I discovered Call the Midwife in the beginning weeks of my pregnancy. I’d heard that it was a great show, so when it popped up on my Netflix suggestions, I decided to give it a watch. I instantly fell in love with the stories of the midwives and their patients in a post-war working class neighborhood of London. What I loved most is that each episode shows mamas having their babies at home, with just a couple of midwives supporting them as their bodies did what they were meant to do. The portrayals of labor and delivery were so different from what we see in American media, with the sterile hospital setting and doctors and women delivering in bed. I didn’t want a traditional, regular American maternity experience where I’d be assumed to have complications solely because of my weight. I didn’t want to be scared into an induction or a c-section - I wanted to allow my body to do what it was meant to do. And so, I chose a midwife practice for my maternity care.
In one of our childbirth classes, our teacher passed out sets of cards that featured different facets of labor and delivery, and she asked us to pick the ten things that we absolutely wanted. I picked cards that said things like “no episiotomy”, “use the birthing tub”, and “skin to skin after birth”. And then, our teacher walked around and told use we could only keep three cards, THREE! The point of the exercise was to show us that while we may have lofty, ambitious goals for our births, we may not get them. After much internal debate, I ended up with “no c-section”, “no episiotomy”, and “breastfeeding” as my three cards. I was very firm on my desire to not be cut - I was going to have my baby vaginally! Through my reading I learned about all the downsides : mothers whose milk was delayed in coming on or who couldn’t bond with their babies right away; the risks of bleeding and infection after surgery; etc. I also knew that epidurals can slow down labor and so I decided that epidural would be my last option, after trying laboring in the birthing tub as well as nitrous oxide for pain relief. My main goal was to trust myself and my body to do what it was meant to do.
And then I went into labor, and just like the best laid plans, things went way differently than I expected. I opted for the epidural after the birthing tub and nitrous oxide did nothing for my pain. I spent hours laboring only to never progress past 6cm, even with Pitocin. And even with the epidural, I felt such incredible pressure with each contraction. It became clear that a c-section was going to be my only option, and frankly, I was unhappy about the development. I felt like a failure, like my body was unable to do the one thing that it was meant to do. I wanted to keep laboring, but thankfully William made the call that we needed to prep for a c-section instead. In the moment, all I remember feeling is relief that this 36 hour labor was finally going to reach its conclusion and that I’d get to meet my daughter.
The moment Josephine was born, I began to cry because I immediately felt like a mama, even if I hadn’t seen her yet and only heard her cry. It took some time for me to get to fully meet her, but the moment she laid on my chest and latched, I felt like it was all worth it. She was here and healthy, and I was here and healthy, and that was all that mattered. It wasn’t until the next day that I learned the reason why my labor never progressed - Josephine had flipped to a posterior position (“sunny side up”) and I have a “trangular shaped pelvis” which meant that she couldn’t fit through, no matter how long we waited. C-section was the only way that my baby girl was going to make it into this world safely.
In those first few days post birth, I felt some sadness that I did not experience the birth I’d envisioned. I’d tried, but things did not go the way I expected. I definitely didn’t know that my pelvis had a different shape - I mean, who knows these things until they have a baby? I assumed that every woman’s body was perfectly designed and able to give birth, and that everything would go easily. And things could have gone easier if Josephine hadn’t turned, or if she was smaller, but in the end, a c-section is what I needed to bring her into this world. And once I started to frame it that way - with a grateful heart instead of sadness - my feelings about my c-section changed.
Instead of disappointment about my c-section birth, i’m grateful for it. I’m grateful that I was surrounded by medical professionals (nurses, midwife and doctor) who were all able to help me bring my child into the world. I’m grateful that my daughter was born safely. I’m grateful that I survived both labor, delivery and my postpartum period, because so many Black moms do not. Recovery was not easy, but I thankfully recovered fully with no infection or other complications.
Who knows whats in store for my future pregnancy. Armed with the knowledge about my pelvis shape, I may choose another c-section, or I could try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesearan). I’m just thankful that I have the option at all. I’m grateful that it was an option for me and that I was surrounded by supportive partners who advocated for me. And I don’t take any of it for granted.