Dealing with Disappointment (Birth Edition)

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My 34 week check up with my midwife practice turned up protein in my urine, and a 10 pound weight gain, both signs of pre-eclampsia. My blood pressure was normal for me, which is even a little low for the general population. They sent me home with a 24 hour urine collection, which I brought back the next day.

The day after the urine collection, I called about the results. About an hour and a half later, I was admitted into the hospital. Two days later, I delivered my baby girl by medically necessary C-section after 8 hours of active labor, six weeks early.

I had wanted to give birth naturally, without pain meds. I had wanted to be supported by midwives, be monitored intermittently, be allowed to labor in peace. This is not what happened.

I know that the important thing was and is that we are both alive and healthy and healing. Is it completely unreasonable to be disappointed that I didn’t have the birth I wanted?  Reasonable or not, I’m hurting.

I know better. I know better than to tell myself stories of how things should be, to set up expectations, to set up disappointment by trying to predict the future. I did a lot of work to prepare myself for a unmedicalized birth — and it didn’t happen by a long shot. I can’t go back in time and unplan; learning and planning was prudent at the time. Still, it makes sense that I’m disappointed.

I am anxious hearing about other births, other pregnancies — I want to believe that I was strong and that I was brave, Like Tim told me and tells me, but my experience was not what I had defined as strong and brave.

Just like how I am not sure that I will ever nurse my daughter, even as I feed her with expressed breast milk, because of the cascade of circumstances that has led us here. And while it seems to be working, it wasn’t what I had defined as ‘best.’

I have a friend who is thankful for my sake that medical interventions exist, and were able to save me from seizure and organ damage, and to keep my baby healthy despite being born early. I wish I could look at it that way now; what I see is that the cascade of medical interventions I have read about happened to me: first, cytotec, then pitocin, then unreassuring fetal heart tones, then a c-section.

It’s a story I need to reframe. I read recently a list of 10 lessons that hospital births can learn from home birth — the first was thinking of doctors as back up. I was sick; something had gone wrong. The only way to help me (and this is the hard part to accept, the believing that I was in danger) was to deliver. And because Sylvia was not ready to join us in the outside world, it required induction and augmentation. That everything that happened was necessary back up, even if the help they were offering caused complications in and of itself.

My daughter is sleeping on my chest in her sling. I am so proud of her — she was too strong for the NICU to hold her more than 36 hours. She is growing like gangbusters. She shows personality in her dark eyes, and smiles contentedly both awake and asleep. I love her, but it doesn’t stop me from wishing we could have met differently.

Healing from this birth will be both physical and emotional. My c-section incision is shaping up, but the emotional scars are going to take a while.


6 thoughts on “Dealing with Disappointment (Birth Edition)

  1. How very odd I must be, for I see your entire story of birthing Sylvia as being beyond natural. Allow me to share.

    Once upon a time there was this cute, too smart, incredibly talented and gifted woman named Kate. Always one to research things, seek out the ‘best’ course of actions and find solutions to situations that are meant to be handled, Kate and her handsome man sought all the knowledge they could on the ‘best’ way to bring a child into this world. When the couple became pregnant – the world about them celebrated with them.

    Month after month as Kate shared her babybump with the world, she and Tim worked to create a strong, safe, gentle and nurturing enviroment for Baby Rocketship to be born. Strong women labored stoically, peacefully with midwives by their side, delivering their child gently into the world and into loving arms. Kate sought and prepared to be such a woman. Tim stood with her, strong and resolute. Nothing but the best for his baby and his love.

    Suddenly as Kate’s Baby Rocketship filled her womb, a simple test showed not so simple results. Many of us, including Kate tried not to worry as further tests were needed. Au Natural could still be the way…. unless another, better ‘natural’ occurred.

    “You must come stay” said the hospital and doctors. The concern was Pre-eclampsia. Too soon in the natural progression of the pregnancy, Kate found herself in a hospital surrounded by medications, machines and all the trappings of what most would call a non-natural setting.

