I Had an Unplanned Cesarean and I’m Okay with That. (And Why You Should Be Okay with Yours Too!)

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When I was pregnant with my daughter, I could probably count on one hand the women I knew of who had Cesareans. But I didn’t talk to them about their experiences so I could get an idea what it’s like, in case I wound up having one myself, because “I’m having an all-natural, peaceful, whenever-the-baby’s-ready home birth, and there is no need to learn about the surgery or post-op recovery.”

WRONG.

Whether you’re pregnant now or will be sometime in the future, take this bit of advice from me, please: read up on Cesareans so you won’t have that fist-to-the-gut feeling I did when the doctor told me he suggested I have one. Get informed about the how, the why, and especially the recovery. You may never even need to have a C-section, but just in case you do, be prepared and at least know a little bit about it, unlike me.

Anyway. Back to what I’m trying to get at.

If two years ago you’d have told my pregnant self that I’d eventually go twenty-two days over my due date, have a failed induction, and then finally have no choice but to get a C-section, I wouldn’t have believed you. Because none of that was in my plan. Going overdue somewhat, maybe, but not the other stuff. Psh—no way.

I had hoped and planned for a home birth in Tennessee with my midwives, but as I kept going days and days over my due date, our time for my wonderful, ideal, dreamed-about-ever-since-I-can-remember birth was running out. Three weeks past due was the cut-off date, and so on the day I reached 43 weeks with no signs of labor starting anytime soon, we planned an induction at a hospital with a doctor for the next morning—already three things I never, ever imagined myself doing.

Long story short (you can read the full version HERE), the induction didn’t work because apparently my body and my baby STILL weren’t ready yet, and then my blood pressure was high enough to be concerned about, and the baby was assumed to be facing the wrong way (turns out she was), which could cause a problem later on if I delivered vaginally, SO we chose that last resort we’d never dreamed of: a Cesarean section. A full-on MAJOR SURGERY. (Okay, so I admit that part didn’t hit me till later on, but y’all—this surgery is NO JOKE and my heart and so much respect go out to each and every woman who has had this operation.)

Once I started coming off my newborn baby high (AHHH—the best thing in this world!) and I realized there was still a whole world out there with (gasp!) other people, and I was finally over the infection in my incision (O-U-C-H), I realized how very disappointed I actually was that I did not have the birth I’d always dreamed of, the one I’d been planning for nearly ten months, even rented the birthing house for. And I started hating myself for not being able to give birth like a “normal person.” I told myself I must have done something wrong, or not enough things right, to cause everything opposite of my plan to come about. What if I’d exercised more? I wondered. Or, What if I hadn’t eaten some of the things I did? How come So-and-So was able to do it but not me? A friend of mine from church had told me right after Eden was born to never let myself think these things, because I didn’t fail, and I did still carry and give birth to my child, and I was still just as woman as the one who delivered naturally. It was weeks later when I started actually thinking those awful things that I would have to remind myself what she told me. What she said was exactly true, but while I certainly felt that other women who gave birth by Cesarean were amazing mothers and women who had done only what was best for their children, in my heart I couldn’t believe it about myself.

I didn’t ever get depressed about the whole thing, but I did put myself down a lot whenever I thought about how my body couldn’t go into labor on its own, my body couldn’t get into real, good labor even with the help of Pitocin, my body “couldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t. It was also hard reading or hearing other people’s labor and birth stories, knowing I didn’t get to experience the real thing, wondering if I ever would.

A few months ago I spoke with a new friend of mine who had also within the past year given birth via unplanned Cesarean. We swapped our stories and they were almost identical! We chatted about the disappointment we felt when our bodies just wouldn’t do what we wanted them to, the physical and emotional sides of recovering, and our fears of ever having another baby and the same thing happening all over again. Beyond all, though, we are both thankful that we had the option of Cesarean for the sake of our babies, and for their well-being we would not have had it any way but the best way for them—which just so happened to be C-sections. By the time she and I met I can say I was very close to having accepted my daughter’s birth as a whole, but I think being able to talk about it (for the first time!) with someone who totally, absolutely understood exactly what I felt, was a huge weight off my shoulders and I think a big part of fully accepting.

