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Altered Expectations: Reflections of a birth story

Giving Birth is the ultimate test of going with the flow. Having gone through labour and a vaginal delivery with my first son, it seemed realistic to expect the same thing second time ’round. But no… Expectations were not only altered, they were flipped right upside down!! I pictured a birth at home surrounded by personal comforts; visions of moving through positions in, on, or around my own bed, with music playing while I moved to the sounds of my personalized playlist. My husband by my side, offering physical, mental and emotional support (which warrants a pause here to recognize how supportive he truly was! I wouldn’t have made it through what I did without him.) We had 2 midwives accompanying us through the adventure, one of which delivered my first son; and she is someone with one of those reassuring calm voices that can get a labouring woman through the toughest of contractions.

A C-Section birth was not the plan, not even a consideration. But with stalled contractions and concerns about baby’s elevated heartrate, it became the only option. Ugghhh… I felt defeated. Like my body wasn’t able to do what it was meant to do. Feelings of failure are difficult to ignore, even when our midwives expressed their perspective: I did literally EVERYTHING they suggested to get contractions going naturally. Which, apparently in their eyes, was impressive since that level of determination and inner strength is rare for them to witness. Yet, I fail to see through their eyes. I remained mentally stuck on the feelings of not good enough.

Let’s reflect: Labour with my first son stalled at 7cms, which I had concluded through self reflection must have been related to the stress of my trip to the hospital, the unfamiliar surroundings and all of the interventions being done to me. With that in mind, and our decision to stay home this time, I felt so mentally prepared to take on labour again; empowered even! So why is it then that the 7cm stall happened again while at home? Perhaps I became fearful of the pain as intensity grew, which held my body back. If that’s the case, it’s hard not to blame myself for not being prepared enough mentally for the difficulties of a natural labour. Be more prepared though? How could that even be possible?! I read endlessly about natural birth strategies, practiced breathing techniques, stretched daily, bounced on the yoga ball like it was my job, I even drank the obscene amount of tea and ate the damn dates!! Ahhhh!

*Deep breath… and pause…* In the midst of writing that and tearing myself down, I stop to remind myself of this wisdom brought by one of my best friends: “We are the type of people to build others up when they are down. We encourage others to persevere through tough times and help them to see light and happiness through the darkest of situations. We offer endless empathy for those who are struggling… Yet, we are the same people that are excessively hard on ourselves. Instead of tearing ourselves down, we should be offering the same amount of grace and compassion that we extend to others. There is no need to torment ourselves when we know in our hearts that if someone else was in the same hardship, we would support them with our everything.”

So here I am, arriving at what I hope is the beginning of acceptance. Trying now to consider reasons why things were meant to be this way; maybe he was in a bad position and my body stopped progress to ensure a safe c-section delivery. Or perhaps a power greater than all of us knew that his elevated heartrate was due to a badly wrapped cord, and found a way to avoid an emergency home birth situation… Whatever the reason, I doubt I will ever love my birth story, but I will certainly try to accept it. What I’m able to accept now is that the adventure of labour and birth is fully out of anyone’s control, even when putting forth your everything to try for a desired outcome.

But I still struggle with the loss of that first moment… You know, that moment where your just born baby is put onto your chest for the first time; you see their face, hear their cry and become engulfed with emotions greater than you thought were possible. I reflect now on the reality of what our first moment was: seeing my baby held up over the surgical curtain, and I realize that the emotional aspect still certainly took hold, especially when I heard his cry for the first time. Even though I was unable to hold my baby as I had hoped due to being stuck on the surgery table, I got to witness my husband meet his son for the first time. And that moment was pretty magical. And now, as I sit typing this with a peaceful baby asleep on my chest I am grateful that even though expectations were altered, the outcome in the end is still pure joy of having this beautiful boy join our family. ♥️

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