This has been a strange month folks, not gonna lie.  I think I’m feeling what they call nostalgia.  At first, I attempted to classify my spectrum of emotions in their individual parts: frustration, sadness, longing, contentment.  None of them fit and each day is different… still.

Frustration: Days I see pregnant women.  Days I talk to pregnant women.  Days someone has a baby.  Days I ask myself “why me” over and over and over.  Days I am full to the brim with regret, kicking myself for decisions I made.  Days I realize hindsight is 20/20.

Sadness: Days I hear of someone’s natural birth.  Days I hear of anyone’s birth at all.  Days I cry in the pantry because it’s not fair.  Days I think I failed.  Days I worry about next time.

Longing: Days I remember what that first positive pregnancy test felt like.  Days I remember my small, growing belly.  Days I remember feeling those kicks.  Days I remember loving my big, round, baby bump and dreaming of the person inside.  Days I remember opening my eyes to the crisp fall morning, looking out at the city, and over to my sleeping newborn breathing sweetly before fussing to eat.  Days I remember learning to breastfeed  Days I remember how very small my baby was.  Days I remember what he smelled like, what he sounded like.  Days I remember my hard-fought moments of labor.  Days I feel an intense bond with the season – this is baby weather.

Contentment:  Days the little voice in my head shrouds me in peace, completely encapsulates me so I can’t wriggle away into doubt, and says, of course you will do it.  Days I put on my tank and hit the barre3 gym, knowing every squat, every crunch, every pound lifted brings me closer to who I want to be.  Days I hear praise and gratitude for the doctor I’ve selected for my VBAC.  Days Benny sees a dog at the park and says “dah!” while pointing wildly.  Days he gives kisses by opening his sweet baby mouth and launching his head toward mine.  Days his sweet baby hands reach to hold mine.  Days I read just what I needed to hear – so much so it seems no other possibility than divine.

This is what nostalgia feels like.  I think.  A little disorienting.  A little wild.  A lot precisely what I need right now. To surrender to the nostalgia.

“You need to be able to also – and it’s an overused word – ‘surrender.’  Being more present, surrendering into the world, feeling more.” – Becoming Wise, Krista Tippett



9 Months

My baby turned 9 months old a few days ago.  9.  Months.

He has now spent as much time on the outside as he did on the inside.  He now belongs to the Earth more than me.  Big.

9 months also brings a milestone in the VBAC department.  If you’re looking to have a successful VBAC, spacing the births at least 18 months apart frees you of a lot of demons.  Conceiving at 9 months, delivering at 18 is the goal we all aspire to make (at minimum people).  It relieves us of most of the dangers around our scars.  It ensures our internal one has had adequate time to heal.  It ensures our providers will take us on.  9 months is big.

Before now, if I had gotten pregnant, it would have been worrisome if not dangerous.  My body was still recovering from the first pregnancy as well as healing its scars.  Stretching and working that scar too early would put both of us in danger.  This is why they have the 18 month rule.

We had never planned to get pregnant soon after having a baby (honestly you couldn’t pay me to sign up for another kid right now), but it still felt a little strange knowing I really really couldn’t.  Like.  Dangerous.  But it still hurt to see natural birth moms just whoopsie-daisy got pregnant and their baby is 5 months old!  They didn’t have to worry about scars rupturing.  They didn’t have to even think twice.  They could haphazardly go about life, get pregnant on a whim, and move forth happily.

I felt constrained.  We had to be so careful.  Getting pregnant simply wasn’t an option.  Not for us.  We weren’t like regular carefree parents who just threw caution to the wind and whoopsie-freaking-doopsie made another small human.  UGH.  Go away.  I did not want to be around these women.  That’s just the place I was in about it.  I literally could not look at their smiling, pregnant faces and their barely-crawling baby, and listen to them talk about getting pregnant.  I just could not.  I avoided them and their stupid baby bumps like the plague.  Don’t they understand they’re just waving that shit in people’s faces?

But 9 months feels different.  9 months is kinder.  I could be that carefree woman.  I could throw that caution stone across the water and watch it skip away and welcome surprises with a smiling face.  And that feels healing even though our family plans don’t include any additions anytime soon.  It just feels better, ya know?

My body is strong now too.  Stronger than it was before Ben.  I’m back.  I’m better.  I’m stronger.  I go to barre3 twice a week.  I walk (+ a stroller + a dog) almost every day.  I carry around 17 lbs of child nearly everywhere I go.  I single-handedly extract our 25 lb stroller from the car, while holding a child, and proceed to stroll said child around the zoo.  There are actual muscles on my body.  I look at myself and see a woman instead of a 14 year old boy.  It took 9 months (+24 years) to get here.

9 months to grow a baby.  9 months of total blackout for getting pregnant.  9 months of grappling with various birth-related demons.  9 months to come back.  I feel like the person I used to be – only better.  Only recently do I feel this shift in myself.  Only recently have I begun to see happiness in Ben’s birth.  Only recently have I started looking forward.  Forward to a future of more.  More babies.  More happiness.  More life.  More love.

The strangest part?  I would do it all again, the very same way, because now I have felt the light that’s at the end of this tunnel.  I don’t think this journey will ever be “finished,”  and I still desire for things to look different next time – that is very real – but I have felt what it’s like to go through my own personal hell and claw my way back out again feeling stronger, more confident, more secure, more empowered than I did when I went in.  This feeling alone is everything I need to know it will be different next time.  It is within myself.  I can do hard things, for I have already done them.

