Gifts for Dad ➔

I never expected to be absent during my (possibly only) biological birth. And even if it isn’t my only birth experience, the loss will remain.

Having served families for years as a doula and birth photographer, I was a lover of birth. Each and every time those babies landed on their mama’s chest, oxygen filling lungs and tears spilling out of eyes, I longed for my own birth experience. I supported families in their homes, at birthing centers, in hospitals; I even had the honor of witnessing a cesarean.

After over a year of trying to get pregnant—darn you endometriosis—I finally saw those bright, parallel lines show up on my pregnancy test. I was ecstatic. Within days, my miscarriage began.

We were already pursuing adoption—planned long before our marriage and struggle to conceive—but my burning desire to experience the miracle of pregnancy, labor, and delivery stemmed from serving so many women before me. I dreamed of a home birth, knowing my blood clotting disorders made me high risk.

We grieved that baby-gone-too-soon, continued our adoption pursuit, and prayed for two babies by Christmas 2016.

When we discovered another babe in my womb, we began planning a home birth. Less than four months later, we heard about our son and his need for a family; I was 20 weeks pregnant and unsure his first mom would like that, but we offered ourselves to her anyway. Within hours, we flew across states to meet our firstborn son. I was l bummed to have missed his birth, but knew loss is infused in adoption.

During the course of our high-risk pregnancy, I was open-handed when it came to the possibility that we may need to transfer to a hospital in the case of my blood not clotting or clotting too much. What didn’t even cross my mind, was the reality that I could end up with a Cesarean. It didn’t cross my mind because I was not scared of birth whatsoever; our biological son was considered healthy, and though I was high-risk, I was on lifesaving medication that prevented many disastrous outcomes.

I was so excited to experience and conquer labor and delivery; I knew how to breathe through contractions and the importance of staying present in each moment.

When labor started early on a Tuesday morning, our family’s adrenaline picked up. By the afternoon, our midwife and her team arrived—I had been in active labor with double-peak contractions for over eight hours. The birthing pool was set up in our tiny duplex living room, I was doing the miles circuit with the hope to move baby out of an asynclitic position.

By Wednesday morning, my contractions slowed and we prepared for transition. My contractions never transitioned, they instead remained intensely irregular. After working through 12 incredibly irregular and difficult laboring hours—after 28 hours of active labor already—we made the decision to transfer to a hospital. Nothing we did changed my contractions. Baby’s head was incredibly swollen, making it difficult to find his exact position. We figured after 40 hours of labor, 12 of those hours being irregular, it was time for some pitocin and an epidural. Maybe some rest after all that hard work?

We checked in. The labor and delivery unit was full and out of wheelchairs, so I slowly walked and breathed through contractions, stopping as needed, down the long corridors to the elevator. We settled into our new room as Wednesday passed into Thursday.

I was hopeful for rest through an epidural, but my body never allowed it to work. It metabolized its medicine. They inserted a second epidural, along with more pitocin: my body was refusing to cooperate.

By 6 a.m. Thursday, the doctor told me to prepare mentally for a Cesarean. Why had I not prepared mentally before this moment? The information smacked me in the face as I sat in my bed silently crying, sure this was not my birth story. I was going to push this baby out. I was going to have him placed on my chest with a rush of hormones and emotions, tears flooding the eyes of everyone; I was not going to be high on drugs.

After an ultrasound to confirm Baby’s position as asnclitic, they suggested we try pushing. Maybe he’ll turn and twist and change position. After walking around—hello failed epidural—and squatting and pushing on my hands and knees and vomiting and doing all the hard work a mama can do for over four hours, it was suddenly 5 p.m.

My midwife had remained by my side this entire time. She gently told me to take a break, Baby wasn’t changing position. A few minutes later, she told me she’d never seen a mama fight as hard as I’ve fought, “And that’s saying a lot, Natalie. You know how many births I’ve served.” It was time for my Cesarean; babies aren’t meant to stay in the womb forever and we needed to get him out before he went into distress.

I was so proud of how hard I had worked, how strong I had been, how long I had attempted. Peace washed over me as I accepted that this is what needed to happen and I would still have that magical meeting moment. Sure, the hormones would be a bit drugged and I may be loopy, but the moment would still bring relief and joy and life. I clung to that moment.

I signed papers. They transferred me from bed to cold table. My husband and midwife scrubbed down. The anesthesiologist told me about the medication he was distributing through my epidural catheter. “But what if my body metabolizes it, too?” I asked, nervous about knives cutting into my flesh. “Oh, it won’t. Rarely does that happen. If it does, we will give you a spinal.” He shared some incredibly small percentage of people needing a spinal. My gut told me to prepare myself.

