When I attend conferences or workshops, the individuals are often asked to categorize how they approach a project: thinkers, planners, and doers. “Thinkers” are innovators – they come up with new ideas; “do-ers” figure things out as they go – they almost immediately begin the task; and lastly, “planners” require a roadmap – they enjoy exploring all of the variables and outlining a clear approach before they begin the task at hand. As an individual who can appreciate the beauty of a well-crafted, neatly typed list, I am clearly a member of the last category. Therefore, when I became pregnant and realized that I was about to embark on the largest project of my life, giving birth to and raising a child, I immediately sprang into action and began reading blogs and books, talking to family members and close friends, purchasing essential items, and constructing a comprehensive birth plan, which emphasized above all else a natural birth. Unfortunately, when my daughter’s birth day arrived six weeks before she was due, I found myself wholly unprepared, which caused me to realize that life contains many unexpected deviations and surviving them sanely requires flexibility.
The first indicator that things were not following my well-crafted plan was during my seventh month of pregnancy when I was diagnosed with preeclamsia. Two weeks later, at my weekly appointment, my blood pressure was so dangerously high that I was immediately sent to the maternity ward for treatment. I was put on hospital bed rest and given a cocktail of drugs that were designed, among other things, to reduce my blood pressure and stop me from having a seizure. The effects of the medication left me virtually immobile, and by Friday morning, my doctor informed me that a natural birth would be impossible and scheduled me for an emergency Caesarian section. I wanted to argue with her, but as I struggled to read and sign the surgical waiver, I knew she was right.
As they wheeled me towards the operating room, the situation became real. I was no longer imagining what it would be like to have my baby – it was happening. I have never been more afraid in my life. I was not afraid for myself, although the procedure was not without dangers. (My medical team had carefully explained that the spinal was going to lower my blood pressure, and then they were going to give me additional medication to counteract its effect.) I was afraid for my baby. One of the side effects of preeclampsia reduces blood flow to the placenta. I had heard her heart beat all week as they monitored her, so I knew she was alive, but I worried that she had been adversely affected by my condition or the medication I had been prescribed. Worse, despite the fact that I had been given steroid shots to help her lungs to develop, I was worried that they had not had the desired effect and that she would not survive outside my womb.
I had only cried once since I entered the hospital, when they had tried to medically induce my labor, but I could not stop the tears from flowing down my cheeks. For a moment, I wanted to beg them to stop or simply refuse to go through with it. It was too early. She was not supposed to enter the world for another six weeks. I knew, however, that delivering early was our only option.
Even though I was awake for the procedure, I only remember a few snapshots that led up to her birth: snap one, a half a dozen hands on my body as the team shifted me from my bed to the operating table; snap two, throwing up on the nurse who was supporting me as they gave me the spinal; snap three, my husband entering the room after I was deemed stable, holding my hand, and telling me he loved me; snap four, a painless cutting sensation and a cool breeze on my abdomen as they made the incision; snap five, an immense pressure as they tried to force my baby from my uterus; snap six, the waiting silence; and finally, snap seven, her angry screech. While the events leading up to her birth are like Polaroid pictures scattered randomly on my kitchen table, the world stood still for me the moment I saw her. I did not believe in love at first sight until I saw my daughter. Lennon Rose’s tiny face mirrored the displeasure I felt. Her eyes were closed, her forehead was creased, and her tiny mouth was folded into an angry purse. All of my frustration, worry, and pain dissipated as I gazed at her. She was perfect, and I was head over heels. I did not know it was possible at the time, but with each passing day, I love her a little more.
When my doctor was closing the incision, she gave me some advice: “When this is all over and you are home, you may mourn the fact that you did not get to have the birthing experience that you wanted; however, you have the outcome you desired – your daughter.” She was right. Literally, nothing had gone as planned, but the outcome, my gorgeous little girl, was the only thing that really mattered. I had often found myself frustrated when my best-laid plans were foiled by one of life’s unheralded events, but this experience taught me that even if a process is flawed, the outcome can still be flawless. Before I had Lennon, I began my day sipping my coffee and making a list of tasks that I want to accomplish and ended my day by cheerfully checking a number of them off with satisfaction. Since she was born, I have created one list, and it contains only one item: be flexible. I am still working on it.