Hi, I’m Brittany!
I’m a 29 year old big city girl turned little mountain momma. Five years ago our family left the skyscrapers of Chicago for a new life near the mountains of Colorado. At the time I was walking a hard road of postpartum depression and I found that putting pen to paper was the greatest way for me to heal. My love for writing came from a place of desiring to share and be transparent with other women and mommas who need to know we’re all part of this journey together. I blog at Little Mountain Momma about life as a wife, momma and imperfect follower of Jesus and His perfect grace. When I’m not writing I love a good cup of coffee, traveling, exploring mountain towns with my family and long distance running!
There’s a reason it has taken me six years to write my daughter’s birth story. Sometimes in life, when you envision something going one way and instead it goes the complete opposite, you end up shoveling all of your bruised emotions deep down, refusing to face the hurt. But this year I made the decision to live with intentionality and part of living intentionally means choosing bravery and healing even when it is difficult.
My first pregnancy was as close to perfect as they come. I somehow managed to escape morning sickness, I gained minimal amounts of weight and I felt pretty great physically and emotionally. I took the whole barefoot and pregnant phrase quite to heart – even going barefoot to one of my baby showers. Truthfully, I loved being pregnant and I couldn’t wait to start life as a family of three.
At 32 weeks my husband and I paid to have a private 3/4 D ultrasound video done. We were captivated by the beautiful little girl growing beneath my heart. We marveled at all of the details on that video screen. The chin that mirrored her momma’s, the tiny feet and that heart beat that just seemed to stop ours. We were told that she was in the perfect position for birth, head down and would arrive sometime in the next 8 weeks.
Change of Plans
Fast forward to four weeks later at my 36 week OB appointment when my doctor mentioned while routinely feeling my belly that she thought our baby had flipped into the breach position. A quick ultrasound confirmed her thoughts – Our girl was just chilling in the pike position, bum down and feet in the air. I can smile at this memory now because from what I know of my girl, she is still my stubborn strong willed child. She lives life confidently and on her own terms. That was clearly true even in the womb.
We were told we didn’t really have many options. We could have a “version procedure” done which would mean my doctor would attempt to manually turn her. If that didn’t work it would mean a scheduled c section.
For the next two weeks we worked hard to turn her on our own. I did funny yoga positions and lots of praying. At 38 weeks we made one final trip to Target knowing that if the version procedure didn’t go well, it might mean an emergency c section. We picked up all of the final newborn essentials and we finished packing my hospital bag.
I need to make clear that I am not sharing about my experiences with the version procedure and my subsequent c section to scare any of you mommas who are facing this road in the near future. I share purely out of a desire for others to make educated decisions regarding birth plans. There are many things I wish I had been told and many decisions I wish I had taken charge of. Because I was very young and uneducated about my options, I didn’t take my birth experience into my own hands. I let other people make some important decisions for me and these decisions directly played a role in my daughter’s birth and in our ability to bond.
Our Version Experience
At the hospital for the version procedure I was asked to dress in a hospital gown and was hooked up to a fetal monitor. I was also given some pretty heavy pain meds to ease the pain. My husband sat in the corner of the room while a nurse and a doctor stood on either side of me and attempted to force our daughter to turn by manually pushing on my belly. Looking back, this is interesting to me because how often do we as women walk fearfully through pregnancy worrying about being bumped into or accidentally elbowed by our toddlers for fear of hurting our growing baby? The amount of shoving and pushing on my belly that day would have been enough to send a watching pregnant woman into early labor.
During the version procedure I was so hopped up on pain meds that I wasn’t really aware of what was going on. From what I was told later on by my husband and doctor, my daughter would get halfway flipped and then would snap right back into her pike position. They tried three different times to turn her with no results. Her heart rate dropped so significantly during that time that an Emergency room was being prepped for her immediate delivery. As a last effort to bring her heart rate back up my doctor suggested I flip over onto my hands and knees. This did the trick. Our baby’s heart rate rose and she began to stabilize.
I left the hospital that day feeling slightly traumatized with an incredibly bruised belly and a scheduled c section in place for Thursday, July 9th at 39 weeks.
Preparing for our C Section
Leading up to my c section there were a lot of emotions. Initially I was very reluctant and I cried a lot. It wasn’t the way I had envisioned giving birth and I experienced a lot of disappointment, feeling like my options had been chosen for me. I eventually moved to a place of acceptance and excitement. We were finally going to meet our little girl! And she was going to be healthy and in our arms – regardless of how she arrived.
After having now given birth both via cesarean and vbac (vaginal birth after cesarean) I can say that the biggest difference between waiting to go into labor and waiting for your scheduled c section is that there are far less unknowns.
With our scheduled c section there was a level of maintained control. There were no worries or anxieties of when my contractions would start or of what we would do if my water broke in the middle of the night. I didn’t have to question if I would be in labor for hours and what my pain would be like. There was no weighing my options of epidural or natural labor. Everything was already decided for me and because of this a lot of the stress and anxiety was taken right off of the table.
We still laugh about the morning of our daughter’s delivery. We slept in, my husband had breakfast, while I just watched him eat hungrily. I was given strict instructions not to eat at all the morning of my impending surgery. We watched the news and went about our normal morning routine. Around 9 am we sat down to work on a puzzle. Around 10:30 my husband looked at his watch and exclaimed, “Oh no! We have to go! We’re going to be late for our c section”! We still laugh about how anticlimactic that morning was for us. Oh you know, just another Thursday in Chicago… and then we realized we needed to do a small thing like DELIVER OUR BABY.
