I remember meeting my son through a fog of anesthesia.
As excited as I was for my husband to place my first born child in my arms, and even though that moment was incredible and life-changing, all I really wanted to do was go back to sleep.
I was terrified.
Before I became a mom, I had a mixed idea of what parenting was like. I was deathly afraid of it while also completely romanced by it. Bless my heart, I think I actually thought that parenting was going to be easy.
Isn’t that cute?
I didn’t realize that parenting is actually a lot like climbing a mountain, only this isn’t merely some journey of self-discovery and an opportunity to survey the foliage around you.
This is, like, the Everest of mountains.
And along the way the things you learn about yourself aren’t always that great; in fact they’re like salt in a wound, bittersweet to their core.
Then at some point, you quit wondering whether there even is a peak waiting at the top of this thing. You just settle for trying to take in the beauty of where you are at the top of the world – even when the air is almost to thin to breathe.
Parenting is like that. There is so much beauty in the most unexpected of places, but sometimes, it really just feels like you can’t catch your breath.
So yea, for some reason that is still unbeknownst to me, I thought that parenting was going to be easy, and that labor and delivery were going to be the hardest parts.
I thought my baby would just emerge from me, and we would go home together as a complete family unit. Don’t ask me what my plans were for keeping things perfect after that….
In turns out that sometimes, things don’t go the way you think they will. Babies get stuck, and you need some assistance to pry them out into the freaking world because, “COME ON, BABY. DON’T DAMPEN THE MAGIC OF THE MOMENT!!”
Such was the case for me. And maybe for you, too.
There are dozens of reasons why a c-section needs to happen. I could sit here and list them all out, but the truth is that that doesn’t really help the woman who is hurting because she needed to have a c-section.
My reason was pre-ecamlpsia coupled with my son’s larger than normal head having wedged itself firmly in my pelvis. He just wasn’t going to come out on his own.
As they were wheeling me back to the OR quick, fast and in a hurry, it was my first lesson in how parenting isn’t always going to happen the way you think it should.
This was not the plan, I cried internally to myself.
My epidural began wearing off, and the contractions steadily rumbled back to life and rippled down my legs. I laid there in the frigid operating room with a fire in my stomach and in my back, as the pain suddenly become unbearable, hoping that someone would just help me not to hurt anymore.
I ended up having to be sedated for my c-section.
Which means that not only did I miss out on delivering naturally, I missed my son’s first cries.
I missed the first glimpse of my baby emerging from the womb.
I missed the cord being cut, his first bath, his official weigh in. Because I was intubated and dead to the world.
But still, I never forget what I missed in those ninety-three minutes.
I feel like such is the way it goes with c-section mommas.
We always wonder and feel like there is something that we are missing by delivering via cesarean.
There seems to be something ethereal about laboring, and the aches and pains that come with birthing a child. It’s almost like a rite of passage. A mother’s anguish and pain turn into joy at the moment of release when her body and her baby are no longer one.
At least, that’s what it seems like from the outside.
Instead, we c-section moms are waddling to and from the bathroom for several weeks afterwards, popping pain killers while we are trying to breast feed our babies or trying to remember how much formula was in the last bottle they drank, peeing though a catheter those first few days after labor, and struggling to stand up from the bed, right?
I couldn’t even lift my baby for several days after my c-section. And I hated it.
For the longest time, I kept my thoughts to myself. Even though they played on replay while I was coping and trying to exist and ignore them: I didn’t feel like I had just had a baby, I felt like I had just had a c-section.
I was slightly traumatized. Had we lived a hundred years ago, my son and I might not be here. I should have been thankful that we have such medical wonders on hand for us women to give birth safely. I was grateful to still be here, for my baby and I to be safe.
Something about the entire situation made my heart ache.
Was there something wrong with me? No, really. Is there something wrong with me? The way I’m shaped??? Could I have held on longer? Should I have tried something else? Did I do my child an injustice by just accepting a c-section??
It has taken nearly seven years for me to stop asking myself those questions.
For a while afterwards, I would joke about how my c-section would make talking about the birds and the bee’s a lot easier with my children. I could always just say that the doctor took them out of my belly, and it really wouldn’t be a lie. Because it was funny, right???
But then the conversation would be over, and I would be reeling from knowing that deep, deep down, I wish I wasn’t a mom who needed to have c-sections to have her babies.
But I am.
But we are.
And that is okay.
Like I said, parenting is like this Everest sized Mountain that you have to climb, and we have to find the beauty in lots of unexpected places. And as with any expedition, we have to hold fast when inconveniences and obstacles arrive. We have to choose to keep going.
Which means that though our babies didn’t come forth from us in the way we thought they would, momma, we can still find beauty in that unexpected obstacle. We can press on, and lean in and love our babies.
That moment when my husband set my son in my arms didn’t detract from how absolutely incredible it was to see his face for the first time, even with a ninety-three minute delay. And believe me, he was perfect.
Those moments where I couldn’t get out of bed unassisted afterwards just meant that I spent that much more time with my baby’s warm skin laying against mine.
The moments when I’m naked, standing in front of the bathroom mirror, and I see a belly that looks like a deflated ballon, but also an eight inch scar across the front of me that reminds me every day of what I did for them. Sure, it’s not the prettiest thing, but it’s REAL. Like, really real. There’s no hiding from it.
Sometimes, I think that on this climb, having a c-section is something ultimately akin to which pair of hiking boots we decided to wear. One day, when they’re all grown and we are holding hands around the table at Thanksgiving, it won’t really matter how we got there.
One day, when we arrive, something like this won’t really matter, because what matters most is how we loved them.
What matters is how you labor over them day after day, week after week, year after year. What matters is that you find beauty in the most unexpected places at every opportunity. What matters is what we keep breathing, even when the air is thin, and sometimes, we fight when we have to, but we always choose to love no matter the cost.
I learned that labor and delivery, though bloody and painful, are actually the easiest parts in this whole thing. They are by no means a small thing, believe me when I say those words.
We are measured by the faces around the table, the faces we see when we close our eyes in introspection. Not by the scars across our bellies.
But it is our first tastes of how pain can turn into something beautiful, filled to the absolute brim with grace.