My Birth Story, One Year Later: When Things Don’t Go According to Plan

Exactly 1 year ago today I gave birth to a shining star named Luke Jackson Fenig. This little angel has filled my heart with more love than I thought imaginable. After I had his older brother Sean I wasn’t sure my heart could hold anymore, but I was wrong.

The heart can stretch so far and wide that you almost can’t believe it. But it’s true. If you don’t know what I mean, then I encourage you to try expanding your heart by living full-out through love. You won’t be sorry.

So I haven’t really written publicly about the details of Luke’s birth. It’s been a year now and I think I’m ready. You see, Luke’s birth was the exact opposite of what I had envisioned.

Early on in my pregnancy, I decided that I wanted to have a homebirth. Yup, I wanted to birth this baby in a tub in my home. I read Ina May Gaskin’s “Natural Childbirth” and was all gung-ho on this plan.

It made perfect sense to me. My first son Sean was born naturally after about 3 hours of labor, which is extremely rare for a first-time mom. I remember hearing stories of labors lasting 10, 15, 20 hours for first pregnancies. Not me. Not Sean. He was all about “ready or not, here I come.” He came 2.5 weeks early and really fast. We almost didn’t make it to the hospital. So I figured with pregnancy #2, we’ll just skip the whole getting to the hospital step and have this bambino at home with a midwife.

Well, life doesn’t always go according to plan.

Baby #2 decided he much preferred to have his head facing UP in my belly, which made baby BREACH. I wasn’t too freaked out by this when we discovered this about 2 – 3 months prior to his due date … I just figured baby would turn around before it was time for baby to make his grand entrance.

But to encourage baby to turn, turn, turn, I did EVERY trick in the book to encourage baby to turn – acupuncture, moxibustion, chiropractic, flips in the pool, inversions with ice packs near the baby’s head, talking to the baby, drawing pictures of a head-down baby in the womb … and even attempting an External Cephalic Version (manual turn from the outside performed by doctors and midwives – freakin’ painful!). NOTHING worked. NOTHING.

As the weeks ticked by and we approached 37, 38 and 39 weeks, my doctors strongly suggested I schedule a C-section to safely bring baby into the world. My midwife didn’t deliver breach babies and the doctors wouldn’t deliver a breach baby vaginally. I was devastated. The C-section was scheduled for Monday, April 11, 2011.

The natural birthing experience was very special to me and now I felt I had no choice but to let go of that and have my first-ever surgery.

Fear, nerves, anxiety, disbelief. These were all feelings I was having in my body and mind and soul. It was a challenging time … even though it was supposed to be special. The paradox wasn’t lost on me.

Picking my child’s birthday wasn’t something I wanted to do. I believed strongly in a child’s ability to be born, to choose their day, their way.

Luckily I ran into my friend Amy Webb, a healer and yogi, the Saturday before my scheduled birth, and she offered to do journeywork with me as I navigated this crossroads. It was such a gift. On my journey, I connected with my late sister … and my cats … and my unborn child. I knew I was safe, protected, blessed. I had faith that my child was with me, that we would perform this miracle together. That we would make it to the other side.

After that transformational journey with my friend Amy, I realized I needed to call my doctor and tell him that I didn’t want to schedule the C-section. My husband agreed. We weren’t opposed to the C-section itself, we simply wanted to allow the baby to start labor on his own. There was a very small risk in this (potential of cord prolapse with a breach baby), but we were okay with that. We trusted the birthing process. I trusted my body, my baby, our blessing. I wanted to feel the ache and ecstasy of labor. I wanted to feel those contractions … I prayed to my baby to “make it so.”

We called our doctor on Saturday to push off that surgery for a few more days to give the baby more time to come on his/her own (we didn’t know the sex at that time) … and then the miracle happened. I went into labor early on Monday morning. I was so happy! My water broke and the party had started. I could feel this baby coming …

Off to the hospital we went. Part of me hoped that baby turned, but deep in my heart I knew that was not the case. And to tell you the truth, at that point, I didn’t care. I just wanted to meet my baby. It had been a long, long journey and it was time to begin the next chapter.

And we did. My son Luke Jackson Fenig was born at 7:03 a.m. on April 11, 2011 via C-section. The recovery was tough and a LOT different than my first birth, but that’s life. You survive. You get stronger. You realize that pain is temporary. Family is forever.

