It’s Bigger Than Kavanaugh

It’s appalling that our political discourse has become so partisan and bitter that this Kavanaugh saga is as controversial as it is. A woman, then two, then three, then four, then FIVE, came forward with allegations of sexual assault against a man who is slated to become the 9th member of the highest court in the country. Horrible, right? Serious, yes? The truth must be uncovered, wouldn’t we all agree?

Except we don’t all agree. Everyone’s partisanship is showing. I see conservatives saying things that make my blood boil about how “well all boys do stuff like that,” and “it happened so long ago; how can she still be upset about that?” and “I’m sure something happened to her, but not this.” On the other hand I see progressives being a little too happy about the allegations as they roll in. I include myself in this one; I’ve had thoughts like “Ooooh, there’s more women that he assaulted! His confirmation is really in jeopardy now!” This is gross — it’s not okay that I would feel anything approximately glee about women being assaulted, no matter who the alleged assailant is or what is at stake.

It helps me a little bit to imagine how both conservatives and progressives might react differently if Kavanaugh was a liberal judge nominated by a liberal president: Would the GOP be sticking with the tired “boys will be boys” philosophy (or the “women are crazy” philosophy)? Or would they be demanding FBI investigations, bending over backwards to meet accusers’ demands for the terms of hearings, and calling for the nomination to be withdrawn? On the other hand, if Kavanaugh were liberal — if he was a defender of Roe v Wade and access to contraception, if he supported robust gun control, if he was a champion of the environment, if he had a moderate view on executive branch authority — would Democrats be every bit as adamant about the assault investigations? Or would they drag their heels in pursuing justice due to their political alignment with the almost-justice?

Interesting questions, I think. They help me acknowledge my bias (registered — and canvassing — Democrat, full-out Trump hater, and Kavanaugh opposer pre-allegations) and they help me check my motives. They humble me with the truth that neither political party is above reproach (to put it mildly), and that the human condition is universal.

So, let’s lay our political opinions down for a minute — and I know it’s hard; I have very strong ones myself. But we must do it, however imperfectly, in order to soberly reflect on the bigger issue that’s before us as a nation: do we tolerate sexual assault or not? Do we presume women are prone to truth-telling or lying? Do we think men are predisposed to bad behavior or capable of self-control? Do we want to raise our kids with the same gender narratives we were given, or is it time for a new script?

Some thoughts —

People who have never been sexually assaulted should not judge how and when survivors choose to come forward. The only acceptable responses to victims’ stories are “I believe you” and “I am so sorry that happened to you.”

I mean, if women are paid off to make false accusations, like our 19-times-accused President claimed today, then why weren’t there any allegations of sexual assault brought against Obama? Why weren’t there any allegations brought against Neil Gorsuch, I mean wouldn’t it have behooved Democrats to smear Trump’s first SCOTUS pick with a cooked-up sex scandal? Wouldn’t they have wanted to burn Republicans with this tactic at the first opportunity, given that that seat should have gone to Merrick Garland?

IMG_4413Occam’s razor is the philosophical principle that the simplest explanation for a phenomenon is typically the superior one. Maybe the women who accused Trump weren’t involved in elaborate political operatives that won them handsome financial rewards. Maybe the women who accused Kavanaugh aren’t participating in a deep-state smear campaign. Maybe Obama and Gorsuch weren’t accused because they didn’t do anything, and MAYBE TRUMP AND KAVANAUGH SEXUALLY ASSAULTED WOMEN.

Also: Dr. Ford had to move her family out of their home and hire a security detail due to all the death threats, but you know, details.

If Kavanaugh is innocent, why on earth didn’t he himself push for an FBI investigation and multiple witnesses at the hearing? Doesn’t he want his name cleared in the most thorough way possible? Doesn’t he want to avoid being labeled Clarence Thomas 2.0? Doesn’t he want the truth to be deeply known and widely accepted?

I believe in redemptive and restorative justice. I believe that felons should have the right to vote and be able to participate in society after they have served their sentences and been rehabilitated (our criminal justice system doesn’t do this, and is horrible in just about every way possible, but that’s a topic for another day). My point is that I believe in forgiveness and I believe in second chances. However, I also believe in repentance. And confession, and remorse, and painful self-reflection. And I believe there is a huge difference between forgiveness and trust. And I believe there is a huge difference between participation in society, and being one of the nine people who get to make decisions that affect 330 million other people, for decades and decades, until you die.

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It’s difficult to explain how this Kavanaugh saga makes me feel as a woman. But I can tell you that when I hear Lindsey Graham or Orrin Hatch make dismissive comments it makes me furious. I can tell you that when Trump holds a news conference and interrupts female reporters and spews lies and promotes the boys club it makes me want to reach through the TV and strangle him. I can tell you that when I see Facebook comments like “Well, guys do that kind of thing all the time,” I want to scream, “Yes! You’re right! What if we decided that wasn’t okay anymore?!?!” And yet I also want to scream, “No! You’re wrong! My husband has never covered a woman’s mouth to keep her from screaming while he tried to rape her!” I can tell you that I feel exasperated and terrified because sexual violence perpetrated by men is so common it’s ubiquitous, and I also feel defensive of the male species because I don’t buy the old school thinking that men can’t keep their hands to themselves simply as a result of possessing a Y chromosome. I expect a hell of a lot more from men. It’s really easy not to assault someone — you just don’t do it. And despite the memes out there claiming that “no man is safe,” every man who keeps it in his pants because he knows he is not entitled to women’s bodies is absolutely “safe” and always will be.

I can tell you that it is overwhelming to read every #MeToo, and #TimesUp, and #WhyIDidntReport story, both because of the sheer volume of them and because of the sickening specifics. I can tell you that I had the same reoccurring nightmare for three weeks straight after the 2016 election: that Donald Trump the sexual predator broke into my house and attacked me. I can tell you that the ever-growing list of sexual harassers and assaulters around us disturbs me deeply, but not quite as deeply as the anemic response to the list. I can tell you I’m beyond disheartened that sexism is so ingrained and that new paradigms are so hard to learn. I can tell you that I’m anxious about what it is I’m supposed to do as a parent to ensure that my son is not a rapist and that my daughters aren’t raped by someone else’s son. I can tell you that there’s no way to interpret what’s going on — watching a five-times-accused-of-assault judge on the precipice of being confirmed as a justice — as anything other than a declaration that women don’t matter as much as (white) men.

Those are just some thoughts. If you’re thinking I did a crappy job of not being political, that might be true. Maybe you think it was unfair or incomplete or ill-informed. Maybe everything women say is crazy or baseless or insignificant. Unfortunately that’s the narrative that’s being handed to us from on-high.

 

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The Birth of Tabitha Eden: A Collection of Cesarean Poetry (Part VII)

(44) The word “midwife”

means “with woman.”

Since the dawn of time

midwives have been with woman

in birth.

Midwives do this every day, everywhere, and,

increasingly,

in every way.

Sometimes even in surgery.

The hospital where Tabitha was born

boasted on banners:

“Homebirth experience in a hospital environment? We offer it!”

Amazing, I thought, on the one hand.

That is lipstick on a pig, I thought, on the other.

But it meant, among many other positives,

I got to be midwifed through surgery.

I had a woman with me.

Jetta was with me in pre-op.

Jetta was with me in the theatre.

Jetta was with me in recovery.

She was my witness, and it’s rare

these days

to have another woman

simply bear witness,

in a way only women can,

to the power of the birthing woman.

She dignified me.

She celebrated my birth on social media.

Someone commented “oh no” about it being a c-section.

She told them it was beautiful.

Jetta visited me during the postpartum weeks.

According to the state of Arizona it wasn’t care;

I was now an OB patient and only an OB patient.

But she drank tea with me and validated my story.

And that was care in my book.

I texted her lots of questions and

she answered the ones she could.

Jetta affirmed, affirmed, affirmed me

when I couldn’t do it for myself due to

hormones

confusion

grief

fatigue.

She listened when I was making peace and when

I was fighting-tears-mad about my birth.

She was up for it.

