Grace for Your Disappointing Birth Experience – Guest Post at Red + Honey

‘Erin, you have to wake up. You have to wake up. You need to feed Audrey’

My husband had been trying for several minutes to bring me to consciousness but I wasn’t responding, I didn’t want to respond.

‘She’s beautiful – she looks just like you. Don’t you want to meet her?’

I don’t know what held a tighter grip on me: the pain, the anesthesia or the disappointment that my daughter was just born via C-section.

I had planned on a natural birth in the hospital but when Audrey’s heart rate began dropping drastically with each contraction early on in labor the doctor wanted her out now and I was not in a position to argue.

She was born healthy and I was so happy to be holding my precious baby girl in my arms but I mourned not bringing her into this world by the strength of my body with a clear mind and an open heart.

Though I knew there was nothing I could have done to prevent the C-section I was determined that my next birth would be the natural and empowering experience I hoped for.

Twenty-months later I was once again in a hospital, this time pregnant with my son. It was 8 weeks from his due date and I was having intense and regular contractions. The next three weeks would see me in and out of triage before I went into labor 5 weeks early.

Despite the fetal heart monitor strapped to my belly and IV in my hand, I labored naturally with the support of my husband and midwives. Everything was going as planned until I began to push.

My son’s heart rate dropped and because he was moving through the birth canal quickly the 2nd midwife lost track of his heart beat. She knew he was coming soon and she needed to be ready to receive him so she called for a nurse to come and hold the monitor.

Because I was a premature VBAC, the full medical crew showed up and took over.

One moment the midwife I knew and trusted was delivering my baby and the next it was a doctor I had only briefly met and I knew didn’t hold to the same birthing philosophy as my midwife and me.

Because she believed my son was in danger the doctor gave me an episiotomy to speed things up and he was immediately taken to an exam table rather than placed in my arms.

While my son’s birth was a much more natural and empowering experience than my daughter’s, there were aspects that left me disappointed and frustrated.

– – –

Child birth doesn’t always go as planned, does it? You might plan for the most gentle, natural home birth conceivable only to still need interventions, or for it to end as an emergency in a hospital.

You might not even be able to plan for a natural birth, much less a home birth. There might be medical conditions or location restraints that dictate you deliver in a hospital under medical supervision.

Sometimes your preferred options aren’t available. Sometimes people make mistakes. Sometimes people make the wrong decision or a decision was made and you’ll never know if it was the right one. Sometimes your body needs help.

And all of this is okay.

Yes, you carefully chose a birth care provider, you know the advantages of natural deliveries and the reasons why a home birth can be better than a hospital birth. But the reality is that sometimes what is a beautiful, completely natural expression of the female body turns into a medical condition that requires intervention to save the life or health of the mother or baby.

You do the best you can with the options you have available and you respond as well as you can when labor throws you a curve. No matter what has to be done to bring your healthy baby into your healthy arms you should never be made to feel like less of a mother, less of a woman for it, by others or by yourself.

You brought a new human into this world and that, in and of itself, is amazing.

It is disappointing, maybe devastating, when your ideals and desires don’t match your reality, especially when your desires are what’s best for your baby. Other people probably won’t understand this. They might say, ‘Your baby is healthy – that’s all that matters’. Yes, the most important thing is that your baby is healthy but that does’t mean how you experience your baby’s birth is insignificant. For most of us giving birth is a deeply emotional and vulnerable experience and when it isn’t empowering or satisfying we can be cut deep into our beings.

And that’s okay. It’s okay to be disappointed, left wanting, to cry, to mourn.

But remember: how you brought your child into this world is a very small piece of how you raise him. It’s an important part of your story as your child’s mother but as time goes on you’ll write whole new pages and chapters and books together that will far outshine the birth.

The shared memories and laughter will cast redemptive light on the shadows of an imperfect beginning.

– – –

When Audrey first noticed the long horizontal scar on my lower abdomen she asked what it was. I explained that it was from the cut the doctor made so she could be born.

‘Mommy, it’s beautiful’

She gently touched it and I cried, but unlike all the tears I shed because of her birth before this moment these tears were ones of acceptance and grace.

You can read Audrey’s full birth story here and Alistair’s here and you can follow my new series about being pregnant in Macedonia.