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I didn't know how badly I wanted a natural birth until it wasn't an option

It wasn't until my husband and I dashed out to buy a few baby necessities in case I started bleeding or went into labor early (two of the condition's risks), did I realize I wouldn't get to apply anything I'd already read about natural childbirth. I burst into tears.

I didn't know how badly I wanted a natural birth until it wasn't an option

I have never wanted to try anything as much as I wanted to try natural childbirth.

This makes no sense. I don't run 5Ks, I don't play sports, I don't really do anything that involves me breaking a sweat. Mostly I live in my mind, and my mind views my body as a merely satisfactory co-worker: It usually gets the job done, but we're not super close.

When I became pregnant with my first son, I didn't give a lot of thought to the idea of childbirth. For one thing, the reality of it was months away which helped soothe my anxiety about it. Also, the necessity of childbirth makes sense to me—the baby was inside and would need to come outside. Few medical experiences are that straightforward.

So there I was, not thinking too much about actual labor, when I went to my five-month ultrasound and was diagnosed with placenta previa—a condition that means your placenta is laying on top of the cervical opening, blocking the baby's exit route. It's a condition that marks your pregnancy as high-risk, and possibilities like moving the mother-to-be into the hospital are discussed.

Faced with a choice like that, and advised to schedule a C-section at 37 or 38 weeks (if I made it that far), you let go of most of your previous plans. And it wasn't until my husband and I dashed out to buy a few baby necessities in case I started bleeding or went into labor early (two of the condition's risks), did I realize I wouldn't get to apply anything I'd already read about natural childbirth.

I burst into tears.

It was only then that I knew why I hadn't been afraid of labor. It was because I really, really wanted to try laboring.

But, life goes on. I was lucky enough to make it to 38 weeks and had a successful C-section that resulted in me giving birth to a healthy boy. So all was well, right?

Well, kind of. I was thankful my problem had been diagnosed, and I was thankful to have gone nearly full-term. My incision healed well and eventually its pain lessened, but I still somehow felt that I had missed the transition from healthy pregnant woman to strong nurturing mother.

My next pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. But my third pregnancy was healthy, without any complications and my obstetrician and I made plans to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section).

Although I was now 39 and again considered high risk due to my advanced maternal age, my doctor was optimistic that I could experience vaginal childbirth. I was thankful for this vote of confidence and immediately felt the same deep thirst to try and help my baby make his transit out through the birth canal.

And once again I almost didn't get the chance.

When my due date came and went, my doctor demanded that I schedule a C-section at 41 weeks. I did so, begrudgingly, and then went home and promptly set about doing anything and everything I could to induce labor.

At 6 am on the Sunday morning before my Monday C-section appointment, I had a second healthy boy. Once again things were complicated—my "natural" labor ended in an epidural (not for pain relief but because the doctor thought a C-section might become necessary) and doctors using the vacuum extraction tool to help ease my son out the final distance.

Did it hurt? Yeah, it hurt. Did it leave me with some lingering physical issues? Yeah, it did. But would I ever give the experience back? Not on your life.

That first night my youngest son and I lay in our respective hospital beds, staring at each other, and I swear we shared the same thought: "Wow. We have really been THROUGH IT." My husband was snoring where he lay folded up on the uncomfortable couch in our room. I missed my older son at home.

But I was awake and ecstatic. I had done something physical that I had never done before, and I had a new baby with big brown eyes. It was one of the most thrilling nights of my life.

Everything about having children has surprised me. I was surprised when I was pregnant to feel my babies' movements, so distinct, within me. I was surprised to find what a body can endure during any process of birth, and what they endure in the weeks afterward—on no sleep, while still bleeding.

I have been surprised at how pleasurable it is to care, physically, for tiny human beings: to keep them clean, warm, fed, and soothed. My children have given me so many things. But perhaps the thing I am most thankful for is how they taught me to really own my body. My body that seems to just give and give everything I ask of it and more.

Even when my boys are too big to gather into my lap, or carry through crowds, I will still hug them, or sling an arm around their shoulders. And when I do, it will remind me of the two miraculous occasions on which my body, my unpredictable co-worker, paid no attention to my plans but still managed to exceed all my expectations.

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There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Life

This year many of us have a tighter budget than usual given (looks around) everything that has happened. Coupled with the uncertainty of what Halloween might look like, many of us are reluctant to spend money on brand new costumes that our kids will outgrow by next year. I get it. But I also know that many, like me, love Halloween so much. I thought about skipping the celebration this year, but that just feels like too big of a disappointment in an already disappointing year.

That's why I started looking into alternative costumes—something my kids will be able to wear once the clock hits November, and maybe even hand down to siblings and cousins in the coming years. At the same time, I'm not a DIY person, so I wanted outfits that didn't require any sewing or hot glue. Last year I attempted using one to build my son's Care Bear costume, and of course, I burnt my hand.

So with some creativity (and the brainpower of my colleagues), we came up with these costumes that are both fun and practical, made with items that your children will be able to (and want to!) wear year around:

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