MomPower Contributor Lisa Van De Graaff

I gave birth to my baby at 2:40am, twenty-seven hours after those first pains I’d waited so long to feel. The contractions were regular from the start, and progressed normally. I rode the waves with the help of my partner, who danced with me through a series of foreign motions and steps. I felt like I was doing it, the no-pain-medication-no-medical-intervention-perfect-birth for my child. Then I bonked. I was exhausted and only dilated to 7 cm. I had nothing left but the pain, so I asked for medication. What a blessing a shot of medication was. I slept a little, rejuvenated, and was ready to continue (with an epidural, please).

Then the epidural didn’t work. That was bad. Then the contractions slowed from the epidural that wasn’t helping my pain. That was worse. Then there was Pitocin. Worse again as I felt my body’s contraction followed by a Pitocin contraction. The staff didn’t believe me, not even my own doctor believed that I was feeling two contractions back-to-back. They also didn’t believe that I could feel the pain, all the way to 10 cm. All this made for an experience far different from what I had hoped birth would be as I had journaled and meditated, and dreamed of this rite of passage. The worst part of it though, was that I knew something was wrong.

I had known for hours that something wasn’t working as it should, and yet I had remained silent. Now here I was connected to tubes, listening to nurses whisper about vacuums and forceps and babies that are allowed to get too big. I had a doctor who didn’t believe anything I said, a doula so tired all she could do was sit in the corner, and a husband who became my knight in shining armor all at once as he spoke up in a most unusual manner and demanded they listen. His strength became mine, and I said it was time for a cesarean.


There is more to the story, but the relevant result was a healthy, beautiful girl. According to the surgeon, a cesarean was inevitable because of how my daughter had become wedged in my pelvis. Had my daughter remained in the meconium-filled womb any longer, she may well have suffered irreparable brain damage. Once again, the lesson to follow my instincts was taught to me.

A nurse said, “the baby was taken by cesarean” as she dictated information to another nurse in the recovery room. I corrected her: “The mother delivered the baby by cesarean.”

It took months for me to stop judging myself for the less-than-perfect birth. I felt I had failed to fulfill my dream. I felt I had failed my daughter, my husband, my mother, women everywhere. Then a friend stopped me in my tracks (literally), when she said to me, “You get the birth you get and do the best you can, but you can decide what kind of mother you are going to be.”

She was right, and I am going to be the best mother I can be.