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When Given the Chance

4 years ago I laid on the operating table, helpless, terrified, trying to stay conscious after close to 30 hours of unmedicated labor and a baby who’s heart rate had dropped dramatically. I was told if they didn’t get him out immediately, he would suffer from brain damage or death.

Cade’s emergency C-section, June 25, 2013.

 

 

I held my husbands hand, unable to keep my eyes open, but desperate for my baby to get here safely. Cade was pulled out and I saw him for seconds before we would be reunited again in the recovery room, what seemed like hours later. I waited in there, alone, alongside my placenta on the table next to me, asking where everyone was, trying to understand how my natural birth hopes had gone so far from just that. Thankfully, he was a healthy, strong boy. I KNEW that a healthy baby was the ultimate goal, the only one that mattered. But I also knew I never wanted to experience birth again because it was the most traumatic event of my life when I had prayed for it be one of the best moments of my life…that was all I had prepared for, all I had been told it would be. The guilt I felt over this was immense.

The reality I had “planned” for, my entrance to motherhood was rocked and was something that would take an incredibly long time to recover from, in so many ways. Breastfeeding was difficult, my anxiety was at an unrecognizable high that I thought just accompanied being a mom. My baby cried constantly, I cried constantly, our new reality felt like an uphill battle every single day. I compensated…pressed on trying desperately to reclaim this process, but it took a lot of work both internally and through my career, patience and processing over the YEARS to find physical and mental healing. But even still, the thought of having another child and surviving the pregnancy, the birth and the early stages of newborn demands was something I didn’t think our family could endure again. I didn’t trust myself to even consider it.

Until we decided bravely, that taking the risk was worth the chance. Our family wasn’t complete, and we knew it in our hearts.  I knew this was my ultimate test of practicing brave.

I mentally prepared- prayed, asked for support and wrote to process. I protected the early months of pregnancy by staying private, until we announced to our very surprised peers that we would be having a baby boy in August. I documented the physical changes and how I was choosing to positively embrace my changing body.  I documented the workouts, the appointments with my team, emotions, concerns and the process of “controlling the things I can.” The more vulnerable I was, the more supported I felt. This made practicing brave a hell of a lot easier, knowing I was hiding nothing and people knew exactly how powerful this chapter was.

In “controlling the things I can,” I made sure I had a new OB, one who I had sought out prior to pregnancy, because she, along side her team of women OB’s, are changing the game for women’s health in my community. They advocate for the woman’s long term health, not just getting the baby out. I wanted to be with them. I resented how I felt after Cade was born…alone with no postpartum guidance, care or advocacy.

I told Doctor Leena Nathan my concerns, how I had always thought I would want a VBAC, yet the deeper I got involved in my career, the more people I met outside the birth community who understood the implications of birth for MY BODY, MY INDIVIDUAL CONSIDERATIONS, MY MENTAL HEALTH, the more I knew that a repeat Cesarean would be the best option for ME.  I wrote a bit more about that choice here.

In short, what was best for my body and mind was limiting the trauma to the same area (incision), vs introducing a new area of trauma (pelvic floor). It was also more of a controlled, predictable procedure, and FOR ME…this was the healthiest option to proceed. I was a higher risk for VBAC and felt more confident eliminating as much anxiety as possible.  I needed to step away from what was thought of as “preferred or best” and trust what was going to be preferred or best for my body, which had endured SO much in labor, delivery, recovery, rehab, fitness, mentally, emotionally and in womanhood.

With that, I read through the research, on all things “gentle Cesarean.” I wanted to present this request as professionally and as respectfully as possible, as this was not part of hospital protocol, in fact, it had not been done before by my Doctor or by Los Robles Hospital. I knew if this was something I wanted, I would need to be prepared to answer questions and concerns with evidence, not with dogma. Doctor Nathan was excited, open minded, incredibly supportive and wanted to make it happen to the best of her ability. She put me in contact with Alma, who is the head of labor and delivery and the hospital. Alma became my angel and advocate. 

