By Katie Rössler
With my first pregnancy, I only read articles online or chapters of books that I thought really mattered to my pregnancy and the view of how my birth would go … that means I read nothing about C-sections, health issues for the mom during or after pregnancy, and challenges with recovery. I believed that because I was having a boring pregnancy (no major issues, gaining a healthy amount of weight, etc), the birth process would be simple and boring too. Little did I know.
Cue a major event that led to me having an emergency C-section because of HELLP Syndrome. Let me set the stage here: I called the doctor because of upper back pain and was asked to come into the hospital since it was a Sunday. We arrived at the hospital and they admitted me to do some tests. My blood pressure was triple digits both on top and bottom. I had developed HELLP Syndrome within 72 hours of my last doctor’s appointment and 5 days before my due date. The emergency C-section meant that I was completely under anaesthesia, prepped that I may have to have a blood transfusion because it was highly likely that I would not be able to clot due to my blood platelet count being so low, and that my husband had to wait in the nursery to meet our daughter. (I met her about an hour later when I woke up.) Why didn’t my happy, boring pregnancy and birth articles warn me about this? Well, maybe because I was in denial that I wouldn’t have a natural birth. I had preconceived notions of what type of women had C-sections and on July 6, 2014 I broke that mold completely.
It took a year for me to say “I gave birth to my daughter.” It didn’t seem right. “I was cut open and she was taken out; that’s not ‘giving birth.’” I regularly told myself this message, and I believed it. I also believed that my body had failed me. It took one session of EMDR therapy with a counseling friend to completely change how I viewed my firstborn’s birth experience and to proudly say I gave birth. It was completely transformational. I realized that my body had not failed me and had given me clear warning signs that I listened to so that I could be here to raise my daughter.
Fast forward almost a year and a half later and I was attempting a VBAC with my second daughter. For 33 hours, I labored and finally had my youngest … again I didn’t read up on any negatives because I thought I knew them all after my first experience. I had an episiotomy and they had to use a vacuum extractor. Thank goodness for epidurals! I wasn’t prepared for the recovery that was ahead. It was during the recovery period that I realized even more that I gave birth to BOTH of my daughters. Both experiences were challenging, both experiences led to long recovery periods, and both resulted in healthy babies and me here to be their mom.
At the end of the day, which one of these births was truly “giving birth”? You already know the answer. I had carried both of my daughters inside of me and then they came out. I gave birth to two babies in different ways. As mothers … as women, we so often put ourselves and our situations in a box. We believe that A+B=C and nothing else can make that equation work. Well, as someone who loved math growing up I am here to say that A+(G-D) can equal C too. I suffered for a year after my first born thinking that I had not given birth, that I was less of a woman.
We struggle enough during recovery to be telling ourselves lies. If you find yourself in the same boat feeling like you didn’t “give birth” because of your birth experience, take a moment and write out what truly made your experience not giving birth. I have a feeling you will see that it’s because you thought A+B=C. Expand your view to be honest and real. Women give birth all around the world every day in different ways, and it is all giving birth and it is all beautiful. You are beautiful and so is your body! Mom hug!
Katie Rössler is a licensed professional counselor from the United States. She started Positive Connections in Munich providing workshops and private sessions on relationship building skills. She is the creator of the From Stay at Home Mom to Chief Household Officer program. Katie enjoys running, hiking, and doing yoga. Her go-to comfort food is sushi and when she needs to escape from her kids she jumps in the shower! Laugh with her by following her CHO journey on Instagram: @FromSAHMtoCHO