She stepped in.

Because “with woman”

means to be with a woman in whatever it is she’s in.

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(45) I can’t be my own nurse.

I can’t be my own doula.

I can’t be my own lactation consultant.

I definitely can’t be my own mother.

Being in “the birth world”

sometimes I fret that I ought to

need less help than other mothers do.

Having my third baby

sometimes it seems like I should

be able to handle it all with ease.

Because “I know,” well,

I should just know

what I need, what my baby needs, what the situation requires.

But I didn’t and I don’t,

and when it’s your name in the “Mother” field on that birth certificate,

there’s not much else you can know or do or be besides be all there

in MOM mode

when you’re in the throes of bringing your very own child

through your body and into the world.

I needed so many helpers before, during, and after Tabitha’s birth

and I just so thankful

I had them.

I couldn’t think through a cesarean birth plan without my doula.

I couldn’t manage that intense post-op transition without my nurses.

I couldn’t navigate my crazy oversupply without my LCs.

I couldn’t begin to keep my family world spinning without my husband and my mom and my tribe.

There’s a lot of talk about how strong mothers are

for doing things on their own.

There’s another kind of strength in asking for help

when birth and postpartum has you maxed out and a little bit nuts.

I wish I had leaned on them all more, really.

When you’re the one gestating, delivering, nursing, healing

that’s plenty of work right there

and you don’t have to do extra

no matter what assortment of stuff

“you know.”


(46) My body did not fail.

It’s easy to think that;

it’s easy to get stuck there.

“My body couldn’t keep my baby head down.”

“My body couldn’t go into labor before she turned.”

“My body couldn’t go into labor period.”

Really it was my baby, and not my body, who

did all the turning

and ensured the divergent path.

But blaming an infant isn’t

exactly productive or

fair either.

My baby turned herself and my plans

upside down.

And my body responded to this event

within its borders

exactly like a guardian and

a nurturer should.

My body shut down the production line.

Red alert, sound the alarms, cease the contractions.

Manual override the castor oil, the sex, the homeopathics, the acupressure, the walking, the evening primrose oil, the basketball.

All of Mama’s tricks.

This baby shall not pass.

It wouldn’t be safe.

My uterus was in the driver’s seat, and she saw

that newborn bum, those newborn toes

tickling the usual way out.

My disapproving uterus put the brakes on.

A wise old soul she is, for she

knew better.

Powerful, my baby maker, for she

halted every move I made.

My body succeeded.

Twice over it menstruated, ovulated, conceived, gestated, contracted, dilated, pushed, birthed, lactated, healed.

This time it menstruated, ovulated, conceived, gestated, contracted — and sensed danger.

It didn’t carry on with business as usual;

it didn’t execute fixed procedures without attention to

the situation unfolding.

My uterus had a deeper wisdom.

She set up a detour around an accident scene;

she called in backup because she couldn’t protect and serve alone.

She didn’t push this baby out, no.

But still I lactated, still I healed, and that’s

because my uterus still birthed.


(47) I don’t know

how long my body

would have held on to that baby

had I not consented, and had access,

to medical intervention.

“Isn’t it wild to think if you lived a really long time ago, you could have died?”

Wild? I don’t know.

Constructive for you to say? Not so much.

Now, call it Ina May’s influence, but

I don’t believe my body is a lemon.

Maybe I need to believe that for peace of mind;

maybe I need the narrative of my body’s ultimate success to feel better about my birth.

So what.

It’s true though

that the success that was my daughter’s earthly arrival

was born of my mind as much as my body.

In college I researched pregnancy and birth like a crazy person; heck I went to conferences.

Professionally, I became a nurse, a doula, a lactation consultant.

With this pregnancy as my others, I sought prenatal care early and often from an excellent midwife.

Then I sought higher-level care when my needs exceeded my midwife’s scope of practice.

And I consented to a major operation when the evidence demonstrated its necessity.

So while I respect and even revere my uterus,

mighty in all of her glory,

it is my brain who got my baby out.

Presented with new and upsetting information rapid-fire,

my mind sorted through it as best it could,

aided by the sage guides I had surrounded myself with.

I made a decision, more painful than any contraction, and

with informed consent,

signed myself up for surgery.

It was my brain that told my legs to walk down that hallway and

commanded my 180 pounds to lie down on that table.

I don’t think my body is a lemon.

But it acted a bit like one, running

into a no labor + breech baby brick wall.

And maybe I would have never gotten my baby out and I would have died pregnant and septic, or my baby born dead from head entrapment, in another time, another place.

My uterus having rightly put the brakes on, and my brain noting the alert but having no recourse.

I don’t want to think about that, and I’m privileged I don’t have to.

My uterus contracted and stopped, contracted and stopped.

My brain took notice.

I made phone calls, I got help, I got an ultrasound, I got an operation.

My mind did that.

And she sure as hell ain’t no lemon.

I am my body, I love my body, I give thanks for my body.

But I am my mind too.

Thank God I am body and mind, soul and spirit.

Getting Tabby out was a group project.


(48) They say birth means nothing.

Others say birth means everything.

The truth is birth means something.

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(49) My midwife friend Mary had had a dream.

She dreamed my baby would come out fast.

My midwife would miss the catch.

And my baby would have black hair.

And be a girl.

She was right about all of that.


(50) It’s been amazing to me

how long the cesarean experience

continues.

I wonder when it will

stop.

Why does the scar look like that?

(One month later)

Why does the scar look like that?

(Three months later)

Why does the scar look like that?

(Five months later)

What does the scar look like that?

How many

transformations

will this fused

stitched

patched

adhered

mended

flesh

undergo?

It’s red it’s white its flat it’s raised.

The proximity from the surgical exit to the intended exit is cruel:

three inches, three lightyears.

I did three sessions of laser therapy

after a few too many moms told me they’re still waiting

to regain sensation

over their cesarean scar

years out.

I remember the surgical patient I cared for years ago

as a very green nurse. She’d had a

cesarean, and her incision opened up

and was rife with infection.

I did her dressing care, I emptied her wound vac, I pretended I didn’t smell

the foul odor emanating from her flesh.

I remember her now, sharing her scar, sometimes

wondering, despite

intellectual knowledge of healing,

if my gut too will burst.

I bought new underwear to accommodate

the scar which shall not be forgotten.

Bikini line underwear hurt

and now itches;

regardless — it doesn’t work.

Granny panties have replaced

all the cute undies I wore before I was cut.

The band’s gotta come all the way up

because the discomfort does.

It’s the whole area south of my belly button.

I was changed from umbilicus to pubic bone.

Parts were on fire, parts were numb (are numb), parts itched (do itch).

Actually the fire came back too, the other night, randomly

before I fell asleep. The left side was red and angry and it

hurt to touch it. There was a lump

under my skin.

I felt lightheaded and

panicky. What does this mean?

Who do you call when you’re five months postpartum and

your scar spontaneously starts

aching?

Months removed from the end of my midwifery care.

Haven’t seen the creator of my scar since the day she operated.

No one in the OB office has seen me since February.

What do you do at 11pm about weird random scar pain?

Those homeless patient feelings come back.

I figured it was nothing and Google and a Facebook group and the passage of time confirmed this.

But I was scared and I am scarred and it seems like the

metamorphoses

of scar, of body, of me

aren’t over yet.

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(51) When I nurse my baby in bed, her toes

tickle and her feet kick

the actual exit she utilized.

It hurts, but

it seems she doesn’t want me to forget

where she came from.

It seems she wants to bless her beginning and

for me to follow suit.

See, Mama, see.

Watch me; I’ll show you.

It seems she has a lot to teach me.


 

The Birth of Tabitha Eden: A Collection of Cesarean Poetry (Part VI)

(37) If you’re a homebirth mom

or a hospital mom

my heart is with you.

If you’re a vaginal birth mom

or a cesarean mom

my heart is with you.

If you’re a vertex mom

or a breech mom

my heart is with you.

If you’re a pregnant mom

or a postpartum mom

my heart is with you.

