional state went downhill, fast.  Postpartum depression came like a freight train and the memories of the lights and festivities of the holiday season last year are muddled with dire memories and what felt like inescapable thoughts. There is no telling if I would have experienced postpartum depression no matter which way I’d given birth. But I do know that one of my recurring dark thoughts was that I was failing my son because my painful recovery kept me from holding him as much as I would have in a pain-free state.

    So, with all of this said, would I go back in time and do everything differently? Would I opt for leaving the OBGYN’s office who said my only option was to schedule a c-section after a failed version attempt and seek out someone who was willing to try a natural breech delivery? Would I have tried “harder” to get Bubs to flip around on his own? I think it’s useless to dwell in those hypothetical questions, actually, because what happened, happened. And what happened resulted in my completely beautiful and perfectly healthy baby boy getting to enter this world unharmed. I suffered no complications from the surgery and recovered as reasonably well and quickly as could be expected. The only thing I would do differently is be more self-compassionate.  If I could, I would go back in time and tell myself 8 and a half months ago the following things:

    1.      Every birth story goes off script at some point. It will never go exactly the way that you imagine it, so you’ve just got to roll with the punches.
    2.       Healing from a c-section is lengthy and painful, but one day you will be whole again. You’ll be better than whole. You’ll be able to walk anywhere, run anywhere, do anything you did before but you’ll have a cute little travel companion in tow.
    3.       There is a whole community of people who have been through what you’re going through and their empathy is going to be worth gold to you. Embrace that community.

    A number of family and friends reached out in the weeks and months after Bubs was born to check in on me. I told them everything and they listened and told me their horror and victory stories in return. The truth is, these friends were my angels on Earth. If I ever have the chance to help a new mom the way so many helped me, I will consider this a sacred privilege.

    So, I know this was a long post that was heavy on mom-talk and short on the outdoors and travel-talk, but if even one person can relate to these thoughts as a new parent whose birth story didn’t end up being what they imagined and who could use a reminder that you are adequate, you are loved, and you are doing the best you can, then this post was for you.
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