Nearly five years ago, I laid on an operating table while a skilled surgeon cut my child out of my abdomen.
After hours of excruciating labor, multiple factors spinning this birth completely out of control, I was pretty much left with no choice.
I felt anything but brave in that moment – sobbing and shaking uncontrollably, arms strapped down, giving into a procedure that I thought meant that I had failed somehow.
But looking back, I think that’s one of the bravest things I’ve ever done. I went on to face postpartum depression, recovery complications, breastfeeding complications, sleeplessness, and special-needs parenting of this child who insists on doing everything the hardest way possible.
Many of my dearest friends have similar stories, and have gone on to make the very brave choice to be cut open again and again to bring subsequent children into this world. They choose to lay down on that table and surrender to the scalpel. That’s pure bravery.
But I’ve spent the last five years planning a different path – a different kind of brave. The kind of brave that says, “Let’s try this again.”
I did a lot of research into the choice to VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) very shortly after my son’s birth. I’ve made lifestyle changes like changing the way I eat and learning how to exercise. I’ve learned about the importance of optimal fetal positioning and the risks and benefits of certain medical birth interventions.
The thing about my first son’s birth – the reason I didn’t feel brave – was that there were so many things outside of my control. Some due to lack of education and knowledge on my part. Some due to a less-than-friendly birth environment. Some due to poor lifestyle choices. Some, due to just the multiple random circumstances that I truly had no control over.
When I found out I was pregnant with our second child, I greeted it head on – with excitement and purpose. I already had done the research and was seeing a pregnancy-experienced chiropractor and found a VBAC-friendly doula. Now all that was left to do was do this thing.
But as I’ve walked through each day of pregnancy, I’ve realized that it isn’t necessarily that simple. Even after checking all the boxes and doing all of the things, there was still me and this baby. And I wondered how we would prepare.
How do I be hopeful and positive but still be realistic – so I’m not devastated if the outcome isn’t what I want?
How do I go about being proactive – without becoming controlling and obsessive?
How do I deal with the pain of my previous birth – and yet heal and move forward from it?
How do I balance truly believing in myself and my baby – that we can do this – and depending on God for strength, especially when my faith is already in a shaky spot?
How do I be brave?
The answers to these questions have been anything but simple. And some of them haven’t had answers at all. Discouragement has set in when the discomforts of pregnancy have taken over yet again. When the weight has still piled on in spite of my lifestyle changes. When my hands swell in spite of the 80 ounces of water I’m taking in every day.
I walk while reading over birth affirmations about bravery and faith. And some days, making this choice, I truly feel brave. Because this time, regardless of the outcome, I’m more in control of the choices. I am empowered. I’m making a better situation happen.
Other days I wonder if it’s nothing but bravado. If I’m really as brave as I think I am, or if I’m just masking fear by doing and planning and preparing.
I try to visualize pushing my baby out and bringing him to my chest. I hear myself saying, “I did it. I can’t believe we did it!” and tears spring to my eyes.
And with everything in my being I want to believe it.
How big is my brave?
Big enough to try again. Big enough to hope for the best and plan for the worst.
Big enough to believe in myself and my baby.
Big enough to believe that anything is possible.
Aprille is a twenty-something mom of one very active and challenging little boy, mom-to-be of another Little Brother, and wife of a disabled combat veteran. She blogs at Beautiful In His Time, her personal chronicle of finding God’s beauty in her often messy life – her marriage, her mothering, and her faith. She has a passion for writing about military life and high-needs / special needs parenting situations. During the month of October, she will be sharing a 31 post series about how she has prepared for her VBAC. You can receive all 31 posts via email by clicking here: http://eepurl.com/KL5-r. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, GooglePlus, Pinterest, and Instagram.