Out of the Wall

A planned home birth morphs into an emergency c-section. And I'm now okay with that.

There are stories we tell about ourselves -

That our families will always look a certain way... That there are some circumstances with which we could never reconcile... That "that's just the way it is"...

 - that turn out not to be true.

A story I've told is, "My husband and I, we can't make girls."  Over the course of nine years, we made four awesome boys instead. And the one baby that turned out not to be, that one that set up camp in my womb for only a single trimester, I made a space for that one in my story. Maybe that one was going to be the girl, but it's just not meant to be for us. The day came when I told myself that I needed to change the story; not because it wasn't true, but because it wasn't satisfying. I tweaked it; I chose a different angle on the same situation and my story became, "My husband and I, we have been trusted to handle a lot of boys."

The moment I laid eyes on my first daughter last week, that old story I had once told about myself became forever obsolete. In the same moment, another story I told about myself - that all my babies are born at home - was also rendered obsolete. And as I lay in a hospital bed the following day, recuperating from a C-section I never saw coming, I felt a little lost. This was "supposed to be" the grand finale of our childbirth experiences. For nine months, I had pictured that precious experience of laboring in the low light of my bedroom with my husband and my mother at my side and the ecstatic moment after the final push when her slippery little body would be in my arms and the chaos of labor would subside into that murmuring glow of relief, and closeness and intimacy. Instead, laying on the operating table, blinking in the bright lights and listening to Voodoo 104.1 playing in the background I felt more like a car on the lift in the mechanic's shop than like a mother who had just given birth. Did I just give birth? Was this baby mine like all the others I had pushed out of my body with my own sheer will?

Not the Birth I Planned

She just wouldn't settle. "Transverse Unstable Lie." Monster contractions that seemed to go on forever, and a sensation of my belly tearing apart that just never ended, even when each contraction did.

The day in the hospital passed quietly, with capable nurses doing the postpartum jobs that I was used to my husband or my mother doing for me. The Engineer and I didn't talk much. We both spent the day wrapping our heads around what just happened. It was only when the sun dipped just below the horizon that I called him over to sit with me and I whispered my confession, "I feel really sad."

I'm grateful beyond expression that I'm in one piece...that I have a healthy baby...that the doctors were expert and the nurses were kind and accommodating. How strange it is to feel loss and gain simultaneously. I am not angry and I don't blame anyone. It's just that my identity flounders for a moment. "Home Birth Mommy"; my actual experience no longer reconciles with my own narrative.

There are stories we tell about ourselves because we just don't know that our world can be even bigger than we presently allow. In point: I have a daughter when I once thought I would only have sons, I have a nest-of-a-home when I once thought I would always feel rootless, I have a loving community when I once thought I could never belong. I realized as I haltingly talked out my sense of loss with the Engineer that I would be able to let go completely of all my disappointment if I knew for sure that tomorrow, I could climb into my own bed at home and snuggle up with my baby and bond with her as I had with the others after their births. It dawned on me that what motivated my desire for home birth was the thirst for that experience of intimacy with my birth partners and with my baby. I'm not an idealogue; it's not about home birth being objectively better. It's just what I felt best facilitated my goal. And despite my little girl's birth being so different than I pictured it being, there was nothing keeping me from incorporating it into my now-broadened self-definition: that I am a woman with a mommy-heart who values closeness over convenience. The necessity of my c-section did not equal "failed home birth". It was just a different expression of this promise I've made to all my babies: I will do whatever it takes, pay whatever it costs, to give you life. My tears dried up and I could look at the Engineer with a smile when I adjusted the perimeters of this story I told about myself and found that I was even more satisfied with it than with the story it had replaced.

Rewrite Your Story

My sweet girl, the door out wasn't working for you? Then hold on a second while I smash through the wall because there is nothing on earth than I want more than to hold you in my arms and begin the lifetime of learning all the little facets of your soul.d.

There are stories we tell about ourselves -

That the fear of the unknown might cripple us... That our plans are always the best ones... That if the door is stuck then there is no other way...

-that turn out not to be true.


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