To someone who hasn’t had a Cesarean, I probably sound like a big sissy for having worried so much for so long about how my baby got here, as long as she’s here, safe and perfectly sound—and maybe it is silly—but it’s something a lot of women have to work through emotionally, and I think there are a few big things that can help them get past the disappointment and embrace the truth that this did happen, that their plans can change in a minute, and that they are still every bit of a woman as the one who delivers naturally, or vaginally with an epidural. I may never have that “normal” birth, but that is something I’ll come to grips with if and when the time comes, and since I’ve done this before, I think it will be much easier if I go through it again.

Four things that I believe can help a lot are:

  1. Just be grateful, first and foremost, that your baby is safe and in this world, and that there are doctors out there who know what they’re doing when it does come down to major surgery in favor of the baby’s (and your) health.
  2. Write out your birth story, or record yourself telling it. Just simply getting it all out and off your chest (and reliving the glorious moments!) can sometimes be the best medicine.
  3. Talk to someone who understands, who’s been there. After having my daughter I was surprised at how many friends have had Cesareans, and I didn’t even know it before, but talking to them about it can be so helpful. Talk to someone who will let you spill out your frustrations, but who will also tell you it’s okay, you did amazing, and now you need to suck it up, buttercup. (Because friends don’t let friends throw pity parties.)
  4. Encourage other people. When you talk to a mom who is down about her C-section experience, you can thank God you also went through it, because now you can let her cry on your shoulder, you can tell her it’s gonna be all right (because you know it is), and you can show her what it looks like to pick yourself back up and smile, because you’ve been there, you’re strong, and she is too. I think this was the biggest thing for me to being able to actually be thankful for my C-section (besides the obvious fact that my baby is safely here). I can be thankful I went through something hard like this because when someone else has gone through it and needs encouragement, I can now be a help to that person.

There may still be days here and there when I’ll look down and see my constant reminder, that 6-inch battle scar on my abdomen that may fade but will never completely go away, and I start to think, What if—? but I’m going to stop myself right there, because it’s just a scar, that was just a C-section, it was just a thing I had to do, and I’m okay with it now. I am grateful.

And you can be, too.

Eden Lily’s Birth Story

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This is not going to be your “typical” birth story. Then again, no birth is really typical; they’re each unique and a beautiful gift from God.

Our story starts January 17th, 2016– our baby girl’s expected date of arrival.

I knew all along not to expect an early baby, and I figured she’d probably even be a week late, at least. But once her due date rolls around and flies by, I start to get that itchy feeling. “C’mon, baby! It’s time now, darling.” Days go by, a week goes by, two weeks go by … and still no baby born. I keep getting texts and calls, questions from everyone I see– “You haven’t had that baby YET?!” “How long will you let her go?” “What are you going to DO about it?” Frankly, I was getting pretty tired of all the attention, though I knew everyone meant well and was genuinely concerned.

We just kept waiting and waiting, and I kept praying this baby would decide to come very soon. Three weeks overdue was the cut-off date for a home birth because of safety rules and such, and we had planned on having a home birth in Tennessee with our wonderful midwives. When forty-three weeks was quickly approaching, I began to fret. And worry. And fret and worry some more.

My midwives were so extremely reassuring. The baby was fine, I was healthy, so all we had to do was pray for a safe (and soon) arrival. But they also told me that even if we wound up delivering in the hospital instead of giving birth at the house, it would be all right. I knew it’d be all right, but I mean … I had PLANS, okay? I needed this baby to follow my plan!

