Menu

I grieved the birth experience I didn't get

I didn't know how a birth I planned for nine months was over in 30 minutes on a surgical table. I was mourning the loss of the vaginal birth I wanted. It took me some time to overcome my grief, but I did.

I grieved the birth experience I didn't get

When I was pregnant with my first son, I had a very detailed birth plan for having an unmedicated, vaginal birth. I created a wish list for the nurses and practiced hypnosis and Lamaze techniques for six months. I was sure my birth experience would unfold magically exactly how I wanted it to. As a first-time mom, I just didn't grasp how truly unpredictable birth can be. I was in for a surprise.

At 37 weeks, we found out baby boy was in a breech position. I did everything traditional and alternative medicine had to offer for turning babies: acupuncture, chiropractic care, moxibustion…nothing worked. A few days before our scheduled cesarean, I woke up in labor. We arrived at the hospital and the baby remained breech, so a fast emergency cesarean took place. After a numbing shot to the spine and a cut through my abdomen and uterus, our son was born.

Recovering from that birth was a low point in my life, and it wasn't just because of the tough physical recovery. Having a birth that was completely opposite of anything I ever imagined also made it hard to mentally recover.

I had constant waves of grief.

I didn't know how a birth I planned for nine months was over in 30 minutes on a surgical table. I was mourning the loss of the vaginal birth I wanted. It took me some time to overcome my grief, but I did.

I took the time to heal

After going through such a major surgery on top of being a new mom, it felt so overwhelming being at home. My immediate thoughts were about all the chores and things I needed to be doing to get my life back in order.

I'm so thankful my family stopped me from exerting myself and let me rest. They plopped me on the couch, gave me everything I needed (blankets, food, my baby) and took care of managing my pain medication so I could really recover. I'm not sure I ever left the couch in those first few weeks. After the couch-potato phase, I was up and moving and felt like my body was normal again.

Giving myself that time to physically heal allowed me to mentally heal, too. Because I was back to my normal physical ability quickly, I could focus my energy on coping with the birth I just experienced.

Having that time healing on the couch also gave me ample time to cuddle and bond with my baby. That has healing power all on its own. (If you don't believe me just Google "baby smell endorphins").

I focused on my baby

Along with constantly smelling my baby's head, I found immense healing power in the act of getting to know my baby. Putting my focus on who this little human is continued to make me feel less sad about my birth experience.

I counted fingers and toes, I cuddled skin-to-skin, I stared at every feature of this perfect baby, and I felt the immense blessing that I was able to bring my son into the world. After a little while of being with my baby and being more in love with him than I ever imagined, I could see more clearly that having a healthy baby is far more important than how he got here. The sting of a birth plan gone wrong eased substantially by having my baby boy in my arms.

I talked to my family and friends

My personality type is extroverted when things are going well, but when tough situations come my way, I become extremely introverted. I tend to bottle my feelings up and work it out myself. But with this grief I realized I needed my people to embrace me and tell me it's okay.

I confided in my husband about the grief feelings I was having and simply saying it aloud helped me cope. He would remind me that I was amazing and went through a "knife fight" to get my baby here. His humor cut through my sadness and his love and praise were just what I needed to see my birthing experience for what it truly was—amazing.

I also told my birth story to anyone who asked with excitement and so much love for the ending where I held my baby.

Owning my story and sharing it with people—not being ashamed or feeling inadequate because it was a cesarean—helped me find joy in my experience. I also talked with other cesarean moms. Hearing their stories was so helpful in my grief journey. They are like me. I'm not an outlier. Feeling accepted and loved in a group of women who understand what I went through helped me build my self-esteem and work out my feelings in a safe space.

I accepted that every birth is different and special

Right after my cesarean, when I heard other moms' birth stories, I felt envious of moms who were able to have a vaginal birth. Once I began coping with my experience and enjoying my story, I was able to see all these birth stories with all their differences as special ones. Each story ended with a baby.

The scars we have from stretch marks or cesareans are amazing marks of motherhood. It's a miracle to grow a human in your body and birth that human out of your body. Whether vaginally or by surgery, it's a miracle to bring a baby into this world.

Having the experience of grieving over the loss of my "perfect" birth taught me so much. It taught me to lean on my friends and family for support, it taught me to be perpetually in awe of my precious baby, and it taught me to love my birth story with all its imperfections concluding in a perfect ending.

You might also like:

10 must-have registry items that will change your life, mama

The baby gear heavy hitters that should be top of your list

Calling all mamas-to-be! It's a fundamental truth of (impending) motherhood that your prepping-for-baby To Do list can feel a mile long, but really the best way to feel organized is to sort out the most important item at the top of your list: your registry. Sure the items you choose to include will end up running the gamut from nice-to-haves to absolutely essential game-changers, but mamas in the know quickly learn one thing: Not all baby gear is created equal.

So while you can and should pepper your registry with adorable inclusions that aren't necessarily can't-live-withouts (go ahead, add 'em!), you should make sure you're ticking the boxes on those pieces of baby gear that can be absolute life savers once you're in full-blown mama mode. From car seats to bouncers and playmats, your play and travel gear will be some of the most obvious important items on your list, but so can unexpected things, like a super comfy baby carrier and a snooze-inducing white noise machine. So to help you sort through the must-have options, we turned to the holy grail of motherhood that is buybuy BABY and handpicked 10 of the very best essential pieces that will change your life, we promise.

Keep reading Show less
Our Partners

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Earth Mama: Effective, natural herbal care for mamas and babies

Founded and grown in her own garage in 2002, Earth Mama started as an operation of one, creating salves, tinctures, teas and soaps with homegrown herbs. With a deep desire to bring the healing powers of nature that have been relied on for thousands of years to as many mamas as possible, Melinda Olson's formulas quickly grew into Earth Mama Organics. Since then, the brand has remained committed to manufacturing clean, safe and effective herbal solutions for the entire journey of motherhood, including pregnancy, breastfeeding and baby care, and even the loss of a baby.

Bravado Designs: Soothing sounds for a good night's sleep

With 28 years of serving pregnant and postpartum mamas under their belt, Bravado Designs is a true authority on the needs of changing bodies. It's true that we have them to thank for rescuing us from the uncomfortable and frumpy designs our own moms had to live with. Launched in Canada by two young mamas, they designed the first prototypes with extra leopard print fabric certain that a better bra was possible. Throughout the years they've maintained their commitment to ethical manufacturing while creating long-lasting products that truly work.

The Sill: Instagram-ready potted plants

We've long admired this female-founded brand and the brilliant mind behind it, Eliza Blank. (She even joined Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety on and episode of The Motherly Podcast!) The mission behind the business was simple: To make the process of bringing plants into your home as easy as possible, and as wonderful as the plant themselves. With their in-house, exclusively designed minimalist planters, the end result makes plant parenthood just a few clicks away.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Keep reading Show less
Shop

The 6 biggest lies I believed before having kids

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves.

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves. Some of these ideas might have been based on our own ideas of how we would absolutely do things differently than everyone else. Others, we believed what everyone else told us would happen would apply to our littles, too. But, that's not always the case, mama.

Below are six of the biggest lies I believed before having kids—and the reality of what actually happened for me.

1. Put your baby down drowsy, but awake

Keep reading Show less
Life