Full disclosure, I’m writing this in real time and posting immediately.
I’ll be 34 weeks pregnant in a couple of days and my body is begging me to slow the fuck down, but I’m hustling to get as much work done as possible so I can give myself a few weeks off once baby boy is here. There’s no maternity leave when you’re self-employed and I am one demanding boss to myself! Between weekly YouTube videos, daily Instagram content and now, the addition of weekly podcast episodes, I’m spread thin. Weekly blog posts have been hard to keep up with, so if you see me posting on here less frequently in the next couple of months, keep up with me on my other platforms!
Because this post is going up immediately after writing it, what’s to follow will be even more unfiltered than usual…if that’s possible! LOL It’s also because my only intention behind writing about this is to get it out of my system. I cried yesterday. Like hard, ugly face, snotty nose cried, because I’m scared. I hope that by writing this down here and getting it out into the world, maybe it will release some of the fear I’ve been holding in for months.
My first birth experience did not go as planned. I had a relatively smooth pregnancy, thank God. It was a blessing from above, 100%. No major issues, no health problems for me or baby, no big hiccups along the way. When it came time to give birth, I really had no concerns that anything but exactly what I envisioned for my baby’s arrival into this world would happen. Silly me. I had a “birth plan”. Two printed copies of it, to be exact. I had my ambient lighting, my curated playlist for my portable speaker, my doula and husband helping me through contractions and my beloved epidural when the pain became too much. It was go time and for a while, it was all unfolding the way I thought it would, until things took a turn about 18 hours in…
I got to 6cm dilated and stayed there for a while. Then I went to 5, then nearly 4. Wait a minute. Did I say that backwards? Surely, things were supposed to be progressing, not regressing. The doctor informed me that I was swelling. They maneuvered me into different positions to try to naturally combat the swelling, but nothing was working. At that point my contractions were coming through in full force and I begged them to up my epidural, which was now wearing off. A handful of extra nurses rushed in alongside my doctor and I knew something was happening. She informed me that they couldn’t up my epidural because I needed to have a full spinal block for a c-section immediately and the anesthesiologist was waiting outside my door to head into the OR…
A c-section?! Hold on! You mean the surgery where you lie exposed on a metal table while they cut you open and pull a human, alongside several organs, out of your body while you’re behind a curtain wide a-fucking-wake?! No thanks!
I was informed that I had no choice. My water had been broken for 18 hours and risk of infection was increasing by the minute. It was happening now or I could wait until this became an emergency that put me and my baby at risk.
The only “surgery” I’d ever had was getting my wisdom teeth out. I’m a scaredy cat by nature and avoided doing things that could lead to injury my entire life. I’d never broken a bone. Hell, I’d only ever gotten stitches once in my life! I could sense the gravity of the situation and pressure mounting by the medical staff awaiting my green light so through the heaviest sobs I’ve ever cried, I said, “okay, let’s do this.”
They carted me off and my terrified husband followed with our belongings. We hadn’t even considered the possibility of a c-section. I had not mentally prepared myself for this moment in the slightest and I don’t do well without preparation. To ease my nerves, I narrated the surgery. I was numb, of course, but if you’ve ever been locally numbed while awake you know that you still have sensation, it’s just not painful. I could feel tugging. I knew the scalpel was cutting me open. Again, it didn’t hurt, but I was aware it was happening. This went on for about 15 minutes. The doctors working their magic, my husband trying not to panic at what he was seeing behind the curtain and me, narrating away like it was some sort of sports event. Finally, it was time to pull the baby out. My doula had warned me that while this part also wouldn’t hurt, I would feel an intense pressure when it happened. Not to panic, this was normal. My doctor said, “Okay Shenae, you ready? Daddy, get the camera ready.” Then, I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my abdomen. I told them. She touched wherever she had touched before and said, “Here?” I felt it again. “Yes! There!”
The anesthesiologist raised his voice to command everyone to stop exactly where they were. “Do not pull that baby out!” He called someone to urgently order more drugs. That’s when I started to lose consciousness.
At first, I think I fainted because of the panic I heard in his voice. Then, I was fainting because of blood loss. I spent the next hour in and out of consciousness.
Luckily, I was awake when I heard my baby girl cry for the first time. That eye lock with my husband, as the most beautiful sound we’d ever heard drowned out the room, was the most intense moment of love I’ve ever experienced.
He looked up over the curtain and said to me, “I see her! She’s here!” I asked, “Is she okay?” He said with a smile and tears in his eyes, “She’s perfect.” I calmly said, “Okay, I love you both.” With that, I was gone again.
I thought I was dying. From the tone in my voice, he thought I was dying, too.
I spent the next however long in and out of consciousness, profusely shaking, waking up to think I was going to throw up, losing all feeling in my arms, then losing consciousness again. The doctor had instructed my husband to hold the baby close to my face, so I knew she was there and would hang on and fight to stay awake. I had no fight. At one point, they tried to put the baby on my chest to keep me awake, but I couldn’t feel my arms and shouted at them to take her off because I was terrified I would drop her. They did. I was gone again.
Some time later, I rolled my head over to look at the ceiling and it felt as though the life washed back into my face. I suddenly felt fine. I was a person again, not just a body. I smiled until I noticed the blood splattered on the ceiling and operating light. I tend to have an affinity for the dramatics and the past hour and a half had been such a blur, so I thought maybe what had just happened was somewhat in my head until I saw that. Some shit had most definitely just gone down.
Once I made it into the recovery room, high as a kite holding this beautiful little creature of mine next to my pale-faced, traumatized-but-staying-incredibly-strong-for-us husband, my doctor came to fill me in on what happened. She said I had a tear in my something-or-other and a rip in my whats-it-called. Not a clue what any of that was or meant, but me and baby were safe and healthy, so I tried my best to give too many shits about how it all came to be.
Now, as I gear up for another birth, all that trauma I had pushed out of my head is rushing back into my body.
I was in and and out of consciousness, but my body was present the entire time. She knows what’s up and she’s signalling my brain to be mentally prepared for the unpredictability of what’s to come in just a few weeks, as I hadn’t been able to be prepared the last time.
I am electing to have a c-section again, per my doctor’s advice. They feel that since my body responded to labor the way it did last time, it would very likely respond the same way, so a VBAC is not my best option. I’m not sure I buy that, to be honest, but being in a new state with a doctor I don’t know and no doula to comfort and advocate for me this time is making me think a c-section is the best option for me. I want to control and minimize risk as much as possible and a planned, routine surgery feels like the safest bet. I could be wrong, but if you think I am, please keep it to yourself. I’m burdened with enough stress and fear right now as it is.
I am scared as hell. I’m scared of another month of my body telling me no while I push forward to take care of my work responsibilities and my rambunctious toddler. I’m scared of going through a c-section again and not knowing what could go wrong at any moment. I’m scared of enduring another brutal recovery from this intense surgery, only this time with a toddler at home who doesn’t understand what the hell is going on because she just wants her mommy to play with her. I’m scared. And now, I’m crying again as I type so I’ll leave it there with a big thank you for giving me the space to share…
Thank you for seeing me, listening to me and supporting me and the work I create…this community means more to me than you could possibly know. I love you.
Shenae Grimes-Beech is an actor and YouTuber with a highly engaged community of like-minded women who are here to stand up for what they believe in and lean into discomfort, especially when it means doing the right thing.