Monday, April 27, 2015

When the Arrival is Different

It seems that there's a month, a day, or a week for everything these days. National Siblings Day, National Hot Dog Day, Talk Like a Pirate Day, Wear Green Underwear Day... well, that last one I made up.

Maybe it exists though.

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook that April is National C-Section Awareness month, and while I'm not usually one to really line up in solidarity or support or whatever of these sort of things - this one is very near and dear to my heart. 

Both of my children were born via c-section.

Me pregnant with Will, 3 years ago yesterday, just about 38-39 weeks.
Even though I've said that out loud dozens of times, somehow typing it in the context of this post just made me pause and choke up a little bit. 

When we were pregnant with my son (and yes, I said "we" - my husband suffered through the pregnancy and don't kid yourself ladies, your spouse suffered too), I remember distinctly having this feeling on my heart that it was going to end in a c-section. God knows the whole story, the whole picture, and even though I sat through birthing classes and took notes and practiced breathing and did all my kegels... He was emotionally preparing me for what the end was really going to look like. 

At my 39 week appointment, I found out that the swelling I had been experiencing was due to a sudden spike in my blood pressure. I didn't have pre-eclampsia, but it was still alarming; I had put on 25-30 pounds in 3ish weeks, all water weight. After two non-stress tests and an overnight urine collection (that was fun), we were induced on our due date. 

I wasn't even a little dilated. The word my OB used was "pristine" to describe my cervix. 

24 hours passed and I still hadn't started contracting. I was barely dilated. The pitocin drip was started. After several more hours my water still hadn't broken; it wasn't until my OB threatened to force the issue that my water broke on its own around hour 36. An hour later I had my epidural. By hour 48 I was still only 4-5 cm dilated and it had been about 8 hours since Will's heart rate was recovering post-contraction they way that it should have been. 

50.5 hours later, Will received his official eviction notice. 

I was wheeled into the OR and I was scared. I had never had a major surgery before and even though God had been preparing my heart for this since the first time I had heard my son's heartbeat - I was still scared. I'm not sure if it was the chill of the OR, the anesthesia/morphine mix, or my nerves that had me shaking so badly on the table... probably all three. 

My husband just kept whispering Joshua 1:9 in my ear while squeezing my hand, a quiet and calming reminder from my teammate: "Be strong and courageous, God is with you... be strong and courageous, God is with you..." 

At 11:08 AM that day, Will was born.

In the recovery room with my little man Will.
I didn't get to push. He wasn't placed on my chest for immediate skin to skin and he didn't get his first milk against my bosom until about an hour later in our recovery room. 

I wasn't the first non-medical person to hold him. The first glance I got of my son was two nurses holding him towards me while they rushed him to get cleaned and warm and washed up. And while I am SO glad that Steve got the opportunity to be in the room while he was getting prepped and washed and got to help the nurses and give them his name...

...for about two years, there was a part of me that always mourned my textbook, perfect birthing momma moment that never happened. 

In my story and in every story I've heard of a first c-section, no one ever says that they wanted it to be that way. Even though God prepared my heart and I knew in my gut that it would be my story, a part of me was really looking forward to pushing, to having that moment of messy baby on my chest right out of the birthing canal. To have Steve cuddle into us and put his arm around me and our son and to have that be our story.

Instead my story was a cuddle on my net-covered head while I awkwardly held my son on the OR table for a brief moment until I was ready to be moved. 

A new baby and my first major surgery all in one day.

I couldn't stand up and change those first meconium diapers of grossness that they tell you about. Steve got the pleasure of changing those. It was almost 2 days before I was able to stand up over Will's crib and 3 days before I had the confidence to pick him up out of it myself without dropping him. Walking to the bathroom and showering were pains worse than the contractions before I got my epidural. 

Daddy and his firstborn son snuggled up in the hospital.
Two years of mourning what wasn't. My friends were having their babies and coming home and while they were sore, they weren't under the same doctors orders I was of no lifting and not being able to drive. They didn't come home with scripts for narcotic pain killers. They didn't have scars across their abdomens, a reminder of those moments I had yearned for and missed out on. 

It didn't matter that God had prepared my heart. I wanted normal. I forgot for a minute that my son was a miracle that wasn't supposed to happen, and mourned the loss of my textbook delivery that I knew wasn't to be.

When I was pregnant with Evie, even though our doctor said I could be a good candidate for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After C-Section), we decided that the blood pressure and induction process were too great a risk and that we would opt for the c-section again. 

I'm glad we did. My blood pressure spiked again, this time a week earlier at just about 38 weeks and with proteins indicative of early pre-eclampsia. One week and one day before our scheduled surgery date, we found ourselves scrambling to get a place for Will and mentally prepare ourselves for the arrival of our daughter a bit sooner than we thought. There as no deliberating about whether or not we should induce; because I had already chosen surgery - surgery was the answer.

It was as my doctor and I made the decision for Evie to come early that I finally found the peace from the guilt and sadness I had been carrying with me from Will's delivery. In that OR as Evie was delivered, I wasn't scared anymore and I wasn't upset as I heard her cries, watched her get cleaned and wrapped, and that first awkward hold with those bright eyes was my beautiful moment instead of a guilt-filled one.

Welcoming baby Evangeline to the world... chubby cheeks and all!
This was to be my story. God had prepared my heart for it, and it's OK that this is my story. 

My children were born healthy. I survived the deliveries. I am not convinced that would have been the story of my first pregnancy if it had played out "naturally". 

My friend that wrote her post acknowledging C-Section Awareness month and sharing her story noted that c-section mommas are - among other things she said - brave. 


I never really thought of it that way. But I guess it's true. Brave people look at a situation that could be full of fear and they conquer it. 

When I think back to that first surgery with Will, lying in the OR... I can tell you that the last thing I felt in those moments was bravery and courage. I didn't feel strong. I felt exhausted, I felt scared.

My husband was the brave one that day. He found himself in an OR with his wife on the table praying that his unborn son would be okay and healthy after 8-10 hours of his heart rate not recovering properly. He had to hold himself together while I had my eyes closed just praying that God let my son be OK and trying not to lose my mind. 

He was the brave one. 

I had no courage. I had to have God give it to me. And He did. But it wasn't mine, it was His courage and bravery I had that first delivery. 

With Evie, I was much more confident. I was much more "Let's conquer this thing, bad blood pressure will not win!" and determined. I wasn't scared that day. That day I could argue I was brave. 

"Be strong and courageous, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

Will meeting his baby sister for the first time. 
It's the 27th of the month and it's taken me this long to be able to write this post. There are so many emotions that come up when I think through the births of my children, as is the case with so many moms out there. Everything I've read about the reasons for this month existing is to bring awareness to the rising rates and how we can avoid them and head towards a target c-section rate... and I think that looking at it in such a sterile way bypasses the hearts of the women who have had c-sections and are thankful for the surgery.

I am grateful for the doctors and their expertise and judgment. While they never said that we were in a life-threatening situation, I know it wasn't an ideal one and I know other moms who most certainly WERE in life-threatening situations that they - and their babies - would not have made it without having emergency c-sections.

I would say that I am sufficiently aware, and I hope that most other people are too. I am glad there is a time to highlight this though, and I hope that others feel the freedom that I now feel almost 3 years after the birth of my son.

My scar is no longer something that I look at with sadness or guilt. When I see my scar now, I see the pathway my beautiful children took to get into this world. I see the wisdom and skill of doctors who think of the best interest of women and babies day in and day out.

I see the bravery of my husband, I see the growth of bravery in myself.

I see our family.

I see love.

I see God.

Our little family - January 2015

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