As I sat with my swollen belly expecting my first baby, I wasn’t naive. I knew labor and delivery of my sweet baby would bring pain and a roller coaster of emotions. But I had a beautiful picture in my mind of pushing through the intense pain to be rewarded by a baby being handed to me at the end. You know the picture—it’s even on a box of diapers, the mom sitting in her hospital bed holding her freshly born bundle of joy on her chest. She exudes exhaustion, relief, and joy.
This was not my story.
Everything started off fairly normal. I went into labor at home and made my way to the hospital after an all-nighter of contractions. But once I reached the hospital, things started to turn. I ended up with an emergency c-section, and my baby girl being whisked away to the NICU.
I was left in the operating room with no baby to proudly hold up. I would have to wait over 24 hours to hold my precious baby, and it wasn’t on my terms or even in my room. I had to get permission from the nurses to take me down the hall to visit my baby in the NICU.
As the day came to be discharged, we knew we would be leaving our baby girl behind and had come to terms with that reality. But what came next we could have never anticipated, we were hit with another bombshell. She has Down syndrome.
An emergency C-section, NICU stay, and Down syndrome diagnosis—this was not the birthing experience I imagined.
As the weeks and months passed, I loved being a mom to my little girl, but the birth trauma still stung. As my friends welcomed their babies into the world without this added trauma, I would be thrown back to my experience. The sadness would creep back in.
This time will be different, I thought as the two lines revealed a positive pregnancy test. I knew I could not control what happened, but I did have hope that this time would be better. I thought it was my chance to have a redeemed birth story. I was looking forward to putting traumatic birth in my past.
But again this was not my story.
The first 20 weeks of my pregnancy were uneventful and gave me hope of a better birthing experience. However, my 20-week ultrasound discovered more than the gender of my baby. They found some extra fluid that was then closely monitored until I woke up one morning to the familiar feeling of contractions. I knew something was up, but I was only 32 weeks.
We went to the hospital where they stopped the contractions and tried to keep my baby in as long as possible. A day later I ended up having my second baby at 32 weeks through another emergency c-section.
My baby boy had a blockage in his intestines, which was causing high amniotic fluid in me and in him. They cut him from my body and took him away so fast I barely got a glimpse of my new baby. He needed emergency intestinal surgery and was taken to another hospital that night. It would be three more days before I even got to see him and a week until I got to hold him. We then started what ended up being a 66-day NICU stay, which is a story for another day.
A premature birth, two major surgeries, and a long NICU stay, this wasn’t the redeemed birthing experience I hoped for.
I couldn’t believe it. It happened again and this time at a whole new heart-aching level. I felt robbed, beaten down, and so weary. I had nothing left to give, but through counseling, prayer, immense support from family and friends, and a milkshake or two—God gave us the strength to persevere.
Even as I sit on the other side with my healthy beautiful children, I still feel the loss of this birthing experience. And that’s OK. I am allowed to be sad. I am allowed time to heal from these experiences. But I can also reflect, learn, and grow from these experiences. As time passes, I see that my story is one of resilience and that is something I can rejoice in.