This is what it all lead up to. A birth. A birth that was very different from the birth of my first IVF baby, both in body and emotion. My first daughter’s birth was chaotic and scary. Given the trauma of the first, we decided the safest option was a planned repeat c-section. For a while there I didn’t think we’d make it to the scheduled date. During this pregnancy I was admitted twice to the hospital. The second time was just shy of 35 weeks and was prompted by a scary bleed at 2AM and contractions. They were able to stall the contractions and stop the bleeding, gave me two steroid shots to mature baby’s lungs in case she did come early, and released me after two days. But we made it.
We arrived at the hospital bright and early at 5:30 AM on Jan 18th to check in for my c-section that was scheduled at 7:30 AM. It was odd knowing when it would happen. For the two weeks leaving up to the date I lit a selenite infused candle for purification and cleansing. I meditated on releasing fears and any stagnant or negative energy. I talked with my unborn child and explained to her what was going to happen during the birth and after. I wanted us both to be prepared and in harmony. I felt ready when we went to the hospital.
Having a planned c-section is worlds apart from my experience with an emergency c-section. The mood was light, joyful, and tingling with excitement. That doesn’t mean that it was all easy peasy. Last time, under emergent conditions, I didn’t care what the surgeon was doing, I didn’t think about whether the anesthesiologist would miss and paralyze me (hey, I’ve hear of it happening) – I simply wanted the baby out. But this time I was acutely cognizant of everything that was going on.
My husband wasn’t allowed into the operating room until after I received the spinal anesthesia and the procedure had started. I was accompanied by a kind nurse who held me while the long needle was inserted into my back. Then I laid there, naked from the waist down on a narrow cold metal table and stared up at the bright lights overhead. I felt vulnerable – seriously, why was I naked with all these medical people in the room? Couldn’t they have put a sheet over my lady bits while they discussed and prepared? I suppose I had to stay sterile or something. The lights were so bright and the room was freezing. I was acutely aware that I was about to be cut open and that sometimes things go wrong. I distinctly felt like I had been abducted by aliens. Or at least, what I would assume an alien abduction might feel like.
Then the tugging started as my body was pulled this way and that. I couldn’t see what was going on but I knew that this was the result of being cut open. I felt no pain, and was rather surprised that my body didn’t bounce right off of the narrow table. I suppose I was strapped down, though I didn’t see that either. My arms were free on my side of the curtain. Then I began smelling the distinct smell of burning flesh and realized they were cauterizing me as they cut. I was scared. This was the main event. Would my baby be okay? Would I be okay? I silently recited a meditative prayer/visualization that I learned so many years ago. Over and over. Asking the Universe for protection. Willing it so.
Finally my husband came in. He reassured me that everything was fine. My anxiety eased up a bit. And then I heard her. My daughter’s first cry. I knew she was okay. She was born at 8AM. It was only a few short minutes before they handed her to me. The medical team was responsive and respectful of my request to do skin to skin and breastfeed as soon as possible in the operating room. Once I had my new, perfect baby on my chest and she began nursing immediately, the rest of the procedure faded to the background. From that moment, I kept my daughter with me – from OR, to observation, to recovery – she was in my arms. It was surreal.
Another highlight came when my parents brought my 4-year-old daughter to the hospital later that day to meet her baby sister. I had been waiting for that. It was something that I thought might never happen – that my daughter would get to become a big sister. Deep in the trenches of infertility, there were many times when I thought I would never have a child, let alone two. Both of my girls are IVF miracles. When the baby was handed to my older daughter, I simply watched and was so very grateful.
All in all, this birth experience was exactly what I had hoped for (minus the alien abduction part). It was calm and I felt more in control. It was not traumatic. I think these differences made it easier to bond with my baby. Another big factor that eased post-partum adjustment was my emotional and cognitive state in relation to infertility. The first time around, I was traumatized not only by the birth but also by infertility. Infertility was a silent trauma that I had not resolved despite IVF success. I believe that trauma carried over into my experience of new motherhood. It affected my postpartum emotions, my confidence in mothering, and my ability to fully bond with my baby. It took quite some time to recognize and address those carry over effects. After all, few want to talk about the pain of infertility once you have “success”. It makes you feel like you are being ungrateful, especially when you know how many are still struggling. But that carry over trauma is real and does need to be addressed when it hangs around.
This time I had done so much more work on the emotional side of infertility, that I was actually in a pretty good headspace when I became pregnant. While infertility will always be a part of my experience, and has certainly shaped who I am to some extent, it no longer consumes me. Now I can move forward, refreshed and renewed. Honestly, I sometimes have a hard time remembering who I was before infertility – its changed me so much. I’m not trying to go back to who I was before, we can never really move back in time, nor would I want to. I am stronger now than I was before. But I would like to reconnect with the lightness and playfulness I once felt. I suppose now I’m moving forward, as a mother once more, but wiser, more confident, and with opportunity for discovery.