Friday, August 23, 2013

My not-so-second-rate birth experience

I had some friends asking me recently about my c-section birth experience. Just to be upfront, I loved it. Why? Because the story ends in us getting Drew!

But my appreciation for my c-section didn't start that way, and I wish there had been someone there to tell me - loudly and repeatedly without ceasing: YOU WONT CARE ABOUT THE BIRTH ONCE DREW IS ON THE OUTSIDE. 

You see, leading up to giving birth, I - like many women - was overwhelmed with e-mails, newsletters, blogs, classes and commentary all subtly (or not so subtly) suggesting that the best birthing option is a natural one, and anything other than that is essentially a second-rate birth. And to be honest, I totally bought into it. It's not hard to believe, as a great deal of medical advice affirms that an intervention free birth can be a very healthy experience for baby and mom. But, it became more than that for me. I was letting my birth plan become an identity, something worth picking sides over. 

God graciously revealed this to me the first time I had to consider getting a c-section. I was PISSED. Something was rattling my cage; something was toying with my identity. I had let my birth plan say something about me that I so desperately needed to believe: that I was strong enough to do it naturally. A c-section meant no breathing ball, no husband by my side counting the seconds with me, no option for a water birth, no baby-to-breast within seconds of birth...and to me it meant no medal of natural birth honor.

God was gracious to walk me through that process as I struggled with laying down the identity I had built for myself around how I would give birth. During that struggle, we found out I wouldn't need a c-section because of my eye. I remember thinking, "great, glad that's over. And I'm so glad I got over the whole c-section thing."

And then a few weeks later, we were finding out Drew was breech. Less than 3% of babies are actually breech at the time of birth. That was likely not a fluke, and was very much God bringing me face to face with an identity that was still lingering: Stephanie Hansen, natural birth warrior. And sure enough, I wanted to get pissed again. But this time, only for a second. This second time, God was quick to turn down the volume on my inner monologue, and turn up the volume on the reality of the situation: my birth plan was about me, and my glory. I had something to prove, apparently because society was telling me I could prove myself through Drew's birth. And on top of that, I could have a new awesome identity that was all about my strength, and my determination. I should know well enough by now that with all those "me's" and "my's", God is going to lovingly remind me whose glory my life is for...and it's certainly not my own!

While I was coming to grips with the fact that the very thing I didn't want would be the thing to potentially save Drew's life (most hospitals wont deliver breech babies due to risk to the baby, and mom), God was tearing down the lies I was believing. He was replacing those lies with beautiful truths: Drew doesn't care how he is born, the birth has no weight on my ability to be a mother, my identity is not rooted in my birth plan, and God is ultimately in control. That meant that nothing I could choose or not choose was going to move God's hand in the moments that would make up Drew's birth.

And Drew's birth was upon us, God was so incredibly generous with His gifts. He gave me the gift of actually going into labor, so I got to experience what that felt like (didn't feel like a gift at the time, but I know now that it was). He gave me the gift of having Kyle being my number one support person, even on the operating table. He gave me the gift of a calm and enjoyable hospital staff that let me be a part of all the decisions that were made. He gave me the gift of letting Kyle be the first to hold and comfort Drew, allowing them to bond while my surgery was finished. He gave me the gift of being able to breastfeed Drew back in our room, with no complications from the surgery. He gave me the gift of feeling the pain from birth; having major abdominal surgery is certainly no way to "skip out" on the pain of childbearing! Most of all, He allowed Kyle and I to create life, which is the gift that trumps all the other little gifts along the way.

Nothing about my experience felt second rate. And I may not have gotten the natural birth medal of honor I thought I was after, but I got something much better: a healthy and happy baby in my arms to enjoy with my husband.

Giving it Grace: I share this reflection to be encouraging to those that may be facing a c-section, and are feeling guilt or shame about not having a natural birth (as I was). To those that are having natural births, you're a life-giving woman. To those that want natural births but end up having medical intervention, your'e a life-giving woman. To those that want the epidural, you're a life-giving woman. And to those who have a c-section, you're a life-giving woman!

1 comment:

  1. I just wanted to say that the "first rate" birth experience was NOT all it is cracked up to be for me. I asked my OB for a C-section twice over my 3 days of labor, begged him in fact. Like you said, as long as the baby comes out healthy that's all that matters. Your little guy is so precious! Congrats!