For the longest time I was extremely resentful, bitter and emotionally hurt about how my birth experience with Tatum went. Feeling as though your body has “failed” you is one of the worst feelings I have had to endure. Hearing from multiple people “Well, you are just too small to do it naturally” didn’t help either. I am sure that most people had good intentions — but it only made the pain of having what I feel was an unnecessary c-section more intense.
Everyone has their own birth experience. Some women have great c-section experiences. Some women have horrid natural birth experiences. My c-section experience was not traumatic in the way that my life or Tatum’s life was threatened, and the surgery went smoothly and I healed well. My labor was deemed a “failure to progress” and I was wheeled in to have a c-section. That was that. But there were hurdles that both of us had to undergo afterward when we arrived home from the hospital. Many women experience struggles with breastfeeding after a caesarean due to a lack of skin-to-skin contact immediately after the birth. This was proving to be true for Tatum and I. There was nothing more I wanted to do than breastfeed my daughter, and it was already looking doubtful even in the early stages. Unfortunately, there is a lack of support for breastfeeding mothers, and it was proving to be very difficult for me to persist. As a brand new, younger mother, I was not given the proper information about breastfeeding and didn’t know where to find it, and having had a c-section was making it that much more difficult. Had I not had David to continue to support me and keep me calm as Tatum cried and I had troubles getting her to latch properly, I have no doubt that I would have given up. Luckily we persevered and had a year of successful breastfeeding.
I had trouble bonding with Tatum in the early weeks. We had been separated for more than an hour after they pulled her out of me while I was in the recovery room. I didn’t have that wonderful skin-to-skin contact immediately following her birth, I wasn’t able to hold her while we were being cleaned up or able to breastfeed immediately after birth. I was shown her face, she was handed to David, and I was given drugs to be knocked out while I was sewn up. I barely even remember what she looked like when I was shown her because the drugs I was given were already making my vision blurry and concentrating was difficult. I remember asking “is she ok??” and I was out. That is not how I had envisioned meeting our daughter.
I was in a lot of pain for a few weeks after my surgery. It was very difficult for me to pick up Tatum, to do household tasks, and even to walk down the hallway to get to the bathroom or any other room of our house. I felt dependent on David, and even though he was so helpful and didn’t mind whatsoever, I still felt like I had failed myself. I felt as though I shouldn’t complain or talk about being in pain, because I hadn’t gone through a vaginal birth and therefore my pain wasn’t valid. None of my female family members had experienced a c-section so I felt I didn’t have an outlet to share my experiences and my unhappiness with how everything had happened. I felt this way for a long time.
About a month after Tatum’s birth, I began researching unnecessary c-sections, vaginal births after c-section (also known as VBAC), and from there was opened up to a whole new realm of pregnancy, birth, mothering and life in general that I had NO idea had existed. How I wished I had found this information before I had Tatum! I was introduced to making my own baby food purees, extended breastfeeding, cloth diapering, placenta encapsulation, doulas & midwives, and so much more that I was not aware of. My whole interpretation of what pregnancy and birth really meant changed dramatically, and so did I as a mother and a woman.
Four and a half years later, with baby number two on the way, we have hired a wonderful doula, a woman I have actually known for several years as we had worked together quite some time ago, Kelly Boisclair of the With Child Birth Collective in Moose Jaw. I recently had my first meeting with her, and we were talking about how my first birth experience had shaped how I view pregnancy, birth and motherhood in general this time around. It was then that a lightbulb went off in my head. The way Tatum’s birth had gone had exposed me to this new realm of being a woman, a laboring woman, and a mother. If I had had a vaginal birth with no complications with Tatum, I most likely would have went on my way and would have had no reason to look into women’s labor and birth options and everything else I had been introduced to through my research. I wouldn’t have learned about the rampant performing of unnecessary c-sections on laboring women, how VBACs are a safe and ideal option (providing your second pregnancy is relatively healthy), and everything else I have come to learn about a more gentle, natural way of laboring, parenting and mothering.
I’m finally at peace with how my first birth went. It has served a purpose for me — to help me become the passionate advocate I am for women to have the birth options that they so deserve. This is not to say that c-sections do not serve a purpose — the medical community is a wonderful tool to have, and c-sections can be life-saving for critical situations. There are times when they are definitely needed. But, most times, when a woman is left to labor in a way she is comfortable and without interventions, her body will know what to do. Our bodies are smart machines, and when the intricate steps of labor are not interfered with, they will know what to do with minimal assistance.
I know that this birth will be different with my last, and I am confident that I can trust my body and myself to know what I need during my labor and delivery. I am thankful for my first birth for teaching me these things, and am hopeful for the months ahead to prepare me as much as possible for a special day that I will never forget.