I had to stop referring to my pregnancy as an accident. The word, I’m told, is unplanned. That’s correct. I was not planning on having a child during a global pandemic.
But in November 2020, I learned I was expecting.
By Spring, I was six months pregnant and weighing the logistics of getting this child from the inside of my body out into the world. A Verzuz battle would introduce me to the song that would serve as a mantra for the journey: Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Got to Get You Into My Life.”
With my plans to have an unmedicated homebirth, I figured I’d need the inspiration.
For years, this country has been having the conversation about the Black maternal mortality rate and the way Black women are disregarded by medical professionals. I didn’t want that for myself.
Plus at the beginning of the pandemic, COVID protocols dictated only one person could be in the room with a birthing person.
I’d always envisioned my husband, sister, and parents in the room to welcome our child.
In order to have the birth I wanted, I needed to do this at home.
I listened to homebirth stories, studied hypnobirthing, and ordered a birthing pool.
But I would never use it.
During my third trimester, my blood pressure was elevated. And the week of my due date, the numbers were concerning.
Two days after my son’s projected due date, I met with my midwife. By this time, my sister had moved in with me, and my parents had flown in to be here for the birth.
During this last examination, my blood pressure was dangerously high. And after months of planning, my midwife looked me in my eye and told me it was no longer safe to deliver at home. I could easily have a stroke. I would need to go to the hospital to be induced.
I heard her words, nodded my head. But I wasn’t fully processing. It was too fast. All the agency I wanted for this birth was slipping away. And I knew that once I got to the hospital, things would be out of my control.
I mourned the loss of my birth plan, tears and all. Still, the mantra was “Got to Get You Into My Life” and I was not ready to lose mine in the process.
So we went to the hospital.
Thankfully, COVID protocols had been amended. I was able to take my husband, my sister/doula into the room and one other person. So my mom and dad took turns coming in and out. I had my support system.
That was the only thing that aligned with the birthing journey I envisioned.
Everything I wanted to avoid, happened.
I assumed these options would be forced on me, they were not. I thought I would feel like my voice had been snatched. It wasn’t. Thankfully, my story does not mirror those of so many other Black women in my position.
From the moment I arrived at the hospital, the nurse monitoring my blood pressure told me to advocate for myself. And I did, in ways that I could not have foreseen.
The interventions started with an attempt to open my cervix. I tried to peer over my belly and in between my legs to watch the doctors insert two deflated balloon-like objects into my womb and then filled them with saline. The pressure of the balls caused me to dilate to six centimeters after I passed them vaginally the next morning.
At six centimeters, the nurses wheeled in the scale and the container they place newborns in. I assumed that the time was nigh.
I was having contractions. There was even a green tinged fluid leaking from my body. But when the doctors came by to check my cervix, they realized there had been no change.
I had been in the hospital for twenty four hours at that point. I was hungry, tired and ready to meet my baby.
The doctor looked down at me, poetically curled in the fetal position, and saw me. “You’ve been through a lot,” she said.
I looked back up at her and pleaded desperately, “I need this to happen tonight.”
I don’t know how she was able to say this but she locked eyes with me and said, “It will. I promise.”
And that’s when the option of pitocin was presented.
I wasn’t a fan of pitocin but I got the sense that I needed to push this along. So when the doctors offered it, I said yes.
As the labor progressed, the doctors noticed that my baby was in distress. With each contraction his heart rate dropped.
They stopped the pitocin.
With a solemn look and wringing hands, the head physician suggested what I knew was coming.
The doctors insisted it was my choice. I didn’t have to have the surgery. I could keep laboring but they didn’t advise it.
If someone had asked me if I would ever opt for a c-section, I would have told them hell nah.
But until it happened to me, I could have never imagined that my womb would no longer be a safe place for my child.
Looking back on the whole thing, I’m glad I had enough sense to put my own desires aside to act in the best interest of my baby.
And it was in his best interest. In the moments after he was pulled from my belly, the doctors in the room seemed a bit concerned. The energy was still light. But there was something amiss.
In the womb, my son passed meconium–the first bowel movement– and was ingesting it. A lot of it. It was on his skin, in his hair, and most detrimentally in his lungs.
It was the reason the fluid leaking from my body was green. My baby was literally in a shitty situation.
And it was my choice to have the c-section that got him out of it.
In the days, weeks, and months since my son’s birth I’ve thought often about the vaginal birth I didn’t have. I wonder if I could have done it. I wonder if the bond with my son would be stronger if I’d delivered him vaginally. All of these thoughts are ultimately pointless. Our bond is strong and beautiful. I’ve been carrying some piece of him in my body since before I was born.
I know that having a c-section doesn’t make me any less of a woman or a mother. A mother, as I’m learning, is the person who protects and prioritizes the health and safety of her child. With that in mind, I will forever be proud of my choices–birth plan be damned.
The ultimate goal, the most supreme aspect of any and every birth plan, was exactly what the song said, get that baby into my life. And I did that.