We hailed a cab, stuffed our suitcases and Boppy Pillow into the trunk and headed for the city. Before we climbed into the car a group of shoppers noticed all of our baby luggage and my giant belly and wished us congratulations! It was officially “go time”.
The C Section
I wasn’t scared of having major surgery until I was actually rolled into the operating room. And then all of a sudden I was absolutely terrified. We were told that my husband wouldn’t be able to come in initially which was the first match that lit my anxiety. The room was ice cold and I was surrounded by half a dozen nurses and doctors dressed in scrubs and masks so disguised that I couldn’t even recognize my own doctor. I was shaking uncontrollably from the temperature of the
room and I suddenly had the thought, “I HAVE GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE.” But there was no way to get out. I knew that I had to deliver a baby. I couldn’t stay pregnant forever. And jumping down from the hospital gurney while trying to do a rushed waddle through a room of masked surgeons probably wouldn’t have gone well for me.
To make matters worse, doctors were well into the surgery and my husband was nowhere to be seen. Repeatedly I had the thought, “He’s going to miss her birth. They forgot to ask him to come in.” I remember lying on the hospital bed, arms strapped down, feeling numbness from just below my chest on down to my toes. What should have been an experience of excited anticipation was more of fear and anxiety.
From my husband’s perspective, when they did finally ask him to come in, he thought he was walking in a birthing experience gone horribly wrong. There was blood everywhere, my insides were exposed wide open and the doctors and nurses were talking in such hushed serious tones that he thought for sure that something had gone wrong.
Meeting Our Girl
Then came a moment I’ll never forget. When I first heard “There’s her feet. Okay, rotate that hip. There are her arms.” Tears began to stream down my cheeks. It was the most surreal experience to know that doctors were actually touching those tiny feet from our ultrasound.
Going Home & Recovery
My physical recovery from the c section actually wasn’t as horrible as one might think. Yes, my husband did have to do most of the newborn care for the first week or two. I couldn’t get out of bed to change diapers and Mackenzie had to be brought to me for every feeding. But before even leaving the hospital I was walking the halls very slowly and regaining strength. Pain medication significantly helped. I did have to be very careful not to tear my stitches and I was given strict instructions not to carry anything heavy for six weeks. But realistically, with a husband going back to work that just wasn’t an option.
For those of you who know my story with postpartum depression, I will say that I believe part of the struggle with my emotional recovery was directly related to my c section. If there is anything that I can stress to a new momma facing an impeding c section I would like suggest the following things:
1. Ask LOTS of questions. Ask questions like, “How long will the surgery take from start to finish?” “Can my husband be with me during my epidural?”, “If my husband can’t be with me, how soon will he be able to come into the operating room?”, “How many people will be in the OR”? “Who will each of these people be?” “What will the room look like?”
There are NO dumb questions. This is the birth experience YOU will carry with you for the rest of your life. The doctors and nurses likely won’t remember you the following week. But asking questions can give you the chance to meet your baby on your terms.
2. Ask for your baby to be held up for you to see. Immediately following Mackenzie’s delivery she was whisked away for cleaning and routine tests. I remember lying there straining my head just to get a glimpse of her. Anything. Some chubby baby feet or a tiny hand. I wanted to see my baby. You know that iconic “hold the baby up over the curtain, ‘It’s a girl!’ moment?” Yeah, I didn’t get that. And it still makes me incredibly sad.
3. Request for immediate skin to skin post delivery. Mommas. I can’t stress this enough. Fight for this. If they tell you, “No.” then ask, “Why not?” There is no reason you can’t have your baby laid onto your chest with your husband next to you for support of his or her head. I did not get to hold my daughter immediately after her birth. I was told I had to wait until my stitches were complete and we were out of the OR. It was a good half hour before I got to hold Mackenzie and even then she was bundled like a burrito. Skin to skin was hours later. I wish I had fought for this experience.
I often wish that I could get a “do over” pass for my c section experience. I wish that my memory of delivering Mackenzie had been less dominated by fear and more so by excited anticipation of meeting my daughter. I would have liked to have had those precious moments right after her delivery to hold and kiss her face and whisper all of the, “I love you’s I had been saving up for nine months. I would have loved to have offered her my breast right away rather than a nurse shoving a bottle at us hours later.
After our hospital stay I went on to struggle with postpartum depression for 18 months. And while I can’t contribute all of my depression to Mackenzie’s birth story, I do believe some of it was directly related. My introduction to motherhood began with a rocky start and I don’t believe I ever fully gained a solid footing into my new role.
And yet, in spite of both—an unplanned birth experience and a battle with postpartum depression– I believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that our experiences in life teach lessons and give us wisdom to make better choices and decisions down the road.
So I embrace the momma that I am today. I am tremendously thankful for the lessons I learned as a young momma and I will continue to use those lessons as a way to encourage other mommas. I will soak up every day that I have with my beautiful, big hearted girl and her mischievous little brother. Because no matter how my babies got here and what our stories were early on… they are mine. And they hold every piece of my heart. And in the end, that’s all that truly matters.
Photo credit to Elated Photography.