If you’re a toddler mom

or a preschooler mom

or a three-under-kindergarten mom

my heart is with you.

If you planned your pregnancy

or if you didn’t

my heart is with you.

If you went into labor spontaneously

or you scheduled your delivery

my heart is with you.

If you gave birth without drugs

or if you had anesthesia

my heart is with you.

If you’re the mother of a son

or the mother of a daughter

my heart is with you.

If you loved your birth

or you hated your birth

(or it just depends on the day)

my heart is with you.

If giving birth tore you apart

vaginally or abdominally,

my heart is with you.

If you’ve ever bled a baby into a toilet

my heart is with you.

If you’ve ever laid awake at night

and cried about how hard this is

and how you worry you’re failing

and how the baby will never sleep

and how the kids will never eat green things

and how no one ever says thank you

and how the person you were is lost

my heart is with you.

If you’re a mom…

my heart is with you.

IMG_8953


(38) “I know this isn’t what you wanted.”

Several kind people at Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center

said these seven words to me during

my forty-eight hour admission.

They didn’t say “at least you have a healthy baby,”

or “why didn’t you try a version,”

and no one shamed or scolded me

for planning a homebirth.

One postpartum nurse referred to “homebirth failures,”

and then quickly amended her statement,

“because all we see here are the failures,”

before finishing her sentence.

And while “failure” wasn’t the best word choice,

I appreciated that she understood that most

out-of-hospital labors turn into out-of-hospital births.

Another nurse asked me cheerfully if I was encapsulating my placenta.

But the common trope were the words I most needed to hear:

“I know this isn’t what you wanted.”

They got it.

That was huge.

An overdue thank you card sits on my counter.

I finally figured out what to say.


(39) The discharge was speedy

and that was amazing.

I was out of the hospital

forty hours after surgery.

I was welcome to stay longer but

I’d had enough.

Enough overnight vitals,

enough strangers

enough trying to remember what time, how long, which side

my baby nursed.

I told my final nurse I wanted to go home

at 0700 when her shift began.

And I was wheeled out at 1100.

I’d completed my required laps around the postpartum floor.

Peed.

Farted.

Pooped.

(Such a glamorous to-do list.)

My nurse gave me 800mg of ibuprofen for the road

and I filled scripts for that and Percocet too.

My nurse removed my IV access

and then Tabitha’s security tag,

like a sales associate removes that plastic thing

that alarms if you try to steal a blouse.

She handed me Tabitha’s “crib card”

and her hospital wristband

like these were beloved objects

I’d want to treasure forever.

I took them and slipped them into

the folder with the birth certificate papers.

I knew I should want them

but I didn’t.

I saw them as souvenirs from a trip

I never wanted to take.

I didn’t want my baby to have a stupid crib card —

I wanted her to have delayed cord clamping.

I didn’t want my baby to have a dumb hospital band —

I wanted her to have bacteria from the birth canal.

I wanted a homebirth.

And I got a hospital birth.

BUT IT WAS STILL MY BABY’S BIRTH.

So I took the souvenirs.

And hoped in time I’d be glad

to possess them.

Annie came to postpartum to say goodbye to me,

and find out if we’d had a boy or girl,

and coo over precious Tabitha.

(Give that woman a raise.)

A lovely tech wheeled me to the pharmacy

and then out the front door to our car.

She made my day when she told me that

my baby was the talk of the staff

during report that morning.

“You have to see the baby in 342!”

“She’s soooooo cute!”

Oh how I beamed!

My baby was the cutest baby.

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(40) We did not take that picture.

The parents-holding-the-carseat-in-front-of-their-house

picture.

“Bringing home baby” was not something

I wanted to remember.

It just reminded me we had left home.

Clutching my steri-stripped belly

I hobbled inside

to an incredibly trying postpartum period.

I found every trip to the bathroom

disorienting.

I had this peri bottle,

and I used it like I should,

but it didn’t really matter.

Nothing hurt down there.

I had a baby.

But my vagina didn’t know it.

It felt like a ruse.

Like my vagina got punked.

I still bled

for six or seven weeks

(rude).

But not that much.

Drips

drips

drips

on to a pantyliner.

It was vacuumed out of my uterus

in the operating room.


(41) I quickly learned my post-op rules.

Never cough!

Never laugh!

Leave the abdominal binder on

ALL THE TIME.

Stand up slowly

— and hold your belly while you do it.

Sit down slowly

— and hold your belly while you do it.

When your core is compromised,

every change of position hurts.

Take pain medicine around the clock.

Don’t tangle with incision pain —

you’ll lose.

Deal with all the edema.

So much water!

Trapped

in your ankles and boobs.

Get the baby’s tongue and lip ties revised

on day three of life

because you have the great fortune

of lactation consultant friends

who open their office just for you

on Saturday

of a holiday weekend.

Go a little off the rails

emotionally

and take to Facebook

and say you’re surely dealing with mastitis and an incision infection and thrush and a tongue-tied baby

(when only the latter proves to be true),

and get a lot of love back from the village

who is gentle with you as you’re

fueled by hormones.

Cut your newborn’s finger open by mistake

in an attempt to trim her nails.

Cry every time you look at the bloodied finger

and think about how you cut her.

Clutch your patched-up belly and cry in the shower

and think about how they cut you.

Do an hour of “Boob Hygiene” —

massage,

compress,

express

pump

pray

every night around 1AM

to guard against exploding,

to turn down the pressure cooker,

and to sleep without rocks

crushing your chest.

By day,

add cabbage leaves,

ice,

castor oil packs,

peppermint,

nursing siblings,

to the “don’t let the boobies win” regimen.

Eventually

drink sage tea every four hours for two days

(sometimes prescribed to dry up milk completely)

and claim victory

over the oversupply insanity.

Go to your two-week incision check.

Finally,

you’re allowed to drive.

Be relieved and confused when they say,

“Your incision looks beautiful.”

Notice the “Trust Birth” emblem

on the nurse-midwife’s back

as she exits the exam room.

Think to yourself

“Uh huh.”

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(42) Luck.

It’s a part of birth.

Sometimes you luck out.

Sometimes you don’t.

There are pitfalls, I think

in believing it’s all luck

(and therefore totally out of your control)

and of believing there’s zero luck involved

(and therefore totally controllable).

Regarding the former, let me tell you:

there are lots of things you can do

to get the birth you want.

Hire a doula,

take an independent childbirth class,

read the research,

follow best practices,

interview providers.

You do get a say in how this thing goes.

As to the latter, I’d like to say:

those things I just mentioned?

They aren’t failsafes.

You might just draw the breech card.

Or the placenta previa card.

Or the baby-just-won’t-come-out card.

You can prepare for a birth.

You cannot script a birth.

I was lucky a few times over.

Both Gabriel and Phoebe

were presenting posterior during labor

(sunny side up).

But I had skilled & patient providers,

and an accommodating pelvis,

and (eventually) cooperative babies.

and both of those posterior babies turned anterior

and were born vaginally, at home, as I intended.

I had an extra measure of good fortune with Gabe.

I was exhausted and vomiting repeatedly.

I needed hydration to replenish my energy.

And I happened to have a midwife on my birth team

who had the supplies and expertise to administer IV fluids

in my living room.

Worked like a charm.

So I avoided the transfer to the hospital

for maternal exhaustion,

with a posterior baby,

and long-ruptured waters

as a first-time mom.

Tweak those circumstances

just a little,

and Gabe easily could have been born by scalpel.

This would have hugely colored my subsequent births.

I would have been tagged

CESAREAN

from the get-go

and had to traverse the difficulties

pregnant moms with scars

must put up with.

Luck.

I was lucky to have two posterior babies turn anterior.

I was lucky to get IV fluids at home.

I was lucky to have three babies take pacifiers no problem.

I’ve been immensely lucky in five years of parenting to never have a kid throw up.

I wasn’t lucky to have babies (or toddlers) that sleep through the night.

I wasn’t lucky to have kids that fall asleep in the car.

(They NEVER EVER EVER fall asleep in the car!)