9 months.  Baby is growing so fast.  I finally feel like I have my shit together.  I finally feel like I’m handling it instead of running next to a moving train trying to board.  Our life has a rhythm.  Our life is getting comfortable as we have adjusted to our new normal.  I feel ready for Ben to grow and talk and break everything in my house.  I finally feel like I get this mom thing just a little bit.  Even just one day of solidly handling it + good naps totally makes me feel like I discovered gravity.  I’m not in the trenches every day anymore.  I’m out of the C-section hole and Ben is out of the newborn hole and we are really getting to enjoy each other.  Hello 9 months, you are so good.


Road to VBAC: Exhale #1

I know I have to change my scripts.  But I also need to drop some baggage.  As I’ve started working to change my scripts, I’ve realized I fall back on what I will lovingly refer to as “baggage” but what is in reality more like eye squinting, red faced, throwing punches, screaming at the top of my lungs anger about my C-section.  It’s not serving me.

I’ve gotten pretty good recently at correcting myself in the moment every time I try to let one of my scripts play out.  Just the other day I had Benny in one arm, diaper bag on the other shoulder, keys in my hand, trying to balance on one foot to buckle my sandals and I found myself exasperatedly saying “Whyyyyyy is everything hard.”  I stopped myself, looked at Benny and said out loud, “No.  Everything isn’t hard.  Everything doesn’t happen to me.  Holding a baby and 8 million other things while trying to put shoes on is hard.  What can I do to make this easier?  Or can I take a breath and try again?”  I ended up taking a breath and trying again – this time successfully getting my sandals on.  So script changing is in the works people!

But, I’m starting to fall back into my old pattern of replaying things that are bothering me about my experience.  A fair amount of people I know or follow on Instagram have recently had babies, and like a psycho, I stalk their birth announcements looking for any mention of a C-section.  I don’t know what I’m looking for exactly… perhaps camaraderie if it was a C-section, perhaps hoping it was a natural birth for their sake… I don’t know.  But I’m starting to struggle and play why me more than I have in a while.

Which brings me to a little exercise for myself.  I’m a verbal processor (if you couldn’t already tell) so putting things out there, verbally, publicly, helps me feel like my mind can release them.  If my thoughts are published here, my mind doesn’t have to keep constant tabs on them… the blog does that for me, so my mind can rest.  They tell us at barre3 to exhale anything that doesn’t serve us… so here is my first exhale.

At my 6 week post-partum checkup, I was scheduled to see my least favorite doctor and was too weary to fight it & reschedule.  Fair warning, this is a TMI topic.  The conversation went something like this:

Me: So I have a question… My bleeding mostly tapered off but recently picked back up much heavier, is that normal? (sidenote: any sudden increase in pp bleeding after stopping can be a sign of internal incision opening up or a piece of placenta left behind which can cause excessive blood loss, hence my concern.)

Doc: Well yes.  You’re breastfeeding right?

Me: Uh… yea.

Doc: Well that will probably happen as long as you breastfeed.

Me: What?

Doc: Have you heard of IUDs? Do you prefer the pill?

Me: What? I actually don’t want any hormonal birth control.

Doc: Oh.  Well you just seem annoyed that you’re still bleeding so there are things we can do for that.

Me: Wait, what? I’m not annoyed, I’m just wondering if it’s normal.  I’m a first time mom, I’ve never done this before and I was worried something could be wrong.

Doc: Probably not.  Call me if you’re still bleeding in a year.

Me: Um… OK so I can expect to bleed for a long time?

Doc: Yep.  Unless you want to go on birth control.  Which it sounds like you don’t.  But condoms will be really uncomfortable.  Trust me.

At this point I’m angry, worried, and have shut down so I tell her I don’t have any more questions and we leave.  I cry in the car.  I call the office and ask to speak with the doctor who delivered Ben and is kind and listens.  I retell her my concern and what Doctor Evil told me about bleeding for a year.  She tells me that’s inaccurate and isn’t sure why I was told that, but bleeding is still normal at this point.  She schedules an Ultrasound for the next week to check on things but tells me to call and cancel if I stop bleeding.  I feel better.  Within a few days I stop bleeding.  I cancel the ultrasound and move on with my life.

But I replay this conversation over and over in my head.  I can’t believe she was so flippant and cold.  I can’t believe the lies she told me (even though I knew at the time what she was saying couldn’t possibly be accurate).  I need to leave this conversation behind.  It’s not serving me.  I’m a much better advocate for myself now.  Out of it I found even more of my own voice.  Out of it I will place special emphasis on finding a provider who is warm and compassionate.  Out of it I know to listen to my gut when I see red flags.  Out of it I learned it’s OK and feels good to seek a second opinion, keep trying to find an answer, and know when to get the hell out.  I learned.  Now I need to let it go.  Exhale what isn’t serving me.


Road to VBAC: Letting Go

A few weeks ago my mom asked me why I was still so upset about my C-section.  She asked why I was still carrying around so much anger.  I instantly knew why, but it was never something I had thought of one single bit until she asked.

Because I’m afraid to let it go.

Later that evening, Alex asked me a similar question, what if you let the anger go?


I carry anger around like a weapon.  It’s a high power emotion, it’s easy to access, easy to feel, and easy to hold up in front of everyone and everything and say, SEE THIS IS WHY I DON’T WANT ANOTHER C-SECTION.  Easy to hang over a doctor’s head.  Easy to hang over my own damn head to remind me to never ever do that again.