I had the opportunity to meet with her to discuss my vision, with the utmost understanding that NOTHING in birth is guaranteed. I told her I desired a clear drape, that I wanted it pulled down so that I could fully see him be pulled out and brought directly to my chest for immediate skin to skin, delayed cord clamping and the opportunity to breastfeed in the Operating Room, again, if the delivery allowed for these as safe options. I wanted as close to a “natural” birth experience as possible, because my first was so far from being what I had hoped. I just wanted another chance at the experience of bringing a child into this world. I wanted another opportunity to experience the first moments of motherhood.

This picture breaks my heart. That was me trying to see my baby, in and out of consciousness. I had just been through hell and all I wanted was my baby.

Alma then asked me to tell her about my first experience with Cade, 4 years ago at that same hospital. She wanted to better understand my story, the story that had inevitably changed the trajectory of my personal and professional calling. She had tears in her eyes, and talking through it again brought up a lot of raw feelings. We both knew how important this birth was, and she was determined to advocate for me. Hospitals need to be both baby friendly AND mom friendly- this was a way to connect those dots. She gave me the confidence and assurance I had been looking for. I left that day feeling heard, respected and supported.

I have given all of myself to advocating for women all over the world, and I finally had a team ready to advocate for me. I had a chance and that chance was hope for full circle healing in way I had not yet been able to cultivate.

I went in for a scheduled Cesarean at 5:30 AM and was in the OR by 7:30 AM. My big baby boy was brought into this world at 8:06 AM on August 5th, 2017.

Now let me describe the experience, because this is what has connected the dots in so many ways for me and hopefully, for more women in my community and in more hospitals around the world.

Doctor Nathan text messaged me the night before, assuring me that the team she had assembled for this delivery was on the same page and ready to make it happen. I was scared, but I was in good hands.  I met with her and Doctor Ferro and they were optimistic and focused. My anesthesiologist was supportive of our plan, and spoken like a true pro, said, “but if shit hits the fan, I’m gonna save you and your baby.”  Amen.

I was introduced to the nurse who would be with me. Her name was Peggy, and I believe that the Universe, God and some incredible Doctors made sure she would be with me that day. She herself has had 7 babies and she took one look at me and said, “oh we have a big baby in there. Let’s do this.”

She nurtured me with attention, care and when it was time for my spinal, she brought my head and shoulders into her chest and talked calmly to me, as tears of anxiety ran down my face. She  held me in a way that expressed affection I did not know I needed.

It felt so powerful to have 2 incredibly intelligent women, who are also hardworking mothers, bringing my baby into this world. This was women supporting women in a whole new way and I’m honored to have experienced their efforts.

My mom and Jared appeared in the OR, as music played in the background. The clear drape was raised, the environment was positive and it was go time. I held Jared’s hand, knowing this time, he wasn’t afraid his wife would die on the table. We were ready, knowing this baby was truly fearfully and wonderfully made.

Doctor Nathan and Doctor Ferro talked me through the entire procedure, checking in with me, step by step. I was anxiously calm…it was that contradictory of a moment, knowing my baby would be here very soon. Doctor Nathan exclaimed, “drop the drape, baby is coming out, sit her up more.” Chance was brought directly to my chest, where his warm, sticky body collapsed into my chest and neck. I knew it was the moment I had always wanted, yet, it was surreal.

A surreal, life changing moment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I couldn’t process it fast enough, but I knew it was one of the most significant moments of my motherhood experience.

They checked his APGAR while he was on me, giving me time to feel his breath, feel his body. I was in the zone, taking in the fact that this all had actually just happened and that both me and him were healthy. Doctor Nathan assured me that everything looked amazing, that he was huge (9bs 14 oz!!), and so was my placenta and umbilical cord, haha! Nurse Peggy came from behind me and grabbed my breast, and assisted Chance’s head toward it so we could establish a latch and breastfeed right there on the operating table. He latched, which felt like a miracle since my breastfeeding experience with Cade was very, very difficult, especially for the first few months. I couldn’t believe this baby latched on with no problems. I am so thankful she helped establish that relationship right then and there.

Jared got to hold him and cut his cord.  He was wiped down a bit, but the vernix and remnants of his home was left on his skin. You may think it’s gross, but to me, it was beautiful. Jared watched my stomach get sewn back together, and assured me it looked beautiful.

I got to recover and get transferred to my new room with Chance with me.  I was so relieved to experience my baby.