I wasn’t lucky to avoid morning sickness or heartburn or tongue ties or perineal tears.

I wasn’t lucky to avoid my 41 weeks baby flipping breech for no apparent reason.

You win some.

You lose some.

When things go great,

it may be because of your great efforts.

But it’s partly because the divine smiled on you.

It’s a blessing.

It’s a gift.

It’s a joy.

And if things didn’t go great?

It’s probably not because you didn’t work hard.

And I’m learning neither is it because

you weren’t graced from above.

I think you were.

I think I was.

You didn’t have the luck.

But the blessings?

The gifts?

The joys?

You still get them.

They look different.

They’re tied up with pain.

And that pain matters.

And the WHY may never come.

But underneath, in time, if we have eyes to see,

I think there’s treasures of a different kind

awaiting us.


(43) I had a baby at 8:40AM over my toilet.

My breakfast time baby.

I had a baby at 12:20PM in my shower.

My lunch time baby.

I had a baby at 7:25PM on an operating table.

My dinner time baby.

And then my uterus said goodnight!

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The Birth of Tabitha Eden: A Collection of Cesarean Poetry (Part V)

(30) Annie was off work before my c-section officially began

but she colored it in a powerful way.

She was one of my L&D nurses in pre-op.

I’d found out that if my baby was over 4000g

(Eight pounds thirteen ounces),

she would receive a minimum of four glucose checks

(heel sticks),

and more if her numbers were low.

It was hospital policy

(the ultimate conversation stopper).

I feared nursery observation and formula pushing ahead.

Mama Bear was on high alert.

I knew my almost 42-weeker would be over 8lb 13oz.

I grow chunky babies.

But I’d passed my glucose tolerance test with flying colors at 105;

I didn’t have anything close to gestational diabetes.

Plus I could easily express colostrum.

Even if my big girl was slow to nurse

my baby would not go hungry.

And I’d previously had a 9lb baby at 41 weeks with no glucose issues.

I wanted my baby to be left alone if she was healthy

like she would have been at home.

I explained all this to Annie.

Said I wanted to buck the hospital policy and

offered to do a modified version of the protocol.

I asked her for her help.

She talked to the nurse manager.

She talked to the pediatric nurse practitioner.

Apparently he asked her if he should come talk to me.

Annie told him no and that I was “pretty reasonable.”

I am so glad I was spared a lecture from the PNP.

I had to sign a form saying my child could die or have brain damage

(so that was cute),

and another nurse urged me to consent to protocol if my baby was symptomatic

(obviously!),

but my request was granted.

My 9lbs 3oz baby did not have routine sticks.

And Annie gave me a great gift before clocking out that night:

“You can refuse anything you want,” she said.

“You’re the mom.”

Maybe she thought I was nuts, maybe she didn’t agree —

it matters not.

Annie was a patient advocate, which, I believe, is

a nurse’s most important role.

She crowned me with great authority.

She recognized my inherent jurisdiction.

She submitted to me when I had to submit to everyone.

She called me by my title.

She reminded me I still had some control.


(31) I had a night nurse who was okay.

She was fine, polite.

Just not warm and fuzzy.

Her name was something like Emma.

She crisply told us about the no cosleeping policy

at 10PM when we rolled into postpartum.

But I appreciated it so much

that Emma simply charted my total noncompliance,

like a good nurse should,

instead of lecturing me about my choices.

Thank you, Emma.

Because there was no way

I was going to relinquish my child.

Not even to the plastic box crib thingy next to my bed.

My prefrontal cortex knew she would be safe.

But the reptilian brain stores trauma

and causes you to act in ways you can’t explain.

Back in nursing school

I was invited to observe a newborn circumcision.

The baby was strapped down.

The resident cut too deep.

Hemorrhage.

Panic.

The attending rushed in

to stitch up the maimed penis.

The baby wailed —

there had been no anesthetic.

I slid down the back wall of the room,

put my head between my legs,

and tried not to pass out.

The baby’s parents weren’t there.

So, Emma, I want to be a good patient

(for the most part).

But this baby will not be leaving my arms because

my brainstem just can’t tolerate it.

You put her in the plastic box at 3am —

you think I’m asleep and don’t know.

But Mama knows all.

And my husband retrieves her for me

as soon as you leave.

I sure can’t get out of bed myself.


(32) I didn’t tell anyone that night.

We shared the baby news, but not the baby girl news.

It’s become a family tradition to reveal the sex of each new addition

in person to Grandma and siblings.

So the day after Tabitha was born my mom brought

Gabriel and Phoebe up to my postpartum room.

We had dressed Tabitha in a girly onesie and swaddled her

with one of those ubiquitous hospital receiving blankets.

The kids rushed in and cooed over the newborn

sleeping between my legs on the bed.

Grandma was struggling not to erupt from all the anticipation

as we explained to our five-year-old and three-year-old

the fun game we were about to play.

“We’re going to unwrap the baby and you guys tell us if it’s a boy or a girl!”

I soon revealed a navy sleeper with pink polka dots which

caused Grandma to squeal with delight but

did not solve the mystery for the little ones.

I told Grandma to hush with my eyes

while Daddy rolled the iPhone video.

“Well let’s peek inside her diaper!” I suggested

as I unsnapped the sleeper and opened the Pampers.

Inquisitive little faces peered down to see.

“It’s a vagina!” Phoebe proclaimed with glee.

“It’s a vagina,” Gabe said, and then,

“Are you sure it’s a vagina?” and then, rechecking,

“Oh yeah, that’s a vagina.”

My boy looked slightly bummed but also content. He knew

that sisters are pretty great.

“Baby Cookie is a girl! Her name is Tabitha Eden Kim!”

We celebrated the joy that is a little girl and

I dressed my baby again, soon to be

passed from adoring arms to adoring arms.

My children held their tiny sibling

and kissed her tiny hands and face.

We explained it’s not awesome to cover up her nose and mouth

when you’re enjoying her, and that her squawks mean

she needs Mama’s nee-nees.

Grandma got her fill too, of course, and many

texts and pictures were sent out to all of

Tabitha’s tribe not present.

The next weeks and months would be hard for my kids,

particularly Weebers, as I could not pick her up

for a solid eight weeks.

She cried and did not appreciate being

defrocked

as the littlest one.

But Tabitha’s spell would get to her eventually, as time

wore on, and Mommy’s strength returned, and Gabe the ringleader liked the baby, and the strange alien creature

started laughing at Phoebe’s jokes.

The kids were fascinated by my incision.

“Show me your ouchie,” they’d say to me.

“Is that where Tabitha came out of your belly?”

I’d nod in response to this frequent question.

“We came out of your vagina, Mommy,” Gabe would say.

“But Baby Cookie was stuck! She had to come out of that cut in your belly.”

IMG_8989


(33) “At least you have a healthy baby.”

“That’s all that matters!”

“Be thankful everything went well.”

Some people said those things.

I wondered if they thought I needed

to be told.

I wondered if they thought I was ungrateful

for the gift.

Did they think I didn’t know

the value of a healthy child?

Did they think gratitude could be separable

from meeting your long-awaited babe?

I’ve seen a baby die in childbirth.

I’ve watched my friend mourn the loss of her son.

I’ve helped NICU mothers pump milk

that would never nourish their damaged children.

You don’t need to tell me to be grateful.

This isn’t a black and white phenomenon.

It’s not grateful or grieving.

It’s grateful and grieving.

I wanted something deeply.

You didn’t have to want it for me.

But I did want it, and I didn’t get it, and that hurts.

It’s okay to want things.

It’s okay for women to want things.

Be content, be accommodating, be sweet,

says the patriarchy.

Accept your lot and move along.

Just be a good mother.

But I am not a demure status quo keeper.

I am a rabble-rouser.

I’ve got desires

pain

gratitude

love

grief

anger

joy

fear

passion

and it can all be held at once.

I don’t know another way.

You wouldn’t tell a bride

whose big day went wrong

that she ought to be thankful she’s got a husband.

You’d cry with her over the botched cake

or the ripped dress

or the thunderstorm.

My birth came with a thunderstorm.