January slowly passes, and February rolls around. I was beginning to slowly surrender all my plans to God. I just wanted a safe delivery and a healthy baby. On February 5th I wrote,
“I realize now, more than ever, this baby is in God’s hands — the pregnancy, birth, everything … And so I wait. We wait. And I am pressed to trust and pray more than ever. I can do nothing to fix what [the] outcome will [be]. I can only pray that whatever is best for the baby is what will happen. And whether that be a home birth in Tennessee today, tomorrow, or Sunday, or an induced birth in the hospital on Monday, I will strive to be content. God knows best, and I believe He will take care of our child … I must concede my desires, unfortunately, and just pray. Pray, pray, pray that only the best for Eden’s sake will happen. God’s will be done.”

All this time I was feeling the same as I had been for weeks, with no changes. I finally began having Braxton Hicks contractions the last few weeks, but they weren’t painful at all or even very uncomfortable. I tried natural inductions– eating tons of parsley, a whole pineapple, LOTS of walking, castor oil (TASTES LIKE CHAPSTICK), etc. You name it, I tried it. Obviously none of those things did the trick.

February 6th I began having stronger contractions than usual, and they were long and pretty consistent and uncomfortable. “Maybe this is it,” I told myself. I talked to my midwife and she said it could be the start of labor, but to wait and see. After I went to bed and fell asleep, the contractions stopped. The next morning I started having some again, but they didn’t continue and eventually subsided, much to our dismay.

The next day, Sunday (my birthday), we and the midwives and doctor decided to go ahead with an induction. We were scheduled to be at the hospital at 5AM the next morning. I cried so hard that day, because my dreams for a natural birth were not going to come true. But that night I wrote, “NOT what I ever had in mind. Home birth has always, always been something I strongly believe in and have dreamed of my whole life. But sometimes answers to our prayers are different than expected, and we have to trust that, somehow, it’s for the best. I’ve prayed all along for a good, safe delivery with the midwives, but most important of all for the safety of our baby girl, no matter when or where. I guess this is for the best. If not for her sake, but my own– that I will learn patience in waiting, and full trust in God when things don’t go exactly how I think they ought. So, this time tomorrow I could be holding my precious darling in my arms, and all these current fears and worries will be behind me.”

We arrived at the hospital at 5AM and got checked in. They put me in a room and had the pitocin running through an IV by about 6:00 AM. They would come in every little while to up the dosage of the pitocin so my body could gradually contract longer and harder, and eventually start getting labor going good and steady. At that time the nurse had checked and said I was maybe 4 centimeters dilated. “Okay, that’s good,” I thought.

Besides the IV needle stuck in my left forearm, I had two monitors strapped around my belly– one for monitoring the baby’s heart rate (which they kept having to move to a different spot because she decided it was a good time to do somersaults) and the other for measuring the height of each contraction. I also had a blood pressure monitor wrapped around my right arm that read my blood pressure every ten or fifteen minutes, since it had been reading a bit high throughout the pregnancy. So most of the time I had four things on me during labor. Talk about feeling pinned down! Whenever I had to use the restroom they had to unhook the IV pump and it just was a lot of hassle and took way too much time, I thought.

At first I just laid in bed and rested. For a little while I cross-stitched, but within a few hours my contractions started getting a bit stronger and I would have to lay my cross-stitching down and concentrate on getting through each one. They didn’t hurt at first, but they were getting my attention. A while later they became even stronger, and were beginning to get a bit painful. I was still able to handle them lying down or sitting up in bed, so they were tolerable. My midwives wanted to come whenever I got to around 6-7 centimeters dilated, but by early afternoon my contractions were intense enough that I wanted them there with me to help me focus on getting through them the right way. Still, I was only 4 centimeters.

In the room with me were Cord, my mom, the two midwives, and their assistant. Each one helped in a different way that was so very special to me and I don’t know how I could have done it without all of them.

