It has taken me 3 months to write this, though the ideas words and feelings have been bouncing around my head for that long. And now, with my beautiful sleeping baby girl on my lap, it seems like the right time.
I gave birth to my fourth child in July. I was definitely more excited for this baby’s birth, then I had been for the previous 3. I firmly believe that each of my babies was born exactly how they needed to be, even if they were not ideal. With baby number one I was TERRIFIED. Terrified and completely uneducated. Uneducated not because there was no one who tried to educate me, but because I was afraid. Not of being mom. Not of caring for a baby, but the actual birth process. I was too afraid and certainly had no trust in my body or my baby’s ability to get out. So it was a highly medicated birth, but I got my beautiful baby boy and all was well.
I did not set out to be an attachment parenting hippie mom, but that is who I became, and I quickly learned to listen to and trust my baby, practicing co-sleeping, and extended breastfeeding. But I had not yet learned to trust my body or to ask a lot of questions. So when baby number 2 was breech a c-section was scheduled. And it was the perfect way for her to be born. After birth we found out she had bi-lateral congenital hip dysplasia. She entered the world just the way she needed to and was tandem nursing with her big brother minutes later.
With baby number 3 I had come into my own a bit more. I knew a VBAC was possible for me, and I was fortunate to have an OB on my side. I found out later none of the other docs in the practice thought I could do it. It was a medicated birth, and the epidural was definitely the worst part. But it was a VBAC. And it was wonderful and empowering.
So, for baby number 4 my hopes were high. I was ready, ready to trust my body, to trust my baby and to trust the birth process. I am too much of a worrier for a home birth. Not because I think they are unsafe, but because I am a worrier. I worry about everything, logical and illogical. A worried body is a tense body and I knew for me, the best place for this ultimate birth experience I was envisioning, was with a midwife, in a hospital. I found the perfect practice and had a wonderful pregnancy. But then, my birth hopes started to fade. The baby was persistently not in the right position. Sometimes breech, sometimes transverse. We tried for a version; unsuccessful. I cried. I cried and felt frustrated. I tried everything. I wanted that dream birth for me. I wanted to trust my body, and my baby. But my body was failing to do what I thought it needed to do.
On a Tuesday night I will never forget, I sat researching. I still had 2 weeks, I would not give up. The baby would flip. I put my trust in my body, and my baby. I sat on my bed and called her by name, even though we didn’t know she was a girl yet, I knew, deep inside. As the night progressed the baby seemed to not be moving as much. I woke up in the middle of the night and the baby would still not move. I tried everything, ice on my belly, poking, pleading with her. She had always moved, throughout my pregnancy, anytime I needed her to. We were connected, deeply. And now, she wouldn’t. So I called the midwife and In we went. Slightly over an hour later I had a baby, a tiny 4.5 pound baby, my placenta and cord did not look good. I did not hold her. I did not see her. I barely heard her. There were doctors, specialists, midwives, and fear. That night, as things seemed to be settling and I thought that maybe I would soon be with my baby she started to have seizures and was whisked away in the middle of the night to another hospital far away from me.
I had failed. My birth dreams had failed. The next 9 days are a horrific blur. EEGS, MRIs, blood tests, fear, tears, frustration. And finally the ability to bring home by beautiful baby. Still tiny, but doing just fine. When I was able to start to think clearly I heard the words the midwives had said to me over and over. “If you had not paid attention, if you had not listened to your body, listened to your baby, she would not be here.” Horrible to wrap my head around those words. And then I translated those words. I had trusted birth, more importantly, I had trusted my baby and her ability to tell me what she needed.
Her birth was not the beautiful amazing empowering birth I dreamed of. In fact, it was a horrible nightmare. But it taught me something important. Trusting birth, trusting your body, trusting your baby; those words don’t always mean what you might think. And even a traumatic birth can be empowering.