Anger is my safety net.  Without it, I’m vulnerable.  If I was no longer angry about my C-section, angry at the doctors who did it, angry at myself…. what… what would possibly be left of me?  Calm? Peace? Happiness? I can’t possibly!

I know.

In the midst of trying to vehemently and hysterically defend wanting to be angry to my sweet husband… I kind of got it.  I sounded like a nut.

What if I let the anger go? Then what?

I’ve been using my anger to drive me – so far it’s been a pretty intense motivator.  It’s driven me to research VBAC, read medical studies and books, join groups, book appointments with doctors, ask the right questions.  It’s helped keep me on track.  But it’s also dragging me down a little, as I’m sure you know if you’ve had a conversation with me in the past 7 months (sidenote: my child is 7 months old?! How!).  I wasn’t giving myself a break.  If I wasn’t spending nap time researching, I was thinking about my next VBAC move, thinking about how I still can’t dang use my abs, feeling resentful of people who had normal births.  I didn’t have any breathing space.

If I let that go…. then would that mean I had accepted my birth? Would that mean I would let another doctor run me over and cut me open? Would that mean I would abandon my convictions again?  Would the bottom fall out from beneath my very feet?!

I asked those very questions to Alex… in a more hand-wringing, whiney, edge of my seat type mumbo jumbo of words.  Poor guy.  He puts up with a lot.

After nodding and smiling during my hysteria, he calmly told me that no, letting go of the anger in no way meant I was implying everything was OK or justified or that I would forget what I was fighting for.  The man is right.  I was letting my anger with my C-section rule my thoughts, my conversations, my world.  It was hard for me to have a conversation with anyone without mentioning it.

I was afraid that if I didn’t keep mentioning how much it sucked to people that they might think I was OK.  I was afraid that if I didn’t constantly research VBAC that I was letting myself down.  I was afraid that if I stopped thinking about it every day that I would forget how much I want a different experience (VBAC? What’s a VBAC? What C-section?).  I was afraid of being OK.  What if I made peace with it? Then what?

I’ve been reading a few different books related to C-sections/VBAC and they have been immeasurably helpful.  Ironically, shortly after having the conversation about anger related to my C-section, I hit a section in my book about thought patterns.  The book “Silent Knife” by Lois Estner & Nancy Cohen basically walks you through every aspect of VBAC from the history of C-sections & VBAC to preparing for a VBAC.  It has a massive quantity of scientific research behind it and it’s perfectly written to cater to my scientific (& highly skeptical) side but also my vulnerable, emotional side.  Anyway, this book has a chapter in it about how our beliefs influence our births.  At first I kind of brushed it off because I’m tired of hearing this crap about if you just think positive it will all come true! Bullshit.  Been there.  Tried that.  Didn’t happen.

But this chapter was different.  It talked about how in our lives, we have certain scripts that tend to play out and become self-fulfilling prophecies and unless we learn to change those, our birth outcomes won’t likely change.  They give an example of a woman who realized she viewed hospitals as a place where people got sicker not better after watching multiple relatives enter a hospital seemingly healthy and come out visibly ill or dying.  This script started when she was a child and she realized that those people were sick when they went into the hospital but to her child eyes, the hospital is what made them sick.  This belief subconsciously influenced her birth when she herself needed to leave the hospital feeling sick (after a C-section) to fulfill that script in her head.  I have similar scripts in my head that seem to play out and honestly, I am 100,000% sure they influenced my birth experience.

I have two major scripts: {I get sick during major life events} + {my body is little so my body can’t do things}.  See now, there have been times in my life when major events have occurred and I would get sick – for example, when I was little and we would travel to Alabama in the winter to see family, I usually had a cold.  More likely than not it was just coincidental because kids get sick, especially in the winter.  However, over the years, this translated to a pattern of thought for me so whenever I knew there was a big event coming up, I essentially made my body acquire an illness!  It was a self-fulfilling prophecy!  This stuff happened for big sports games, parties, tests, you name it.  It was a sense of comfort and control during a major event, in a very twisted form.  So shocker, at 39 weeks pregnant, I acquired a major cold that took me a whole week and some change to really get over.  But this is my script.

Script number 2 is that since I am a petite person, my body can’t do things the way “normal” people can.  I mean, to some extent that’s mildly accurate, but overall I’d say it should be bogus.  I know my fair share of petite women and they are not only kick ass but they have birthed (naturally) many children between them.  When I got pregnant I was convinced I would have the baby early because in my head I thought there’s no way my little body can hang onto this baby for so long!  That script absolutely didn’t pan out because, hello, I went to 41 weeks.  When that part of my script didn’t play out I kind of panicked.  I felt like I was losing control over something ridiculous but that I thought I knew for sure.  So when my initial inkling of going early didn’t happen, I had to fall back on well your body is little so you probably can’t give birth.  That one… played out. Whew!

See where I’m going with this?  I have to change my scripts.  I have to let go of the anger.  By the time you’re reading this post, it’s been weeks since I started writing, so I can now tell you the anger doesn’t rule me anymore.  I’m changing my scripts.  I’m letting myself know, in my times of sadness, fear, and doubt, that I can do hard things.  I have already done hard things.

I now understand I don’t need to carry anger like a weapon against the world.  Instead, I look at Ben’s birth as the strongest thing I’ve ever done.  How badass am I to feel myself get cut open and then proceed to care for & feed a very small, very needy person?  Ben’s birth taught me so much about myself and instead of looking at how weak I was, and everything I regret, I need to see how strong I was.  How resilient I was.  How lovingly I felt toward my child and my new life in the face of all that happened.  That.  Is my new script.


