There’s a lot of talk about the birth experience. Some people are adamant about having natural births where they experience every sensation and are fully conscious of every moment. Some want their experience to be as pleasant and pain-free as possible. There is talk about what kind of music you’ll have and what kind of breathing you’ll practice. You plan who will be there and who will take photos. Then there’s the experience of holding your baby for the first time and letting him nurse right away, as soon as he’s born. Bonding moments. Tears. Love.
But what if you had no birth experience at all?
I had ALL kinds of experiences with my first four births (25-hour labor, induction, epidural, natural, emergency c-section, you name it), but with number five, there was no experience because I was unconscious for all of it.
Instead, what I got was labor a month early that I didn’t even know was labor. I got one long contraction that never stopped. I got slipping in and out of consciousness. I got blood loss. I got general anesthesia to knock me out completely. My husband got ushered into another room while I was rushed through the corridors on a gurney.
And then nothing.
It was only after the fact that I was told I’d been given an emergency c-section to get the baby out so he wouldn’t die. I’d received two units of blood via blood transfusion so I wouldn’t die. My placenta had ruptured and they didn’t know how long the baby was without oxygen. They almost had to take out my entire uterus because they couldn’t stop the bleeding at first. But I didn’t know any of that until later. It happened. But I didn’t “experience” it.
I wasn’t awake for the birth of my baby.
My husband wasn’t even able to be in the room. Afterward I didn’t get to hold him skin to skin on my chest or nurse him or count his fingers and toes. I don’t even remember the moment the photo below was taken. The first time I saw my baby isn’t even in my memory at all. All I remember was seeing him the next day when they briefly let me view him through the distorted plastic of an isolette before rushing him to another hospital two hours away where they would sedate him with morphine and induce hypothermia in him. All this in an attempt to prevent any possible brain damage from lack of oxygen. Thank goodness for modern medicine.
I did have a birth plan.
It was a loose plan, because after 4 births I knew the experience rarely turns out the way you plan on it. But I did plan on having a VBAC. I did not want to ever have a c-section ever ever again. Ever. I knew it was a possibility, but I never imagined my baby would come into the world so suddenly. That he would be surrounded by wonderful doctors and nurses, but no parents (at least no conscious parents). I didn’t imagine I would have to drive 2 hours one way just to visit my son. I didn’t imagine that I wouldn’t be allowed to touch him when I finally saw him for more than one minute. Or that he’d be heavily sedated and not able to be stimulated by talk or touch. All my motherly instincts to talk to and hold my baby were pushed aside to let his brain heal. I waited 2 days to see my baby and all I could do was stare at him.
But none of that matters.
He’s alive. He’s healthy. I’m alive and healthy. Those doctors and nurses saved us both. I’m so grateful for that modern medicine. I’m also grateful for the prayers of friends and family, which power I could literally feel as I went through this ordeal feeling surprisingly blessed and cared for and even happy amidst the chaos and pain.
It’s OK that I wasn’t awake to experience the birth of my baby.
Birth plans rarely turn out the way you think they will, and sometimes they go horribly wrong. There’s a lot of talk about birth experiences, and they are interesting to chat about and comforting to commiserate about. But in the end, they don’t really matter all that much.