How My 2nd C-Section Healed My Birth Trauma

"Different baby, different experience". Our doula, Lin, kept telling me that. I didn't really believe her - although I nodded and smiled. She said it when we first met her, when I was about three months pregnant and hadn't really decided between trying for a VBAC and having another c-section. She kept saying it through the intervening months - via text, on the phone and at doctor's appointments. Each time I'd smile and nod and go one being sure that this birth would be as scary as my first. In my plan she was there to help me through the horrible thing that was coming - not to help avoid horror.

I was so, SO wrong. 

I thought that I wouldn't be able to sleep the night before, but I went out like a light. When I woke up the sun was shining and I realized that we were hours late for the hospital. I jumped out of bed and ran to get Adam. He shrugged and told me we'd be fine, they'd take us when we got there. I was frantically dialing Lin on my phone and trying to figure out why none of the alarms had gone off when I realized that I had to pee worse than anyone had ever had to pee in the history of time. I woke up in bed in the dark, checked the clock, took a deep breath of relief that we had not, in fact, missed anything and waddled off to the bathroom. The nightmare had woken me up five minutes before my alarm. Going to the bathroom didn't really relieve the pressure I was feeling, but I couldn't think about that because it was go time! 

I took my time in the shower, knowing it was the last leisurely one I'd have for quite some time. I also kept getting distracted by pain/pressure that I thought was the baby moving around, and by the fact that I was going into surgery to have my baby. The entire shower felt unreal. As I was getting dressed I realized I had shaved one leg. 

We held hands in the car, but were pretty quiet.

Lin met us at the hospital while we were signing one billion forms and went with us to the pre-op room. She helped me remember the questions I wanted to ask the nurses and she kept me calm when my nerves started to fray. "Different baby, different experience", she would say when I marveled at how everything was moving along just as she and my OB had said it would. Adam was making horrible puns and trying not to show how nervous he was.

It was Lin who noticed that I was having contractions. She saw them on the monitor and asked how I was feeling. For just a moment I thought about what would happen if I changed my mind - maybe this was a sign that I should have this baby vaginally. The panic crept in immediately and I knew that no - this was a sign that today was the day, Boogie Babywas ready for her close up and I was ready for this.

I walked into the OR. That was amazing to me. Everyone in the room introduced themselves and told me what their job was. My OR nurse said I could just hop up onto the table and they'd get started with the spinal block. We joked that I couldn't exactly hop anywhere. The nerves had started to come back now that I was separated from Lin and Adam and they must have showed on my face. The nurse took my hands as she had me bend into position. She stroked the back of each of my hands with her thumb, firmly and she narrated what the anesthesiologist was doing. As I lay down she walked me through the procedure and then Lin and Adam were back with me. He was at my side, holding my hand and Lin was at my head.

My doctor came in. Let me take a second just to say that I LOVE MY DR. BRIDGET. Seriously. I love that she has always treated me with kindness and respect. I love her sense of humor. I love that she supports our local PPD charity and that she took the time to look me in the eye and tell me that everything was going to be okay. She told me what was going on and she asked if I was ready. They got started and I watched the clock and forgot to breathe until Lin reminded me.

What I remember most is that it all seemed so normal that eventually my fear subsided. They ran into some scar tissue and Dr. Bridget let me know that it was going to take a little longer. She talked to me about what I was watching on Netflix (Jane the Virgin) and Lin kept reminding me that everything was going well and Adam was holding my hand and telling me I was doing great.

The sensations were familiar - the numbness of my legs, the strange tugging feeling in my midriff and then Dr. Bridget said, "Okay, this is it", and then she was here. She was here and she was crying and they held her up so that I could see her before rushing her off to do the Apgar.

Adam went over to the 'baby corner' with the nurse and Boogie Baby and she promptly shat everywhere. We all laughed about that and that's when I realized I was crying. Lin took over holding my hand and reassured me that everything was fine when I asked over and over again.

And then she was there, on my chest and in my arms. I'm sure other things happened after that, but I don't remember them. There was just this warm, soft, perfect thing. There were tears and laughter and I remember kissing Adam and that everyone pronounced her to be just beautiful but all I could see and think and feel was my baby. It was like I was a light that she turned on and I glowed. When she wasn't in my arms I dimmed, waiting.

Lin came with us to recovery and to our room. I was settled into the bed and some clean clothes. Then my baby was back in my arms and just like Lin had said she would, she did this weird little crawl thing to get to a boob and latch on. Different baby, different experience.

My head was clear. My baby was healthy and feeding. Adam was actually smiling (he doesn't smile y'all).

I kept thinking that this was the exact opposite of what had happened last time. This was nerves and joy and connection instead of sickness and fear and terror. I couldn't wait to show our families my beautiful, beautiful girl. I felt whole. I felt like a mom.

A few weeks later during one of her check ups with us Lin told me that she had never seen a c-section go just that smoothly - everything and everyone on time and cruising along, relaxed and focused and just ready to welcome my baby.  I don't know if Dr. Bridget spoke with her team about what had happened to me before and told them I needed their A game, or if the universe just decided to apologize for my first birth. I like to think it was the second.

People say that all that matters is that mother and baby are both healthy. That isn't true. Birth trauma is real and it does serious and lasting damage to women and their families. Healing from it can take years. There are still things about the birth of my son that I haven't gotten over and I may never get over. The sick feeling of fear may never fully leave me. But being able to make choices and to give birth to my daughter in such a supportive atmosphere has gone a long way towards truly closing that wound. My wish is for every mom to get to feel like I did - that Boogie Baby and I were the center of a miracle that everyone in that room had a part in creating.

Graeme Seabrook