Cade and Chance

Shortly after, the grandparents got to meet him, my sister and the most special guest, his big brother, Cade.  It was a moment I’ll never forget. A mother’s love truly knows how to expand, especially when you see your babies united. Erasing that anxiety felt so affirming.

I struggled immensely, for a variety of reasons after Cade’s birth…exhaustion, trauma, anxiety, depression, guilt, tremendous, continual effort to counter all of that…

With this? I feel lifted. I have no *current* signs of anxiety or postpartum depression, but I know this can always change, so it’s being monitored. I can’t help but feel that this experience…the skin to skin, the nursing, the advocacy and support has made a HUGE difference in this transition. The mental preparation and acquired experience as a mom has also made a major difference this time around.

 Instead of feeling set back in the early stags of motherhood, I feel set up to conquer things as they come. That confidence as a mother feels so foreign, but I’m embracing it bravely because my boys deserve that, and I deserve that belief. 

I had an incredible team who listened to me, and guided every step to make this happen. My husband is an amazing teammate and unconditionally supportive.  But before them…I had to fully examine my own heart, mind, body. I made choices that weren’t always popular or understood. I confided in people who could see me through this decision, pregnancy, delivery and now postpartum chapter. It is my hope that more women are empowered to make choices that are best for THEM, without dogma, guilt and fear guiding this process.

This will not be easy, but it will be different, and I trust that I have acquired everything I need to be a good enough mom, who evolves with transparency, vulnerability and bravery.

When I first saw this picture, tears came to my eyes…I never thought I’d have this. I never thought I would be able to smile in the same environment that had traumatized me. This was the moment I felt healing and strength.

I feel that much of my healing has finally come full circle, and I’m honored to be a strong woman, raising two boys to become men of integrity.

Thank you, for following my journey on social media and in real life. Thank you for helping me practice brave.

I felt all the support and love and it’s made all the difference!

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 thoughts on “When Given the Chance”

  1. Wow Bri you are an amazing women! I am so proud and honored to have watched you go through this process and now be a part of your team. As I wipe the tears from my cheeks I think of all the women who will benefit from your sharing. Thank you for practicing brave.

  2. Leigh Ann Plassmeyer

    Bri, this brought tears to my eyes! I’m so happy you had an positive birth with Chance! Congratulations, you have a beautiful family!

  3. Desiree Toppingsd

    Reading your story brought a sense of relief in knowing giving birth doesn’t always goes as planned or as we hope for. Thank you for sharing your story and giving us mamas an insight to what you went through, your struggles, the beauty of birth and everything in between. As a mom of two, my first time giving birth was scary and tramatic. God then blessed us with a second pregnancy and this time around we ran into little complications and our healthy baby girl was born August 5th at 836 am. During the course of pregnancy all we hope for is a healthy baby and for the birthing process to be beautiful. Life isnt perfect but through our experiences we grow an understanding of life and the beauty that lies within the shadows. Thank you again for sharing your story.

  4. Beautiful, Beautiful story!!! I got chills durring different points and could feel like I was part taking in your story! Im glad everything worked out!!! :*

  5. Now I understand why I felt the same way you did after having my son 31 years ago. I couldn’t explain it. I got to see him for a few seconds before being whisked off with his dad. Thank you for such a beautiful experience. I cried. Such an amazing story. Thank you Brianna.

  6. This literally has me in tears. So much of this hits home for me! My first daughter was born in an emergency csection four years ago and I was unfortunately put to sleep for it due to complications. I felt heart broken and cheated out of my first moments with her. I suffered horrible postpartum depression. With my second daughter I knew I needed it to be different like yours! Hearing my second daughters first cry made my heart whole again, finally getting the first moments. Thank you for sharing your story!
    Kayla 🌸

  7. I’ve only recently (after discovering I am pregnant with my third) begun to follow you. Yet, your story is beautiful and had me in tears (hormones, maybe? 🙂 ). Thank you for sharing. I am so glad you were able to find support and healing.

  8. Such a beautiful story! I had my baby boy 5 months ago after a 3 day induction which ended in an emergency C section. Reading your story has helped healed me. I know that for my future delivery I will probably be getting a repeat C section- that feels right for me. You are helping so many women by telling your story. Thank you for being brave and vulnerable with us.

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