My husband and I were young and attending grad school together up in Massachusetts. We were one year away from graduation when we found out we were pregnant! Despite the seemingly bad timing, we were actually quite ecstatic. We knew we wanted to have kids and trusted that everything would fall into place however was best. Now I don’t know if it is because we were young, or if it was because we were so busy with working full time and being students full time, but the bottom line is we were not prepared for the birth of our first child. Not prepared at all. We signed up for the childbirth class offered by the hospital and assumed it would be everything we needed to have a happy birth.
We wrote papers for our school classes, we worked as many hours as we could before the due date, we did everything we could except prepare for our child. Well we did make a registry so we could clothe our child… we weren’t completely helpless.
We also thought that maybe we needed a crib. So one day in the 32nd week of our pregnancy, we piled in the car with some friends to make an ever-so-iconic trip to Ikea. On the way we had to stop in to my OBs office for a quick check up – just a normal, pee in a cup, how are you feeling, visit. Except, as it turns out, this visit wasn’t as run of the mill as we had hoped. I had some stomach pains the night before, and that combined with the ridiculously high blood pressure I had that day and the presence of protein in my urine, our day’s plans were no longer our own.
We immediately went to the hospital for a non-stress test and some blood work. The news was not good – at least that was all I got from the nurse who couldn’t tell me anything. She just looked at me with sad eyes and asked me to come up to labor and delivery to talk with the OB on call. Silence. Josh and I just looked at each other – our biggest concern was our friends waiting for us in the cafeteria wanting to go to Ikea. What in the world did the OB want to talk to us about??
Well, thinking we were going to his office, we were actually led to a labor and deliver suite. Complete with fetal monitoring system, labor bed, and gown. A GOWN! What???
We were told I needed a cesarean birth immediately, Josh asked the doctor what our other options were, and again we just got stares. “Options?” He asked? “You don’t have any options.”
We were immediately put in our place. This pregnancy was no longer ours. This experience was taken from us at that moment precisely. Birth was no longer something I was able to have a say in and we shut down. We both did.
In the end, I was diagnosed with HELLP Syndrome, I had a cesarean birth exactly 48 hours after our ‘talk’ with the OB, and our 3 ½ lb baby spent 17 days in the NICU. There are plenty of more details to share about that experience. I did have some OBs who spoke up for me, who offered some compassion during what was a terrifying experience, but the tone was set by OB#1.
And I have been on a path since that day. A path of healing, forgiveness, and building myself back up. It has taken me 6 ½ years to naturally go from saying ‘Then they took him by cesarean’ to ‘I had a cesarean birth’. That is HUGE for me. His birth looked different from others, but it was his birth.
So my path has been restorative and healing. I have been a doula for almost 5 years now and have started my Lamaze certification process now as well. I am so blessed to be in a position to educate and empower women through their labor and birth experiences. And I am so thankful for each and every opportunity I have to do that.