my birth story, pt. ii : rites of passage
the first few weeks postpartum, bright white walls and bright white lights stained my memory. it’s what i saw every time i closed my eyes. the memory was vivid yet moments were blurry. it felt like a nightmare in the moment and after the moment passed. they wheeled me in. by myself. transferred me to another bed. began to administer medication.
“do you feel that?”
“what about that?”
i felt like i was in a twilight zone. was this really happening to me? within seconds, i had fallen completely numb. i asked for my husband and my mother. they said they’d bring them in soon. it was all i wanted.
they were all i wanted. and my baby, of course. and if this was what i had to do to get my baby, it was what had to be done. that’s what i kept telling myself. that’s what got me through this moment.
my fear filled up the room. it suffocated me. there were moments when i wanted to pause the chaos around me to just breathe.
so many questions clouded my mind: how could my body let me down like this? how could i let myself down like this? what if i didn’t make it off the table alive to meet my baby? this little love who we waited 240 days for. this sweet baby who had already changed the trajectory of our lives before she was even earthside.
it may sound dramatic questioning if i would make it out alive. throughout my pregnancy and even before, i made myself aware of the statistics. i made myself aware that the black maternal mortality rate was 56.3%. i made myself aware of black mothers who had to have a c-section. who made it off the table alive but didn’t make it pass the first day or first week postpartum. black mothers who knew their bodies. who knew something didn’t feel right. who spoke up. who were ignored. who died.
and i didn’t want to die.
the anesthesiologist asked me if i had a playlist that i wanted to play. i did. i carefully crafted it the day before going into labor. adding songs that ranged from “you’re all i need to get by” to “shea butter baby.” songs that i knew would soothe and uplift my spirit in the delivery room.
i told him no.
music wasn’t going to soothe or uplift me in this moment. not getting prepared for a c-section and feeling like i could do this on my own would. but, that was no longer my reality.
i labored for twenty hours. pushed for four. with every push, they could feel her descend. the moment i stopped pushing, she’d wiggle herself back up. no progress. by the final hour, my epidural started to wear off. i could feel the contractions full force but i was determined to birth my baby vaginally. i was determined to push, with all the might i had within me, despite being told that it wasn’t happening.
i was determined and then i was defeated. and it was, by far, the greatest defeat.
throughout my pregnancy, folks would ask me if i had a birth plan. my default answer was: no. i didn’t want to make any plans because i had no idea how this was going to turn out. i didn’t want to go in, holding on to an outcome or an expectation and things turn out a different way.
little did i know, i did have a birth plan:
possibly an epidural but not before seven centimeters. but, then again, maybe not. being present. breathing. pushing my beloved child out of my body. my husband standing next to me, announcing the gender. my baby being placed on my chest. engaging in skin to skin. the golden hour. my family rejoicing around me. everyone overcome with a lifetime of emotion.
there was a plan. and that’s where the disappointment settled. because so many things now felt unattainable. there wouldn’t be immediate skin to skin. no. i’d have to be stitched up first. and little did i know i wouldn’t even be able to pick up my baby for the first two weeks postpartum. someone would have to pick her up and hand her to me. i wouldn’t be able to change her diaper for the first two weeks postpartum. thank god for my husband.
and i wondered, would not having the initial skin to skin cause a disconnection between my baby and i? despite being together for the last nine months. despite being the only home that she knew for the last nine months.
that was most important to me. the one thing i looked forward to. the one thing i imagined my entire pregnancy. i couldn’t help but to believe that i planted this seed of fear of having a c-section and allowed it to grow. did i not manifest a vaginal delivery enough? was i not in tune with my body enough? had i not convinced my body that we could do this? that a vaginal delivery was possible? i believed i was so connected with my body throughout the pregnancy. was i actually more disconnected than i believed to be?
because there i was. both of my arms spread out on either side of me. oxygen flowing through my nose. the bottom half of my body being prepared to be cut open to bring my baby into this world.
my mom and husband finally made it into the delivery room. my husband sat by my side. rubbing my forehead. giving me all the love he could give as i wallowed in fear. a slight smile painted on his face: our baby was going to be here soon.
the doctor told me that they were going to get started. i remember taking deep breaths. she told me i’d feel a tug. i felt a tug. i felt them pull my body open to retrieve my baby. i breathed through it.
i don’t know what gave my husband the urge to stand up and look over the drape but he did. he turned around. one hand covering his mouth. a look of terror spread across his face. he broke down.
i turned away.
there was nothing that i could do for him in that moment. as much as i wanted to hold him and for him to hold me, i couldn’t comfort him. i couldn’t tell him everything was going to be okay because i didn’t even know if things were going to be okay. i had to get myself through it.
thank god for my mom being in the room. she carried us.
i could feel them tugging at my body a little harder. my baby, i’m assuming, was stuck in my birth canal. maybe she was coming. maybe she needed time. but, time was behind us.
my husband stood up again as they prepared to lift our sweet love from my body. they knew we didn’t know the gender so they didn’t announce it. they let my husband do the honors.
he cried deep when he saw her.
“it’s a girl,” he wailed.
although completely numb, i felt a feeling of emptiness that i had never experienced before. i knew when they took her out of me before they said it; before my husband announced her. i knew when she wasn’t a part of me in that way anymore.
through the exhaustion, the deepest happiness swept over me. this sweet baby, who had been with me for nine months, was a precious little girl. i hadn’t even seen her yet but i knew she was absolutely beautiful. i could feel it.
8:31pm. our little love was lifted from my body.
i didn’t lay my eyes on nyla for eleven minutes; the longest eleven minutes of my life. when my husband finally brought her over to me, i was so in awe of this little human we created. i was so in awe that we created her. that my body carried her. i wanted so badly to hold her and to have her close to me. i was terrified that she wouldn’t love me or know me since we missed out on seeing each other. on feeling each other for eleven minutes.
it was 45 minutes before we engaged in skin to skin. anxiety was still flowing heavy through my body as i shook uncontrollably. but, the moment they placed nyla on my chest, the moment she latched onto my breast, i stopped shaking. i just stared at her as she suckled. the shock that she was in my arms hadn’t settled and three months later, it has yet to.
she was here. and everything up to that point seemed worth it.
i believe that everything happens for a reason. now that i look back and nyla is here and she’s healthy. i swear, if i had to, i’d do it all over again for her and i don’t say that lightly. it was one of the most traumatic experiences i have ever experienced. but, to get her. to get such a miracle. such a beautiful creation; created by me and my husband. if that’s what i had to do to have her here. i’d do it all over again. and again. and again. and again.
*i do not own the rights to the music in the above recording. the song is introspection, laraaji.