Why this c-section mom has no regrets

In less than three months, I plan to go under the knife.

It will be a surgery with the most beautiful outcome I can imagine, resulting in the birth of our second daughter. I can’t think of a better reason to be cut open.

As it looks, birthing by cesarean section will be all I ever know. And (this may be hard for some to understand) … I’m totally OK with that.

Make no mistake, it will be painful. It will be messy. 

But it will be perfect.

You may wonder how I can say that. It’s not that I set out to have my babies by c-section. In fact, to be honest, the thought of a c-section never seriously entered my mind when I was pregnant with my first daughter. Sure, we’d attended a birthing class, and I’d read through “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” so I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that it was an option. 

And unbelievably, as a notorious over-planner, it’s not like I went into labor with an elaborate birth plan either. My plan after 40-plus weeks of carrying this little life was pretty basic at that point–please, please, PLEASE, just get this baby out of me! Yet, I still assumed she would take the southern route.

However Olivia–and God–had other plans for her debut.

About 14 hours after arriving at the hospital in labor with her, it was time to push. And push I did for over the next two hours. I was making progress and the RN was describing Liv’s full head of dark hair to me, but something wasn’t right. Liv’s head was transverse. I remember my OB made several attempts to turn her head as I pushed, but as soon as the contraction was over, her head would turn right back. It must’ve all been very stressful on her, because her heart rate kept decelerating. And so my OB gently told me that she felt the best option for a safe delivery at that point was to quickly move to the OR. 

What happened next struck me as so odd.

Everyone in the room, from the OB, to the RN, to the resident who had been observing my labor, began apologizing to me. “I’m so sorry,” they all said, with tilted heads and sympathetic gazes, as they began prepping me for the c-section to come.

“What are they sorry for?” I thought. “It’s OK,” I reassured them, as I struggled then to NOT push with each contraction as instructed. “I just want whatever is best.”

Less than 30 minutes after the decision for the c-section was made, Olivia Annmarie entered the world. But her experience of trying to find a way to greet it had taken its toll. She wasn’t breathing. Several minutes passed, and we didn’t even realize she was out of my body, let alone being bagged and worked on. I remember asking the anesthesiologist hovering at my head if she was almost out yet, and she replied that she was already out and over at the table. Then, we heard her tender little cry. 

Liv spent her first couple hours hanging out in the NICU.

After a brief look at her, she was whisked off to the NICU with David following. But thankfully, after those first few moments, she rebounded quickly and had no further issues.

I’m not going to lie–my recovery from her arrival was long and hard. It took many weeks to start to feel somewhat normal again. But through the pain, I would look at my sweet baby girl and nothing else mattered.

She was here. She was perfect. (Even with the little “conehead” she initially sported right above her ear where she had gotten stuck.) 

My perfect view while I recovered.

Not long after I got pregnant with our second, the questions started coming. Those who knew I had a c-section with Liv started asking, “So, do you think you’ll try for a VBAC with this one?”

I didn’t mind the question, and I knew the inquiries were well-meaning. But the answer is no, I am not.

Turns out, after discussing with my OB, that I have a slim chance at a successful VBAC. Liv’s birth revealed I have a misshapen pelvis, and it’s likely that if I labored again, it would end with the same result. And so, without hesitation or any regret, I scheduled my c-section for Baby No. 2.

What’s surprised me in the months since my first c-section is that I’ve learned my lack of regret regarding it is considered somewhat … abnormal. I’ve heard other moms describe how they’ve grieved over this method of birth and felt they’d been robbed of a different experience. How they’ve longed and hoped and prayed for another option. How they’ve felt their bodies failed in some way.

I’ve heard other completely well-intentioned moms cheer on those whose chance of a natural delivery is diminishing with mantras of “your body was made to do this!” Except, sometimes, it isn’t. And there should be no shame or guilt associated with that.

Because I believe that the verse we often quote regarding our tiny miracles applies to us mommas too: “I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made … “ (Psalm 139:14)

If God’s ways are perfect (which they are), then I am also perfectly designed, just as He intended. And since His way is perfect, I can say with confidence that my children’s entrances into this world, whatever shape that may take, are part of His perfect plan as well.

So why did my medical team feel the need to apologize as I headed to the OR? Why the shame and the guilt and the regret expressed by so many? Just because your body doesn’t “do” something–be it a natural birth, breastfeeding, or the ability to bear a child on your own–doesn’t mean you have failed … because wouldn’t that be saying that God has failed in His plans for you?

To me, a life coming into this world–and the nurturing and growth of it–is miraculous and amazing any way it happens. What’s “best” may look different for each mother and child, but that doesn’t change the perfection of God’s design for you.

