I Missed My Baby’s Birth: Learning to Accept My Emergency C-Section

Birth Story Portland
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I don’t celebrate my birth story the way I’m supposed to.  In fact, I don’t even remember it. I grew up knowing the power of birth to change a woman. I listened eagerly to the stories told by my mother, aunts, and cousins about how birth was their first step into motherhood. I even supported my cousins as they brought three children into the world. I kneemergency c-section birth storyw that birth was a powerful rite of passage, and yet there is a chasm of memory where my birth story should be.

Where another might share memories of pushing her baby into the world and hearing that first cry ringing out, my daughter’s first cry is lost to me forever.  Where other children were greeted by a room full of eager grandparents, aunts, friends, and cousins, my daughter was born into a room full of strangers in masks.  When I woke up from anesthesia, alone but for a pink-clad nurse, I was unable to move my body or force my lips to form the words, “Where is my baby?  Is she okay?”  When I first held my daughter, I questioned whether she was the same child whose every cell was knit within my womb.  When I first took her to my breast, my body was slow to realize she had been born and produce the colostrum she needed to thrive. It took months of therapy and buckets of tears for me to say that I gave birth, instead of merely allowing that Karys was born. 

I don’t love to tell my birth story, because it is a trauma that scarred me in both visible and invisible ways, but I know that I am not alone in my experience of a birth day that is difficult to celebrate.

My birth story in short is this: I was in early labor and headed to the midwife’s office to be checked and (presumably) sent back home to continue my labor.  When the fetal monitor strip, which had counted out my steady contractions and my daughter’s steady heartbeat, got stuck, my midwife asked an OB to perform an ultrasound to monitor my baby’s movement. During the ultrasound, Karys was supposed to move six times in thirty minutes, but she only moved three.  At this point, the doctor told me that she was going to “take the baby.” Outwardly, I nodded numbly, but inside I screamed, “You can’t take my baby.  She’s mine.”  

I was told to rush to the hospital next emergency c-section birth storydoor, and within thirty minutes was headed to the operating room, feeling the effects of the anesthesia coming on as I was wheeled away from my worried husband and family. I woke up three hours later, bound to a table, groggy, unable to speak, and unsure whether my baby was alive. After the anesthesia had worn off enough for me to control my own mouth, I asked where Karys was; I was told that she was with her daddy, and I’d get to see her soon.  When I was first wheeled into the recovery room and I saw her in Steve’s arms, I wasn’t sure if she was, in fact, my baby.  When she was first handed to me, my husband and my mother each held an arm to be sure I was able to hold her without dropping her. 

I was later told that the umbilical cord was wrapped three times around my daughter’s neck and stuffed into the birth canal. I was told that without the surgery, my daughter and I could both be dead. I only know what I was told.

My memory of her birth is one of being terrified, confused, and alone. The image of Karys strangled by her own cord haunted me, and I spent months feeling as though birth was my first failing as a mother. I couldn’t even keep her safe when she was living inside of me. How was I ever going to protect her in a world full of dangers?

I don’t like to tell my birth story, but I told it over and over to anyone who would listen until I could put myself back into the story.  It was a story that unfolded around me, but I was eventually able to reclaim it by rewriting the pieces that I had lost. I wrote myself into the delivery room and relished the sound of her “drama queen” cries as they reverberated off the sterile operating room walls.  I wrote myself into the circle of people who greeted Karys in the recovery room, though in reality I floated on a cloud of anesthesia.  I scratched out the part of the story in which the doctor told me she was going to take the baby, instead hearing her tell me that she was going to perform a “C-section,” a term whose meaning I could comprehend.  I wrote back in the part of the story in which Steve and I whispered Karys’ name to her instead of it being revealed as fact on a dry-erase board in a nurse’s happy handwriting.  Finally, I reemergency c-section birth storywrote the version of the story in which I failed to protect Karys and turned it into the story of my first act of maternal protection: She was in danger.  My body stopped contracting to keep her safe.  I lay down on a table, scared and alone.  I allowed my body to be opened and her body to be pulled out. I was a good mother before she was even delivered into this world, and I proved that I will do whatever it takes to protect her.

I don’t celebrate my birth the way I’m supposed to, but I celebrate it in my own way. Each time I tell my birth story honestly, through tears, I celebrate it.  Each time I doula a mother during her labor or in the first weeks after birth, I celebrate it.  Each time I speak or write about the importance of birth and the importance of mothers, I celebrate it. Most of all, each time I look into my daughter’s blue eyes, knowing that I am entrusted with helping her grow into a strong and confident woman, I celebrate her birth and my birth into motherhood.

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Aside from being a writer, Kendra is a Birth Trauma Doula at KarysMa Birth, where she helps moms find their joy after birth trauma. A former middle school English and theatre teacher, she has an insatiable love for learning and a flair for the dramatic. Among the best moments of her life, she counts marrying her husband Steve during a dream rainbow wedding, planning a princess picnic on the beach with her eight year old daughter Karys, giving birth to her one year old daughter Saryn in the middle of a blizzard, and sitting on stage with Glennon Doyle. A Navy brat for the first 13 years of her life, Kendra settled in Virginia for eighteen years before she was finally ready to move again, relocating to Portland in 2014. You can find her work on Portland Moms Blog, The La Leche League Blog, and The Not Your Average Mom Project, as well as the hard drive of her computer.


  1. My precious daughter, Kendra,
    I’m sitting here in my home in Virginia, all alone, with tears running down my face like a waterfall. I just read your article and relived all the feelings you
    shared and also my own feelings as I became a first time grandmother.
    I am so unbelievably proud of you and the way you have worked through your birth story. Remember my own birth story with your own birth, though not as traumatic, was not anything like I had dreamed of. My primary problem was choosing the wrong doctors and a terrible reaction to Demerol. But looking back I can forget that experience because being your mother has been one of the greatest joys and validation as a mother that I could ever hope for!
    My precious granddaughter, Karys, has an AWESOME mother!
    I love you! and pray that you soon have the birth story that I love to tell of your brother Sam’s birth. You were only two but you were there!!!

  2. Very well written Kendra. I had a similar experience almost 31 years ago with the birth of my son. An emergency c-section because his heartbeat disappeared completely. The cord was wrapped around his neck as well and I won’t go into the other details, but I was blessed with a beautiful bouncing baby boy. Because of the complications with my first birth. A c-section was planned with my daughter 18 months later and I am happy to say I was able to be awake when she was born and it was a beautiful experience. It wasn’t necessarilly better, just different and I cherish both experiences because they gave me my beautiful children. Thanks for sharing your experience and God bless you and Karys.

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