Emergency C-Section: A Reflection One Year Later
Nearly one year postpartum I write this reflection. Something about the approach of Flora’s first birthday has me reflecting on her birth more and more.
At this point last year I was very pregnant and feeling my little girl squirm around as I did my final preparations for her birth. I’d read the books, taken the classes, done the exercises, been to tons of appointments, taken countless vitamins, packed the bags, written ‘the plan’, and invested both time and money into what I was hoping for…a natural and drug-free birth. I had every reason to think this was a beautiful possibility for me. She was in the right position, I was very low-risk, and I had checked off all the boxes.
As many of you know, my sweet girl did not come into her life on this planet in the sweet wholesome way I came to dream of. With an unexpected discovery of her breach position, I was rushed to have her cut out of my body after 15 hours of at-home labor and what I thought was just enough energy to push her out and hold her for the first time. After 15 hours of the most disciplined mind-over-body experience I’ve ever had where I was able to relax through every contraction and feel my body doing the best and hardest work it’s ever done, the fruits of my labor (literally) were in one sentence squashed, ‘She is breech’. I can truly and honestly say I’ve never prepared for or worked so hard for anything in my life. I wanted this birth so badly. I wanted a healthy baby who had every opportunity to arrive in the way God intended and designed. I wanted my body to feel every bit of her transition from womb to world. No test have I studied harder for, no goal had I ever kept so intensely in front of me. And all in an instant, it was all gone.
I recently read a story of a girl I follow on Instagram who just lost her baby. Last year I knew of 3 others who lost their babies due to complications outside of their control. I sit here, nearly a year after Flora’s birth in utter humility and gratitude that by God’s mysterious grace to me that I don’t deserve, I have my child to hold and nurture. Though she came in an unexpected and traumatic way, she is here and I am here and we are whole.
That being said, my therapist told me something last week that has truly taken my sadness, my shame, my dashed-dreams, and brought me to a place that is, perhaps, one step closer to healing. She told me that being grateful and being disappointed can coexist. These are not mutually exclusive feelings. I can be grateful for my child and the fact she and I survived, yet still be ok with feeling a sense of disappointment in how everything panned out. For this last year I have wrestled with Flora’s birth story so much. How can I express anything except for gratitude? She is alive, I am alive. But friends, this is not authentic. While I do feel such deep gratitude, I have simultaneously felt sadness, regret, shame, loneliness, unworthiness, failure, despair, depression, doubt, anger, and much much more.
To some of you, this whole story, this whole reflection may not make a lot of sense and you may think I’m a silly girl for feeling so deeply about something as seemingly common as a c-section. What I want to share with you is a bit of what the Lord has taught me this last year as I’ve journeyed (and continue) through this significant life event.
- A woman’s story of her child’s birth is very important to her. This is a story that will be asked of woman time and time again. It’s something she never forgets and that she will share with her child for years to come. The epic moment when you stop being physically connected to the child your body has grown is very significant. It marks a change, a letting go of control, a new season. If I were back in grade school and had to make a timeline of my life, this event would be one of the most significant things on that line.
- You never know another person’s hurts. To be honest, I’ve had mixed reactions about my response and recovery regarding the c-section and all that happened. To some, c-sections and emergency deliveries are an everyday occurrence…just another number or statistic. But to me, this moment in time truly and deeply changed me. It was a huge moment of shock and disappointment quickly followed by the joy of seeing my daughter for the first time. The last year of my life has been marked solely by what happened on that day back in September. For you, that might not be your story. This may never be a hurt or disappointment you have, but for me it is. The Lord has shown me that just like other’s don’t always ‘get’ what I’m dealing with, I may not understand what they are going through either. But what we can do is show each other grace and love, and as Derek would suggest…kindness. A wise mentor once told me, you never know what knots another person has inside them. Let’s be about the business of untying those knots, not adding to them.
- The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps (Prov 16:9). My c-shaped scar daily reminds me that despite my best efforts, my purest intentions, my sweetest thoughts or actions…it is the LORD who writes my story and establishes my steps. Oh, I’ve wrestled with God on this one. I wanted something so good and wholesome for my baby and me…why did he not allow it? But the why doesn’t matter to me. It’s the who. Who God is should always and forever be enough for me. It is the ONLY consistent thing and to that I cling.
- Feel your feelings. As I mentioned before, I have suppressed and tried to hide the fact that I am hurting about the circumstances of Flora’s birth. I suppose I thought it would be looked down upon or that it was wrong to feel disappointed and not be ‘happy’ 100% of the time. But like my therapist pointed out, feelings can mutually coincide. With all of my being I believe that the Lord feels thing more deeply than we can ever understand. And that if we are His children, made in His image, the feelings we feel are something He has given to us from Himself. Yes, we twist them b/c we are sinners. But I think if we seek His presence, He is oh-so near and willing to hear our deepest darkest pains and groans. I think He longs to plant new blooms from those ashes.
Friends, I share these pieces of my heart with you for several reasons.
I want you to know you are not alone in whatever hurt you may be feeling. There are others out there in a similar situation or feeling a myriad of emotions all at once unable to even cope some days.
I want you to know that my life is in no way perfect and that I have daily strongholds that I sometimes give to the Lord and other times cling to.
I want you to know that each person you encounter has a different story. The Lord has truly taught me this year that you can never assume you know someone. There are secret crevasses of their heart that hold stories, pains, joys, defeats that you will never know. And it makes them who they are in all their flaws and beauty.
Flora’s birth is now a part of who I am. It is written on the pages of my story for better or for worse. I pray that God uses this journey to bless someone out there somewhere who may feel alone or discouraged or just like they can’t seem to move forward from a trauma in their life. I’ve been there friend, and in many ways I am still there. My hope is that we can both keep getting up each morning and know that our heavenly Father isn’t done writing our stories. In fact, for those who are His, He will continue writing them for all time. A beautiful adventure with twists and turns. A good book that never has to end.