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This is my favorite picture of my daughter Farm Girl. To me, it represents my personal journey to motherhood and its coming full circle. It represents HOPE.
You see, when I was pregnant with Farm Girl there was no doubt in my mind that natural birth was the way to go. I dutifully signed up for Natural Childbirth classes. Even though she was my first baby, I was confident that I would have a natural birth! After all, God designed our bodies to give birth! Even when the class instructor said, “1 in 3 women have c-sections” I just knew she was talking about one of those other women in the class. Not me. I had taken every step possible to achieve a natural birth. I had hired a midwife. I was planning a water birth in a birth-center! I had dutifully avoided sugar, unhealthy fats and all medication throughout my pregnancy. There was no way I was going to end this pregnancy with surgery!
The pregnancy went really well until the end. I was feeling great, but not showing any signs of going into labor. Then it was discovered that my baby was breech. Suddenly all my care givers went into panic mode! “If you don't get that baby out today, she'll DIE!” they told me. “You must have a c-section. No, a natural birth is not safe. This baby is too big and your pelvis simply isn't big enough to pass this baby. Yes, there's one midwife in the the city who delivers breech babies but that's not safe.” All I could hear them saying was, “She'll DIE. She'll DIE. She'll DIE….”
And so I did something I had never imagined myself doing. I laid down on an operating table and allowed them to cut me open and remove my baby from me. I thought I was saving her life.
I was thankful for the technology that I thought was saving my baby's life, but I was still devastated. After the birth I was in an incredible amount of pain. I was too sick to care for myself let alone my baby, so Papa the Farmer took over her care. I felt so disconnected from my baby. Even though I was nursing, Papa the Farmer did everything else. She was well over a week old before I changed a diaper and a month old before I gave her a bath. As a result, she seemed pretty sure that Papa the Farmer was her mother and this only added to my sadness.
When I came home from the hospital I started reading books like Henci Goer's book The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth. I discovered that there are ways that have a high success rate of turning breech babies! I had questions… Why hadn't we tried harder to turn her? Where was the medical evidence that her life was in danger? Why was she breech in the first place? Why was this happening to me? When I asked my obstetrician, she only said, “I hate it when lay people write books.” I got no answers.
And then the comments started coming. “I would never have allowed the doctors to cut me open,” disdainfully said one naturally-minded lady. “Really? You're going to be stubborn on that point if you're told that your baby is dying and this is the only way to save her life?” I wondered. “What was wrong with you that you couldn't have a baby the normal way” asked a child. “I can't believe you're so upset about this” said another lady. And the worst comment of all… “Well, at least you have a healthy baby. You should just be glad for that.”
Of course I was glad to have a healthy baby. But I still felt violated. (In what other circumstance is it ok to use scare tactics to bully a woman into allowing you to enter her body? None.) I was still grieving a loss. I put on a happy face for the outside world, but in those first weeks and months after her birth I cried a lot.
Maybe you can relate? The cesarean rate in America has never been higher than in the past few years and a lot of women are not happy about that. If you find yourself in the same place where I was, I want you to know that you are not alone. Lots and lots of women are unhappy with their birth experiences. It's ok to be sad/angry/depressed/[insert any other emotion] about a difficult and disappointing birth experience. Yes, it's even normal.
Friends, your baby is not your birth experience.
You can love your baby and still hate your birth experience.
You can love your baby and still need to grieve your birth experience.
You can be thankful for your baby and still be sad that your birth experience was a disappointment.
Having a disappointing birth experience doesn't mean that the next birth will be awful.
In my case, I hired a different midwife for my second baby. He was also breech, but he turned (at 41 weeks!) using a chiropractic technique called The Webster Technique and he was born at home in the water! (Yes, I had a glorious VBAC at home!). My third baby was also turned using the Webster Technique (at 38 weeks). He too, was born at home.
After the boys were born I began to heal. Ironically, my first baby was my smallest baby and my pregnancy with her had the fewest medical complications. Of all my babies, her birth had the best chance of being a natural birth and yet that's not how it turned out. It didn't happen right away, but I slowly began to see the truth in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
My c-section has made me much more empathetic to other women. My c-section has taught me a lot about birth and the medical system that American women are giving birth in. My c-section put my feet on the path that led to me becoming a certified doula and now I can help other women navigate the birth process.
Does that mean my c-section was ok? No.
Does it mean that I am thankful for my c-section? No. But I am thankful for what I learned through the experience.
As for FarmGirl, that little c-sectioned baby of mine? Well, I spent her toddlerhood pregnant with her brothers and reading everything I could about Natural Birth and VBAC's (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). When she was 2, she came into the room moments after FarmBoy was born (while I was still in the birthpool)! She was with me when FarmBaby was born. In the picture above, she had been with me at a dear friend's birth and got to stand right next the midwife! She is holding the hour-old baby in this picture. On the way home from that birth she told me, “I want to be a midwife.” Whether she grows up to be a midwife or not, my heart is full! This girl… my little c-section baby… has VISION for birth! She is not going to be caught by surprise the way I was.
Sweet friend, perhaps your story has not come full circle yet. If you are pregnant and still grieving a past birth experience, may I recommend a few resources? These are three ebooks that I wish I had had when I was having babies…
Redeeming Childbirth by Angie Tolpin is a Bible Study workbook that will help you know what the Word of God says about birth! It incorporates over 100 verses of scripture to help you see your birth plan in light of the broader picture of God's plan for your life. You will be comforted to study about how God wants to be the Lord of our births and challenged to invite your Creator into every aspect of your birth… and your life! This is a wonderful Bible Study tool!
Unbound Birth: How to Have a Natural Birth in the Hospital is a big dose of encouragement for anyone wanting to have a baby naturally in a hospital setting. Jenny points out important information that every expectant mother needs to be aware of when exploring her birth options by sharing her own stories of birthing naturally in a hospital setting. She also walks you through the question of “What is a Doula and Should I Hire One?” as well as other important issues surrounding birth…