Chronicles of a C-Section: The Last One

I think I need to stop chronicling my C-section.  I’ve written everything there is to write.  I told you what happened.   I told you how I feel about it.  So this is the last one.  The last look in my rearview mirror at my C-section.  The only things I have left are anger and regret.  I think I’ve given you enough of that.  But you need to know these things.  You need to know what a C-section feels like.  What it really feels like for many women.  I’m not out to scare you.  Or piss you off.  Or judge you.  Hey, if you had a positive C-section experience, hit me up – I would genuinely love to hear your story because mine broke me.  Wait.  I can’t keep saying that.

In order to give yourself the best shot at a successful VBAC, you are supposed to deal with and move past the negative emotions associated with your C-section.  Right.  Because it’s just that easy.  Ok.  I’m working on it.  I really am.  Replacing my sadness with #birthspiration.  Channeling my anger into passion… into fuel to propel me forward.

So this is it.  I’m closing the chapter on my C-section for a while.  That doesn’t mean I won’t come back and remind myself where I’ve been, or return to scribble in the margins.  But this is it.  It’s over.  I have a new chapter to write.

This is everything I have left with the C.  A jumbled, uncategorized, twisted Pandora’s box.  I’ll crack it open for you a little – this is what’s in there.

Remember how I told you I ordered an itemized hospital bill list?  I had so much fun with that, I decided to order my entire medical record for the 3.5 days I was in the hospital.  338 pages.  51 dollars.  Pick your jaw back up off the floor.  This is our healthcare system.  In order for me to see what happened to me, in order to access my own information, I’m out $50 and probably killed 5 trees.  So that came in the mail a few weeks ago.  Alex saw it on the coffee table and said, “Well jeez they could have at least bound it for you.”

I put Benny down for a nap and flipped through all 338 pages.  I got through the horribly graphic description of my body being cut apart.  Of them taking my uterus out of my body to scrape it out.  Of them pushing blood clots out of my incision.  That’s not the worst part.

Not at all.

Not even close.

Reason for admission: elective induction.

I almost threw up when I read it.  I felt like someone punched me in the stomach.  And then the face.

Elective.  Freaking.  Induction. Are you kidding me?!

The week before I asked one of the doctors what the risks were of going past 40 weeks.  Her response was more or less “the risks of your placenta dying go way up and so does the risk of your baby dying.”  She was insistent.  Annoyed at my questions.  She reiterated the practice “doesn’t let women go past 41 weeks.”  She scheduled my induction for me. No conversation.  Elective induction.

Somewhere along the way, everything I thought I knew, and everything I thought I wanted got lost.  I visited a midwife for my first prenatal visit, but after a few negative comments about midwives “not being doctors” and that “not being safe,” (and subsequently my own doubts about it) I caved and used an OB practice.  But it was nothing like I pictured.  None of it was.   There is a part of me that knows how birth should go.  I know my body knows how to do this.  I got in my own way.  And I will forever regret decisions I made for Benny and I.  Because I knew better.  I knew what I was doing wasn’t right.  But I rolled the dice because I had no comparison.  No backbone.  Limited support. I did this to us, Benny. I’m so, so sorry.

The immediate aftermath of Benjamin’s birth brought its own array of trauma – flashbacks, recurring dreams, pain, fear, crying, questions, and utter disbelief.  And I still wonder, sometimes, when I’m going to wake up from this nightmare.

But… at first I viewed Ben’s birth as a true outlier – a true emergency.  A true need for a cesarean.  And after a little while I viewed myself as a helpless victim of the medical model of birth.  Things happened TO me, doctors made decisions FOR me, and I had no control.  But then… a little while later still, I realized it was me.  My fault.  Our healthcare system is so broken, but I knew better.

I regret so very many things.  I regret them because I could have changed them.

I regret allowing constant fetal heart monitoring.

I regret allowing internal cervix checks.

I regret not requesting more than a birth ball.

I regret not calling our doula earlier.  She walked in as they put a needle in my back.

I regret not eating.

I regret the epidural.

Most of all, I regret walking through that hospital door at 9 pm on November 2.  Everything in my body and soul said turn around but I didn’t listen.  Elective induction.  I did this.  Me.

But I have to stop.  I can only beat myself up so much.  I can only torment myself so much.  Even my own brain is bored of its own constant finger shaking.  It’s time.  I can’t keep looking backward expecting to move forward.  I won’t find peace there.  So this is it.  This is the end of my C-section chapter.  I’ve told you my story.  You know what it feels like now.  You came with me on the darkest journey of my life.  I have more to tell you about C-sections, but not this way.

I have a new chapter to write.  A scarier chapter for me than my C-section.  One foot in front of the other.  Drug list.  Medical records.  A lineup of OBs, midwives, doulas, chiropractors, masseuses, classes, support groups.  This is my new life.  Welcome to my new chapter.  Welcome to my road to VBAC.

#VBACstrong.  #VBACorbust.



Chronicles of a C-Section: At Least

We suffer from this mentality, “As long as the baby is healthy, it doesn’t matter how it gets here.” It does matter. For the baby and the mother, and even the father.  I read this the other day and it spoke the thoughts I, thus far, haven’t been able to articulate.


