January 2, 2023

An Unplanned, Planned Cesarean


I can’t talk about Jackie’s birth story, without sharing a little backstory about my first birth. My first birth was a 4-day induction that led to an “emergency” cesarean. There are lots of reasons I can speculate as to why it ended up that way, but that story’s for another day. Ultimately, it’s important to point out that it was traumatic, exhausting, and I ended up needing to heal from a 3-day labor and a c-section, which was just…awful.

After an inaugural birth experience like that, I was determined to have a much more gentle and empowering experience with my second child, so I decided I wanted to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). Statistically, women are better able to do this if they give birth at a birthing center with midwives, rather than a hospital. So… that’s what I landed on. I was excited to embark on this new journey, and I was confident in my ability to have a successful VBAC. Spoiler alert: I did not.

As someone who is incredibly confident in her abilities and someone that does (or did until this birth) subscribe to “grind culture” of powering through, setting aside feelings, repressing rage and sadness, etc., I was incredibly stressed from my job – didn’t even realize it. I was working long hours and weekends to ensure that the work got done – which meant doing the workload of 4 highly trained people. Needless to say…my body let me know that it was not okay, and it had become an inhospitable environment for the growing baby inside me. And so…I was diagnosed with (what we thought was) gestational hypertension. Another spoiler: post-birth, we learned that it was actually preeclampsia.

With gestational hypertension (what we all thought I had), it’s too dangerous to go past 37 weeks gestation (~9.5 months pregnant), so once diagnosed, it wasn’t safe for me to continue with the midwives at the birthing center – I had to give birth at a hospital…and early. I was devastated. I felt sad, defeated, angry, guilty, resentful – nothing that resembled happiness. I felt helpless. BUT… I’m a trooper. And so… I repressed all of that and moved onward. A part of me still wanted to try for a VBAC – I’ve always wanted to feel the power that comes with giving birth unmedicated – the feeling of being a warrior. It’s beautiful and primal. And I wanted to know first-hand what that felt like. But it would not have been safe for me at that point. At 37 weeks, it was highly unlikely that my baby and body would be fully ready to come without a long and forceful induction (that may have ultimately led to a c-section, or even worse). Not to mention, recovery from that while having my toddler sounded absolutely unbearable. So I planned a Cesarean birth… The invasive abdominal surgery would be 7 AM on December 15, 2021. I was so scared.

The morning of, my husband and I headed to the hospital nervous, excited, overwhelmed, and exhausted. I was excited to meet my baby boy, Jackie, but I was so scared that his lungs wouldn’t be ready and would need to be in the NICU. It didn’t even cross my mind that I might be the one that needed extra medical assistance – just goes to show how little we mothers sometimes think of ourselves and must force ourselves to take care of our physical and mental health.

Sitting in the hospital bed, anxiously awaiting my surgery, I felt an energy wash over me when I met my doula for the first time. Klarque was working with ATX Doulas at the time, and she was on call for births that day. I had a doula with my first birth, and knew that I wanted that support with this one as well. Little did I know how much I needed her in those precious moments and hours. She could sense that I was nervous as soon as she arrived, and I remember her asking if I wanted to do some breathing exercises with her. I remember thinking, “That’s kinda weird, but whatever” hahaha. It turned out, it was exactly what I needed at that moment. She calmed me down and I felt at more at ease once it was time to be wheeled back. We had our birth plan mapped out beforehand. I wanted music while Jackie was born, and I wanted to see him when they pulled him out. Klarque made sure that my wishes were carried out just as I wanted. I was able to see my baby Jackie as soon as he took his first breath. I heard him cry while “every little thing is gonna be alright” played in the background. And my husband was able to stay by my side and give me the support I needed from him. Klarque got a photo of us holding hands that I’ll hold near and dear forever.

It is my belief that C-sections are scary no matter what. Your arms are pinned down and out to each side, and you are numb from the torso down. It all feels so unnatural. I remember feeling like I needed to cough but not being able to, so feeling panicked. I looked over at Klarque, and her calming presence made me feel better, as she said “I know that must feel weird, but that’s totally normal.” It was exactly what I needed in those transformational moments. I’m forever grateful because Jackie did end up needing a bit of assistance – his lungs needed some help adjusting, and I did not want him unaccompanied, so my husband was able to be with him, and Klarque with me. I’m so glad I wasn’t alone. I couldn’t stop shivering, and started to worry something was wrong with me… but then Klarque again told me that was totally normal, and that put me at ease. Once I finally got my baby Jackie back, Klarque helped make sure he latched to my nipple without issue, and he did! He was perfect. The next several days were rocky for me – my blood pressure shot up, and that was when I was diagnosed with preeclampsia. That was scary, but that’s another story for another day.

The unplanned, planned birth of baby Jackie is a part of me forever and always, and I’m grateful for every ounce of support I received – without that experience, I wouldn’t be building the life and family I am today.