Accepting the Birth I Don’t Remember

Birth is supposed to be one of the most vividly remembered and treasured moments of any mother’s life. It’s the reward we anxiously await for – meeting our precious baby, experiencing the unconditional love pour over us, and sharing those first intimate moments bonding. I unfortunately missed out on all those moments with my third baby. In fact, I don’t even remember giving birth. Coming to terms with being robbed of those memories and accepting my birth experience has caused a lot of unrest and sadness – and I’m here to share my story in hopes that it helps another mama, too.

birth I don't remember

When I got pregnant with #3, it was a surprise. He was not planned, but always longed for. A boy after 2 girls! My pregnancy had zero complications – no sickness, no cravings, heartburn, swollen ankles, or headaches. I breezed through it and felt a little guilty fawning over how easy it was. It wasn’t until the last few weeks where I felt my body give out. Being an “older mom” this go’round meant more achiness, pains, and pressure. The cervical zaps and bruising in my ribcage sent me to my knees most days.

I was ready, but he wasn’t. My cervix wasn’t dilating or effacing like my previous pregnancies. He was head down, but I had too much water and he was sitting lop-sided, so my contractions did nothing to help him move down. I decided to schedule an induction at 39 weeks 2 days to relieve me of the pain and to have a “end in sight” date. Plus, a scheduled birth with two older children and a dog made my Type A heart sing.

Making the Choice

I was nervous about making that choice. I would get unsolicited feedback from family and strangers alike.

“Let your body tell you when it’s time.”
“Induction isn’t natural.”
“He isn’t ready for birth yet.”

Still, I pressed forward. He was my last baby, and I was ready to meet him. I was done playing the waiting game and complaining of constant pain.

We went through the procedure of induction with no issues. My body responded well to the Pitocin and cervical Foley bulb, and I was contracting and managing pain on my own. 6 hours passed until my doctor broke my water. I had so much water – so much that it soaked her scrubs and she had to change clothes. She checked baby soon after and saw that he dropped 6 inches. He was coming. The nurse team assembled and prepared for a delivery within minutes. But then, something was off. His heart rate was sporadic, and he was positioned weirdly. She reached into my cervix and her eyes got wide. She looked at the nurse and said: “We need to get him out now. Prepare for an emergency C section.”

I was frantic. I didn’t want a C section. Why it was necessary? What is wrong with my baby? I had questions, but no one had time for answers. All I could manage to get out was, “is he going to be ok? Please save my baby!”. All the while Hubby shed tears and followed behind the gurney, only to be told to wait in the waiting room.

They quickly rolled me out of the birthing suite and rushed me down the hall to the OR. My doctor was still on the gurney with her hand inside my cervix – putting her hand between his head and the umbilical cord. She tried to calm my nerves by reassuring me that she can feel baby and that he is stable. Once in the OR, she confirmed that it was an umbilical cord prolapse, which is where the cord comes before the baby. It can cause affixation and is a very serious complication that can be fatal if action isn’t taken within minutes. A catheter was inserted into me without any warning or pain medication, and I winced in pain. Seconds after, I had a mask put over my tear-stained face and was told to count to 10. I was out.

Major Surgery to Birth my Child

I awoke 2.5 hours later. Groggy and in pain. I had tape marks up and down my arms and neck and couldn’t sit up. Apparently a breathing tube kept me breathing while I was put under and had to wear an oxygen mask upon waking. I just had major surgery to birth my child.

Once I regained full consciousness, I see Hubby bring a swaddled, rosy-cheeked baby to me. It was my precious baby boy. I was the last one to meet him. I asked the nurses how he was and if he had eaten. They told me he was stable but has not eaten, so I immediately started skin-to-skin and nursed my hungry boy. We bonded immediately and I sobbed. As I laid there with him on my chest, I re-ran through the events leading up to him being here. I came to the realization that I was not present for the birth experience. The first cries, cutting the cord, skin-to-skin, the first suckle. The golden hour that every mother savors. I sobbed harder. I had so many questions for the nurses and doctor in the recovery room.

How did this happen?

What could I have done differently?

Is this a common thing? 

I hadn’t even heard of cord prolapse before that moment, and I didn’t know women were put under completely for C-sections, either. My doctor apologized for the “yucky birth experience and trauma”. She said it was the second time in her career that she had to do that. Even the nurses were shaken. I just became a main character in their “horrible birth stories” tales they share with their friends, family, and colleagues.

I am so thankful for the nurses, surgeon, doctor, and anesthesiologist who delivered and saved my baby in less than 6 minutes. I learned later that he had to be resuscitated, which made me even more thankful he was ok – and without a NICU stay. But still, the trauma haunted me. Yes, physically we were all ok, but emotionally I had a hard time accepting it. I felt like I was a failure. I had a bout of depression. My feelings were valid, yet all everyone could mutter was, “at least you’re both ok.”

I was in this dark place for a good month after birth. Tears would flow when I thought about how scared my husband must have been to not know if his wife and son would be alive. I was upset that I don’t have any memory of his firsts. Touching or looking at my C-section scar was a chilling reminder of the “what ifs”. While I wasn’t diagnosed with PTSD, I believe I had a touch of it. I was anything but “ok”.

Accepting the birth I don't remember

Recovering From & Accepting my Birth

It’s been 9 months with him earthside. I am comforted by the fact he’s doing so well, and I am mostly recovered from my C-section nerve damage. I’m running after 3 precious kids and for that, my mama cup is filled. My physical scar has healed, but my emotional scar still has healing to do. I have accepted my outcome and know that I am not a failure, yet it still stings from time to time when I look through his baby book, or when I see photos of moms meeting their babies on my social feeds. Healing and acceptance take time. I don’t remember on the delivery of my son, but that doesn’t make me less of a mother.

My birth experience wasn’t ideal, but he is healthy…and here.

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