This sentiment is something I think I haven’t fully allowed myself to acknowledge.  After Benny was born, the first thing out of people’s mouths was something along the lines of “At least he is healthy!” or “At least you are both healthy!”  They all meant well, but it crushed me a little bit every time because it allowed my two very stark, often unwilling to play nicely together, feelings to clash.  Of course I am grateful for a healthy baby – saying that feels ridiculous, yet for some reason I feel the need to clarify.  Because I also feel sad.  And hurt.  And fearful.  And angry.  Ya.  I’m angry.

I have a healthy baby but I’m angry about it.  This is how my thoughts organize in my head.  I squash them with guilt (too mamas lose their babies, too many mamas find themselves unable to carry babies, too many families live with children with chronic medical conditions) and a side of shame (how can I possibly be upset with my birth when in the end I survived and got a healthy baby?)  I’ve been trying so hard to reconcile this within myself.

And then I read it.  I read the words I tried so hard to imprison in my own mind.  Someone out there acknowledged the dichotomy that is C-section emotions.  Not only is it OK to feel this internal torment, but we C-section mamas have no choice but to feel conflicted because a healthy baby is the only outcome by which we currently weigh success & happiness.  We forget about the journey.  We forget about the consequences of giving birth via cesarean.  It becomes unimportant somehow.  We forget about how mama feels.  We forget about how daddy feels.  We forget about the benefits of bringing a baby through the birth canal.  We forget about the necessity of immediate skin-to-skin, the vital importance of breastfeeding.  We forget about the mama who has to recover from blood loss, fluid loss, major surgery, and care for a very small, very new, very needy little person.  We forget about the onslaught of hormones.  We ignore the anger that comes with a non-traditional birth because it makes us uncomfortable – and we have a hard time reconciling it too.  We have a hard time reconciling opposing feelings. We have a hard time refraining from comparison with the worst case scenario – lest we appear ungrateful or incompassionate.  We force the end to justify the means.  We wrap all of this discomfort up with a nice “at least you didn’t die” and tie it off with a pretty little bow of guilt.

We hear of a birth and the first thing we want to know is “is the baby healthy?” because yes, that is indeed of primary concern.  But it isn’t the whole story.  The story doesn’t end after you hear “we have a healthy baby boy.”  The story doesn’t end there.  The story didn’t start there either.  Because we, as a society, suffer from the illusion that all hell can break loose and somehow the only thing that matters is a healthy baby.  We ignore the trauma experienced by the parents.  We get uncomfortable when having a “healthy baby” doesn’t “fix” a mama.  Your baby is healthy how can you possibly feel anything other than elation?  This is toxic.

I’m forced to access my shame and guilt when I talk about my birth being scary, traumatic, and not ever wanting to do it that way again, but the only thing I’ve ever heard in response is, “But at least you have a healthy baby.”

Because I have a healthy baby does not heal the scars of my experience.

Because I have a healthy baby does not mean the only emotion I am allowed to feel is happiness.

Because I lived to tell about it does not mean I’m on a one way street to gratitude.

Because, on occasion, the end doesn’t justify the means.  Think about that a second.  Let that sink in.  Ask yourself, does drugging women, keeping them from eating and drinking, immobilizing them, fear-mongering them, and cutting them open justify the desire for a healthy child?  Does it?  Does that sound like a healthy pathway?  Does that sound like a blissful experience?  Does that sound like something 1/3 of women should have to go through in order to receive a healthy baby?

We seem to view pregnancy as a disease and birth as a crisis.  We strip women of powerful knowledge, freedom of movement, clarity of choice, confidence in themselves, and strength as we threaten them with the death of their baby if they don’t comply.  We remove the mother from the picture, the father even more so.  Pregnancy and birth becomes all about the baby.  We forget, far too often, about mom and dad.  And when it’s all said and done, everyone else seems to forget about us when they reiterate the phrases that cut us so deep – at least you’re both healthy – negating and minimizing our journey and feelings in one fell swoop. (Side note: define healthy.  I was wildly unhealthy for a solid 2 months.  But that’s a post for another time.)

Here’s something I wish I could say out loud.  Here’s something to think about the next time you are congratulating a family on their new arrival.  Don’t ever start your sentences with “At least” – at least your baby is healthy, at least you are healthy, at least it wasn’t somehow worse.  You unintentionally project the same shame we already got from doctors, family, friends, ourselves.  You reaffirm the myth that birth is a medical crisis.  You strip us of the ability to feel all of our emotions by inadvertently minimizing our experience with the worst case scenario.  I’m so happy to hear your little one is here and well.  I’m so thankful you are recovering.  Do you see how those are still appropriate congratulatory sentiments?  But do you see how it doesn’t put a mama in a place to feel guilt or shame?  You are acknowledging your very real feelings of happiness for a healthy mother and child, but you are leaving worst case scenario-shaming at the door.

Don’t forget about us.  Don’t forget about the journey.  Don’t forget about the realities behind a healthy baby and an alive mama.  Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap that it doesn’t matter how baby got here.  Recognize that it does matter.  Recognize conflicting emotions.  See what that does to us.  See us.  See me.


Chronicles of a C-Section: The Drugs

I requested an itemized statement for my time at the hospital delivering Benny.  I did it for insurance purposes to make sure we were paying the right amount for things.  It came in the mail today.  And I feel a little bit like I’m going to vomit.

