I wrote the following post exactly one year ago (April, 2015) with the intention of having it be a freelance piece for another site and then life happened and…I just didn’t. So, though some of the subject matter may no longer be relevant–in terms of social media–my message stays the same. I am publishing this today, as I just went through my son’s baby book with him and I stared at the photo of us in the OR, blood covering bodies and drapes, and I realized that it was time. I hope that you enjoy.
I will never have the chance to experience natural childbirth.
As so many great things do, this thought came into my head while watching the latest episode of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”. Kourtney was going in for a third trimester ultrasound and she brought Mason, whom she literally pulled out of her vagina and onto her chest. Kardashianing has actually become a verb when it comes to birth, with women using it to describe the act of reaching down and essentially delivering their own baby.
Listening to Kourtney talk about her impending birth, I got a bit of a wistful feeling, mixed with a pit in my stomach. “I will never get to Kardashian a baby out of me,” I thought, which really means that I will never get to experience natural childbirth.
Before having my first child in 2010, I prepared for a drug-free hypno-birth. I meditated to tapes and bounced on a huge, silver ball and ate entire pineapples.
When my water broke at 40 weeks, my daughter had not even engaged in my pelvis, and was so far up in there that the doctor had a hard time reaching her, as she tried to try to place a fetal heart monitor on her head.
I was in the delivery room, gown on, headphones ready, Sour Apple Blow Pops in hand and bracing for my hypno-birth, as my contractions were both close together and extremely intense. But, because the baby was not having the proper heart accelerations, and because she was still nestled so high up in my uterus, I underwent an unplanned, slightly urgent, definitely scary C-Section.
When my daughter was born, I did not get to hold her to my chest. I did not get to see her little body, covered in goopy guts, as her mouth instinctually rooted for my breast. I did not even get to see her, really. My spinal was too high and I felt as though I could not breathe, so they took the baby to warm her up as they worked to stitch me up.
The first time I really saw my daughter was by looking at her photo on my dad’s camera. I remember zooming in and saying, “She has my lips!” and “Look at that chin!” It was hours before she was actually brought to me, my sweet little babe, and then our journey finally began.
Three years later, when I was pregnant with my son, my OBGYN scheduled me for a repeat C-Section. I was not a good candidate for a VBAC, as I had never dilated even a centimeter in either pregnancy.
I tried to advocate for myself, watching videos on “Natural C-Sections” and telling my doctor that I wanted to be able to see the baby right away, and that I did not want a spinal.
I went into labor with my son four days before my scheduled surgery and despite the fact that he was transverse in my stomach and that my cervix was still “entrance only”, it was time for him to come out. My second C-Section was definitely more pleasant than the first, in that I got both an epidural and anxiety medicine and though I could feel myself being lifted off of the table as they pulled the baby from me, I could breathe. When he was born, My husband brought our son to my face and we kissed and I sang to him. It was so much better. I felt like shit, telling the nurses around me that I was going to pass out as my blood pressure kept dropping, but it was still so much better.
Once they sewed me back up, I did not have to wait to meet my son, as he was brought to me right away, and he latched on like pro. I had breastfed my daughter for eighteen months, so I felt comfortable. I felt like a seasoned mom. I felt warm and fuzzy and a feeling of euphoria.
It was two days later that the nurses first told me that I had lost a lot of blood in my surgery, as my abdomen had been filled with scar tissue from my first C-Section. My hemoglobin was extremely low and I was tachycardic.
Two days after that, a social worker came in to see me.
She sat down on my bed beside me and said, “We are going to have to discuss some long term birth control options.” By long term, she meant permanent. Typing the words right now I still feel a pain from somewhere deep inside of me.
I was 28 years old when my son was born and I was told that it would no longer be safe for me to carry any more children, as I had too much scar tissue, my uterine was too thin and I was at a high risk for a rupture.
To make a very, very long story short, I subsequently suffered from severe postpartum depression. I was hospitalized. I was in intensive therapy. I was put on medication. I had to take a mood stabilizer that was contraindicated with breastfeeding, so I had to wean my son at 10 weeks. It was the worst time of my entire life.
It has been a long time since my son’s birth and I believe that I have moved through many of the stages of grief, in mourning my loss of the ability to procreate further. Let me be clear here: I am aware that there are other ways in which I can add to my family if I so choose, and for that I am so grateful, and I am very open to those possibilities, but, I am also sad in knowing that I will never again experience being pregnant or giving birth. I also want to say this: I realize that I am supremely lucky; I was able to conceive and birth two healthy children. I have experienced the joys (and horrors) of pregnancy and I do not take an ounce of that magic for granted. I realize that many women are never able to have what I have had, and I am respectful and have perspective. But it still hurts. I am allowed to hurt. The choice was taken from me and it feels, to me, like a loss.
So, tonight, as I watched Kourtney prepare for her third vaginal birth, I thought about the fact that there are so few things that we are actually told that we will never be able to do. If we are fortunate, we are raised in loving households or communities, where we are encouraged and supported. “You can do anything,” is the refrain.
But this is so concrete. I will never ever have a vaginal birth. I will not be pregnant again.
So, in an effort to ease my pain, I thought of a list of a few things that are similarly concrete in my inability to ever experience them. Things that are completely out of my control. Things that no matter how hard I try, I will not, in fact, be able to work hard enough to achieve. So many things come to mind, and when I think about them, I think, “Nah, I could never do that.” But, in fairness to this exercise, I think that I could theoretically learn how to write code for a videogame or cure a disease. And would I love to be on Broadway? Yes. Is it unlikely? Very much so. Is it impossible? No. Stranger things have happened.
I just asked my husband this question, saying, “What are some things that no matter how hard I try I will absolutely, positively never be able to do?”
“Load the dishwasher,” he said, without hesitation.
“No,” I explained. “I mean real, concrete things that I literally cannot do.”
“Load the dishwasher,” he repeated, and walked out of the room.
So here is what I have come up with. The things that I will never, ever be able to do:
- I will never pee standing up into a urinal and shake my penis off.
- I will never dunk a basketball.
- I will never go to space. Thank god for this one because I am terrified of space.
- I will never know if heaven exists before I die.
- I will never be able to walk with dinosaurs.
- I will never be able to erase the “How to Save a Life” episode of Grey’s Anatomy, getting Derek Shepherd that damn CT scan.
- I will never get to live inside of a giant whale.
- I will never be able to turn water into wine
And, finally, I will never, ever be able to Kardashian a kid out of my body.
I will never again take a pregnancy test and see two lines, nor will I feel movement inside of me, as my body will never again grow another human. But I have. And for that, once again, I am eternally grateful.
So back to the Keeping up With the Kardashians. Because no matter what, I will never, ever, be a Kardashian.
(Though it is not impossible).