I like the show Black-ish. I’m not upset if I miss an episode, but I like to put it on while I’m giving Budgie his bedtime bottle on Wednesdays. I’m familiar with the characters and plotline enough to know that the mother of the main family, Rainbow (Bow) Johnson, is expecting a baby. Since it was the season finale last night, I figured I would watch it to see the birthday of the little bundle of joy.
I was totally unprepared for the half hour that followed.
It started out funny enough, with Dre planning a kick-ass co-ed baby shower, but early in the episode, he takes Bow to the doctor because she has headache that won’t go away. She is diagnosed with preeclampsia and is told that the baby needs to be born right away, even though he’s premature. Her blood pressure won’t go down and they do an emergency c-section.
I just about lost it when she’s laying on the operating table, freaking out about the c-section. I’ve been there. Both of my kids were c-section babies. We knew Budgie would be a c-section, but I Binnybeans was not a planned c-section. I had high blood pressure for my entire last trimester. The doctor put me on a low-sodium diet, bedrest, and, of course, blood pressure medication. Despite our best efforts, it got scary high at the end and it wouldn’t go down. I was preeclamptic. My doctor told me we would need to deliver soon. Like the next morning.
But my daughter wasn’t going to cooperate. She was breech, and very high in my abdomen. She wasn’t turning, she wasn’t descending. That stubbornness combined with my high blood pressure and her prematurity meant she would need to be born via c-section. If we tried to induce, at least one of us would end up in danger. At least one of us might not survive.
I went home that afternoon and made sure all my things were packed for the hospital. I called my husband at work so he could let his boss know he’d be out for a few days. I called my parents so they could come up from Illinois for the birth of their second grandchild (and first granddaughter).
And then I cried. I cried so hard. I was so afraid. So ashamed. I had this mental image of sweating and grunting and triumphantly pushing my daughter out of me into the world. I would listen to motivating yet mellow music. But it was all garbage now.
I needed surgery to bring my daughter into the world. I needed surgery to make sure we both made it out alive.
To me, that meant I failed as a woman. The biological purpose of being a woman: to conceive, birth, and feed children. (And I sucked at all three… but more on that later.) I couldn’t birth my child without a team of professionals pumping me with painkillers and gutting me from hip to hip. Well, not quite, but that’s how I felt.
My mom, mother-in-law, and husband calmed me down. This is what we needed to do to protect us all. I didn’t want my husband to have to make the mother-or-baby decision. This was going to happen at 7:30 the next morning.
Or so I thought. I got up for my regularly scheduled midnight bathroom break when I felt something wet underneath me. I thought I peed myself. At that point, it wouldn’t have surprised me. I sat up and it just flowed out of me. My water had broken. I shoved my husband and told him it was go time. He thought he had overslept. I assured him that he hadn’t overslept; she was coming on her own schedule.
My parents had just arrived from Illinois about an hour before; they had just fallen asleep after their long drive. I was sitting on the toilet, leaking, as my husband got dressed and laid a garbage bag on the passenger seat of the car. We did not expect that I would be leaking on the way to the hospital. That was the one perk of a scheduled c-section: no clean up.
I called the hospital on my way so that the on-call doctor could be prepared for our arrival. This was going to be a c-section, just a few hours earlier than we had planned. Less than 24 hours ago, I thought I would push this little girl out to the sounds of Rainbow Connection. Instead, I was on my way for an emergency c-section.
Emergency c-section. This was not what I wanted. This was not what I planned. I was so scared. So was my husband. I could see the fear in his eyes. He knew what we were up against. At any point, my blood pressure could get the better of me and put the lives of the females he loved the most in jeopardy. But he didn’t let on. I was bawling in the passenger seat, freaking out. I didn’t want to be in the car. I didn’t want a c-section. I didn’t want to die. Despite my fears and tears, he kept reassuring me. It would be fine; the doctors would take care of us.
They quickly got us up to a room and started prepping me for surgery. My blood pressure was climbing. This needed to happen RIGHT AWAY.
I remember laying on the operating table. It was so cold there. So bright. It smelled weird. My husband sat by my head and held one of my hands.
I remember looking at him and saying, “Take care of her.”
“We both will.”
I cried. I cried for fear. I cried for love. I cried for the hormones flooding my body. I cried for the sake of crying.
The c-section was, in the end, uneventful. We both survived and my blood pressure slowly dropped. We all went back to the room and took a deep breath.
Well, not all of us. My daughter couldn’t take a deep breath. She had fluid in her lungs. See, when a baby is pushed through the birth canal, the amniotic fluid is usually squeezed out. But she wasn’t squeezed. She still had that fluid in her lungs. We had about an hour together before she was rushed to the NICU. (I’ll save that story for another post.)
So back to Black-ish. The moment Bow is laying on the operating table, freaking about the c-section really hit me. I started crying. It all flooded back to me. Even though c-sections are routine, they’re still surgery. They’re still scary. Bow is a doctor, and anesthesiologist. She understands surgery. And it still freaked her out.
Soon after a tear-drying commercial break, I felt a surge of gratitude. Thank you, Black-ish, for talking about c-sections. Thank you, Black-ish, for showing it’s ok to be scared of them. Thank you, Black-ish, for not doing the stereotypical push-push-push-baby birthing story. Thank you, Black-ish, for not fetishizing pretty moms and easy births. Thank you, Black-ish, for being real.
Even good moms, experienced moms, educated moms have c-sections. It doesn’t make you less of a woman. You made that person. That person grew in you for months. You are amazing.
I am amazing.
Moms are amazing.