There are no less than 1.75 pages, single spaced line items, listing the drugs and solutions I was given in the 3.5 days I was in the hospital.  Some of them, thanks to my short stint in nursing school, I know what they are.  Others, I had to look up, and those others are as horrible in description as they sounded trying to pronounce them.

I knew it was bad when I was there.  I knew I got a lot of stuff.  I knew I was on some heavy drugs (hello, I don’t remember shit) but I wasn’t entirely prepared for what kinds of things, precisely, went into my body during those few days.  This is the shit they don’t tell you.  This is the shit I honestly wish I had known about before I did this whole birth thing.

I’m just going to preface this with these two sentiments:

  1. I do not hate doctors.  Doctors save so many lives, work so many hours, work so hard, and work so compassionately to help their patients.  Enough said.
  2. However, I will never do this again.

So in case you’re looking at a hospital birth and want to know the kinds of things that are likely to be injected into your body (especially if you have a C-section), stick with me.  In case you’re curious (or silently judging me) about my being hellbent on a VBAC, stick with me.  Here’s a little play by play, in accurate chronological order, of my highly medicated birth.

Lactated Ringers Solution – so I knew what this was.  It’s your standard IV solution that essentially keeps you hydrated properly.  Fine.  I prefer snacks and gatorade, but it was hospital policy to poke and infuse me.

Dinoprostone – AKA Cervadil AKA a prostaglandin in medication form to soften your cervix.  Oh by the way, did you know it can also be used to cause an abortion in a baby from 12-20 weeks gestation?  Fancy huh?  Doesn’t that sound like something you want in your body?  Ya.  Me neither.  Also, it rang in at $886.  I think next time I’ll wait it out for free.

Now we come to my slew of tests.  CBC (complete blood count to make sure all the levels in my blood were A-OK), drug screen, ABO blood type test, RH test (to make sure my blood wasn’t incompatible with baby’s), antibody screen, and syphilis screen.

Now time for two more bags of Lactated Ringers solution.

Ah now some oxytocin.  Must have been about 9 am at this point.  Oxytocin (AKA Pitocin AKA the devil) causes your uterus to contract and push a baby out.  Now, your body makes oxytocin and releases it naturally while in labor, but when administered medicinally tends to make contractions harder, faster, and more intense since your body has no control over them – your nurse does.

Lidocaine-Epinephrine – Now, I’m guessing this little gem is part of the epidural concoction.  It’s listed along with Bupivacaine whose job is also in the realm of pain blocking during intense procedures (like surgery or childbirth).

Now time for some Fentanyl – yes, you read that right.  Fentanyl.

Somewhere in here must have been when they told me I was getting a C-section.  Hence they started to load me up on a few more drugs and up that epidural before surgery.  I remember this time – I had an oxygen mask strapped to my face and the anesthesiologist rolled me over to push some more meds.

More Bupivacaine-Fentanyl solution.

More Lidocaine-Epinephrine.

Something called Pot Bicarb-Sod Bicarb-Cit – which I’m guessing is Potassium Bicarb Sodium Bicarb something or other.  Still not sure what it is.  But I got it.

Clindamycin – an antibiotic.  I’m allergic to penicillin, which they normally give.

Sodium Chloride – this can either help replace lost body salt or be used as an irrigation solution like when they flush your IV.  Now, I’m guessing I got the IV flush after they told me I was getting a C-section and needed to give me some additional meds not related to pain relief.

Ondansetron – anti-nausea/vomiting medication (because it’s unpleasant to vomit during surgery, and anesthesia can make you nauseous.)

Famotidine – helps with reflux, usually used to treat GERD.  My guess is I got it for surgery to help prevent reflux.  Yum.

Hetastarch – medicine to prevent hypotension (low blood pressure) during an event that causes blood loss. Basically, I was doomed to lose a nice chunk of blood during both the c-section and the aftermath so giving hetastarch is a way to replace lost blood plasma to keep those red blood cells circulating.

Dexamethasone – treats inflammation, because let’s face it, I was going to have a lot of inflammation after being sliced open by a surgeon.

Metoclopramide HCL – something about preventing heartburn or accelerating stomach emptying.  Either way.  Ick.

Gentamicin – antibiotic to treat infection.

More Sodium Chloride 0.9%.

Phenylephrine – Vasoconstrictor.  Used to maintain adequate blood pressure during C-section so I wouldn’t get too low.

More Lactated Ringers Solution.

Ah, some more Fentanyl.  Must have been begging the anesthesiologist to help me and God to take me after realizing I could feel myself being cut open.

Ketorlac – Used for short term treatment for moderate to severe pain.  Fitting.

Acetaminophen 1,000 mg – Oh yea the big guns.  Tylenol on steroids.

More Lactated Ringers solution.

Methylergonovine – Uterotonic and analgesic.  Basically numbs pain and helps uterus contract to prevent excess blood loss after birth.

Dextrose 5% Lactated Ringers Solution – Replaces fluid, electrolytes, and calories.  Considering it had been 24 hours at this point since I ate last (and would be another 12 before they would let me eat again), yea, I probably needed that.

Oxytocin again to help my uterus contract back down.

Esmolol – Used to slow down a fast heartbeat or treat other heart rhythm problems.  Now, after surgery my heart rate was boppin’ at 150 for a little too long (no shit considering what I just went through), so I’m guessing that’s why I got this.  Dandy.

After this I have my alternating schedule of Ibuprofen 600 mg and Percocet every 4-6 hours until I left the hospital and for a few days after that.

Are we having fun yet?

