The Perfectly Planned Stack

Earlier today I was looking for some calm, soul-soothing music to be the background to my day with the boys. I came across a stack of CDs that includes: Norah Jones, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, Enya, & Josh Groban.

The stack had been pushed aside for the last 4 weeks--but I can remember precise details of the moments when this small collection was gathered: I was in labor.

My 'labor playlist' was one of the many preparations I procrastinated to the last minute. There I was, huffing through contractions, and going through my CD's (I know, I know--who has CD's anymore with mp3 players & ipods? well now you know: I do.) to find a few that stood out to me as being beneficial during labor. I thought the low-key tunes by these artists would do the trick, so I put them in a neat stack (in between contractions, of course), and made a mental note to add them to the bag on our way out the door.

The music never made it in the bag--which is why seeing them, right there, in that perfectly planned stack brought to my mind the emotions of that Sunday morning. Black tank top and hair pulled back--I was the picture of labor perfection. I was breathing deeply, leaning on my husband for support, drinking water, and changing positions to manage the waves of pain and pressure. Thinking about those moments now, I smile to remember how complete I felt to be all-encompassed in that one self-sacrificing task: laboring to birth our child.

I was startled at the wave of emotions that followed. I thought about the perfectly stacked plans that did go with us to the hospital...and how they did not play out as perfectly as they were planned. Reviewing the sequence of events during that 24 hours, my face is drawn inward and I feel a swirl of disbelief clashing with tidbits of anger and regret. My smile is replaced with tears and I admit to myself "I chose this."

And I did. I chose to prepare so meticulously, and I chose the epidural. I chose to dream of a vbac delivery, and I chose the c-section after about 22 hours of labor.

Of course, there are several factors I did not choose. I did not choose for my water to break (causing intense pushing pressure) at 5cm. I did not choose for that pushing pressure to cause extra swelling. I did not choose to get stuck at 6-7cm for hours on end.

And now I have to choose how I deal with the waves of feelings that add pain to my heart and pressure on my soul. Like the contractions, these feelings are real and I have to breathe through them. Like the contractions, no one else can take them away from me. Like the contractions, there are highs and lows. Like the contractions, the healing takes time.

My perfectly planned stack of music never made it to the hospital with us...
and my perfectly stacked plans never made it to the finish line.

And I'm still working through the emotions left behind.

"After a c-section, it's quite normal to feel polar emotions...you might be thrilled about your newborn baby and at the same time extremely disappointed about not having a vaginal birth. Even though it's common...don't expect to get a lot of support. Mental health experts say that our culture tends to reject the idea of conflicting feelings--you're either happy or sad, not both."*

My name is Shara, and I'm elated to have a newborn AND disappointed to have had a 2nd c-section.
There. I said it.

*Excerpt from 'The Essential C-Section Guide', p. 123


Olive said...

Who says we're NOT ALLOWED to have conflicting emotions, that we have to be one thing or another. We are all bundles of conflicts and conflicting emotions, within ourselves and in our relationships. You're coping with a loss. A lost plan, a dream, your purpose, and vision. Loss is hard to deal with. It takes time and prayer and acceptance. It's ok to mourn the loss of your dream while you rejoice in your perfect newborn son.

Kendra said...

That has got to be very hard. Especially when, like you said, you had so many plans of how it would go and had worked so hard to make it happen. I'm sorry that the VBAC didn't pan out for you. And thank you for being honest with your feelings. I know how real it can be to feel both happy and sad at the same time. Love you.

Linda said...

I think i have polar emotions about alot of things. It's ok, baby.

lisapenn said...

You my friend, are one excellent writer. You give the reader such wonderful insight to your emotions. I have never had a c-section, so I could not possibly imagine your emotions, but I totally understand your happiness and dissapointment at the same time. May your sweet baby N soothe your feelings, your sweet toddler J make your soul sing, and your loving husband T continue to be the wonderful support that he is. Wouldn't hurt to get a foot rub every now and then either!