So to the mom who’s pushed out that child without any medical intervention at all, let me share the truth from God’s Word: you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

To the mom who bears the six-inch scar near her bikini line: you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

To the mom who nurses her babe for 18 months: you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

To the mom who prepares bottles of formula for her bundle of joy: you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

To the mom whose child was placed in her arms by another: you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

There’s nothing to regret about that.

“God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true …” (Psalm 18:30)

How my career made me a better stay-at-home-mom

I never wanted to be a mom.

That may be hard for a lot of people to understand, but for various reasons, motherhood was not an innate desire or an ultimate goal. It wasn’t something I felt “born to do,” as I’ve heard some women describe it.

My desire, for as nearly as long as I can remember, was to work with words. I wanted to write, report, edit–anything that had to do with a career in the communications field–so I focused my efforts on chasing, and fulfilling, that dream.

Until all that changed nearly two years ago, when my first daughter entered the world. And she flipped my dreams upside-down and inside-out, transforming my hopes and plans and expectations. All in ways better than I could’ve ever imagined.

But when I made the decision to leave my full-time career in publishing and media last year to stay home with my daughter, it didn’t make sense to me to just throw out everything I knew as I took on this new role. I thrived on the pillars of my career: meeting deadlines, setting goals, solving problems–finding joy in tangible accomplishments. Admittedly, I was really unsure of how to approach this whole stay-at-home-mom thing. I was way outside my comfort zone.

So I decided to not change a thing.

I was going to treat staying home like I was going to work. As if changing diapers, making meals, and playing games were my job. Just without the bi-monthly paycheck.

Less than a year into it, I don’t claim to have all the answers or have every parenting challenge figured out. That’s where God’s grace and guidance come in. However, I’ve found that adapting this mindset–that every day when I wake, I have a job to do–has helped my transition tremendously. That applying the same principles I did in the workplace can help me find success as a stay-at-home mom. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Structure promotes success. In the working world, businesses need some benchmarks to promote productivity, and employees want to know what to expect. Turns out kids aren’t much different in that regard, so I’ve established a general rhythm and routine to our days. Liv knows that right after she gets up, she eats breakfast. After breakfast, comes play–and sometimes errands. Then there’s lunch, followed by nap. For a young, developing mind, a sense of structure provides comfort instead of chaos. And you can clearly see it in her reactions and attitude when things are thrown totally off-course. She’s like a sad little lost soul, bobbing out to sea.

So how do I handle the atypical days? (Like Sundays, for instance.) I still keep as much structure as possible, and the day still follows a pattern. And personally, I don’t mess with her nap. Yeah, that means turning down some play dates or leaving places early on occasion, but the benefits of providing her an appropriate space and time to get her rest far outweigh any inconvenience this seemingly might produce. Believe me, I do just about anything to avoid bringing out the beast that is the cranky toddler.

Best job I’ve ever had.

Set realistic daily goals. I’ve heard many stay-at-home-moms bemoan the fact that they feel they never get anything done. They look around and see the laundry piling up, the sink overflowing with dishes, and their kids rolling in the dirt … right after baths. They get overwhelmed by the seeming lack of progress and repetitive cycle each day brings. But it’s easy for the same thing to happen in the corporate world: there’s always another project, another deadline looming, another fire to put out. I learned in that environment that the best way to feel a sense of accomplishment in the onslaught of all there is to do is to break big tasks into small, achievable, daily milestones.

So at home, I set simple, prioritized, daily goals as well. Unload the dishwasher. Cut Olivia’s nails. Take her to the library. Go for a walk. I limit these goals to just three to five that I want to see through that day. That may seem somewhat insignificant, but at the end of the day, I can look back on it and know what we did. And that something was achieved. You’ll never get everything done in a day that you’d like to–and that’s ok. To me, sleep is far more important than stressing over the thickening layer of dog fur that hasn’t yet been swept up.

Plan and prepare for what’s ahead. It used to bother me to no end when colleagues showed up unprepared for meetings or for the day’s agenda. Especially if it was a meeting or agenda item that was regularly on the calendar. So I try not to show up unprepared for my job as a mom. For me, this means taking care of myself and getting ready for the day first, whenever I can. I function better and in the right spirit when I can get a cup of coffee, spend time in God’s Word, scroll through my newsfeeds, take a shower, and pray before Olivia wakes up. Personally, I’m in a better frame of mind to take on the day’s challenges. Now, with kids, this is not possible every day, but it is something I strive for and do the majority of the time.

