Earlier this month, my beautiful 3rd daughter Leah celebrated her second birthday. In honour of April being Cesarean Birth Awareness Month, I have tried to bring together 2 years of thoughts to celebrate her birth and hopefully offer support to others who may be experiencing a wide variety of feelings around their own Cesarean birth.
Two years ago, my daughter was born into this world through a Cesarean Birth. This was my 3rd birth, and to say it couldn’t have been farther from “my plan” would be an understatement.
After 2 unmedicated births, one of them being a home birth, my knowledge or planning for the potential of a cesarean birth was just about zero.
Leah was born, and I mourned the outcome of her birth for a short while, but quickly became so in love and obsessed with this perfect, tiny being. I shoved down all those uncomfortable feelings and went on with my life - future Ilana’s problems, right?
Fast forward to last summer, as we became closer to opening our new WOMB location. As I prepared myself for this new role, unresolved feelings began to surface. Speaking about Leah’s birth would bring tears to my eyes, an uncomfortable reminder of the work and healing that still needed to be done. Our wise WOMB founders suggested that my experience may be preparing me to help more women with similar experiences.
Time for some therapy! I find it difficult to sit with my emotions. I am a busy person in a crazy household, and feelings take time… and quiet! When I began our first session I couldn’t even put into words the main emotion I was experiencing regarding my birth, but when I did I was completely surprised.
Embarrassed……… what?!… embarrassed??
Let’s unpack this for a second. Prior to my 3rd birth, I was the “epitome of a natural birth advocate” - this was all I knew. I read all the books and had experienced it twice. I was fully committed to the belief that with proper preparation and intention, my body and my baby would know exactly what to do and that all I had to do was get in my zone, breathe, and wait for my baby to come.
I did all the things - chiropractic adjustments, pelvic floor physiotherapy and lots and lots of squats. I stayed reasonably active, ate pretty well and took all my supplements. I waited patiently until labour began at 41 weeks. I had an INCREDIBLE, supportive team of midwives, a doula and birth partner champion for a husband.
But Leah didn’t come. Somehow, someway, my little “Supergirl” had wriggled her way into a position, where the only way out was full arm first. After 14 hours of labour, a million position changes, lots of pushing, and some coercing from the OB team, she wouldn’t budge. We tried everything, exhausted all options. It wasn’t an emergency, no one was in distress. She just was not coming.
I was completely devastated. It shook me to my core. I suppose this is what happens when a very highly held belief system of yours gets completely shattered.
How could it be possible that without any medical intervention, after 2 unmedicated births, I ended up having a Cesarean? Next up came the cycle of all the what if’s and, of course, finding every reason to blame myself.
Turns out, I was a birth snob. Yup - I said it. Holding “natural birth” (later learning the term “unmedicated birth” was much more appropriate) at the highest of standards, and as someone who had not “accomplished” this, I FELT like I was somewhat of a “lesser women”. How crushing it is when we reveal these dark truths within ourselves?
For me, therapy was crucial in helping me to reframe my own narrative. An outside view, and the tools she was able to offer was not something I could do alone. I absolutely was stuck in either avoidance or despair. This was not the type of perinatal professional I wanted to be.
I believe one of the reasons why this was so hard for me to accept was that I was completely uneducated on the possibility of any other outcome, especially as a third time mother. I went into my birth with only one possible outcome in mind, and when things didn’t go as I had planned and expected, I didn’t have time or energy left to process the alternative.
Educating and empowering women BEFORE their birthing day is so important. Envision your birth with the intention that things will go as planned. But know that if they don’t, it’s okay. Understanding what the alternatives look like, what additional supports you may need and recovery implications for all types of births.
I won’t lie, recovery was a lot harder, but would have been so much easier if I had any idea of what it looked like.
In the end, shifting my mindset led me to becoming thankful.
Thankful for an amazing team who made me feel supported and heard.
Thankful that my baby and my body knew, for reasons that I will never know, that it was not safe for her to come out on her own.
And thankful that there exists a way that got her out safely with myself still being here to share our story.