As time went on, contractions got stronger and stronger, and I was in pain (but struggling to admit it to myself for quite a while). My midwives convinced me to get out of the bed and try moving around, because nothing was happening yet and I was just plain uncomfortable. The baby was still jumping all over the place, so we needed her in a good position for birth. I sat on the edge of the bed, in a rocker, stood up, and considered using a birthing ball but never got the bravery to do it (honestly, I just didn’t want to fall over during a contraction!). At some point I got back on the bed and just sat there through the pain as best I could, because by then nothing was “comfortable” (as if anything is during labor). Cord stayed by my side through it all, holding my hand, rubbing my back, and encouraging me with each contraction.

The whole day I had had nothing to eat, and the nurses only allowed me to have water and ice chips (but I did have some Gatorade I’d brought and one Sprite and they did not seem to care), so I was STARVING STARVING STARVING. I was beginning to get chills and started to shiver like crazy during contractions, but by the time someone put a blanket over my shoulders I would be burning up. Whenever I got hot I would start to feel nauseous, and that was NOT FUN. I lost track of how many times I threw up that day.

The midwives’ assistant was there by my side helping me stay as comfortable as possible. I’d brought my essential oils with me, but really wish I had brought the diffuser as well. When I was nauseous, she put lemon oil in my water and let me take sips of it between contractions. When I was burning up, she put peppermint on a wet rag and laid it on the back of my neck. And to help me relax, she put lavender on my wrists. Those little bits of comfort here and there were amazing.

By the evening I was so tired that I could barely keep my eyes open. I kept them closed most of the time, I believe, except sometimes I’d open them between contractions. I just wanted sleep, but couldn’t relax enough to get any rest. “Epidural” kept coming to mind but I wouldn’t say anything. Not yet. I had to be strong. “It’s gonna get a lot worse than this,” I kept telling myself. “Just go on a little longer.” Eventually I whispered the idea to Cord but he reminded me how badly I had not wanted an epidural, and that I should just keep going, at least for a bit longer. He had to remind me several times, but he kept my hopes up, and each time I would get my act together and started focusing once again on the task at hand, but trying not to focus on the pain… for a little while, at least.

At about 4:00 PM the nurse came in and checked me, but I was only 4.5 or mayyyybe 5 centimeters dilated, and the baby’s head was no longer down low like it had been (for WEEKS). The nurse called the doctor to keep him updated (he was at his clinic that day) and since we were seeing no progress in the 10 hours I’d been on the pitocin drip, and the baby was obviously not cooperating at the time, he told the nurse who came back and told me that they thought there may be a need for a Cesarean section, unfortunately. My heart sank. C-section was THE LAST thing on my list of things I wanted for this birth. Having to be induced was hard enough for me, and then the thought of an epidural was just beyond that, but a cesarean?! Cord asked them if we could think about it a while, and she said of course we could, and that the doctor wouldn’t be back to the hospital for at least another two hours.

As soon as she went out of the room, one of my midwives jumped up off the couch and told me, “Okay. Get out of that bed.” It was our last shot to get this baby down and my body dilated, so we were going to give it everything we had. I tried so many positions– squatting on the floor, propping one leg up high on the bed and leaning back, swaying my hips back and forth, leaning on Cord, etc. It was painful, it was hard, but I tried to keep going, even though all I really wanted at the moment was SLEEP. But I also really, REALLY wanted to get this baby out. And we needed to see some progress SOON.

Around 7:00 PM the doctor arrived. I had not progressed any more since last time, and as he spoke to us about the C-section I had to try so hard not to cry. Cord and I had discussed it, we and the midwives discussed it, and when the doctor talked to us we decided that maybe this was our last resort. I asked if maybe an epidural would help me get through the contractions and possibly buy us some more time in case things would begin to progress soon, but they said it could possibly slow labor down, and then it wouldn’t even guarantee anything would happen, and we’d still wind up getting the C-section. So that was opted out, and we made our decision.