As I expected, my body didn’t accept the typical numbing medication. The anesthesiologist moved on to the spinal, as quickly as he could, Baby was showing signs of distress; he’d been working hard, too. We soon realized the spinal also wasn’t going to work. My body was not accepting any numbing medication, once again not cooperating.

In a flurry, they pushed my midwife and husband out of the room. I heard fast beeping. The shuffle of the room was overwhelming, the bright light, the hands entering spaces of my body I wasn’t prepared for. A gas mask was placed over my face and all went black.

I woke up screaming.

I didn’t recognize anything, had no idea where my husband and newborn were, and a nurse was pushing down on my newly-stitched, eight layers of sliced midsection. “STOP! STOP! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?” I screamed, tears streaming down my face. I wanted to die.

“Honey, I have to do this to ensure your blood doesn’t clot. The numbing medication didn’t work, and I am so sorry, but I have to do this.” She was kind but I hated her. It felt like a thousand swords were being shoved through my midsection. “How often and for how long?” I begged.

“Every 15 minutes, for maybe three hours.”

I laid there wincing, moaning, sobbing. I saw my husband carrying a bundle toward me, and I wept that I wasn’t ready to meet him, not like this. I didn’t want him to meet me in such a traumatic way. But Baby was hungry. My midwife hooked him up to me for his first feed while I tried to fall back into the haze the drugs had me in; the pain of pushing on my midsection made me desperate to escape.

I later learned our son had to be resuscitated.

The first few days were hazy, gloomy. Postpartum depression settled in right next to this incredibly humbling gratitude that I got to be two babies’ mama. Two within five months.

My healing journey continues. We are coming up on two years since his extraction, and the sadness still permeates my memories. My heart says, likely, there will always be sorrow in the way I met my second born—and that’s OK.

Cesareans are not the easy way out.

Cesareans are difficult to heal from, physically and often emotionally. Months of physical therapy and medication later, my body is dealing a bit better. I have damaged nerves and shooting pains. My body is triggered when I hear others talk about their birth experiences.

I’ve learned that no matter our birth experience, there is room for both sorrow and joy, sadness and gratitude. No matter how much we prepare for and know about and love birth, we still cannot control it. And no matter how prepared you may be for one, they’ll still scar you for a lifetime.

So as you continue on in your journey and what you know about Cesareans, know that they aren’t easy. They aren’t fun. But they don’t make you any less of a mother.

I am not ashamed of having a Cesarean. I don’t believe birthing a child in ANY way, or at all, makes me more or less of a mother.

I am grateful Ira is in my arms and I get to celebrate his life. Incredibly grateful, every single day.

The most broken pieces of our heart show our great capacity to love. So let me sit in the sad parts when I need to; I know Jesus sits with me right there in the pain, showering me with grace.

Natalie Brenner

Natalie Brenner is wife to Loren and mom to two under two, living in Portland, Oregon. She is the best-selling author of This Undeserved Life. She likes her wine red, ice cream served by the pint, and conversations vulnerable. Natalie believes in the impossible and hopes to create safe spaces for every fractured soul. She's addicted to honesty. You can love Jesus or not, go to church or not: she'd love to have coffee with you. Natalie is a bookworm, a speaker, and a wanna-be runner. Connect with her at NatalieBrennerWrites.com and join her email list. 

I Thought Our Friendship Would Be Unbreakable

In: Friendship, Journal, Relationships
Two friends selfie

The message notification pinged on my phone. A woman, once one of my best friends, was reaching out to me via Facebook. Her message simply read, “Wanted to catch up and see how life was treating you!”  I had very conflicting feelings. It seemed with that one single message, a flood of memories surfaced. Some held some great moments and laughter. Other memories held disappointment and hurt of a friendship that simply had run its course. Out of morbid curiosity, I clicked on her profile page to see how the years had been treating her. She was divorced and still...

Keep Reading

The First 10 Years: How Two Broken People Kept Their Marriage from Breaking

In: Journal, Marriage, Relationships
The First Ten Years: How Two Broken People Kept Their Marriage from Breaking www.herviewfromhome.com

We met online in October of 2005, by way of a spam email ad I was THIS CLOSE to marking as trash. Meet Single Christians! My cheese alert siren sounded loudly, but for some reason, I unchecked the delete box and clicked through to the site. We met face-to-face that Thanksgiving. As I awaited your arrival in my mother’s kitchen, my dad whispered to my little brother, “Hide your valuables. Stacy has some guy she met online coming for Thanksgiving dinner.” We embraced for the first time in my parents’ driveway. I was wearing my black cashmere sweater with the...

