Killian was my HBC baby. Home birth cesarean. Meaning, I had planned a home birth or out of hospital birth ( in my case it was at the water birth clinic) and was transferred during or before labor to a hospital for a cesarean section. At 36 weeks pregnant I found out that Killian was breech and despite my best efforts, myself and my care team were unable to get him to flip and be head down. At 38 weeks I transferred to Providence Newberg Hospital under the care of Dr. Johnson. He is an amazing OBGYN and a strong Christian man who spent a lot of time in youth ministries in my hometown. I felt comfortable with him. (Let me just preface this post by saying that he did an AMAZING job with the c-section and follow-up care and none of my emotional state I will be talking about was by any means was caused by him or his surgical team.)
Now let me be 100% clear about this. C-SECTIONS ARE PAINFUL AND EVERY MOM WHO HAS HAD ONE IS A MOTHERF***ING BADASS!!! I, 4.5 years later, still have pain and sensitivity on my scar. It took me MONTHS to physically recover and not be blindsided by mass amounts of pain that left me screaming on the floor with tears streaming down my face.
I didn’t feel sad or different for the first couple of months. I had my baby in my arms and even though I was in a lot of pain, we were both OK. Nothing had really sunk in until about 3 months after I had given birth. (A term that I couldn’t bring myself to say for almost a year. I felt like I had not birthed my son; he was gutted from me. )
Well, a few months after Killian was born I received the $10,000 hospital bill. $13,000 was covered by insurance but we had to pay out-of-pocket a $10,000 bill for a surgery that I NEVER wanted or had even considered while pregnant. I had a panic attack and was crying my eyes out. I looked down at my sweet, chunky, little miracle of a baby boy and screamed at him. This is something that is painful and hard for me to admit. I screamed at my innocent little boy, “WHY?! WHY DID YOU HAVE TO DO THIS?! WHY COULDN’T YOU JUST COME OUT NORMAL?! THIS WASN’T SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN!”
I called my mom, who was at work, crying and all she could understand were the words “Killian” and “hospital.” She immediately starts getting worried and coaxed me to calm down before I could explain that I had just received the enormous bill that was going to bankrupt us. She asked if I had called Zeb, my husband, yet and I told her I was scared to because I know we can’t afford this and I didn’t want to make him angry. She then rationalizes with my anxiety-riddled brain that my husband would not be mad at me and that we did the safest thing we could to ensure that myself and our baby survived the birth unharmed.
Of course, she was right.
We thankfully qualified for financial aid, fought against some ridiculous charges, and after hand writing a letter explaining the circumstances around the birth we were very generously granted a large portion of the bill to be covered by the hospital themselves.
However, my husband had to be the one who took care of all of that, minus my hand written letter, because anytime I saw financial reports and bills about the birth of our son, I had horrible anxiety attacks.
About a month before his 1st birthday I had the privilege to attend a Birth Without Fear conference in Portland and met some amazing moms with stories ranging from picture perfect, to botched surgeries, to the loss of their precious angel. They had a group activity called the Harmony Circle. I honestly thought it sounded super hippy-dippy and totally stupid and almost left. What happens is everyone there (200+) gets rejumbled to new tables with new people so no one is sitting with anyone they know. We all go around and tell our birth story. I heard a story about the perfect, beautiful birth that went exactly according to the birth plan and my heart shattered. I heard a story about a mom who has been going through many miscarriages and failed IVF cycles with her wife. I heard a story about a c-section gone so wrong that this poor beautiful mama was not able to hold her son for months and ended up needing a colostomy bag due to an infection caused by the botched cesarean section. I heard stories about rainbow babies (a baby born after the loss of a pregnancy or child). And then it was my turn to share.
My midwife, who I had just ran into at the conference an hour prior, had asked me how I was doing and when I told her that I was struggling she looked at me like I had turned purple and said,”You’re STILL having problems with that? You do realize that some moms don’t even get to come home with their babies, right?” It was like she had just punched me in the gut and told me that my grief was so stupid and pointless and that I was being a whiny little bitch who was feeling sorry for myself.
So, when it came time for me to share, I felt so conflicted. I wanted to share my story and how I felt but I also felt like I had no right to feel those feelings. I was scared that these women around me would judge me and hate me for feeling so lost and distraught over how my son had come into this world.
I took a deep breath and began to tell them about my experience and then about what my midwife had just said. I looked at the moms who had lost their babies in their wombs and in their arms and I ugly cried so hard and apologized to them for being so selfish about my pain.
And do you know what they said?
Every single mother at that table told me that I had every right to feel the way that I did. They told me that even though I am not grieving the loss of a child, I am grieving the loss of a birth. A birth that I had been imagining, planning, and dreaming of for months. A birth that I worked SO hard to achieve, only to be let down right at the very end. A birth that made me feel like my body had failed because I wasn’t able to do something that women were created to be able to do. They told me that comparing a loss of child and a loss of birth was like comparing apples to oranges and that my midwife had absolutely no right to hurt me the way she did.
They told me that my pain was real and that my pain mattered.
We then took a spool of twine and wrapped it around one wrist and passed it on to the mom next to us to do the same. After each mom had wrapped the twine around her wrist, we were instructed to then look at each person at our table and at how we were all connected by this one piece of fabric. That we are all tied together in our pain, in our joy, in our journey of motherhood. We all matter. Our stories all matter. (Pictured below)
I don’t think there was a single table that didn’t have at least half of the people crying from finally feeling validated and embraced by the loving power of motherhood.
Afterwards, we passed a pair of scissors around and cut enough off to make a bracelet for ourselves. There were an assortment of beads on the table and we were told to pick some out and make a bead bracelet that symbolized our birth. I chose blue, red, black, green, and purple. Blue symbolized the water birth that I had planned and longed for. Red was for the blood that spilled from my body as I was cut open in order for my son to come out. Black represented the awful black cloud that was constantly looming over my head as I struggled with depression and anxiety from the loss and grief I was feeling. Green was for the healing that I was praying for. And lastly purple. Purple was the eventual peace that I thought I could never attain about the birth of my son.
I never thought that I would see a light at the end of the tunnel. My insides hurt and I felt a very physical pain in my chest from my heart breaking.
There were 2 moms there who I became friends with, one in particular who became a very large part in my discovery of healing and peace. I owe everything to Manda and the entire Birth Without Fear 2015 conference people, like January Harshe. These women in my Harmony Circle became the first village I had ever known and are the reason that I was able to overcome my pain and accept what I went through.
Now, I understand that a lot of people may not get it. You may think the same thing that the midwife said.
But there is something vitally important that you need to know and understand.
Just because YOU don’t get it, does NOT mean that THEIR pain, is not REAL!
Their pain matters! Their pain is real! Their pain is only going to get worse without your support and understanding. Even if it requires you to physically sew your lips shut, you need to listen and actually HEAR what the grieving person in front of you is trying to tell you. It may just be the thing that saves their life.
Thankfully, I never had self harming thoughts when it came to my HBC, but I have talked to mothers who have. It is a very real thing.
If you have experienced a HBC and are needing a safe space to talk about it all, please look up the group on Facebook called Homebirth Cesarean, search for a local support group, check out the Home Birth Cesarean book to help educate your family/friends/doctors, and also check out the book Healing From A Homebirth Cesarean for yourself.
Whether your birth story is perfect or painful, remember, it is important because it is YOURS.
-The Lazy Mama