holding my huckleberry for the first time, 36 hours after he was born
The thing I can’t wrap my head around is that some women actually choose to have their babies delivered by C-section. For me, that was never even a consideration. I skipped over all the chapters – even in Spiritual Midwifery there are chapters – pertaining to hospital deliveries, and almost especially I did not read about surgical deliveries and or recovery therefrom. Why would I? I was giving birth at home.
Up until a few hours before my baby was born, I had been exclusively cared for by midwives during the course of my pregnancy, with the exception of one initial prenatal visit with my beloved OB in Los Angeles. And this being my first non-obstetrical pregnancy and therefore my first experience as a patient of midwifery, I had little reference by way of either expectation or practice. So I went with it, and since everything seemed fine, I didn’t ask too many questions.
To be honest, I really loved, and still do, the idea of compassionate birthing. Being a person of strong physical constitution, and also one that vehemently believes in the natural abilities of the body, it was very easy for me to accept the idea that biology know best, especially in the case of mothers growing babies. Plus, I’d already had two relatively healthy pregnancies and did not expect for this one to be any different.
In many ways, this pregnancy was similar to my others in that I was blindingly nauseated for months on end. But it stood out to me mostly because I was so aware of, and so grateful for, being pregnant. In spite of how awful I felt all of the time, I loved every second of carrying a little baby in my belly. And I most certainly was not ready for it to be over, and so suddenly.
It’s been eight weeks since my tiny guy was born the only way he was able to be, through emergency surgery. I walked into a hospital with a question, and did not leave until five days later, after what was easily the most emotionally intense experience of my entire life. I had absolutely no intention of giving birth within the walls of a hospital, and yet without a hospital and a highly skilled team of doctors and nurses, my baby would not be alive. In a matter of minutes, I faced one of my biggest fears without even the slightest bit of advanced preparation. And little by little, I’m getting through it.
At my six week check-up, my doctor (I sort of adopted the physician that helped me through my labor, more on that later) informed me of a condition I developed during pregnancy that is the primary cause of stillbirths. There are a variety of reasons as to why this particular condition can arise, including the baby compressing his own umbilical cord for a period of time, and both the baby and I will have tests over the next several months to rule out any serious complications.
The good news is that, for the most part, we are both doing really well. That baby of mine is fattening up rather nicely, and all thanks to my boobs, which is quite an accomplishment when it comes to premature infants. He’s starting to coo, and I’ve spotted a few smiles peeking around the corners of his sweet little mouth.
We are both, however, still rather sensitive. The baby, well. The baby wants to be held. Which makes perfect sense given the shocking and most traumatic way in which he entered the world, but which also means I don’t get much else done other than nursing and cuddling a baby. Also, sleep. We have not yet established our rhythm, meaning I’m pretty sure we’re both totally exhausted.
As for me? I can’t touch my scar without crying, and from a conflicted place of deep sadness and profound gratitude. It is not a pretty wound; it very clearly illustrates the urgency of the situation. I experience consistent, throbbing pain throughout my lower abdomen, which I’m told can last for an entire year. I’ve yet to wear anything with a waistband. And I’m constantly leaking breastmilk.
In reality, I still haven’t completely processed what happened the night I delivered a baby over a month early, while strapped to a gurney, completely knocked out from general anesthesia, and in front of at least a dozen people I had never met. I’m not sure I ever will. The truth is, I’ve learned a lot more about myself from this than I would have from a home birth, including my ability to handle devastation with grace. I discovered strength I didn’t even think I had, and I felt loved and cared for completely. As the days pass, I still feel those things. But they’re joined with feelings of grief as I mourn the loss of the birth I wanted.
Ultimately, I did not get pregnant so that I could have a home birth. I got pregnant so that I could have a healthy baby, and that is exactly what I have. An extremely cute one, to boot. And as much as I’ve yet to recover from the circumstances of his birth, I’d do it all again this moment just to bring him into the world. Because truly, he is a miracle.