Childbirth is a big deal, right? You’re bringing a human being into the world, and there is a lot that can go wrong. And it doesn’t have to be huge things like a baby in distress or a mother having major blood loss. There are many unforeseen events during the labor and delivery process that can derail your ideal birth. When I was pregnant, I was so consumed with how I was going to give birth, I didn’t plan well on what would happen after — when I actually brought my baby home from the hospital.
My husband and I attended a labor and delivery class with a few other couples once a week for four weeks. We learned about the stages of labor, and when to go to the hospital. We learned about the different positions you can be in to give birth, and all the great drugs you could get to help with the pain.
The baby on the other hand, had ideas of her own, and remained stubbornly breech as we completed our last class, about two months before my due date. The closer we got to my due date, I started to realize that this birth would probably be happening in an operating room instead of a birthing suite. Which, while I was disappointed, was still OK, as long as I got to meet her and she would come into the world safe and healthy.
I adjusted my birth plan to include some things about the Caesarean section itself. For instance, I wanted the drape to be lowered so I could see her the moment she came out. I wanted to hold her immediately if there were no problems, baby gunk and all. I wanted to breastfeed right away. Of course, in the early morning hours when my water broke on its own in my bed and we needed to rush off to the hospital because the contractions were coming fast and furious, I forgot my birth plan on the kitchen counter.
My hospital stay was rough, with a diagnosis of preeclampsia, but my daughter was healthy, just a little early and needing some foot pokes for low blood sugars. For six days, I focused on breastfeeding constantly, trying in vain to sleep and praying the heavens down that my blood pressure would stabilize so we could get out of there. The day of discharge was almost as good as hearing my baby cry for the first time. We lovingly took 45 minutes to strap her down into the confines of her infant car seat, swung by the pharmacy to pick up my pain medications, and constantly kept checking the backseat to make sure she didn’t, I don’t know, spontaneously combust or fly out the back window.
My husband and I walked into our house, feeling like somehow we should have gotten the red carpet treatment for what we went through. After all, I had a human child cut from my womb, and I deserved a freaking medal.
And then reality set in. That this tiny baby was really ours and there were no more nurses around to tell us what we should be doing. And dear god how could I still be bleeding this much from my vagina when I had a c-section? Why won’t the baby latch anymore? Was it OK to eat a plate of spaghetti over the baby’s head? I think I was watching way too much TV — should I be playing with the baby? What the hell do you do with an 11-day-old infant? That’s it, I totally suck at this.