I used to hate my surgery scar, but now I wear my scar (I call it a “beauty mark”) proudly. It’s a small price to pay for birthing a dream. Reminds me how powerful I am, you are, we are.  Seriously, we are capable of so much.

What did I learn? You can’t always choose HOW things are going to happen. Leave that to Spirit, Source, God, the Universe (whatever you believe). You’ve gotta focus on your WHY and your WHAT. Get it? Don’t try to control everything. It’s a losing battle. 

In this situation, my WHY was growing our family. My WHAT was birthing a healthy baby. We got our wish. Our dream came true.

Luke

To Luke, thank you for filling our lives with light. It’s been pure joy to watch you grow. I love that you and Sean have each other. I love even more that your dad and I have you both, our beautiful boys.

The best is yet to come …

Scaling a Mountain: The Natural Birth of My Son Sean

Childbirth

Today marks the first anniversary of the most painful, excruciating and fantastic experience of my life: the birth of my son Sean.

As we celebrated a huge milestone in his life – one year on earth – I couldn’t help but go back in time to one year ago.  Labor pains have a way of staying with you … and I went back to that cold January day in 2009 when I scaled the biggest mountain possible: natural childbirth.

The whole experience for me was a lesson in setting my intention, preparing, getting my support team in place, creating my vision, and then surrendering.

Childbirth is the most humbling, primal experience. It’s the great equalizer.  It brings you to your knees and forces you to come face to face with your biggest fears.  It forces you to go inside yourself and muster up all of your strength, all of your fortitude … and have ROCK-SOLID faith in your body and in your baby.

That’s what happened for me … I moved mountains.  I surrendered to the experience and rode the waves of the pain, rode the waves of my contractions to get one step closer to meeting my child.

But surrendering was not my approach at first. What was my initial reaction once the contractions quickly went from “ouch” to “WTF”?  FEAR, FEAR, FEAR! I was freaking out that there was no way in HELL that I could handle this.  All of my preparation and vision and years of yoga training went flying out the window.  I felt like I was holding on for dear life.  I distinctly remember looking at my husband and saying: “I don’t know if I can do this.”  I felt very alone, very vulnerable, very much in over my head.

And just when my mind was shifting into massive overdrive, I LET GO.  I gave in … and started really TRUSTING my body, TRUSTING my baby, TRUSTING that I had EVERYTHING I needed to bring my child into the world EXACTLY the way I wanted to.

By the time we made it back to the hospital (I was sent home earlier that day when I thought my water had broken and told that the baby may not be ready for days), I was fully dilated (the hardest part – transition – was over!) and ready to push my baby out.  This little one was ready to enter the world, 2.5 weeks earlier than expected.

I remember the whole pushing part of labor SO well.  My doctor wanted me to push my baby out rather quickly because his heart rate was dropping during contractions.  With all of the hoopla of rushing to the hospital and getting a room in the birthing center and dealing with the most excruciating pain I had EVER experienced, I kind of wasn’t ready to push that intensely.  I wanted a break, but I did like I was told but knew it wasn’t enough to help this soul enter the world.

After about three rounds of pushing, I remember my doctor looking at me in the eye and saying, very seriously: “Jenny, on your next contraction you’re pushing your baby out.”  I knew she meant business … and so did I.

I gathered up EVERY ounce of strength in my body, soul, mind and made a conscious choice to GO TO THE PEAK of the steep, scary mountain … and enter into the magical, wild world of motherhood.  There was no turning back.  Old life over, new life is here.

At 10:51 p.m. on Monday, January 5, 2009, my son Sean Logan Fenig took his first breath … and took my breath away. He was so … beautiful, peaceful, full of love, full of energy.   He was – and is – amazing.  He is a gift from God.

A few hours later,  after the doctors, nurses and doulas had left, it was just my husband, my son and I.  Our new family.  As my husband and newborn son slept soundly next to me, I was wide awake thinking about the miracle that happened in our room.  Mindblowing.  Otherworldly.  I looked out at the moonlit New York City sky and heard a voice loud and clear in my mind say: “Life will never be the same.”

So. True.

Happy birthday, sweet Sean. Together, we move mountains.

**Dear reader, wishing you the gift of strength and fortitude as you climb the mountains of life.  Where do you find your deepest strength during your toughest moments?  Please share.**