A week shy of nineteen months ago, I didn't give birth to our daughter. I know that statement offends people, but deep down in my heart I have never believed that I gave birth to her. I was strapped down, sliced open, and she was removed all eight pounds and one poop covered ounce of her. I have no real connection with her birth. I was pregnant, I agreed to be induced, my water broke and things hit the fan, I was scared into staying in bed while hooked up to ever increasing amounts of Pitocin, and I agreed to a c-section after not moving past three centimeters. I was shaved, told by the nurse that I'd never been in labor since my contractions had never regulated and that "all the birth plan mommies end up with c-sections," and put on a stretcher and taken downstairs. Where I was separated from my husband and left with people I'd never seen before,and told to lean forward so that they could stick me repeatedly with needles that caused me to feel like I was on fire. After what seemed like forever while thoughts of being knocked out or never walking again they got the spinal started. I was laid down, my arms stretched out beside me like a crucifix, they put up a drape up so all I could see was blue, and touched with an alcohol wipe to see what I could feel. They brought my husband in, and I was sliced open. I didn't even realize that the "birth" had started. I knew it had begun when my husband was told he could stand up if he wanted since they were getting ready to pull our daughter into the world. He declined because he's not good with blood and guts. No one offered to let me see her be born, and I didn't ask because I didn't know how I could see without my husband seeing. I heard my doctor say time of birth 15:05, and I heard a different voice say to not let her cry. They took her to the side, out of my sight, and cleaned her up and wrapped her with a blanket. I first saw the child that I had carried for nine months, wrapped in a striped hospital receiving blanket with a hat on several minutes after she was born. The only sign that she was mine was the little bit of meconium still on her ear that they'd missed. For the first time in my life I had joyful tears running down my face because she was the most beautiful thing that I'd ever seen, while I stretched with all of my might to just touch her since they were holding her an inch or so further than I could reach with my strapped down hands. I don't know if my doctor noticed my struggling or if I was managing to move my numb body and thus disturbing the surgical field, but he told the nurse that my hand could be unstrapped and I was able to brush her cheek with my hand. The nurse snapped a picture of our new family, and then my husband carrying our daughter was whisked out of the operating room upstairs to the nursery while my empty broken body was put back together. I didn't see them, let alone get to hold her, again for several hours. I was completely alone. The end of the surgery is mostly a blur. I was brought up to my postpartum room to find all my stuff from the labor and delivery room had been moved and that my dad and step-mom were waiting for me. My husband was still in the nursery with my daughter, though he started sending me texts updating me. When they finally released her from the nursery, my husband handed her to me, and I just stared at her finally counting her fingers and toes, while the paparazzi circled around invading what should have been a private moment taking pictures. That's the one thing I really remember is snapping at my dad when he wanted me to turn my head so my face would be in the picture, that if he wanted my face in the picture he should move. According to my husband, she was very alert and just looking around at everything for the first hour. I wouldn't know since by the time I was allowed to hold her, she was asleep. I'll never get those first hours back.
I spent months berating myself for failing her, begging her through my tears for forgiveness that she couldn't give. In my mind, my scar is a giant scarlet c marking me for the whole world to see as a failure, a statistic. It took me months to recognize myself in the mirror when I'd walk by and there wouldn't be a giant pregnant belly. There was a part of me that wondered if she was actually our daughter. Luckily she looks just like my husband with my eyes, or I'd probably still be wondering if she was really mine. She had very severe reflux that we finally got under control with a combination of a dairy, soy, and gluten free diet plus Zantac and later Prilosec. I can't count the number of people who suggested I switch her to some form of hypoallergenic formula, in large part because my limited diet was annoying to others. When I eliminated gluten, I had actually decided that if that didn't help I'd switch her to formula since I wasn't sure what else I could eliminate and still eat enough to actually make milk. But wanting what was best for my daughter wasn't my biggest goal in not weaning her to control the reflux. My motivation was that I wasn't sure I could mentally handle failing at feeding her too. It was a triumph of sorts for me to be able to say that I might not be capable of giving birth, but at least I can feed her the way God intended.
I spent several month in counseling working through my issues. I've gotten to a point where I don't have to get up every morning and remind myself that I am not failure. I got off the birth control pills that were making the depression worse. For the most part my life is back to normal, and I don't think about the fact that she was removed much like my tonsils. I try to avoid the articles that pop up on my Facebook news feed that remind me. I don't pregnancy related shows on television any more, and I quit testing myself with them after I had a panic attack watching a woman get a spinal before a c-section that caused quite a bit of nerve pain. Mostly I do my best to avoid the pink elephant in the room.
And yet every now and then it pops up and slaps me across the face with its trunk. I'm right back sitting on the bathroom floor with the shower running clutching the baby monitor while I cried. It happens when I end up biting my tongue while a friend talks about her worries she wouldn't make it to the hospital because her labor went so fast she didn't even have enough time to get an epidural. Or when I see a friend who had the natural birth that I had wanted being congratulated on that birth, and being told she's their hero. That voice in the back of my head says she did it, why couldn't you? She's a hero, you had the exact opposite of a natural birth, you're nothing but a stupid coward. And just the other day, I shared a photo from cesareanrates.com showing a Mississippi hospital with an almost eighty-five percent c-section rate. Seeing as how the World Health Organization advocates a maximum rate of fifteen percent, and the US rate is just over thirty percent, that's excessive no matter how you look at it. My brother enjoys playing the troll when I post anything he thinks is kind of dumb, and everything came back up.
A week or so ago while trying to show my daughter some pictures my mom took via Skype of her "knitting" on my iPad, my daughter managed to open up a chat window that brought up a conversation I had with my aunt the day before my daughter was born. I had sounded so optimistic that labor was getting ready to start, and that everything was going to work out. Re-reading it started to chip away at the thick walls I try to keep around my feelings around her birth. My brother's comment that maybe the high c-section rate at that hospital was just because there are more fat people in Mississippi took those little cracks and tore the walls down. The anger and the pain and the fear and the regret came tumbling out. I was trying to explain why low c-section rates and VBACs are good things. The reasons why I would rather not have any more children than go into a pregnancy knowing I had not option other than another c-section flew out of my mouth. And then something that both shocked and scared me came out. I said that I would have rather of died but actually have given birth to my daughter, than to have been cut open. I'm not sure if that makes me suicidal, or just still going through the various stages of grief. Regardless I'm happy that I'm not dead. I don't what my husband would do with the baby if I'd of died giving birth. And if for the safety of my child, if we're blessed with more children, I'd have another c-section.
It took me several days to write this out, and I was crying through the first part. Maybe I need to see about getting another counselor. The fact that I was able to finish writing without the tears means I just need to work on getting my feelings out and dealing with them in healthy ways instead of ignoring things to the point that I'm trying not to shake listening to others talk about childbirth and how they went c-section all the way like it's a good thing. I dunno. I need help, but with Christ's help I can get through anything.