*This essay is featured on scarymommy.com, and was named among the ten Best Blog Posts of 2015 by The Adultier Adult *
When my due date came and went, we tried everything from pineapple to acupuncture to get things moving naturally. Alas, two weeks later, still no baby. I was forty-two weeks pregnant with some minor complications, so we finally checked into the hospital to be induced. The midwife was confident that, aside from the induction drugs, we could stick to our birth plan: an unmedicated labor and “natural” birth.
The next thirty-six hours were a crescendo of frustrating efforts to dilate my stubborn cervix. When the baby began to show distress, heart decelerations and dropping oxygen levels were monitored closely. The midwife helped us stay the course as long as possible, trying everything to stabilize the baby’s vital signs. But when his heart rate began plummeting dangerously, she placed an urgent call for the doctor.
The Obstetrician swooped in and explained that it wasn’t safe to labor any longer; it was time to get the baby out. I felt a brief wave of grief, but no hesitation: “Yes, do it.” In that very moment—as I traded my own wishes for my child’s safety—–a mother was born.
A team assembled quickly in the operating room: anesthesiologist, obstetrician, pediatrician and several nurses. My husband, Justin, changed into scrubs and watched through a small window as they prepared me for immediate surgery. I was eager for him to come hold my hand, but I felt a quiet maternal strength in those pre-surgical moments alone. Determined to stay calm and present, I took long, deep breaths and listened to our birth playlist on an iPod.
When Justin was allowed in, he came and took the seat beside my head. The surgery was painless, but there was enormous pressure once they began manipulating the baby. During the last minute before birth, there was tremendous wrenching and tugging that shook my whole body and bobbled my head.
And then, at 9:02 PM, a long, wet baby boy was lifted earthside. I caught only a glimpse, as they whisked him over to the examining table, where he remained silent for the longest minute of my life.
Why isn’t he crying?
Justin could see the baby from where he was sitting, and he described the pediatrician vigorously rubbing our limp, purple baby. I heard one little squeak, which wasn’t very reassuring, but it got me through the last few seconds before that mighty howl. I burst into tears of joy.
Andrew is here. My Andrew is safe.
Justin was invited to participate in the exam and I gave him the nod. I felt left out, unable to witness my baby’s first moments, but I listened with pride as a nurse gushed over his eyelashes and they announced his weight: nine pounds and four ounces. Within a couple of minutes, his breathing normalized, his skin became pink and his APGAR score shot up from a three to a nine. He was more than fine, he was perfectly healthy—all because they got him out in time. I could never begin to describe the depth of pure gratitude.
Justin carried the baby over and did the honors of our introduction. With most of my body behind the surgical curtain, they laid him awkwardly across my neck. I studied the familiar stranger, his face just inches from mine. My first words to him were, “There you are,” and I kissed the tiny pair of lips shaped exactly like my own.
Through my exhilaration, I knew my son needed more complete skin-to-skin contact with someone who could hold him properly. So, after a few photos were snapped, my two favorite people left the room together.
With everyone safe and nothing left to fear, my mind was now free to process what had just happened. I pretended to fall asleep while the layers of organ, muscle and skin were stitched closed. I reframed the situation for myself: No, this wasn’t what I wanted or expected, but it was what my baby needed. Any disappointment stemmed from my own wishes, and this wasn’t about me anymore.
Cesarean Section is the epitome of medical birth intervention, but a mother taking extreme measures to protect her child is the most natural thing in the world. Right then and there, I made peace with the surgery. But I still felt a loss.
After a long, uncomfortable pregnancy, two days of painful contractions, and major abdominal surgery, my husband stepped in to collect the crowning moment—the emotional finish line I had imagined a thousand times. Of course I was thrilled and grateful to have a healthy baby, but there was also an empty longing. The tiny person who had never lived outside my body, was now in a different room. Instead of holding my son, I was being sewn shut behind the scenes.
Again, I had to look past myself and think about Andrew, who had everything he needed. He was in the nursery, hair still wet from the womb, cuddled against his father’s shirtless chest. They were wrapped warmly together in a blanket and a rocking chair. I knew he was safe with the only person who loves him as much as I do. My arms ached for him, and the sacrifice felt profound and beautiful, like I had been his mother for a thousand years.
The nurses sat me upright and wheeled me into the recovery room, where I was reunited with my boys. This part of my memory is a sweet blur of love, relief, and morphine. I kissed my husband, nursed my baby, and called my mom.
It was almost midnight when our family of three was moved to a postpartum room. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, but I was too overjoyed to feel hunger. We stayed up for hours, inspecting our perfect, newborn baby. All of life’s complexity melted away; the world had never felt so simple.
Would I have chosen a different birth experience as it unfolded? Yes. But I wouldn’t go back and change it now, just as I wouldn’t erase the downpour of rain from my wedding day. The defining moments of life are meant to unfold as they will. Andrew’s birth was exactly as it should have been, as it needed to be… as it was. Be it under the knife or to the ends of the earth—wherever my son needs me, I will go. It doesn’t get any more natural than that.