I have already written about accidentally becoming pregnant after years of learning to accept having an only child, then being diagnosed with placenta previa. So now the only thing left to do is to talk about the birth, which I have been avoiding. I’m not going to lie, it was hard for me and the idea of reliving it is not high on my to-do list.
As I mentioned before, the placenta didn’t move. Not only that but it was an anterior placenta that was hanging out smack dab in the area where they do a cesarean incision. A placenta as unruly as that not only comes with risk during pregnancy, it comes with a special set of risks during birth, and all of it was starting to scare the heck out of me. On the plus side, I was having a relatively healthy pregnancy and I felt really good, even though I was super sad that my trip back home to the east coast was canceled and my fitness was a bit restricted.
Oh! Another plus was that my family came to visit me in Toronto instead – we got a super fun photoshoot and lots of laughs at Great Wolf Lodge out of the deal. Ok. Fine. Maybe my fear of the upcoming cesarean inspired the family photoshoot part. Yes, it’s true. I was secretly panicking that the worst would happen.
And when I wasn’t quietly preparing for the worst, I was really focused on the idea that the placenta would move. Afterall, I had seen it happen so many times with the clients I worked with. Previas are common early in pregnancy and more often than not the placenta moves up out of the way as the uterus grows. But not this time. I had my final ultrasound when I was about 34 weeks pregnant and that lil’ sucker stayed right where it started. It was time I met my new OB.
I would now be giving birth in a hospital, via cesarean, in a cold bright room. Pretty far from my plan to have the baby at home. I would be spending more time at the hospital than I expected, more time away from my daughter, and I would be recovering from major surgery with very little to no family support since they all lived so far away. And what seemed like the hardest part of it all to me, was that I would be having my baby early, which really worried me for quite a few reasons.
For those of you that don’t know. The risk of waiting was that contractions could start, and because the placenta sat over the cervix (blocking the exit) any dilation could cause a very dangerous scenario. My worry with giving birth too early was baby’s size, ability to breastfeed, and lung development. I wanted her to decide when she was ready to enter this world, but that just wasn’t going to happen, and I had to just accept it.
I clearly remember the day my cesarean was booked. I got the call 10 minutes before a pretty major podcast we were recording for one of our favorite birth advocates. The date they gave me was nearly 2 weeks earlier than I had discussed with my new OB just 3 days prior. My request had been completely ignored. We had had a very lengthy discussion about the benefits and risks of being as close to my due date as possible (37 – 38 weeks) as long as we continued to be healthy, and together we landed on a date. Or so I thought.
I completely came undone in the driveway of my business partner’s house, 5 minutes before the podcast. Of course, I dried my tears and did what needed to be done, which has all but become a trademark move for us at this point. We did the podcast. The topic couldn’t have been more perfect: Birth Trauma. And although I was a little shaky, we made it through, we even talked a little about how it was all going. I did my best to sound fine. I still haven’t listened to that episode and I can hardly even remember what I said. I heard it was great.
When the podcast was done, Bianca went right into doula mode, working with me to put what I needed in place to feel like I could be well and supported through all of this. The first step was to call and ask why my date was changed.
Answer: Labour Day weekend.
My baby was going to come 2 weeks earlier than planned because of Labour Day weekend overflow.
So with a shaky voice I called again and asked for a new date, and although he advised against it, he could get me in for the next available slot after the long weekend which wasn’t until nearly 39 weeks. I was to decide and call them back.
That is the power of having a choice.
I talked it over with my midwife, did as much research as I could, went over the benefits and risks and made my choice. And the funny thing is, after all that I chose the earlier date. But this time I felt ok with the date. That is the power of having a choice. For anyone who wants to know why we believe having a choice during birth is important, that is why. That is the difference.
Next step was to create a birth preference list. New birth, new plan.
- Immediate skin-to-skin (baby passed to me)
- Delayed cord clamping
- Vaginal seeding
I let my OB know my preference and we were ready to have a baby in just a few weeks. I don’t want to get into it too much just yet, my brain can’t get there, but the weeks leading up to the birth were really hard for me. I was worried about the cesarean, I was worried about the Previa.