Not only is giving birth in a hospital a pricey experience in itself, but getting an epidural will put you in the hole a few hundred dollars.  Not to mention a C-section, which will most likely double your grand total, and if you’re like me and need more drugs than your standard individual who can’t feel themselves being cut open, you’ll tack on a few more hundred bucks.

Now… there’s insurance thank heavens.  Our children wouldn’t be going to college if we had to pay all of this out of pocket.  But here’s my point: you took a healthy, low risk pregnant woman and induced her for no real, medical reason, which led to her getting an epidural, a C-section, and more drugs than people take on the streets.  My birth was set up to be uncomplicated.  It most likely would have been uncomplicated if everyone had just left me dang alone.  I lost my voice.  I lost my reason.  I lost my backbone.  I did this to myself.  I did this to Benny.  I could have said no.  I had control over my body and Benny’s well-being and I let this happen.  I will never forgive myself for it.

The C-section cascade is real.  1/3 women will get a C-section.  This is way too many.  C-sections, when used for real medical crises are life-saving.  But, as a species, humans would be extremely maladapted if 33% of our women were unable to birth healthy babies and remain healthy themselves. Pregnancy is not a minefield.  Birth is not a crisis with a trap set at every turn that can only be cured by hypervigilance.  I will not participate in this mindset.  I will not participate in this experience again.

i will never be given this many drugs during childbirth again.  I will do it differently.  Because I can.  Because I have options.  I’m off the hamster wheel.  I’m charting my own course.  My plan.  My terms.  Freedom.  Redemption.

Chronicles of a C-Section: I Don’t Remember

One of the hardest things about my C-section is I don’t remember.  I don’t remember the first time I breastfed Benny.  I don’t remember Benny’s first diaper change.  I don’t remember who dressed Benny for the first time.  I don’t really remember holding him and looking at him when he was first born.  I remember by proxy.  Alex tells me they held Benny on my chest and helped him latch on within an hour after he was born.  Alex tells me Benny’s first poop was like tar.  Alex tells me a nurse dressed him in a little shirt with mitts.  Alex shows me pictures of my angel on my chest 10 minutes after he was born – my arms aren’t even around him, my hands aren’t touching him… that’s Alex’s hand.  Not mine.  I barely remember taking this picture.


One of the hardest things to explain to people is what that feels like.  I don’t not remember because I was overwhelmed with emotion.  I don’t remember because I didn’t see them happen.  I don’t remember because drugs were coarsing through my veins – rendering me in a state of mental fog.  I was practically asleep.  It took every last ounce of energy to keep my eyelids open – nevermind the fact that almost no information was passing through.  I don’t remember because I was strapped onto an operating table for the first 30 minutes of my baby’s life and couldn’t see anything that wasn’t right in front of me.  I don’t remember because I spent the subsequent 3 hours stabilizing, getting injected with more meds to make my uterus contract, my arm forcibly straightened by a blood pressure cuff – when I should have been holding my baby, feeding him, touching him, bonding with him, kissing him, sitting up, showering, taking pictures.


I don’t remember precious moments I spent every day of pregnancy dreaming about.  I took for granted the fleeting beauty of those first moments.  It never crossed my mind I would miss things.  It never crossed my mind those missing pieces would hurt.  This is hard to explain to people who had a normal birth.  I bet you saw your baby come out – or you saw your baby approximately 2 seconds after they came out.  I bet your baby was immediately placed on your chest and you instinctively grabbed them, snuggled them, kissed them.  I bet you laid like that, looking at your precious baby while they delivered your placenta, stitched you up.  I bet daddy cut the cord.  I bet you sat up as the nurses helped your baby latch on to eat.  I bet you held your baby while this happened.   I bet you watched as a nurse, or daddy, put on baby’s first diaper… baby’s first outfit.  I bet you got up to go to the bathroom.  I bet you showered.  I bet you walked up and down the hall.  I bet you couldn’t wait to leave the hospital.  I bet you remember all of these things – foggily out of exhilaration, or vividly out of impact.  I bet you got to experience at least one of these moments.  I didn’t.  Not a single one.  I don’t have these memories.  They don’t exist.  Not foggily.  Not vividly.  They just don’t exist..  That’s why this is hard.

Chronicles of a C-Section: The Murky Waters of CB1

You’re pressing on me, C.  You weave your way back into my thoughts in unexpected ways.  You’re pressing on me a little bit these days.  So I’ll write.

It was in barre3 this Saturday that I allowed you to creep back in.  The fortress I made in my mind, that I defend tirelessly… you found a crack.  We were laying flat on our backs, and we had just completed some pretty intense core work (mermaids anyone?) and I was internally congratulating myself for having kept pace.  Our instructor’s voice eased back into the room, as she encouraged us to roll up slowly, one vertebrae at a time, not using our hands.  With my eyes still closed and my mind lingering in its peaceful state, I began to roll up.  One vertebrae at a time.  I rolled.  Slowly.  And then no more.  I applied some more force.  Nothing.  I opened my eyes as everyone else came to a seated position and I was still on my back with my chin to my chest and not an inch more.  Huh.  I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.  I felt like those bugs that when placed on their backs flail every limb trying to right themselves.  I finally gave in, grabbed my knees, and let momentum bring me up.