It yielded my beautiful healthy baby.

She and I traversed the storm

and we are stronger for it.

But it was still scary and sad and hard as hell.

And I get to say so.


(34) “You didn’t try an external version?”

“You didn’t see a chiropractor?”

“You didn’t consider a vaginal breech birth?”

Other people said these things.

I broke the natural childbirth gospel.

I believed I could —

but I didn’t.

We don’t say it out loud,

us birth-obsessed folks.

But there’s an unspoken belief

that if you do the right things,

all the right things,

you will get the birth you planned.

Implication?

If you got sectioned,

you screwed up.

You didn’t want it enough.

You didn’t try hard enough.

It must have been avoidable

(because otherwise it could happen to me).

Well,

it could happen to you.

(PS I went to the chiropractor often.)

Your armchair analysis of my choices is painful.

I did the best I could, and I shouldn’t

even have to say that.

I am not my birth’s lawyer

and I’m not interested in being put on the stand

to answer a prosecutor’s questions.

You weren’t there.

I hope you never have to be.

IMG_8964


(35) Walking soon after surgery

is crucial for post-op healing.

Ambulation:

you gotta do it.

Every nurse knows that.

But when you’re the the patient

and you had your gut

sliced open

twelve hours prior,

it feels like the dumbest thing you could possibly do.

The tech dragged me out

of my warm bed

at 0700 to do a lap.

Doctor’s Orders.

She pushed my IV pole and

stayed close to my side

in case I collapsed on the floor.

I sweated profusely

as I made my way around the unit.

Halfway through

I thought I was going to pass out

and requested a wheelchair to rest in.

My freshly sewn incision would

surely burst open

with all this evidence-based exertion.

The tech made a flippant comment

about how a c-section

was her worst nightmare.

I craned my neck to look at her,

incredulous.

I wanted to say to her,

do you not know

that I just had one of those

last night?

And while I’m dragging

ay maimed body around,

and feeling faint,

and so very sweaty,

it does not help me

to hear

that to be in my shoes is your worst nightmare.

We made it back to my room,

back to the refuge of my bed.

And I told the tech,

take those horrible socks off me

and rid me of these blankets,

because I’ve never felt so on fire in my life.


(36) It’s bizarre

defying categorization.

Who am I?

A homebirth mom?

A c-section mom?

What the heck happens

when you take an

organic-food-preferin’

placenta-encapsulatin’

Ina-May-idolizin’

birth-kit-and-pool-buyin’

routine-procedures-refusin’

maybe-some-controls-issues-havin’

HOMEBIRTH MAMA

and put her in the big bad hospital?

And paralyze her?

And cut her open with a knife?

Who is she after that?

I asked my midwife lots of questions.

I asked my previous midwives

lots of questions too.

I needed help from my birth tribe to wade through it all.

I focused on my indication for surgery:

BREECH PRESENTATION.

And I second-guessed

and third-guessed

and fourth-guessed

could, should, would

I have done anything differently?

I collected my circle of midwives’ feedback

like jewels in my cesarean crown.

Jetta said my birth was beautiful & amazing.

She said I was a picture of grace & bravery.

She said my birth changed her and she’ll never forget it.

She was my witness.

Jetta was there on my couch, on the other end of the phone call, and only a text away

when I needed to tell another part of the story

and ask another question

and cry about my final reproductive act taking place in that freezing operating room.

Nicole told me my birth had touched her deeply

and she sent me the most gorgeous artwork

honoring the surgical birth journey.

She pointed out to me that you cannot

do a Pitocin induction with a breech baby.

Vaginal breech birth must

begin with spontaneous labor, and proceed

smoothly, the experts say,

if it’s going to be safe and successful.

So if baby declares,

“I’m not coming out on my own,”

and thwarts labor repeatedly,

that baby might have a deeper wisdom.

She might know she needs help,

and she should be listened to.

Nicole’s words helped me feel my surgery was needed.

Mary and Allison shared breech stories.

They validated how few providers are skilled in vaginal breech.

They validated how hard of a decision it would be,

as a mom, to choose a delivery plan

when breeches sometimes slip out like butter,

and Frank breeches are safest of the variations,

and considering I’d birthed two chubby babies before,

and cesareans are no small thing,

but also when breech-savvy doctors are a rare breed,

and my babies have big heads,

and my labors tend to be long and atypical,

and some risks aren’t worth taking.

They spoke of harrowing surprise breeches

at home,

that were truly traumatizing.

911 emergency.

Used every maneuver in the book to get baby OUT.

Big episiotomies on mom.

Lots of resuscitation.

They said they would never

attend a known breech

at home.

And these are homebirth midwives.

They value homebirth.

But ultimately they value evidence-based care,

healthy babies,

healthy mamas,

and thriving families.

So I collected these jewels of wisdom, carefully

constructing my cesarean

crown of glory

with bits of reason, bits of understanding, bits of acceptance.

I integrated my birth experience.

Slowly, thoughtfully, as I could.

Sort of because I had to,

(can’t undo it, no backsies)

but also because I deserved to

learn from it,

find the beauty in it,

harvest its fruits,

and eat them with others.

Homebirth moms who have cesareans

undergo metamorphosis.

They remain the same creature, but they

emerge from their chrysalis

with wings,

now equipped to see the world

from a higher vantage point.

IMG_9576

The Birth of Tabitha Eden: A Collection of Cesarean Poetry (Part IV)

(23) I learned that sometimes labor happens after birth.

It comes in big emotional spasms

that crash in waves to rival back labor.

Contractions of the heart hurt too.

All the ruminating.

Why was she vertex for forty-one weeks

and breech for the last few (crucial) days?

Why?

I asked my OB to look inside my uterus for clues.

She found none.

“I don’t know,” she told me.

“I don’t know why she flipped breech.”

(I don’t know why you had to have surgery.)

Her cord, her placenta, her body:

all medically unremarkable.

But for some reason she needed to come through the window

instead of through the door.

Not knowing is one of the hardest parts.


(24) When was my placenta born?

Did they even write that down?

(Note to self: request records.)

I signed the form in pre-op

to save my placenta from pathology,

to take it home with me.

Jetta carried it from the OR in sterile Tupperware

back to my recovery room where

I beheld my organ that nourished my child.

We took pictures of the tree of life.

My IV machine beeped as Pitocin infused.

Tabitha latched to my breast at 8:32PM.

I ran my fingers over my placenta,

exploring its bloody beauty.

Who does that in c-section recovery?

Homebirth cesarean mothers do.

IMG_1959


(25) It’s a weird term.

Homebirth cesarean.

It sounds like you were cut open at home.

It sounds like a term that’s bad politically.

Midwives are doing c-sections in people’s living rooms?!

No, of course not.

But homebirth moms sometimes transfer

and then have c-sections.

It’s not a homebirth turned cesarean.

It’s a homebirth cesarean.

The Before is just as much a part of it as is the During.

And the After.

Oh Lord, the After.

You’re a homebirth mom.

You want all the crunchy care.

But your OB doesn’t know about that.

You’re a cesarean mom.

You have an incision.

But your midwife doesn’t know about that.

Who has the information you need?

Who will bridge this gap?

How do you parse together your care

when you’re caught between two words

that don’t fully understand the other —

or the mom in the middle?

I wanted my wonderful midwife to know

all the things about post-op wound healing.

I wanted my compassionate surgeon to know

about scar massage and Mayan abdominal therapy.

I felt a little homeless in those tender postpartum weeks.

My narrative didn’t fit either system.

There’s still a long way to go

in bringing together the allopathic and the alternative

for the mothers who need or want both.

And there’s moms like me who’ve learned

the secrets.

Who,

like the path etched over their bikini line,

can provide a way of journeying,

can offer up a way of connecting

two opposing modalities.

Flesh sliced open

can be fused again.

What is broken in our system

can be steri-stripped back together.

Listen to the women

who know

why we need obstetrics and midwifery both.


(26) Many people assumed an emergency

when I told them I had a c-section.

But nothing says non-emergent

like having your surgery time

pushed back four times over.

