If there’s anything that makes you realize how little control you actually have in this life, it’s giving birth to a child.
Before I became a mother in 2014, my body was as predictable as a Love and Hip Hop hook up with a menstrual cycle I could time on a clock and a body weight that hadn’t changed much since high school. Luckily, most of the changes I experienced during my pregnancy were mild, but there were days in my first trimester where I thought I could skip breakfast only to end up light-headed not long after 11 am while trying to make it through my Monday morning commute. At a time when friends, family and co-workers told me to take it easy I thought I could still squeeze through tight doorways despite carrying a bulging belly on my 120 pound frame. I tried to lift crates of juice boxes for our after-school programs at work and even tried giving myself a pedicure late in my last trimester because there was no way my OB/GYN was going to see me with jacked up toes on delivery day. As excited as I was for motherhood a very big part of me was terrified of how much my body and my whole life was quickly becoming unfamiliar and how fast it was all changing. But as much as motherhood will make or break you, it most definitely will change you. More than anything, it SHOULD change you.
In a refreshingly honest video blog she names “It’s Time To Tell The Truth”, singer Melanie Fiona revealed the emotional challenge of dealing with a birth plan that never came to be when giving birth to son, Cameron this past March. “I thought I was doing everything right,” she pleads through tears as she talks about being emotionally, mentally and physically prepared to give birth naturally only to end up having an emergency c-section due to a rare onset of preeclampsia that took place during her labor.
“I had to deal with feelings of disappointment and feeling like a failure.”
“I felt like my body failed me. And I wasn’t prepared for that.”
Melanie wipes away tears when revealing the disappointment that came from pressures that I feel many women place on themselves as well as those projected by the media. With social media giving us more and more access to the personal lives of celebs and our peers alike, we’re able to witness Draya Michele pull her son from her womb during birth or see singer Omarion share a tub with girlfriend, Apryl while she gives birth naturally at home. Unfortunately so much insight into others’ birth experiences can distract us from the beauty of our own birth stories and build fantasies of what pregnancy, birth, motherhood and even what our post-baby bodies should look like.
Fiona also emphasizes the importance of having a supportive partner to help keep things in perspective in the heat of the moment when she felt like she was losing all control:
“It just came to a point where Jared had to come in, one on one, and look at me and take my hand and look me in the eyes and say, ‘I have to leave the hospital with both of you.’ And until that moment I did not recognize how real and severe my situation was. I had never even thought I would find myself in that position.”
She goes on to speak about how she thought she had prepared well and done everything right from doing yoga and eating healthy during her pregnancy only for things to take such an unpredictable turn in the delivery room. She recounts depending on partner, Jared, and how difficult it was to deal with being unable to jump immediately back into motherhood, balancing career, family and self-care:
“It’s still taking me time to process who I am now and who I am becoming. I just think that’s something we don’t talk about enough.”
Fiona also gives some insight on how blindsided she felt when having to detour from her original birth plan with no warning of the “What if’s” that could happen or a chance to make peace with a Plan B. It reminds me about some very solid advice a nurse friend of mine shared regarding my pregnancy, “Do your nurse a favor and save her a step by throwing your birth plan in the trash.” As harsh as that may sound, it was one of the best pieces of advice I was given during my entire pregnancy. Her explanation was that as natural and instinctive it is to want to control what circumstances your baby comes into this world under, your body and baby may have other plans and you need to be prepared to sacrifice your “fantasy delivery” in order to safely bring your child into the world. Even if those plans include a six-inch incision on your underbelly, by no means does it mean your body did any less than what it was intended.
Like Fiona, I too had to undergo a c-section when giving birth to my daughter. Fiona’s story makes me grateful for the fact that I had time to process my feelings about exactly what that meant for my own birth story and how much HOW my daughter came into this world mattered to me. I was never someone who had anything against pain management or c-sections. In fact every “birth video” I Googled during my pregnancy never left me with the superhuman feeling that I could squeeze a pumpkin through a pistachio, so I was somewhat relieved when my doctor made the decision that a c-section would be best to avoid any complications that could occur from my diagnosis of mild placenta previa.
“My job isn’t to be a cowboy. It’s to make sure that both you and baby make it through this birth in one piece,” she explained to my husband and I that first week of September. Placenta previa is a condition where the placenta either covers the birth canal entirely or is situated close to it increasing the chance that it could rupture and place both mother and baby’s health at risk during a vaginal delivery. My OB/GYN further explained that a scheduled c-section would give her time to see what she was working with once inside the womb without rushing. At that moment I had to be completely honest with myself. I had never looked forward to labor, keeping track of contractions, or pushing. The moment I heard that my c-section would be scheduled for the afternoon of October 22, 2014 was the most relief I had for my entire pregnancy. At a time I had felt much like my life was rushing right along without me, here was something that the slight OCD in me could put in my day planner and prepare for.
More than that, my case of placenta previa and scheduled c-section taught me the first of many valuable lessons in motherhood: It’s not about you. When I revealed the news to co-workers and friends it was almost as if they expected me to be disappointed about not being able to give birth like “my body was naturally made to do”. As much respect as I have for mothers who choose to give birth naturally or otherwise, no one is waiting in between those stirrups with a gold medal for the natural mamas and the silver for Team C-Section. All that matters is getting that baby into this world safe and sound.
Like Fiona, I found myself feeling very unnatural during my first few days as a mother as I was completely dependent on my husband to perfect swaddling and burping techniques. There were times I even resented his ability to get a “headstart” bonding with our newborn daughter totally neglecting the fact that I had just grew a person inside of me and just had major abdominal surgery. I felt helpless since I could barely blink without feeling the pain from my sutures and I wondered what kind of mother I was to not be able to help much with someone that had just laid on my spleen for almost nine months.
This would be my second lesson in motherhood: Know when to ask for help and stop placing so much pressure on yourself to be everyone to everybody. You’ll have the rest of your life to change diapers, make bottles, braid hair, go to parent-teacher conferences, pack lunches, etc. In the first few days of bringing life into this world you can afford to take it easy for a day or two. Motherhood is about learning to ask for and accept help when needed. Burning the candle at both ends is no good for you or your baby.
Fiona hopes to create a community where women feel comfortable sharing the good, bad and the ugly truth about motherhood and says this will be her first of many video blogs documenting her journey (Yayy!) but right now she’s taking a break from it all to bask in the beauty of being with her baby boy, Cameron. I can personally reassure her that it won’t get any easier. But the best thing about motherhood is just when you’re sitting in the middle of the living room floor while your toddler runs circles around you in a game of “hide and seek” with a dirty diaper and you think you are going to lose it, she smiles and gives you a kiss and reminds you that she is your living, breathing saying in what this world becomes. That is motherhood in a nutshell: Complete chaos punctuated by moments of indescribable bliss.
I think pregnancy and the process of becoming a parent is God’s way or reminding us of the comfort in not having control.
We live in a world where woman can easily feel they are supposed to give birth, glow like Chrissy Teigen within a week, bounce back into a boardroom like Olivia Pope and cheer our partners on from the sidelines like Ayesha Curry with a kid whose personality could rival Riley’s. Melanie Fiona’s message comes with perfect timing that regardless of how motherhood looks on you, there’s a good chance you’re getting it right if your child is the first thing on your mind each morning.
See Melanie tell her emotional birth story below. (Warning, you may want to keep the tissues close by).