I was scared to death but also very much relieved that it would all be over and we would have our precious baby in our arms very, very soon. It was almost too hard to believe. We were told that the surgery might only take about ten minutes once we got in there and they started. We were finally about to meet our baby girl!

Before being taken back to another room for surgery prep, everyone gathered around my bed in a circle, hand in hand, while Cord led us in prayer. It was a beautiful moment I will never forget, and I am so very thankful to have such great Christian midwives and family.

I knew God was with me every moment of that day, and I also knew that even though the way this birth was turning out was not the way I thought it was supposed to go, it must have been God’s will, because I’d been praying and praying that only what was best for our baby would happen. Maybe this wasn’t MY idea of the best birth, but it must have been the best birth for HER.

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At 7:26PM, after 13 hours of pitocin and lots of very hard contractions and doing everything we could possibly think of, our precious baby took her first breath. The doctor said, “You’ve got a big, healthy baby boy!” Then he just laughed and added, “My bad.” I’ll never forget hearing Eden Lily cry for the first time. I immediately started crying tears of joy. It was finally over. She was finally here! They cleaned her up and measured her — 9 lbs. 4 oz. and 21.5″! — and then, the moment I’d been waiting for: They placed her on my chest and she stopped crying instantly as I stroked her tiny face. I held her for a minute or two, and then she went to the nursery with Cord and one of the nurses. The surgeons sewed me back up and I was sent to a recovery room to wait for my little girl. I finally got to hold her close, but the anesthetic had made me sick so I didn’t get to hold her for long until the nausea went away. She did get to nurse for a bit, though, and that has gone smoothly ever since the beginning. (Don’t believe it when someone tells you having a C-section can interfere with mother-baby bonding or nursing. It doesn’t.)

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We finally made it back to our room at almost midnight that night, and we had our baby all to ourselves. She was so precious, so perfect, and she was ours.

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Recovery was not easy, and for over a month I had trouble walking on my own, and my incision got infected, but all that is over and every bit of the pain was so worth it and I’d do it again if I had to. Our little Eden Lily is such a sweet bundle of joy, and we’re so thankful to God for the wonderful care given to us both by the midwives, nurses, and doctors. The birth may not have gone the way we expected, but it went exactly how it needed to. I’m just so grateful our baby is here and healthy, no matter how late she came or how she got here.

And that’s our story! Thanks so much for spending your time reading.

What are some things about your birth(s) that you are grateful for? Did it go exactly according to “plan”? What are some things you would have done differently, if given the chance?

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Eden Lily — 3 Months

Have a blessed day!
~Courtney

Letter to Baby


Dear Baby,

It won’t be long until we get to hold you in our arms! You’ll finally grace us with your presence which I know I don’t deserve but look forward to more than anything in this world. When you take your first breath of air, I know it will simply take mine away. I am in awe of the idea of having you as my own to love and cherish for the rest of my life, and I am so grateful for that opportunity.

I am praying for you every day. I pray that you are growing strong and healthy, and that I will be able to give you the physical needs you will have to have. I pray that God guides me in wisdom as I begin this journey of motherhood. I have much to learn, but with His always help I know I can be enough.

You are kicking more and more lately. I can tell you’re getting much bigger, because it seems as though you’re really beginning to run out of room in there! You seem to enjoy kicking into my right side and snuggling what I assume is your head or bottom into the left side by my belly button. It is the sweetest thing in this world.

I have to admit, I am going to miss having you so close 24/7. You are quickly outgrowing my womb, and someday you’ll outgrow my lap, but darling, you will never outgrow my heart. I feel as though my heart has continued to expand since I found out about you. I did not know so much love was possible, but it most assuredly IS.

It is only a little over 6 weeks until your expected arrival. Whether you come on the “due date” or not, it won’t be much longer now. I am eagerly anticipating the day of your birth, and I am beyond excited.

Keep kicking, Half-Pint! Momma loves you.