I was talking to someone recently and they expressed shock that I supported the natural, homebirth community, given my "labor choices" and how I "chose to get pregnant". They followed up with the the comment that I do really well with how my life has turned out, even though it didnt follow my "professed belief in natural birth". Doing well in my life is a complement, no doubt, but this isn't how I wanted my life to be.
After I met Peter, I wanted to be his wife and mother his children. In that regard, I've gotten everything I wanted. I'm blessed by being able to say those words. I am wife to a man I deeply love and respect, and I have him to kiss good-bye as he leaves for work, to make his meals and wash his laundry, to snuggle with him at night. I have been able to share pregnancies, labors, and children with him. So yes, I'm lucky that my life has turned out as it has. We have bought a home (I hasten to say "own" a home because, really, the bank owns it... I may own the half bath and my pantry, but the rest... work in progress...), I dont worry about keeping the lights on or food on the table, and I can stay home to raise my children. We aren't rich financially, but we are rich in love and in all the things that matter.
But... And it's an awfully big but... this is not the way I wanted my life to be.
I wanted to get pregnant... Not struggle with infertility and, ultimately, have to go to a R.E. to have ovulatory help because PCOS took away the opportunity for me to "just relax". I wanted to bask in the joy of pregnancy, not lose 4 of my children to miscarriage, not worry about losing all of them to miscarriage (since a m/c was my first pregnancy experience), not constantly check toilet paper for signs of bleeding. I wanted to enjoy watching my belly grow and stretch, read books on how things would change, decorate nurseries, and waddle around, full term, waiting to explode! I didnt want to hug my belly, wondering if it would be the last time. I didnt dream of months of bedrest or inversion or cerclages or wondering if my water would break prematurely.
I wanted to have children... Not bury them. I wanted to plan baptisms and first communions, not funerals and memorial luncheons. I wanted to send out invitations for birthday parties not invite people to yearly memorial Masses. I never imagined delivering severely preterm babies. I never thought I wouldnt make into the third trimester.
I wanted a natural, drug-free home birth. I didnt plan on delivering a 16 week son at home... I didnt plan on delivering two children naturally in a hospital bed. I didnt expect to deliver second trimester twins via emergency c-section, where I couldnt hear their cries or reach out and touch them. I wanted soft light and music, not the bright florescents of an OR or the PA system paging doctors to their wards. I wanted my babies placed immediately on my chest, bare skin to bare skin, and to nurse immediately; I never imagined not being able to hold them right away because it wasn't safe... I took natural childbirth classes, but I didnt expect to not be able to finish them because of preterm labor and, in a subsequent pregnancy, bedrest.
I planned on nursing for 2 years. I didnt think my milk would dry up at 3 months. I hated the very thought of formula, but I hated the thought of starving my children more. At one time, I was pumping 15 minutes of every single hour. I wasnt sleeping so that I could be hooked up to a machine to try and force my body to make milk. I was popping herbal supplements and using a supplemental nursing system and consulting lactation consultants and reading and latching and... And still... It ended.
I believe in natural remedies and holistic medicine. I saw a midwife for years. I tried tinctures and herbs and yoga and meditation to try to regulate my body. Just because it wasnt able to help me didnt negate my belief in it. I believe in it still.
I believe that pregnancy and birth are natural, beautiful experiences that shouldnt be relegated to the medical establishment. Just because my body didnt have natural fertility signs to listen to or because my cervix was incompetent and made preterm labor a given, requiring high risk doctors and hospital technology doesnt change the fact that pregnancy and birth are rooted in nature and, all things equal, can progress well without intervention.
I believe that a woman's body is best expressed through the beauty of natural labor, and that methods (like Bradley, which is our method of choice) can help a couple fully embrace the beauty of the pain and struggle. I am grateful that I was able to have several natural deliveries. Just because the delivery that brought Bobby and Maya into the world safely was a surgical, cesarean delivery doesnt take away from my belief that natural birth is the natural way of things.
I didnt plan to be an advocate of a natural, holistic lifestyle and homebirth, and have used injections to ovulate, cervical stitches, and c-sections to bring children into this world. I didnt plan on encouraging the use of herbal tinctures, meditation, and acupuncture, only to lay on cold, steel tables for IUIs, be probed to find out if I indeed ovulated, or be hooked up to machines to ascertain whether or not my desperately loved and wanted children were okay. I didnt plan on throwing blessing ways for others while wondering if I would ever see a shower of my own. I didnt expect to buy cloth diapers only to have every single thing irritate my baby's skin except an organic, biodegradable disposable. I didnt expect to spend money on tubs of high performance butt creams when I could easily make natural ones at home. I didnt expect to have a beautiful nursing pillow and breastfeeding covers only to end up strapping myself to a milking machine in order to try and feed my tiny infants.
All of this being said, there are valid reasons for medical births (and no good midwife would deny that). It cant be a be all, end all. When it comes to pregnancy and labor and parenting, the best thing we can be (in my opinion) is flexible. For some of us, that flexibility just happens to start before we start trying to conceive (and sometimes not out of preference but because there is no other way).
I often go back and look at the birth plan I had written for Nicholas and Sophia . I had a few edits. After talking to my midwife and her recommending Dr. B., once I met and adored him, I changed it from midwife/homebirth to Dr. B. and a hospital birth. He and I discussed different possibilities, from birthing bars to stools... I even remember him telling me that he could care less how I labored, as long as I was comfortable! I would be the first person he was forced to contort in order to catch a baby! It was reassuring that he believed C-sections were for emergencies and not because he had dinner plans... That he supported breastfeeding and natural births. But, still, there was no denying that he was a M.D. who knew what could go wrong and that, if it did, he would act accordingly. When pregnant with Bobby and Maya (and by the time birth plans were thrown out the window!), I remember him telling me that he knew my hopes for delivery and that he would do whatever he could to accommodate them, but that I wasnt his only patient- Bobby and Maya were his patients too, and he would always recommend what was safest for all three of us.
No one (maybe I'm generalizing here, but I think it's a fair guess...) goes into trying to conceive thinking they will need reproductive assistance. There's a lot of shame attached to it and it creates an ache in your body that you cant "just do it" and find yourself expecting. But, being ashamed about infertility doesnt make it go away. Embracing it doesnt resolve it either, but at least it is one less thing to worry about in life.
No one (and I'm sure this is true) goes into pregnancy with ideas of miscarriage or premature birth or infant death or stillbirth. There's grief and such guilt... But the guilt... That doesnt bring our children back. It doesnt take the pain away. Accepting it doesnt move us beyond, but it enables us to go on, one day at a time.
No mother goes into delivery unafraid of prematurity (if that is the case) or without the fear that their child(ren) may be injured or hurt. And yet, all we can do is trust our bodies (even when it is hard) and our midwives, nurses, and doctors, and hold our children as people more important than our best laid birth plans.
When this person asked me if I regretted my cesarean, I honestly said no. Do I wish that Bobby and Maya had made it well into the third trimester and that a natural delivery would have been safe? Of course, I do. I also wish that a homebirth had been possible. But why pine for those things? They are here, safely. They (as of yet) have no signs of prematurity and are your typical 16 month olds. How could I possibly regret something that gave me those gifts?
I didnt plan it, but this is it. We dont always get what we ask for or what we want. This is life... This is MY life. This is what I have. And I'm grateful- extremely so- for every second.