Reflections on my birth story one year later...
My daughter was born just over a year ago** via a (very reluctantly) planned C-section. I found out my baby was footling breech just before 34 weeks. I dove headfirst into any and all attempts to get baby girl head down – Spinning Babies, chiropractic care, acupuncture, Hypnobirthing and even two versions. External cephalic version is a process by which a breech baby can sometimes be turned from buttocks or foot first to head first.
Despite the excitement surrounding me and my husband, imminently welcoming our first child into the world, I felt devastated. There were so many feelings and emotions: loss and heartbreak at not getting a chance to have the birth I'd envisioned and prepared for. Anger at my care providers for not noticing her positioning earlier and ashamedly some anger towards my baby for not doing what babies are "supposed," to do and total frustration with my body for somehow failing me at the end of my pregnancy. It felt like not many people truly could empathize with what I was feeling... as long as baby and mom were healthy, why should it matter?
I'd done some reading on the "gentle" C-section and felt so strongly that immediate skin-to-skin in the Operating Room (OR) was the only option I could accept if a C-section was my fate. When my care provider could not guarantee the type of C-section I was asking for, knowing very well that it was being practiced at another local hospital, I left. I sought out a caring and empathetic provider who not only agreed to my birth plan, but assured me that this was her normal C-section procedure.
Being able to see my daughter and hold her immediately on my chest is a feeling I'll never forget. The moment they brought her up to my face, new and bloody and just-birthed, she reached right for my nose and grasped on. When I look at that picture, it feels like my heart will explode and tears brim in my eyes even a year later. It’s my dream that the future of C-section births will start to look more and more like this - that C-section moms will feel more connected to the moment their babies arrive earthside and will feel more respected, heard and involved in their surgical births.
With the passing of a full year, the pain I felt at not having the birth I so wanted began to soften. I still mourn that loss but what I've learned from therapy and self-reflection is that it's ok to feel both immense joy at the birth of my beautiful baby as well as sadness and grief for the birth I would have preferred. I hope that more moms can learn and accept that it's ok to feel both.
But most importantly, if there is anything that I could impress upon my fellow expecting mamas, it is to ADVOCATE – for yourself, for your baby and for your family. You deserve the opportunity to make the best decisions possible. When I didn't get the answers I needed, I found a new doctor at 39 weeks! I am proud of that decision, I am proud of every question I asked, every "no" I pushed back at. One day I will tell my daughter about her birth and I will make sure to include in that story, the bravery with which I brought her into this world.
**My daughter is now 16 months old and I’m happily expecting our second child in September! I’m very happily planning for a beautiful VBAC!
Jenny Robertson is a Boston based yogi and mother. She teaches prenatal yoga at Om Births where we met and did our prenatal yoga teacher training together. She is a beautiful soul and inspires expectant mothers every day.