This moment didn’t phase me until later that night as I was assessing my stomach in the mirror.  Assessing whether I still looked pregnant.  Assessing my stretch marks.  Assessing my apparent lack of core strength.  Assessing my loss of sensation.  I remember I used to be able to make my stomach roll in a wave (sorry y’all.  Sometimes hidden talents ain’t pretty.)  So I try to make my stomach do its prized wave roll.  Nada.  Just me clenching my abs, making a strange face in the mirror, and feeling a not yet explored numbness in my lower abdominal muscles.  I pout.  And I admit to myself that the C has crept in. I realize I’ve been doing it again.  Allowing my mind to swirl with unanswered questions… all of the same ones, plus a few others whose seeds I must have planted long ago but are only now coming to the surface.

I’ve given Benny an official designation: CB1 –  Cesarean Birth 1. I don’t think this is real terminology, but it gives me perspective.  Humor me.  It gives me perspective because it allows me space for the other possibility: VB1 – Vaginal Birth 1. VB1 is what my dreams are made of.   I dream of the day my VB count will outnumber my CB count. But VB1 will come with a price tag.

The questions, the doubts, the what-ifs, and the unknowns are an ever present reality in my otherwise quiet mind.  Why didn’t I go into labor by myself?  Is my body broken? I got a pretty nasty cold when I hit 39.5 weeks.  I had avoided all illness for the entirety of my pregnancy, and life chose 3 days before my due date to slam me down with a chest cold that then turned into a head cold.  Thank you, thank you.  At my 40 week appointment I got the induction talk. Should I have fought it?  Asked more questions?  Refused?  I don’t know!  I’m not a doctor.  I’m not in a position to feel like I know better than the doctors.  When I did ask what the risks were of going past 41 weeks, I got the doctor-style answer I was prepared for: your placenta can start dying and therefore so can your baby.  Oh gee, ya no thanks, I’ll be passing on that recommended induction so I can overtly risk the life of my baby. Dandy. But I also know a  healthy pregnancy can last 42 weeks.  So I will always wonder.  Was my body waiting because it knew I was just getting over an illness?  Benny was only 6 lb 5 oz when he was born, was my body fattening him up a little bit more?  

Is it because of that placenta thing I had?  Remember how at 8 weeks they noticed an abnormality in my placenta?  Could that be a contributing factor?  No one knows the answer.  I will never know.  And it drives me crazy.  Could it happen again?

Why did my induction end in a C-section?  I know my fair share of people who were induced and had natural births just fine.  Why me?  I know all about the medical cascade of intervention: you get pregnant, you get to 40 weeks, you get induced at 41 weeks, you get an epidural because Pitocin is the devil, your manic uterus puts immense pressure on your baby, your baby can’t tolerate labor anymore, your baby’s heart rate drops, and your doctors have their reason to give you a C-section.  Do I sound upset?

Is using another doctor the right call?  My practice was supposed to be extremely patient and is known for helping women avoid C-sections, was I just an outlier?

Should I have waited on the epidural?  I know that getting an epidural can lead to an increased likelihood of getting a C-section.  Should I have hung on longer?  Why did I give up?  Was it really that bad?  It’s a pain I no longer remember… I gave up.  And I shouldn’t have.  Would the outcome have been different?

Who will give me a VBAC?  Who will absolutely, undoubtedly give me a VBAC?  No one.  Because they can’t.  When I get pregnant again, a repeat C-section will always be the joker in my cards.  Who is the most VBAC friendly?  Who will give me the VBAC I want on the particular day I go into labor, with that particular baby, with that particular set of circumstances, at that particular location? I have to find them. I’m VBAC or bust.  There.  Is.  No.  Alternative. 

Sometimes I think I should have refused because many doctors perform C-sections unnecessarily, even if they honestly think it’s needed.  Their outlook on birth is different than say, midwives and doulas.  And then I hear about a baby dying during delivery from oxygen deprivation.  Sometimes I think I should have refused induction and given my body a chance.  And then I wonder if it all would have went wrong still.  I plot out my VB1 – my idealized version of what I missed out on.  I research doctors, midwives, doulas.  I contemplate cross-country travel to find a practitioner who can deliver the results I crave.  I read books.  I scour the internet for statistics – of success, of failure, of drugs, of unmedicated labor, of induction.  It’s exhausting.  I feel dramatic.  In the small space and time I’m left alone with the madness, it’s a frenzy of unanswerable questions, impossible what-ifs, and retrospective guilt.

This is the first time in my life where something hasn’t made sense looking backward.  I read a quote once along the lines of, “Faith is trusting in what will only make sense in reverse.”  I have faith.  I trust that where I’m being pushed and pulled, while perhaps unsettling in the present, always, always makes complete sense when it’s over.  Is this not over yet?  Is this why I can’t see the reason?  I sit, and I think, and I twist, and I scrape for a shred of sense to emerge so I can say “Ah, of course.”

Are you out there, mamas who feel as I do?  Are you out there doctor who will give me my VB1?  Did I do the right thing?  Did I give up too soon?  Did I make the right call?  I look at my sweet baby, smiling in his crib, pulling his toes to his mouth,, waiting to be picked up and fed. He is here with me.  He is healthy.  He is happy.  How can I question anything when the outcome was favorable?  I’m seeking answers to questions that cannot be answered, and clarity where the waters are murky.  No one can guarantee me my VB1, because all we have to play with are statistics, and scenarios, and what-ifs.  Am I the only one who feels this way?  Frustrated with a fate I can’t control?  Unwilling to participate in the surgery and its aftermath?    All of it lurks in the dark corners of my mind, surfacing when I least expect it.  My demons have a name.  They all start with C.