A nurse called me at home at 0630

saying don’t come in til 1130

’cause your section’s now at 2.

It was a smidge within that 8-hour window

(the one during which you’re supposed to go hungry)

But figured, close enough, and had a small breakfast.

I finished packing,

took my kids to the playground,

waited for time to pass.

Got to the hospital admission desk at 1130,

signed the papers,

handed over the credit card.

I refused the wheelchair

and raised some eyebrows.

My belly was huge and I was tired

but I could still walk.

They were just being polite, of course.

But so much was out of my control,

so much that I wanted was lost,

so I was going to walk.

Because I could.

My doula met us in the hospital foyer.

She had come from her doctor

who’d just told her she was positive for influenza,

so she wasn’t going to be able to attend my birth.

I was taken aback

and also a bit amused

because it feels like I’m always being asked

to be flexible about my births.

Dianne told me Jetta would act as my doula

in her place.

This made me happy.

Dianne and I exchanged tear-stained smiles and a long hug

and I said goodbye to her.

In triage that same nurse tech was working and again she

told me to put on a gown.

I said “For surgery? Okay.”

This time we both smiled.

L&D was having a crazy day.

All the charge nurses had their own patients.

(That means the staff is really slammed.)

And I was the easy scheduled section patient

so I had a revolving door of nurses.

I don’t recall most of their names,

but I remember they all apologized

that my surgery kept getting bumped,

because people were dropping babies all over the place,

and I was twiddling my thumbs and starving.

I didn’t mind all that much.

I know what it’s like to be a nurse.

(Plus I ate half a banana when no one was looking.)

Jetta arrived in the afternoon

which put me more at ease.

My mom brought Gabe and Phoebe up to visit.

Jetta got the kids cake pops from Starbucks.

We enjoyed a bit of normalcy.

My OR time went from 10 to 2 to 5 to 7.

Finally finally finally

it was time for nausea meds and meet the doc and don your cap

…and follow me down this hallway.

IMG_8944


(27) There’s a gospel in the natural birth world.

Avoid the primary cesarean.

That’s it.

Do what you’ve gotta do.

Epidural.

(If you must.)

Pitocin.

(If it comes to that.)

Break the water.

(If you’ve gotta.)

But don’t get cut.

One way or another:

PUSH YOUR BABY OUT

through your hoohah.

Cause if you don’t:

no skin to skin.

No delayed cord clamping.

No vaginal flora for baby.

No experience of crowning.

No easy breastfeeding.

No “I am woman hear me roar.”

Black and white, all bad, no good.

And worst of all:

primary c-sections lead to repeat c-sections.

(And if you have a repeat c-section —

instead of the almighty VBAC —

then you’re really a failure).

Primary c-sections are statistics.

The centerpiece of a horrible maternity system.

They are the women who didn’t know enough.

Who didn’t do their research.

Who hired the wrong doctor.

Who picked the wrong hospital.

Who didn’t do Spinning Babies.

Who gave in to induction.

Who got an epidural at 4cm.

Who didn’t have a doula.

Who didn’t know how to stick it to the man.

Who did what doctors “let them.”

C-section women are the weak, the ignorant, the misinformed, the unprepared, the sheep.

All of this flashed in my mind

when they put the consent form in front of me.

There was a blank line

on which someone had written in all caps:

PRIMARY CESAREAN SECTION.

And they handed me a pen

and meant for me to sign it quickly.

Like a receipt.

It was the same way with the CPR consent.

Sign here so we can save you

if you try to bleed out,

or stroke out,

or otherwise flirt with death.

Go ahead, sign it.

It was come to Jesus time.

Practice what you preach.

“Not all births can or should happen at home.”

“That’s what keeps homebirth safe.”

“We’re lucky to have interventions when they’re needed.”

I knew a lot about birth.

I’d done it twice before.

The right way, I’d decreed.

But when I consented to a primary cesarean,

that thing that was beneath me,

that thing that would never happen to me,

was about to happen to me.

And I realized I knew nothing at all.


(28) I had no labor.

No labor!

The thing I most dreaded

I most missed.

What do you mean

you’re just going to cut this baby

out of me?

Labor is the in-between,

the connection

bridging

pregnancy and birth.

How can you take out the

middle

of the equation

and get the math to come out right?

How can we know

this is the right day if

the baby didn’t choose it?

Labor sucks

but it’s holy.

I spent weeks

preparing

meditating

bracing myself

for the pain

only a uterus can create.

It’s otherworldly,

overwhelming,

something you bow to.

It comes when it’s ready,

not when you are.

I didn’t want to do it

until

they said I couldn’t.


(29) I stumbled upon a website recently.

“All birth stories welcome!”

Except scheduled cesareans.

(It really said that.)

Those don’t count.

That’s what I used to think too.

It was the first thing I cried about.

My baby won’t have a birth story!

But these words say differently.

IMG_9073


 

The Birth of Tabitha Eden: A Collection of Cesarean Poetry (Part III)

(14) Simon kissed his daughter and ran his fingers over her.

He helped position Tabby over my breast and

kissed me and said he was so proud of me.

He told me I was brave.

I knew he was scared.

He remembered that night

five years prior

when I’d called him from the hospital

hysterically.

She had died.

My doula client died.

Her baby died too.

Simon knew all too well

as I did

that sometimes  birth means death.

So my sweetheart

sat right by my head the entire time.

He brushed the hair out of my face and gave me kisses.

He never moved, didn’t watch the delivery, didn’t cut the cord.

I wanted him to be involved with the birth.

But I knew and understood his motivations.

His only focus

was unwavering support of me and keeping me close

while I was vulnerable and

precariously delivered of my child.

And I loved him for it.

I so wanted to appear fearless

on the table but the truth is

courage is fear walking.

Going forward still being scared.

And I was scared. And my partner

in everything was scared with me.

But the with me

was bigger than the scared.

IMG_9282


(15) I told two people “no” while I was on the table.

A nurse asked me if she could “get baby cleaned up.”

I had meconium all over my left breast and collarbone.

“No, you may not,” I smiled.

After quite some time I willingly surrendered my baby to be examined.

9lbs, 3oz, 20 1/2 inches long, ten fingers, ten toes.

Daddy did the transporting from table to warmer and back.

My husband asked if he could hold on to her for a bit.

“No,” I smiled at him too.

This child was held by my insides for nine months and now my outsides had dibs.

It means so much to me that I told two people

NO

in that operating theatre.

It means more that they both respected my no.

I had so little control, so little autonomy, so little ability.

I was paralyzed

but my voice was not.

I made my refusals, and people listened to me.

They gave me power.

They told me I’d never relinquished all of it.

“You want vitamin K but not eye ointment, right?” a nurse asked me.

“Correct, thank you for checking with me.”

They had my baby for mere minutes.

The staff and Simon hurried her back to me.

More skin to skin.

More snuggling.

More latching attempts.

And since Simon had declined,

I cut (well, trimmed) my baby’s cord.

They offered that job to me,

the Mama Bear,

The Most Important Person In That Room.

They put scissors in my hand

all gimped up by my ear

and positioned the cord in the blades’ gap.

I couldn’t see what I was doing but

they told me when to cut.

They’d made their cut

and then I made mine.

There you go, Tabby girl.

I have delivered you

from the final hold

of my sacred womb.


(16) She said no too.

My daughter.

She said no to the path I had chosen for her.

Even before birth,

mother/daughter drama

already in play.

She had plans of her own.

And as a mother

it broke me.

It hurt.

It literally scarred me for life.

When I wished for an intact perineum,

abdominal surgery was not what I had in mind, child!

But as a daughter?

I love her for it.

Blaze that trail.

Raise your voice.

Break the mold.

You do you,

my sweet baby girl.

IMG_9057


(17) Jim kept me feeling safe the whole time.

My OB and the nurses were a million miles away on

the other side of the drape.

But Jim was in my world.

He was there with me and Simon and Jetta.

He checked in with me often,

answered all my questions instantly.

He told me my actual vital signs not

“Your blood pressure is good”

(pet peeve).

