My husband rubs my lower back as I cradle my 36-week pregnant belly in my arms. I'm on my side focusing on waves, the sound of them crashing ashore and then being pulled back out—a rhythmic sound meant to calm and soothe.
"How is this working?" he asks.
"It's perfect. Bring on the contractions because I am ready to do this!"
My enthusiasm stems from birthing classes and the high I experienced while writing my birth plan. It was nestled in my overnight bag with everything else I'd need, and now all I needed was for my body to go into labor.
The practice scene with my husband was as close as I'd ever get to the kind of labor I envisioned. Four weeks later, I entered a sterile operating room where doctors worked for 45 minutes to dislodge my breech-positioned daughter, Wren, my strong-willed little bird.
I tried not to think of my forgotten birth plan or all the ways I had encouraged Wren to flip. I held her and was enchanted, shifting my mind from birthing to mothering.
I finally acknowledged my C-section scar weeks after my daughter arrived. It wasn't as long as I thought it would be. There was skin hanging over the horizontal line, as if the scar had its own awning protecting it from the upper half of my body.
"War wound," I mouthed to my reflection, trying to give it a title that would make me proud. It didn't work.
I didn't hate the scar, but my relationship with it was complicated. The pink wound felt like a sign of defeat, and I felt guilty for even acknowledging that truth. I didn't think other women who had C-sections had been defeated, but I couldn't extend any grace to myself.
My daughter was out in the world and safe. A C-section was the reason. Still, I eyed the scar skeptically, and for months when I caught a glimpse of it in the mirror as I dressed, I not so kindly murmured, "It'll be different next time."
A little over two years later, I was in the same operating room where my daughter entered the world. My son, Sam, staged a 43-week sit in, and time was up. He was surgically retrieved in time for Christmas. I held back bitter tears as my lower half went numb.
Two weeks after we left the hospital, Sam reentered it because he developed pneumonia. By the time we returned home with his tiny lungs clear, my incision site ached because I ignored all recovery instructions while Sam teetered in the gray land between life and death. The incision area stayed pink and angry—throbbing for weeks.
My scar represented pain and fear. It brought back the feeling of standing next to an intensive care unit crib stroking my son's face with one hand while cupping my incision site with the other thinking, I can hold us all together if I just try hard enough.
When Sam was 6 months old, I feel like that's when I really noticed my scar again while pulling on my shorts. I hadn't studied it in ages, and just looking at it made me remember how much it used to ache. The scar was pale and thin, just a shadow of the rage that once existed.
My pain, both physical and emotional, had followed the same pattern. My fears were fading. For once, I felt a strong connection to this line that once only represented defeat. It was now a representation of the passage of time, the evolution of my emotions. The scar was physical evidence that pain can fade.
"You're having identical twins," my OB announces.
"You're having another C-section, mama. They are sharing a placenta."
I hoped that finally making peace with my C-section scar would open me up to the possibility of a vaginal birth. But no one, from my OB to my high-risk doctor, would discuss anything but a surgical delivery. I have to concede that with twins and no prior labors, it's not worth the risks.
"You get a tummy tuck with this one," my doctor joked while prepping me for my third surgery in four and a half years. "The scar will be larger because there are two babies, but we will roll the other scars into it. It will look clean and precise."
Clean, precise, surgical—as all of my births had been.
I know, too, that my births have been miracles, ending with new life, with birth stories representing my kids' personalities.
When my kids ask me for the stories of their births, they instinctively glance to where my scar sits beneath my clothes. I explain that it's where they came from, that it's a sign of life. For me, it marked the end of certain dreams, but it brought forth the reality of countless others.
When I look at my scar now, I see my body's ability to heal, to survive.
I see journeys of both the physical and mental variety, with success waiting at the end—even if it wasn't the end I expected.
More than anything, though, I see grace. The grace I finally learned to give myself when plans changed and I adjusted accordingly, emerging stronger than ever before.