V for Vaginal, Not Victory

If you've listened to the podcast or attended a class you know BIRTHFIT recommends everyone write their birth story. Initially, when I was asked about my daughter's birth I would simply say "she's healthy and that's all that matters." I lied. I hid my birth story. I hid because it was more comfortable. I hid because I couldn't let it go, I couldn't accept the feelings I felt or the thoughts that overwhelmed my mind. I hid because I couldn't be honest with myself. I hid because it was more comfortable.  

From the outside looking in I had an amazing birth; I was in active labor for less than seven hours, I pushed less than ten minutes and my beautiful daughter was healthy. Physically, it was great. Emotionally, I was left in shambles.


I had my birth plan that was based on knowledge and what I wanted for myself and my family. I was hopeful and determined to follow it and if changes needed to be made I wanted those changes to be made based on knowledge. I was your typical first-mom. I was having contractions that weren't too bad but they were five minutes apart and I was so excited to head to the hospital that we did. When we arrived at the hospital I was zero centimeters dilated but I was also met by a nurse who openly dismissed and ridiculed my birth plan. There was hard-core judgement in the fact I wanted minimal intervention. She went as far as telling me that she doesn't understand why anyone would go without an epidural. I don’t remember everything she said, but I remember how I felt. I went from excited and empowered to defeated. I felt like I failed and I hadn't even started.


Two hours later we returned to the hospital and at this point I was 6cm dilated. I asked for the epidural I didn't want. The only thing I could think of was that I didn't want to be treated like a failure or a nuisance. Less than five minutes after the epidural, my blood pressure bottomed out along with my baby's heartbeat. I remember looking at the nurse as she told me "I need you to breathe, in just a moment there will be doctors and nurses joining us to help." I wanted to cry and run away but more importantly I wanted what I couldn't have: to take back time. I wanted to go back to the birth plan I made out of knowledge rather than fear and judgement.


My daughter was in distress with her heart rate dropping to 40 beats per minute regularly and there was meconium in the amniotic fluid. I pushed six times but I also was forced into not pushing during contractions because her heart rate slowed too much. In the end, I had the vaginal birth I had wanted but it wasn't a victory in my mind. I had to watch my daughter from across the room for over 17 minutes as she was evaluated by the NICU team. I didn't get skin-to-skin, I didn't get to hold her, I was on the sideline, and I felt… helpless. I stared across the room as they helped and the only thing I could think was "I did this. I am the person that hurt my child before she was even born. I let fear win and she ended up being born into fear rather than love. How can I love myself when I hurt my own child?"


The next couple of weeks (months really) were hard. I didn't trust myself to not hurt my daughter again. I second guessed everything I did. I was living in fear. I shut myself out from most of the world, cutting those who love me out of my reality. Childbirth was supposed to be this amazing and fulfilling experience and instead I was left hating myself so I hid. In that time I saw a psychologist who I felt comfortable enough with to open up to, but I still hid from those around me.


Thankfully, BIRTHFIT had what I needed: a judgement free, loving tribe that was there to listen and provide support. The BIRTHFIT tribe didn't judge, they helped me feel more comfortable with the uncomfortable, they helped me acknowledge my thoughts and feelings honestly and helped me come out of hiding. There are still days where fear creeps in, but finding the tribe has helped me cope with those days and I know that I am worthy of self-love.


Writing your birth story is so much more than a narrative of how your child was born, it's about your emotional healing. It's about being honest with yourself. Thankfully, BIRTHFIT provides the platform for women to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, to feel, and to live honestly with oneself.


-Lauren Keller