I remember once listening to two women talk in a playground. One was pregnant and they were discussing her impending birth. They were strangers to me – I was eves dropping on a private conversation. The pregnant woman was saying that she had delivered her first child via c-section.
Pregnant mom was talking about her desire to attempt a vaginal delivery after c-section (VBAC). Her friend said: “Oh yes. That would be so great because it would be your first real birth.” The children were playing contentedly in a sandbox on a spring-like day. The light was splashing through the trees.
Let me underscore – the friend was being kind and supportive. She was helping another mother plan a desired birth. It was a moment of beauty – the very best kind of deep friendship between mothers.
But sitting there, I felt alone. There are so many stories we women carry – so many instances that explain us to ourselves. And we can’t (or don’t) tell them.
My first child was born via c-section following a long labor. My second child died in utero and was stillborn – a vaginal delivery. He was my VBAC. My third and fourth children were born by scheduled c-sections. I include their pictures within this post.
I was offered the opportunity to attempt a VBAC with my third child. I thought it over for a nanosecond before settling on the scheduled c-section thankyouverymuch.
Birth plans after loss are complicated. This is because pregnancy after loss is wonderful and also terrifying. Loss moms who are pregnant are daily grateful for the opportunity to carry another child. Nevertheless, they are likely to experience any subsequent pregnancy as a delicate balancing act.
There is beauty and terror in equal measure. They hardly dare hope for a baby they can take home. They continue to grieve their lost one. Everything feels possibly jinxed and laden. Self-made superstitions creep in, and take on tremendous import.
In monitoring fetal movement, women who have lost babies can feel untethered. A baby sweetly sleeping within me (not moving) made me feel a kind of terror akin to airborne turbulence. Then suddenly there was a stirring and the relief opened like a dam. “Just drink orange juice, that’ll work!” people said. Just. Because. It works except when it doesn’t.
By the time I had made it through my pregnancies subsequent to loss, I really just wanted my babies to be born. I was kind of a wreck. One of the many things compromised by stillbirth/infant death is a sense of trust of one’s body. I am not likely to rebuild that trust or even aspire to that goal – I am humbled. And I am grateful for all my children. That is enough.
Had I been part of the conversation in the playground, I would never have shared why I had scheduled c-sections. I don’t raise loss with pregnant women. However, in not raising loss to “explain” my birth choice, I can see that I would have been left vulnerable to unsolicited advice.
For the record, I loved my c-sections. I felt triumphant about them. I was never so happy as when I was being wheeled in to the operating room for a quick birth. One that produced a crying baby all soft, petal-like and warm.
It has been a decade now and I no longer fear judgment – but others do.
And so, on their behalf, this is just a gentle reminder to women that there are any number of reasons to plan any number of births. My story is but one example. There are so many others that reflect diverse reasons and experiences.
I want all women to have the birth they want and to receive support for that birth. It means knowing that you may not know the whole story. That’s all.
This article originally appeared on BabyCenter.