This is not my birth story. This is the story of how I came to believe the way I believe and find what I am passionate about doing. It is a hard story that has to do with trauma, judgment, self hate, self love, acceptance, balance and purpose. It is not for everyone, but it is my story and I wouldn’t change one line.
I have always believed in a woman’s right to choose how and where she births. I have also always believed that birth was something women DO, not something that is done to them. This is what I have always believed. Birth could be scary, but birth didn’t have to be, and most of the times it wouldn’t be.
I have always said how a woman choose to give birth is up to her and she should be respected in that choice. I would say things like “If a woman wants an elective c-section with a tummy tuck right after so be it”, but secretly I would judge these women. I thought women who had elective c-sections or epidurals were women who had been brainwashed, who had given into the scare tactics of the male dominated world, who were just seeing birth as a means to a baby, and as a result missing a chance to take part in a miracle! These are the thoughts I carried around with me. They were heavy and biting, and they stayed with me till I became a parent.
I found out I was pregnant with my daughter the first weekend of October 2013. My husband and I were thrilled. I knew that I wanted an unmedicated birth, but I also knew that being a type 1 diabetic my unmedicated birth would be in a hospital with a doctor. That was fine. My diabetes was well under control, I had an ObGYN who had experience with diabetic women, my husband and I were going to go to classes focusing on natural childbirth. We had support, we knew what we were doing. I went to a doctor for my diabetes once a month, I rolled my eyes as I sat for non-stress tests. I wasn’t worried when the 37 week ultrasound showed my daughter, Clara, measuring at around 8.5 lbs. I was a big baby, I come from a family of big babied, and 8.5 lbs was not unreasonably big.
I felt myself go into labor at 6 AM on May 29th, my husband and I rushed to the hospital with my mom where I labored for over 12 hours. Honestly, I’m not sure how long my labor with Clara was. I was in the zone, my husband and my mom were wonderful and supportive, time had almost no meaning. People laugh at me when I say that I love labor, but I do! It’s the same kind of love that I have for doing anything physically demanding. You, your body, the people surrounding you are all working towards one goal, there is something about that resonates with me even today.
Labor went on and then I have the need to push, the only problem is the doctor isn’t there yet. She’s stuck in traffic the nurse says and then they ask me to hold it. I do, I wind up on my back, by the time the doctor gets there I am exhausted but NOW I can push and so I do. After sometime I start understanding this is not going to be a normal delivery. This is the part I don’t like talking about, and honestly I don’t want to scare people needlessly. This is what I will say, Clara was 9.1 lbs, delivery was difficult and traumatic, Clara spent 5 days in the NICU and then passed away. We were not expecting this, my doctors were not expecting this, the nurses at the hospital were not expecting this. I was healthy and in control of my diabetes, the test and ultrasounds that is sat through said my daughter was healthy, I did everything I was supposed to! My ObGYN couldn’t look me in the eye and I learned what it was to distrust and blame my body for the first time in my life.
I was a mess. I had long rants in my head that sounded like, “Healthy women with working normal bodies were the ones meant to have this experience. For you birth is dangerous and you were stupid to think that you could do this. All those years you spent secretly judging those women who were afraid of birth. What the hell did you know? You were stupid, and worse than stupid you were selfish trying to have this experience at the price of your daughter’s life. You’ve been a diabetic for almost all of your life, did you just forget? And now your body is mangled and your daughter is dead because of what you insisted you could do but should have known that you couldn’t.” I didn’t bother saying any of this out loud. When you’re having thoughts like this but you’re surrounded by people who love and support you, sometimes you feel like you can’t say these things. I knew my mom would cry and tell me I was wrong. I knew my husband would tear up, hold me, and tell me that none of that was true. I knew everyone would say “this wasn’t your fault, this is horrible but not your fault,” and I would know they were wrong.
Despite how I was feeling my husband and I still wanted a baby, so we started to try to conceive. After a year of trying to ignore the voice in my head, decided to try again to become pregnant, and then a parade of one disappointing month after another I was spent. I impulsively quit my new job at a credit union (something I’m still mortified I did) and went home hoping I was pregnant but knowing I wasn’t. I couldn’t stand being around people anymore, I couldn’t stand pretending I was ok but knowing I was a failure. I went home that day and started writing about the things that I couldn’t stop thinking about, my daughter, my body, and my depression. I got help, I got a new job, and I started to fall in love with myself again, but I didn’t fully trust my body yet.
When I became pregnant with my son I wanted to be happy more than anything, but I couldn’t feel anything. I wasn’t afraid because I was getting a c-section. Birth was something healthy women did and I was not healthy. No judgment just a fact, I told myself. I wasn’t afraid, but I also wasn’t happy. I posted the pictures and told everyone when he moved. I watched my blood sugar and went to the doctors appointments. I tried to connect to the pregnancy, but in reality I just wanted it over with. I went swimming with my friends and we called it a baby shower. I bought maternity clothes. And then came time to schedule my c-section and something didn’t feel right. “This baby is coming naturally” a voice in my head said. “Then this baby isn’t coming at all” another voice replied. I scheduled the c-section the next morning and the morning after that I went into labor.
I couldn’t accept that it was labor. In Fact, I went to bed early because “I was feeling off” and slept through a good chunk of labor. I woke up around midnight in early August telling myself that I had the flu, or maybe Braxton hicks, or maybe food poisoning, anything but labor. My husband woke up a little after me, also not believing I was in labor. About an hour of group denial later my mom told us we needed to go to the hospital. I rolled my eyes, I did not want to be one of those ladies who went to the hospital only to be sent away and told to come back when they were REALLY in labor. After driving to the hospital saying “it feels like I need to poop”, making my husband park the car, and walking myself up to Labor and Delivery, I was told that I wasn’t going home, I was having a baby. My son, Fox, was born 20 minutes later and my life changed in so many ways.
My body worked, it didn’t fail me. I had a living breathing son. Maybe there was a way I could give birth and be connected to the process and the people around me. Maybe I could get excited about pregnancy. Maybe I could give birth vaginally, or maybe I would need a c-section in the future, but no matter what I wanted the experience of building my family to be something I DID not something that was done to me. I started to study and learn.
I learned about midwives and doulas and ObGYNs. I learned about birthing positions and procedures. I learned about relaxation techniques. I learned about other pre-existing conditions. I learned how sexual assault, recovery from eating disorders and birth trauma might affect women during pregnancy and labor. I learned that statistically speaking what happened to my daughter really was a fluke. I learned that there are plenty of reasons women might choose to have a c-sections or an epidural or to give birth at home. Most importantly of all I learned and really began to believe that women really should be respected for the choices that they make about their body and pregnancy.
The more I learned the more passionate I became. I wanted to help, I wanted to be a part of this moment at the beginning of life. I wanted to support mothers and fathers and families! Most of all, I wanted to share the connection I felt with my family and both my births with other families. I wanted other families to know that this moment and the life that they helped create has meaning and value. No matter how big or small the life, long or short the moment, it has value.
This is the story of how and why I got started on this path and how I came to believe what I do. It had been long and hard and winding AND it is still in the process of happening! I love my life, my husband, and my children. I am so excited to use what I have learned to help others. I am excited and grateful that you are even taking the time to read this. Thank you, thank you, thank you.