Keep Reading

To The Mother Who Is Overwhelmed

In: Inspiration, Motherhood
Tired woman with coffee sitting at table

I have this one head. It is a normal sized head. It didn’t get bigger because I had children. Just like I didn’t grow an extra arm with the birth of each child. I mean, while that would be nice, it’s just not the case. We keep our one self. And the children we add on each add on to our weight in this life. And the head didn’t grow more heads because we become a wife to someone. Or a boss to someone. We carry the weight of motherhood. The decisions we must make each day—fight the shorts battle...

Keep Reading

You’re a Little Less Baby Today Than Yesterday

In: Journal, Motherhood
Toddler sleeping in mother's arms

Tiny sparkles are nestled in the wispy hair falling across her brow, shaken free of the princess costume she pulled over her head this morning. She’s swathed in pink: a satiny pink dress-up bodice, a fluffy, pink, slightly-less-glittery-than-it-was-two-hours-ago tulle skirt, a worn, soft pink baby blanket. She’s slowed long enough to crawl into my lap, blinking heavy eyelids. She’s a little less baby today than she was only yesterday.  Soon, she’ll be too big, too busy for my arms.  But today, I’m rocking a princess. The early years will be filled with exploration and adventure. She’ll climb atop counters and...

Keep Reading

Dear Husband, I Loved You First

In: Marriage, Motherhood, Relationships
Man and woman kissing in love

Dear husband, I loved you first. But often, you get the last of me. I remember you picking me up for our first date. I spent a whole hour getting ready for you. Making sure every hair was in place and my make-up was perfect. When you see me now at the end of the day, the make-up that is left on my face is smeared. My hair is more than likely in a ponytail or some rat’s nest on the top of my head. And my outfit, 100% has someone’s bodily fluids smeared somewhere. But there were days when...

Keep Reading

Stop Being a Butthole Wife

In: Grief, Journal, Marriage, Relationships
Man and woman sit on the end of a dock with arms around each other

Stop being a butthole wife. No, I’m serious. End it.  Let’s start with the laundry angst. I get it, the guy can’t find the hamper. It’s maddening. It’s insanity. Why, why, must he leave piles of clothes scattered, the same way that the toddler does, right? I mean, grow up and help out around here, man. There is no laundry fairy. What if that pile of laundry is a gift in disguise from a God you can’t (yet) see? Don’t roll your eyes, hear me out on this one. I was a butthole wife. Until my husband died. The day...

Keep Reading

I Can’t Be Everyone’s Chick-fil-A Sauce

In: Friendship, Journal, Living, Relationships
woman smiling in the sun

A couple of friends and I went and grabbed lunch at Chick-fil-A a couple of weeks ago. It was delightful. We spent roughly $20 apiece, and our kids ran in and out of the play area barefoot and stinky and begged us for ice cream, to which we responded, “Not until you finish your nuggets,” to which they responded with a whine, and then ran off again like a bolt of crazy energy. One friend had to climb into the play tubes a few times to save her 22-month-old, but it was still worth every penny. Every. Single. One. Even...

Keep Reading

Love Notes From My Mother in Heaven

In: Faith, Grief, Journal, Living
Woman smelling bunch of flowers

Twelve years have passed since my mother exclaimed, “I’ve died and gone to Heaven!” as she leaned back in her big donut-shaped tube and splashed her toes, enjoying the serenity of the river.  Twelve years since I stood on the shore of that same river, 45 minutes later, watching to see if the hopeful EMT would be able to revive my mother as she floated toward his outstretched hands. Twelve years ago, I stood alone in my bedroom, weak and trembling, as I opened my mother’s Bible and all the little keepsakes she’d stowed inside tumbled to the floor.  It...

Keep Reading

Sometimes Friendships End, No Matter How Hard You Try

In: Friendship, Journal, Relationships
Sad woman alone without a friend

I tried. We say these words for two reasons. One: for our own justification that we made an effort to complete a task; and two: to admit that we fell short of that task. I wrote those words in an e-mail tonight to a friend I had for nearly 25 years after not speaking to her for eight months. It was the third e-mail I’ve sent over the past few weeks to try to reconcile with a woman who was more of a sister to me at some points than my own biological sister was. It’s sad when we drift...

Keep Reading

Goodbye to the House That Built Me

In: Grown Children, Journal, Living, Relationships
Ranch style home as seen from the curb

In the winter of 1985, while I was halfway done growing in my mom’s belly, my parents moved into a little brown 3 bedroom/1.5 bath that was halfway between the school and the prison in which my dad worked as a corrections officer. I would be the first baby they brought home to their new house, joining my older sister. I’d take my first steps across the brown shag carpet that the previous owner had installed. The back bedroom was mine, and mom plastered Smurf-themed wallpaper on the accent wall to try to get me to sleep in there every...

Keep Reading

 5 Secrets to Connect with Your Kids

FREE EMAIL BONUS

Proven techniques to build REAL connections