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August 16, 2018

An Open Letter to all the Women who Wanted a Natural Birth.

To all the women who wanted a natural birth, but their body had other plans:

I understand.

And I hope that in sharing my story, you may feel less alone…

I loved my pregnancy. It was a magical time. It wasn’t perfect. I had some of the long list of complaints, but mostly I felt good.

I felt beautiful. I felt a deep connection with the baby growing inside me. People would ask me—no, people would tell me—how sick I must be of being pregnant and how uncomfortable I must be.

I wasn’t.

I had carefully planned out the birth I wanted: a natural home water birth. People would tell me I was crazy for having a home birth. The hospital is so much safer, the drugs so much better, but I ignored them. I would show them I could do it.

My water broke in the middle of the night, a day before my due date.

I was surprised. I was still waiting for the “sick of being pregnant” part.

I wasn’t ready and neither was my body. My water broke, but labor didn’t start.

I didn’t want to go to the hospital. I had a plan and this wasn’t part of it.

For the first time in my pregnancy, I was scared—but I wasn’t ready to give up on my plan. My midwife gave me a deadline. I had until 8 p.m. that night before we would have to go to the hospital. I stopped waiting and started inducing.

I walked. I squatted. I climbed stairs. I pumped. I bounced.

I was determined.

The hours went by…

At 6 p.m., just as I was ready to surrender, the contractions came. One after another. Stronger and stronger. Faster and faster.

I was elated—it felt like a miracle. Within the hour they were coming on strong and requiring my full attention. I was grateful and present. My partner and my mom were there to help me through and cheer me on.

This is what I wanted.

I was in the water, contractions washing over me. I kept expecting to see him come through my body and into the water. In mind I could see it, but in reality he was stuck, his head tilted just a little.

My midwife could sense something was wrong; it was time to go to the hospital.

I trusted her so I agreed.

Trying to wrap my head around the new reality, rejecting and adjusting to the idea of the hospital and drugs, I was shaken out of my zone. I felt disconnected from the birth I wanted and from my baby.

The next wave of contractions crushed me.

I was no longer diving into them—I felt betrayed by my body.

I was drowning in the pain. I was lost.

On our way to the car, each time a contraction hit I was brought to my knees. Everything was going wrong and all I wanted was for the pain to stop.

In the hospital I was immediately hooked up to antibiotics and Pitocin, and give an epidural in my back (none of which I had wanted), but this was what I now needed. With the pain gone, I felt relief. But more than that I felt guilt and shame for not being able to give my baby the home birth I had wanted—the home birth I had planned for months.

I was no longer a powerful woman giving birth, but a patient being poked and prodded.

I was tired and defeated, waiting to dilate, so that I could push my baby into this world.

I was 9 cm dilated when the doctor came into the room to tell me it was time to seriously consider an emergency C-section. He told me the cord was around the baby’s neck and with each medically induced contraction his heart rate was dropping. If I waited and tried to push and his heart rate dropped while pushing there wouldn’t be anything they could do to stabilize him.

The news was more than I could take.

It wasn’t enough that I was here in this sterile hospital room, hooked up to drugs and machines, being prodded by every nurse and doctor, now I wouldn’t even be able to push my baby out, instead I would be ripped open and he would be yanked out of me.

I cried. I couldn’t stop crying, even as everyone told me everything would be okay.

It was as they rolled me to the operating room that I reconnected to myself and to my baby.

This wasn’t the birth that I wanted, but it was the birth that we had.

I am his mother.

I needed to rise to the occasion for him.

I needed to be strong for him.

I told him how much I loved him and what was about to happen. I gathered and centred myself.

I was about to meet my son and I did not want him to see me sad and defeated.

I felt a surge of strength. I would bring him into this world safe no matter what it took.

By the time the surgery had started, I felt strong and centred through the haze of drugs that were keeping my body numb but my head awake. I knew that for him I could do anything.

And then…there he was.

His little body being whisked away by doctors and nurses to make sure he was okay.

No skin to skin, like I had wanted, like I had planned. Again, I felt the ting of guilt for not being able to give him the best birth I knew how. I sent his daddy to be with him while I was sewn back up and taken to another room to recover.

That first hour after his birth away from him was the longest of my life.

His daddy was with him, holding him to his skin and singing to him.

This is not how I wanted him to be born into this world, but I am so happy he is here.

I am grateful he is safe and alive.

Still, I needed to grieve my carefully planned home birth.

I grieve the moments we didn’t have, his body coming through mine, seeing him coming through me, holding him right after.

I feel guilty because he is here, he is whole, he is perfect, and yet I mourn.

I am jealous of the women who celebrate their powerful, unmedicated home births.

This is a club I respect and understand and tried so hard to become a part of, but I am not.

I had to be cut open.

I feel like a failure. I am mad at my body for failing me.

I feel shame for wanting more than I have—a healthy baby boy, an instant bond, and breastfeeding that came with relative ease.

I am a beautiful, wonderful mess held together by love for this little being who needs me.

I pour myself into him, terrified that he might have birth trauma, wondering about the effects of the antibiotics and the medications. He shows no ill effects, but I worry. I wanted to give him the best start in life.

Eventually, I have to let go.

Let go of wants and worries.

Let go of control.

I know I cannot control this world just as I cannot control everything in his world. He will experience all sorts of things that are out of my control.

All I can do is to be here for him as he goes through life.

Part of my walk into motherhood has been acknowledging, adjusting, and grieving that I didn’t have the birth that I wanted and accepting the birth that we had together.

For any women who made an agreement with themselves to have a natural home birth and yet their body had other plans:

I see you, and I understand.


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Baha Nourian

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