By Sheetal Daswani
Seeing the phrase “MY CBAC” in print can occasionally have the power to be painfully debilitating. I so strongly yearned for a VBAC. Yet, when I search deeply into my own psyche, I am confronted with the fact that I got everything I wanted for my baby out of my CBAC. I did not get everything I wanted for me, but I got everything I wanted for my baby. It is a powerfully bittersweet dichotomy really, because I gained so much from my labour, yet I was unable to cross the finish line. At times I am humiliated and at other times I am humbled by this.
I wanted a peaceful birth. I wanted an intervention-free labour. I wanted to go into labour on my own. I wanted to see what it felt like to have contractions and to dilate. I wanted to reach 10 cm. I wanted to use hypnobirthing. I wanted to triumph over a contraction so much so that I wouldn’t feel pain. I wanted to see my baby’s birth. I wanted to discover the baby’s sex. I wanted delayed cord clamping and I wanted no separation. I wanted my baby to benefit from a natural labour and to be alert and peaceful upon his first feed. I wanted to be in a soulful and spiritual synchronicity with my partner and my doula. I wanted to feel empowered and to have a truly supportive and amazing birth team at my side. I got all of those things. I got them all. So why am I still heartbroken at times?
“You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.” – Rumi
I gave myself to the process of birth. I trusted it unconditionally. I let go in every way that I could. I completely and entirely surrendered to my body and to the universe. I spent the years after my first cesarean truly soul-searching and working very hard on myself, to heal, to be at peace with my first birth story and most importantly to relinquish the concept of control. This took years of spiritual practice and yoga. When I got pregnant this time around, I felt empowered, peaceful and relaxed. I had no fear, no tension and no anxiety. I finally understood the connection amongst mind, body and soul, as it relates to pregnancy and birthing.
When I began having regular contractions on my due date, I was so elated about being in labour, that I felt no pain at all. They were just waves, sensations with a purpose. I don’t think I have ever felt so deeply spiritual yet primal at the same time. A few hours into it at around 2am, I went into my kitchen and stumbled upon a single black beetle. My thoughts lingered upon the creature for what seemed like eternity, and then I drew myself away from it to go and research the symbolism of its presence in my home. I learned that beetles have wisdom that is sacred and deep. Beetles speak to us about being grounded, methodical, pragmatic and steady in order to get to the root of what we desire. They teach us how to be tamed by the small and gentle because of their simple, unassuming presence. Their hard shells also speak of protection. It was no coincidence that I crossed paths with this beetle. It was a lesson in maintaining my strength and staying the course toward a peaceful birth. What was the root of my desire? A peaceful birth. What was my purpose in this equation? It was to be a protective shell for my child. That is all.
Upon reflection, there are a few things that strike me as truly amazing. My interaction with the beetle and learning of its role in my story was one of them. Another was opening a book of quotes by the great poet Rumi, upon a page that said, “These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them.” I suppose on some level then and there I must have known that I was having a son, my Rumi, and that he was already guiding me. The next page read, “I closed my mouth and spoke to you in a hundred silent ways.” These two quotes piloted the experience for me. Another amazing thing was being told that I was already 7cm and stretching to an 8 when I arrived at the birth center. I got to that point with my partner and we did it on our own. We got to 8cm without feeling any pain. Hypnobirthing worked. Yoga worked. My body worked. My mind worked. It was a powerful moment. Getting to 10cm was even more powerful but, this is where the heartbreak comes in. I was at 10cm for 8hours and my son would/could not descend. Getting so close to the finish line is almost harder than not getting anywhere at all. I could feel the VBAC coming, I could smell it, I could almost taste it, but then it got taken away. Why? It could have been because my son was posterior or it could have been because I might have cephalopelvic disproportion. I may never know. Whatever the reason, it is irrelevant. If I cannot practice acceptance after years of yoga, then I am a fraud. So, I am not going to agonize over it any longer. I am writing my story and I am letting it go.
“Put your thoughts to sleep, do not let them cast a
shadow over the moon of your heart.
Let go of thinking.” ― Rumi
To my sweet son, Rumi, you are a wise spirit that knew the perfect time to start your journey with us. You are the result of a fantastic equation which even our most advanced mathematics cannot derive. Each life is bookended by two traumatic events, and even though the central character entangled in these events never retains a single memory of them, they define us all. Your birth was one such defining moment for you. I hope that on some level you know how hard we worked to give you the most peaceful and gentle birth possible. Although your name did not get painted onto the ‘Tree of Life’ at the birth center, a photo of yours and your sister’s sweet faces are on its wall. You both may not get to places in traditional ways, but you do get there. I thank you for teaching me things about myself and about your father that I never knew, and for teaching me about humility and acceptance in the most beautiful way.
Sheetal Daswani is a mother, human rights defender, writer, VBACtivist, yogi, doula, dreamer. She has been a Human Rights Education Consultant since 2003 for non-profit organizations such as Amnesty International, and has authored educational materials on issues including torture, child soldiers, refugees and resettlement, equal access to quality healthcare, and gender based violence. During her first pregnancy, she began to investigate human rights issues associated with birth, and what she discovered precipitated her to become a Doula. Sheetal currently resides in Trinidad & Tobago with her family, where she works as a Doula who hopes to inspire her community to view birth though a human rights lens. She aspires to equip those around her with the tools needed to promote sustainable and meaningful social change with regard to prenatal care, labour, birth and beyond.