This post has taken me a few months to compose. I had to sort everything out, in the way you have to do when plans change, and gather the words to put it together. I would like to say a special thank-you to my dear friend Katie Opris who is, hands down, the best birth photographer I know. Her photos make this story easy to tell, because really, she told it better than words could.
This is Benjamin's birth story. But it's my story as well.
This is the account of a natural mother meeting her son on an operating table.
I pray those of you who have felt your birth plan ripped from your grasp find some comfort here. I hope those of you living in fear of the unknown find some peace. And I hope those of you standing with lofty judgements (and I was once one of you, so don't stop reading here) find some perspective.
Thank you all.
See, I love birth. I believe in it. I even made a business out of it, taking my camera into the birth room and documenting the event for families.
We live on a mountain, half an hour from the closest hospital. When I was first pregnant with Ben, knowing he was my last, I sought out any way I could possibly make a home birth work. Because I really believe in birth. I believe in the power of a woman's body and the perfection of God's plan.
And I wanted to experience having a baby in my own bed. But I couldn't do it.
Oh, I wanted to. But my peace told me no. I couldn't settle into it.
He was born the day after a snow storm.
When the storm was forecasted to hit, Jeremiah insisted we drive into town and stay with my dad to be near the hospital and to have access to a 4-wheel drive. I protested at first. I even said "So what if he has to be born at home. He's my 5th baby, I think we know what we are doing."
But Jeremiah would't hear it. So to Sherwood we went.
The contractions had been coming and going for two weeks. We knew he hadn't engaged and dropped yet, and I was doing long inversions in attempts to position him correctly. I had reached that miserable place of pregnancy that tests the patience and the false labor was enough to even fool me a time or two.
But on Thursday, March 5, I woke up just knowing things were different.
Of course, I'd planned another natural birth. At this point it was a given. I didn't say "Well, I'll do it if I can." There were no contingencies. When talking with other like-minded moms, the term "Natural-birther" would get thrown around.
I mean, after all, it's something to be proud of.
Looking back, my level of confidence was even a little ironic. I didn't read my usual digest of Ina May and all the other natural birth sources. I didn't watch The Business of Being Born. I didn't feel like I needed to prepare, because truly, I didn't.
One of my favorite things about knowing God is reaching the place that you can inspect your life and find His fingerprints. It's like the amazing by-product of faith, seeing Him in everything.
God prepared me for my birth with Ben. There was nothing I could have read or watched or be told to get me ready for what happened. Because since I had my first son, I have been terrified at the prospect of a Cesarean.
And please, do not underestimate what I mean when I say terrified. I mean truly horrified and frightened by the thought. I would even go as far to say that the idea of being pushed or coerced into a C-Section was equivalent, in my mind, to rape or some other awful thing that strips a woman's rights and makes her hurt and helpless.
But then, God.
When I was 10 weeks pregnant with Ben, one of my friends and birth photography clients ended up in the O.R. after 23 hours and a stalled labor. I remember crying while we scrubbed in. I remember the way my hands shook and the prayers reeling through my head that she would be ok, that I wouldn't break down. The same adrenaline rush that one might experience before stepping into a haunted house pulsed through me. I remember sitting in the hall with her husband, watching them wheel her back, watching tears roll down his face.
I remember the smell of burnt skin that turned my pregnant stomach. I remember the absolute chill of the place and the fearfully pristine white tile walls. I remember thinking what a strange setting it was for a life to begin in comparison to the sweaty, sticky mess that is natural birth. And I remember feeling so much pity and sadness for her. Until the baby cried.
It was a girl. And when she cried and her mother let out a relieved sob mingled with a laugh, and then her father followed her over to the warmer and watched them wipe her little pink body down, calling out high APGARs and a 9 lb birth weight. My finger was a blur over the shutter button, snapping and refocusing on every emotion in the room.
And in that moment, I realized. The emotions were joy and this was really just a birth.
Ben was born in that same O.R.
When they rolled me through the door, I thought of Krista and I thanked God for how much He loved me.
Because I wasn't at all afraid of the cold or the white tile walls or the smell.
Because I wasn't at all afraid of the cold or the white tile walls or the smell.
He had prepared me for it.
When we left my dad's house for the hospital, him driving Jeremiah and me over the icy roads in his cramped, little truck, we almost opted to go to Springhill hospital instead. My hospital, where my doctor practices, was an extra 20 miles and the roads were bad. As we neared the exit for Springhill though, my dad said he thought we could make it if it really mattered to me. It did. So we drove on.
He was footling breech. We didn't figure it out until I was 6 cm. dilated. I'd laughed my way through contractions, rebuking the fear that would try to swell up at the memory of pain. But when I got checked that morning and they told me I was stalling, I knew something was wrong.
My labors have never stalled.
Then my doctor came in and checked me and immediately called for the ultrasound machine. He could feel Ben's foot.
We tried the turning him by doing versions, but he was too big to move.
I can't really describe the emotions of all of this. Surreal maybe? Divine? I don't know.
All I know was the peace of God came over me in that labor room.
Because I was a natural mom. Proud to face labor bravely. Proud to turn down pain medication birth after birth. Proud to be so strong.
Then I heard the word breach. And I could not be proud. I had to be humble instead, and that takes a whole different kind of bravery.
I wish I could take credit for it, the peace I had. I can't. I'm thankful that I was in the hands of a doctor I trusted inexplicably. I'm thankful I had been given the opportunity to witness a beautiful birth by cesarean and that I'd had the chance to lay my fear to rest. Mostly I'm glad for perspective. I'm thankful that after watching my closest friend bury her kids and still praise God, I could face a C-Section without fear.
Don't get me wrong, I've had to process it. The night following Ben's birth, when they turned the epidural off and I accidentally let my pain medication lapse, I felt the full extent of my physical pain and nearly hyperventilated. When the nurse wheeled me out to the car, I braced myself against the bumps in the concrete and remembered all the other births that I wanted to just walk to the car. I felt, back then, that the wheelchair was a nuisance policy. Then after Ben, I could barely stand up to take the 4 steps to the van.
One of my sweet friends messaged me recently about her C-Section and said "I'd made all my plans for my birth but I never asked God what His plan was."
I keep thinking about that. Because I didn't really ask Him either. The only thing I did that saved that experience was remind myself over and over when plans changed that I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that God is good.
He really is. He loves me. He loves my son and my husband.
I really, really, truly do NOT understand how God does things sometimes. I have no idea why.
But I really, really, truly do trust Him. You can say you trust God, but when everything is going the opposite of what you'd hoped for, you find out the truth of the matter. You find out where your heart is.
Benjamin Peter was born at 11:30 a.m. 9 lbs. 2 oz. He had a 15 inch head.
He is laughing now and rolling over.
The scar on my belly looks a little like a thin smile.
Sometimes I stand in the mirror after a shower and run my finger across it. It's almost completely smooth, except for one small spot where the skin didn't heal just right.
It reminds me that sometimes only the end goal matters.
It reminds me that God works out the details and prepares our hearts.
It reminds me of perspective.
It reminds me that my plans are only just that.
It reminds that my identity is not in being a natural mom.
There's only one place my identity is safe, and that's in following Jesus.
And sometimes He leads me places I don't really want to go.
But He carries me through it just fine. And for that I am thankful.