Asked me sweetly to straighten my arm that was clutching Tabitha.

Just for a minute.

Just so he could get an accurate BP reading.

Of course I will do that, Jim.

Thank you for keeping me alive.

Thank you for protecting me fiercely.

I loved Jim.

He made something so scary much more bearable.

I lucked out in my body’s physical reaction to anesthesia.

No shaking, not a hint of nausea.

Those arm boards?

Never needed them.

My arms held my baby instead of restraints holding my arms.

I had my faculties about me the whole time.

The worst nuisance I had to put up with during the surgery was the stupid nasal cannula.

Holy oxygen pressure, Batman.

But thank you for keeping me alive.


(18) “Whoa is that your uterus?”

Simon was peaking over the blue sheet.

“I’m sure it is. Is it sitting on my abdomen?”

He told me my uterus looked like a raw chicken.

Jetta told me Dr. Lesmes was stitching it up.

“Take a picture of it,” I said.

I didn’t want a picture really.

I just didn’t want to be the only person in the OR who hadn’t seen it.

My baby maker.

Jetta lifted her phone to capture the image.

“Oops, she just put it back inside.”

That was that.

No viewing for the owner.

I was angry everyone saw it.

I was angry Simon didn’t tell me sooner.

I was angry Jetta didn’t get a picture.

Mostly I was angry the uterus-handler wasn’t telling me

what she was doing to me.

The OB, the perky blonde surgeon, Dr. Lesmes,

was perfectly competent but altogether a stranger.

I don’t remember when she left the OR.

She never came to see me

in recovery or

on postpartum or

anywhere ever.

She didn’t do my incision check or my six-week follow up.

I saw her colleagues.

I called the OB practice

to listen to the welcome recording,

to find out what her first name was.

I’ll never see her again but I see

the mark she made every day.

It will be there forever, up to and

after death.

The mark of Heather, handler of my uterus, stitcher of my womb.


(19) Tabitha bobbed around on my breasts

like a baby should during that first hour.

She didn’t latch in the OR but she was finding her way.

She cried a lot.

I wasn’t allowed to cry.

Not scream and holler, not like that.

Big girls don’t do that.

Grown women keep it together.

They know that sometimes things don’t go as planned.

They understand that sometimes people need surgery.

They cry softly when they meet their baby but after that

they’re just happy.

“All that matters is a healthy baby.”

But baby girls can cry as loud as they want.

They can express all the fear and disruption and grief they feel.

So Tabitha cried for both of us.

My baby and my conduit.

She was finding her way.

I was finding my way too.

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(20) It was a surgery on my identity

more than a surgery on my person.

My preconceived notions were opened up

more than my abdominal cavity.

How do you own something

which you both love and hate?

My baby’s birth, sacred of sacred, blessed event.

A surgery that frightened me, split me, took from me.

And what about the people who

want me to pick a camp?

“Cesarean birth is birth.”

“C-sections are not birth.”

Yes.

I’m sorry if you don’t like that.

It’s how it feels in my heart.

It was my baby’s birth

and profoundly reverent.

It also was a surgery

that felt nothing like a birth,

not the only way I’d known it.

I loved the birth.

I hated the surgery.

For days then weeks then months

I grappled with love laced with hate, hate imbued with love.

It changed me and it’s changing me

still.

Now I see your birth gone sideways differently.

I see your dream derailed,

your hopes dashed,

your painful but necessary Plan B or C

in any realm of life,

with deeper empathy.

I see those in-between hurts, those gray zone experiences

that don’t come with cultural permission to mourn,

because there’s a happy mixed in

that’s supposed to color everything yellow.

I see the things you both love and hate,

and the way no one gets it,

and I feel you.

Because when my uterus was cut my heart was enlarged.

When my obstetric team took a baby out they also dumped something in.

Compassion.

The sweetest gift was placed on my bare chest.

But they stitched me up with a gift inside too.

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(21) There’s a lie in the birth world

that says the truly badass moms

birth their babies in the water,

birth their babies standing up,

birth their babies in the caul.

They do it at home or in a birth center.

They labor for days if that’s what it takes,

push for hours if necessary,

and definitely don’t accept pain medication.

They have midwives not doctors.

They don’t cave to interventions.

They trust birth!

(And that’s supposed to be enough.)

These moms drink placenta smoothies,

cough out ten-pound babies,

keep their perineums intact,

and their babies spontaneously crawl to the breast and latch.

These moms get breech babies out vaginally.

Do these things, they say, and you’re in the club.

You’re one badass mama.

You’ll get social media accolades.

You’ll be told how strong and powerful you are.

I’ve done some of those things before and I did get a lot of praise.

It does feel good.

I was strong, I was fierce, I was powerful.

But it wasn’t because they said so.

Real badassery is self-declared.

I’m not a badass because you think I am.

I’m a badass because I think I am.

And sometimes badass moms accept help.

They might need to lay down their dreams.

They might need to opt for something

they dreaded,

in order to save something they love.

Sometimes they need anesthesia.

Sometimes they need obstetricians.

Sometimes they need cesareans.

You know, I was the kid picked last in gym.

I didn’t have muscles or coordination or speed.

I was a cheerleader on account of being able to scream loud.

Women who desire natural births are often scorned

as desiring a medal or trophy.

Well I did want that.

I wanted to prove to myself and others

that I could do something powerful.

That my body could pull off something great

to rival all the sports, all the things.

I wanted to be able.

I wanted to sweat and endure,

and emerge victorious.

I did it with Gabriel.

(28 hours of back labor, 2 1/2 hours of pushing, 3rd degree tear, homebirth)

I did it with Phoebe.

(18 hours of back labor, 10 minutes of pushing out a compound presentation, 2nd degree tear, homebirth)

And the thing is —

I did it with Tabitha too.

Denied labor, denied pushing, denied homebirth.

Anesthetized, surgerized.

Cut open while awake.

Sometimes I’ve felt like a victim,

but really I’m a victor.

And definitely one badass mama.


(22) They wheeled me out of the OR.

Bupivicaine made sure of that.

I traveled to recovery with Tabitha on my chest.

My still-functioning arms held my now-swaddled baby.

My consciousness existed apart from my body

which slushed around on the bed like a popsicle melting in July.

Later my body would find me

as would all sorts of pain.

They wheeled me out.

But I had walked in.

The Birth of Tabitha Eden: A Collection of Cesarean Poetry (Part II)

(7) I knew right away.

Jetta was taking too long to palpate my belly.

It was 12-26-17.

I was having a prenatal appointment.

Suddenly my attention left the toast I was eating

and lept to my baby, my belly, my plan.

My always perfectly LOA baby

(Left occipit anterior)

was upside down.

Christmas was over.

Jetta met my eyes.

She knew I knew.

She doppled, she fetoscoped, she prayed.

Jetta talked with us about what might be happening.

The unspoken now had words.

I cried the whole time.

“I’m mad at Baby Cookie!”

Why was this child doing this to me?

Jetta called the hospital.

Simon and I made the journey.

The tech in triage told me to put a patient gown on.

I said no thank you.

She was wide-eyed at my refusal

which made me grin a little.

The sonographer finally arrived.

He did not speak during the scan.

Simon was positive.

“I have a feeling baby is still head down.”

I just played over and over in my head

His mercies are new every morning, His love endures forever.

At long last the biophysical profile was over.

“Baby is breech.”

The OB had just entered my triage room

ten seconds before those words.

He was kind but blunt.

I wasn’t surprised.

It actually made a lot of sense.

The start and stop labor.

The “something isn’t right” feelings.

I wasn’t surprised she was breech.

But I was shell-shocked to find myself in the situation

of scheduling my baby’s birthday.

Because I knew what the doctor’s next words would be

before he spoke them.

Each one echoed in my brain:

“I recommend a cesarean section.”

Tomorrow, 12-27-17, 10AM.

At Chipotle I wept into my burrito bowl.

Simon told me I was batting .660.

“Two vaginal births, one c-section! Not bad!”

I thought he was adorable and unhelpful.

