It was late Christmas evening and I stood in my kitchen, cutting bananas and layering them for a batch of my family’s banana pudding. My feet were tired and I hadn’t eaten dinner yet. But I forged on, so I could finish before the first call for dessert.
Being that I was eight months pregnant and the mom of a 3-year-old, I was used to pushing the limits and stretching myself a bit thin. And the Christmas holidays proved to be no different. I’d already spent much of Christmas Eve walking, shopping, and picking up gifts. And after spending the night wrapping those gifts, I welcomed my in-laws with a wave from my car as I returned from a spontaneous 4 a.m. drug store run.
It was like I’d been running on pure adrenaline that entire weekend. But there at my kitchen counter, things started to change and I noticed something was a little off. After a conversation with my mother-in-law and a call to my midwife, I realized there was a big reason why: My water had broken and I needed to deliver my baby as soon as possible.
To say that was unexpected was an understatement. My due date was nearly a month away. All I could really do was borrow some of the words from John Steinbeck and say even the best laid plans go awry.
With an unfinished bedroom, unwashed baby clothes, and baby stuff still in garage boxes, I packed my Christmas dinner and headed to the birthing center, knowing I’d end up at the hospital. And it was there, in a quaint hospital room, that I saw my plans for a natural birth with limited intervention flatlined in an instant. After twelve hours and despite my best efforts—with the weight of an IV pole at my side and the constant checks for my progress—things never moved as fast as everyone wanted. So, in an effort to lower any risks of complications, drops of pitocin coursed through my veins until I got my first glimpse at my little man.
I was elated to welcome him to our family and have him meet his big sister, but afterwards, I found myself comparing his birth to others and feeling inadequate because it wasn’t what I envisioned it would be. I felt bad for feeling that way, but I just couldn’t shake it.
That is, until the third day home after delivery. It was the day my husband and I took our son to his first doctor’s appointment. Everything was fine until a low temperature reading had my husband and I heading for the hospital once again. This time, for a five-day stay with him in the children’s wing. I had no idea what to expect, but dealing with the emotions of it all felt a bit chaotic. At times, I cried at the sight of our small child, warming inside an incubator with an IV attached to his scalp giving him fluids. At other times, I was numb, just trying to survive and make the best of it.
Going through that experience was hard, but it made me understand so many things so much more clearly, especially these things:
When it comes down to it, some things just don’t matter.
Before that hospital stay, I thought I needed for my son to be born according to my plan and I needed to have his room look a certain way before he was born. But now I see that, when it comes down to it and your child’s livlihood is at stake, none of that really matters.
A good parent will always do what they have to do for their child.
When I was pregnant with my son, there was a list of things I’d say I wouldn’t do. I’d say I’d never choose to have my baby in a hospital. I’d say I’d never choose to have drugs to assist me in labor. I’d say I’d never choose to bottle feed my son early on. Looking back, I still wouldn’t choose those things. But that didn’t stop me from doing each and every one of those things. That’s because they were things I knew I had to do to for me and my son. And I wouldn’t dare judge someone else who’s made the same decisions—because, most likely, they’re doing what they feel is best for them and their family.
All birth stories are beautiful.
I will happily say my daughter’s birth wasn’t bad. In fact, it would be considered easy compared to some others. With my son, however, it was a completely different experience, with a lot more pain and discomfort. And in the moment, beautiful wouldn’t have been the way I would’ve described it. But now I understand that any child born is a blessing and to be a vessel that labors and cares for one is a beautiful thing—no matter how painful, messy or unexpected it is. So, it doesn’t matter if you go to a hospital or a birthing center, have an epidural or a natural birth, a scheduled c-section or a v-bac, you’re bringing a child into the world and doing something God created you to do. And that’s amazing.
While I watch my little man continue to grow and thrive, I often think about his first couple weeks and his time in the hospital. Although it was all unexpected and brought some experiences I wouldn’t want to have again, I appreciated it because of what it did for me and my son.