Also, I’ve found it really helpful to plan ahead, as much as you can, for the next major parenting challenge on the horizon. Read various resources. Talk to other parents. Seek out biblical principles and ask God for wisdom. And discuss and agree upon the course of action with your spouse, preferably before the situation arises, whether that’s discipline, sleep issues, or potty training. Again, this can’t be done in all circumstances, but I have found it easier to stay on target when the path was previously chosen.

But don’t over-plan (and be willing to change course). After all I’ve said about structure and plans, it kind of seems like I’m contradicting myself, right? But I’ve learned that within that structure, I have to allow for flexibility. Over the course of my career in media, I can recall many times we had a 1A or cover story set–and then as the shipping deadline approached, news would break. You couldn’t sit there and pout about it–you had to rip up the page and get to work. You had to have contingencies and plans A, B, and C to allow for sudden changes in direction. Especially if a knowingly unpredictable outcome loomed; so you kept extra stories on file ready to go in case they were needed and crafted lists of headlines that worked whether the Red Wings won Game 7 or not.

As a mom, being rigid and over-scheduled is bound to backfire on you. Your kid won’t nap that day. She’ll wake with a runny nose and fever. An explosive poop will happen as you’re carrying her out the door. She’ll  need some extra snuggles as that molar breaks through. And if you find that you can’t bend from what you intended to do, you will end up being the one suffering, fuming in frustration with your patience wearing thin. I’ve learned that as a stay-at-home-mom it’s better to not set myself up for disappointment and allow for breathing room in my day, so when the unexpected can and will happen, I can more easily tackle it. And when it does, I remind myself to embrace it and find joy in the adventure, for I am not the ultimate Maker of our plans anyway.

Finding joy in the unexpected and unpredictable.

Do every task with purpose. This one is hard, particularly for the girl who’s never been a domestic diva. It was a lot easier for me to write an article with purpose or plan an issue with purpose. But fold laundry with purpose? Wipe snot with purpose? Grocery shopping with purpose?? These were the kinds of things that in the past made me recoil in fear from all things mommy-related.

But when I decided to view my stay-at-home-parenting role as my designated job, it became easier to change my attitude on how I greeted the mundane, or icky, tasks. If I looked at it that washing the dishes supported the overall function of our home in a positive way, it wasn’t so bad. And if I can care for the household in a way that leaves my husband with less to do when he walks in the door, we have more quality time available to spend as a family doing more fun things, like taking a walk to the neighborhood park after dinner.

Leave your job behind and recharge with your spouse. This one might hit a nerve with some. And it’s an area that’s been a personal struggle for me in the past. I used to think my job was everything. It’s where I found the majority of my joy and satisfaction. I plugged all I had into being successful at it. And when I got home, I often had nothing left to give, and it spilled over into any free moments I had–checking emails first thing in the morning, writing lists late at night, thinking about the next big task ahead while I was supposed to be listening to my husband. My marriage suffered. My relationship with God suffered. I was happy(-ish) at work … but really, I was miserable. My God-ordained priorities were all out of whack.

So if staying home to parent my daughter is my job, she can’t be my everything. That doesn’t mean I don’t love her completely, and that this job isn’t the absolute best one I’ve ever had–but I’ve got to put it in check with my priorities. My relationship with God and my husband must come first.

So practically, particularly in these young years, how does that play out? It doesn’t mean in any way I neglect her needs, but that I focus on fostering an environment where my husband isn’t also ignored. For us, it means enforcing early bed times whenever possible. It means finding time to converse just with him, undistracted. It means connecting over something we both like to do when we have downtime (even if that’s watching America’s Got Talent on the DVR) instead of choosing things only I like to do that don’t involve him (like running to Target). It also doesn’t mean I ignore taking time for myself either, but there should be balance among  fulfilling the priorities. One day, our daughters will leave. I believe God has intended our marriage to last our lives, so that means being able to devote energy to growing and building upon its foundation now. And quite honestly, we parent better when our marriage is where it should be.

As with every job, there are going to be crunch times as a stay-at-home-mom–times where you’re going to have to pour more of yourself into your work. Where it’s just about survival (like during a pregnancy of another child, an illness, or after the birth of a baby). And these challenging times may last several days … or months. That’s when I must fully trust and depend on God to lead me through these periods of intensity, just as He guides me through the daily grind. I’m so grateful that this is a job that does not rest solely on me.

You may read this blog as a fellow stay-at-home-mom and can’t relate to it at all. My application of these principles I’ve learned during the span of my corporate career is personal, and admittedly, many play into my God-given personality. How each of us carries out this role will differ–it’s not one size fits all. That would be boring. This is just what I’ve found works for me.

Speaking of work, I need to finish getting ready for my job. Duty calls. 😉

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)