    Scared, wanting better – no wanting the best for her baby Rocketship, Kate tried to follow every instruction given to her in an effort to be released with the all clear, but that was not to be. As staff spoke of risks to Kate, risks to Baby Rocketship and of options which were lessoning as time passed, Kate did the most NATURAL THING A MOTHER COULD EVER DO. She chose the life of her child.

    With probably tears (I don’t know I was not there), great fears, and sadness deep in her heart and soul, Kate – along with Tim chose to allow the C-section to be done, delivering their Rocketship baby early.

    Under the bright, glaring lights of an operating room, with more personel around then could be counted, as machines made noise and Kate laid unable to move, as fear and sorrow filled her, along with worry for her child and prayers to her God, a teeny, tiny lady named Sylvia came into this world.


    For Kate, I’m sure, the emotionalism of those moments were overwhelming. And perhaps she didn’t see just how Natural Sylvia’s birth truly was.

    You see, ever noticed a mother or father of a small child trying gently, coaxing in an all sweet voice; “Honey, please do not choke the cat, it’s not very nice.” to a 3 or 4 year old. It’s gentle, soft, nice, coaxing…… but the child brushes it off because it is almost saccharine. But a mother who bruskly says, “You better NOT hurt that cat!” always manages to get the message through to the young, still learning toddler.

    Kate, in all her anxiety of the circumstances, and all her sorrow for the beautifully natural birth she’d hoped for didn’t see what all she DID give to Sylvia.

    The day’s leading to her birth, as Sylvia stayed within her mother’s womb, Sylvia learned about anxiety. She also learned, through the bond with her momma about how prayer, and love from her daddy and family could help ease anxiety at times. And during that birth, Sylvia didn’t feel it unatural at all. She KNEW her momma already. KNEW her momma would always make the best choices for her and KNEW she could trust her momma. Her momma taught her to face fear, find the love in the moment and push through the scary to come into the light.

    Momma taught that little Rocketship that sometimes life doesn’t give us what we want, BUT we can handle what it does give us and we can THRIVE…..

    and Sylvia took those lessons to heart. She thrived, she still thrives…… look at her.

    Oh sweet Momma who is sad for what you believe is lost……. look down at little Lady Sylvia and see what is found. She learned strength through scary times – from YOU. She learned faith moves mountains – from YOU. she learned Love will always feel the greatest – from you. She learned she CAN and WILL face rough spots but she WILL get through and Thrive – From you!

    Learning those things……. JUST AS YOU ARE BEING BORN……. Well in this spider’s opinion, THAT is the most BEAUTIFUL Natural any momma can give her daughter.

    I love you. You did good lady. beyond good…….. truly.

  2. Cylithria, you are a gem. This was exactly the kind of reframing that I needed — a reminder that even if my choices felt selfish, they were ultimately for my baby’s benefit. <3333

  3. I’ll echo Rachael’s “ditto” and leave a simple congrats, too. I’m so very happy to hear that both Mama and baby are doing well. Really, that’s all that matters in the long run. Healthy baby. Healthy Mama.

  4. There’s an old saying in the military: the most detailed battle plan changes at the moment the enemy is encountered. Or, as Burns put it, perhaps more gently: the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley.

    As a parent who started that adventure somewhat later than my peers, I’ve spent a lot of time observing young parents, as well as my own experience. And I’ve observed that, almost always, people’s plan for how parenthood is going to work rarely work out precisely as they planned. (This isn’t bad. Sometimes it works out better than you’d planned.)

    Don’t worry about whether or not it’s “reasonable” to be disappointed. Emotions don’t always synchronize well with reason. That’s fine. You feel as you feel; it’s not right, or wrong, or reasonable, or unreasonable. It is what it is.

    You get to live the life you have in front of you right now, not the ones that might have been. Enjoy what you’ve been given.

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