That night I did a symbolic forward-leaning inversion.

(Kneel on the bed, put your hands on the floor, three breaths nearly upside down.)

I didn’t think I could turn her.

I wished I had more time.

My ultrasound showed a Frank breech presentation —

booty first, legs straight up,

but I knew my child was quite the wiggler

and didn’t care much for staying put.

Little parts, once thought to be hands, pushed down on my crotch.

Baby Cookie tap-danced on my cervix

a few times that final pregnant evening.

She knocked on the door with her toes,

toes that would never come through that exit.

At 2AM my alarm went off:

Time to eat.

Last chance before surgery.

I ate a protein bar and a bowl of soup

and never went back to sleep.

Baby Cookie banged her head

(what I now knew was her head)

against the top of my belly.

“Let me out, let me out, let me out!”

She danced upon my cervix.

I read cesarean and transfer birth stories

and cried quietly til sunrise.

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(8) They cut me.

I don’t know when it happened.

No one told me.

I’d asked for my OB to narrate the surgery.

But I should have been more specific, I suppose

if I’d wanted to hear

“I’m cutting through your fascia.”

“I just cauterized a capillary.”

“I displaced your bladder.”

“I’m suctioning amniotic fluid.”

But from my vantage point I went numb,

my husband and midwife came to my side,

my OB said a quick hello, and then:

“Your water just broke!”

Wait what?

No bloody show, no labor, no pushing.

I was caught off guard

just as much as my uninitiated flesh.

Just as much as my cozy breech baby.

I didn’t realize I’d even been cut.


(9) A second later: “I see a butt!”

I’m so glad they warned me about what was coming next.

“You’re going to feel a lot of pressure.”

And then a kangaroo was pulled out of me.

Swift kicks and punches to every corner of my torso.

Then a baby’s cry.

It wasn’t a rapid marsupial.

“Greet your baby with love.”

I remembered my friend Samanda’s words to me.

Right, right! This is your BABY!

It was so weird.

It was just a Wednesday.

I wasn’t in labor.

There was no in-between time to bridge pregnancy and birth.

There was just a baby, my baby, all of a sudden.

I couldn’t see anything except blue.

That blue drape was right in front of my face and

it extended upward for miles.

I looked up into the operating theater lights.

Could I see my baby’s reflection there

like they said I could?

No, no I could not.

I saw only beetle eyes,

every fluorescent facet reflecting bits of color

but no image of my child

who was held by strangers

on another world

across the blue abyss.


(10) “Halley, you’re bleeding too much. I have to cut the cord.”

“What? No!” I was panicky.

Didn’t they know delayed cord clamping is not associated with maternal hemorrhage?

Doesn’t anyone read research around here?

“But it’s a separate circulatory system!” I blurted out.

The OB didn’t respond to my babble.

She was toweling off my wet new infant on my abdomen.

Apparently while my uterus was gushing blood.

It couldn’t have been more than ten seconds between birth and cord clamp.

My OB had a bleed to attend to and her job

was to keep me safe.

She effectively ignored my commentary, although,

I found out later she made eye contact with my midwife.

Jetta told me she hesitated.

She gave the situation a quick second assessment.

She wanted to give me the two minutes of delayed cord clamping

I’d requested in pre-op.

I wanted two minutes instead of her standard one.

Listen, I’m used to twenty minutes, lady — just give me 120 seconds.

She’d shrugged in pre-op and said “Sure! I love rubbing down babies!”

She wanted to honor my request.

But her job was to keep me alive.

And I realized later — her read of the situation

had nothing to do with thinking my baby’s pulsing cord

was the cause of my bleeding.

She was simply in the way.

My baby was in the way.

The staff needed her gone to deal with the hemorrhage.

And there wasn’t a protocol

for doing it

differently.

I found out in recovery that my estimated blood loss was only 600mL.

Annoying — that’s common for birth and tiny for a c-section.

But the gush must have been scary for my surgical team.

And if it’s looking scary you don’t wait on it.

Your job is to keep people alive

and get in there and do what you must —

even if your paralyzed patient yells at you.

Her blood, her blood

I bemoaned later. She needed

all of her blood.

But she was perfect, is perfect.

And I was okay. And I hear that

red blood cells do grow.


(11) My water broke,

a butt was spotted,

the kangaroo tug,

my baby’s cry.

It was 7:25PM.

Ten seconds later she was shoved beneath the blue

margin of the sterile field.

Tangled in drape, arrived but concealed

until nurses unwrapped my Christmas present

at last.

Magic: there was my baby.

Blood and fluid and already-chunky baby limbs; pink and wailing.

Slicked with vernix at birth, I’m told.

It was wiped off beyond the blue.

I did greet her with love.

Forget the crucial cocktail of labor hormones.

Despite interventions with all their pockmarks,

said to inhibit the bonding experience,

I had no problem breaking into sobs

and clutching my baby to my chest with both arms.

I am not a monkey.

I didn’t need a perfect labor and birth to know

this was my child.

It went from weird and just a Wednesday

to raw and intensely emotional

in a single glimpse.

My eyes beheld my child; my hands knew her skin.

Presto-chango: love.

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(12) The OB was a perky blonde

who thought it was so exciting we didn’t know baby’s sex.

“Oh I love surprises! I’ll try my best not to say anything,” she replied in pre-op,

after hearing I wanted to be the one to announce boy or girl.

On the one hand I thought this was cute.

On the other I thought hahaha I WILL CUT YOU if you screw this up.

But she didn’t.

No one announced my baby’s sex; bless them.

I clutched my baby with my blood pressure cuff arm

and pealed her legs apart with my IV site arm.

A puffy perfect vulva.

“It’s a girl!”

I cried and cried.

I cried more.

“It’s Tabitha!”

I knew who she was while she grew inside and now

I beheld her.

Things got hazy for a while.

I wasn’t in the middle of my own operation.

I wasn’t under anesthesia.

I didn’t have my abdominal cavity opened up.

I was just snuggling with my baby.

Nothing about the day

and nothing about the surgery

felt like a birth.

Until then.

The bonding was the same.

After nine slow months a baby came out of me.

And when we united on the outside,

the destination felt more important than the journey.

I wouldn’t feel that way continually.

I did and do mourn

the derailment of the birth

I desired. But that first hour

was beautiful still.

I was in a strange place, a strange situation.

But I had the familiar and intoxicating joy

of fresh baby in my arms.

They gave me that, which was to

give me everything.

And for a while the lights went down on the rest of the theatre.

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(13) Granted my cesarean was gentle.

I was treated with respect.

I’ve read and heard and wept over other stories

That were violent, harrowing, traumatizing.

The first hour existed outside of their consciousness.

Their anesthesia failed and they felt extreme pain.

Their babies were sent to the NICU.

Their babies did not live.

Instead of being treated as goddesses they were treated as

less

than

human.

I was spared from all of that.

So for all the tears I split over things lost:

No homebirth, no vaginal flora, no delayed cord clamping, no lowered drape,

doctor never saw me afterwards, insensitive comment from tech, hella long recovery…

There were so many things that went right.

Jetta took beautiful birth pictures, my OB and my anesthesiologist and my nurses listened to me — I was seen and heard, I had my husband and midwife with me in surgery, no one tied my arms down, my placenta was saved and I got to see and touch and encapsulate it, I walked into that operating room, the staff were empathetic about my homebirth plans, my midwife celebrated my surgical birth, all my newborn care wishes were honored, I got stitches and not staples, I announced my baby’s sex, I was discharged speedily, I had no problems initiating breastfeeding,

and save a few minutes in the nursery for labs,

(with Daddy accompanying)

I had my baby in my sights

and usually in my arms

from uterine exit to hospital exit.

Everyone acknowledged that she was mine,

all mine,

and understood there would be no admittance to the club

without going through the bouncer.

That’s a huge deal and, grievously,

not the common refrain.

I am thankful, so thankful that

I got this cesarean story.

I want norms to change and standards to shift and for

every mother with an abdominal scar to not

have as a matter of course

scars on her heart.