Every time I looked at my 5yr old I cried. The idea of leaving her for 3 days (or forever, yes I went there) overwhelmed me. She actually turned 6 in those weeks which led to the largest guilt-inspired unicorn party of all time.
Leaving her the day of the surgery was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. The second hardest was walking myself into that surgical stadium alone. The lights, the strangers, the blue masks, the equipment. Willing myself to walk forward when all I wanted to do was run away is something I will never forget.
It was also in that room that I learned not a single one of my preferences would be met.
My GBS test came back positive which meant no seeding.
The placenta that covered where the incision was to be made posed extra risk (mainly blood loss) so they could not pass baby to me under the sheet. That transfer would create an unsterile environment and they needed the area to stay sterile just in case.
And even if they could have passed her to me they had detected something strange with the baby’s heart so her cord would be clamped right away and she would be whisked off to be checked after birth.
I just laid there and listened as one specialist after another removed whatever chance I had at maintaining any autonomy and giving my baby as much as I could from the birth I once imagined. I felt completely powerless and knew regardless of what was said there was no changing it now.
The actual procedure, for me, was over in a few minutes. It was painless and she was here in what seemed like an instant. I saw her screaming face for one second and then she was whisked off to the pediatric cardiologist. So I lay there without my baby, somewhat distant from the whole situation. I chatted with my midwife who was now acting as my Doula and we waited. I made jokes and she kept me updated on how the baby, Margo, was doing.
I honestly can’t even tell you when I finally got to hold Margo. I know my partner did skin-to-skin in the room after they decided her heart was fine. I don’t remember much of what happened after that, not until visitors came, and I only remember that because there is photo evidence. I know my 6yo was nervous to walk into the room and took a while to come over to us, then settled into the proudest stance ever when we placed her sister in her arms.
That was probably one of the most enormous moments of my life.
The negative emotions I attached to this birth, the fear that I had felt throughout this pregnancy softened when I saw them together for the first time. I remember my daughter telling me she had ‘manifested’ her sister, Margo, and in that moment I truly believed it. And she’s probably listened in one a few too many of my audiobooks, lol.
I’m not going to lie, the recovery from this surgical birth was worse than I ever thought it could be. At first, I spent most days worried about the night, when I would lay down and not be able to get back up to get the baby when she cried. To be so helpless that someone else would have to bring her to me over and over again; my partner and my mom took shifts. That shit was hard, and I tried to fight it. I wanted to be able to take care of myself, but fight as I may, I simply could not. Being apart from my oldest was hard. Being confined to my house was hard. It was just hard.
Even now, nearly a year later there are still parts that I struggle with. My scar still hurts and it’s ugly. It changed the shape of my stomach in a way that makes me embarrassed. I can hardly look in the mirror. My core is weak, my back is sore, and I don’t feel like myself at all.
There are good things too though, way more good things.
There are moments when I’m so grateful for this shift that life has thrown me that I could just burst.
I know I got here kicking and screaming, I know I spent a lot of time fighting. But I also know I put a call out into the universe for happiness and I’m so glad I trusted that the universe knew what I needed better than I did (if you believe in that kinda thing). If I could turn back time, my pregnancy would look remarkably different, I would rub my belly more, and maybe even sing. I’m here now though. Margo’s mama 100%, and she is a tiny being full of pure joy and happiness.
Yes, sometimes I’m sad (and feel quite a bit of guilt) that this is Margo’s birth story. That her entrance into this world was bright lights and sugar water and tubes. I didn’t want that for her and I didn’t want that for me but I did what I had to do. There are some days that pass where I really feel like I let her down. I wonder if I could have argued more about delayed cord clamping and a billion other details. There are days when I feel crushed that I will never have that perfect birth I wanted. And there are days, more so now, that I accept all that needed to happen to get my fabulous girls here. It wasn’t perfect, but they are here.
Natasha Marchand is a birth doula trainer, hypnobirthing instructor, prenatal fitness/yoga instructor and business consultant. She is the co-founder of bebo mia and co-owner of Baby & Me Fitness. She is also the proud mother of 6yo Sadie, conceived with ART after a 4-year struggle, and recently gave birth to her second daughter, Margo.
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