Labor, there is a reason is it called this. It is the hardest physical work we, women, will most likely encounter in our lives, and the most gratifying. These words have been written, sung, said thousands of times, but cannot be truly understood until the fires of this process have been felt by each of us making the transformation complete. Mothers are forged by this heat, we are not mothers before we begin the process, yet we are mothers on the other side. The metamorphosis is complete, all lenses through which we viewed our experience shattered by the intensity. We then are left to shape our new identity according to this new love we’ve found for ourselves, our bodies, and our children.
This story is brought to COHI by Molly Guy, of Stone Fox Bride fame. She is a brave trend-setter in culture and we are so humbled by her generous sharing of this intimate retelling of her cesarean section here. – Sera Bonds
hi. i'm caroline. also known as "little wildflower", also known as "baby sister". i have a strong neck and the appetite of a jungle beast. i am mostly calm with spurts of insane, maniacal screaming. imagine a cross between a peach and turtle; that’s kind of what i look like. here's the story of how i came to be.
everything was going along amazingly, and my mom was on schedule for a regular good old fashioned, natural, boring, 1970's style vaginal childbirth. she had been preparing for months with squats and kegels and stuff. at the 35 week visit, in fact, dr. russell put her hand in mommy's vagina and exclaimed, "wow, your baby is fully engaged! like her head is right down there, pressing low and firm on the vaginal canal."
and, two weeks later, mommy, daddy, big sister sunny, and babysitter rachel went to get the final ultrasound. the ultrasound technician, a stern old gal with a grey shag took one look at the screen, pointed to my head and said, "baby girl is ready to go! look at her head, ready to pop right out of the vagina." something like that. then big sister sunny started pointing to my lips and screaming: "she is talking to me! i can hear her!"
everything was exciting.
"oh dear," said dr. russell at mom's 38 week visit, her hand, once again, inside mom's vagina (while daddy sat to the side on the folding chair, engrossed in instagram), a look of consternation on her otherwise calm face.
“this is weird,” said dr. russell under her breath.
"what?" said mom.
"we need to get you an ultrasound STAT," said dr. russell. then her, mom and dad shuffled across the hall where, immediately, mom stripped off her shirt and lay, supine and covered in jelly, while dr. russell massaged her belly with the weird ultrasound wand.
"breech!" dr. russell called out, pointing to my small upside down buttocks on the ultrasound screen.
"breech?" said mommy.
"breech?" said dad.
"breech!" said dr. russell again. “your baby flipped around! she is upside down!”
then the three of them shuffled into her office, where there was a large shiny mahogany desk covered in paperwork.
daddy put his phone down. “what’s the deal?” he wanted to know.
“you can try acupuncture,” said dr. russell. “you can burn a moxa stick on your thumb and toes. you can play loud music on a boom box pressed up to your vagina. you can stand on your head. you can go swimming. we can do an epidural, then external cephalic manual version, then induce with cervadil. still there is no guarantee the baby will flip. or, if she does, she may very well flip back.”
“what should we do?” said mom, her face suddenly waxen and pale.
“i suggest,” said dr. russell, “that we schedule a c-section. one week from today, in fact, when you are 39 weeks along, and that baby is officially full term.”
daddy and mommy went home and explored options. they called sam the doula. “dr. doolittle on the upper east delivers babies feet first,” she said. giovanna randall said, “meditate on your baby. sit quietly with your hands on your tummy. tell her you need her to move!” mommy visited an acupuncturist in chinatown; he stuck needles in her thumbs and toes and sent her home with a moxa stick. she sat cross-legged and burned the moxa stick inches from her thumb, then inches from her toe. daddy said, “ew that smells.” big sister sunny said “what’s that?”
mommy went for brunch at aunt becca’s house. “you are so pregnant, it makes me nauseous to look at you,” said gigi. mommy munched on a bagel. she walked to the subway with sunny, who felt the need to collapse and start screaming in the snow. my birth date loomed ahead, only days away.
still, i didn’t flip.
mommy left work early that tuesday. snow had started to come down, soft and gentle. josie came over with her camera. she snapped pictures of mommy, huge and tired, while big sister sunny laid her head on mom’s tummy. rachel packed the hospital bag, bursting with blankets and tiny soft socks. mommy lay on her bed and looked out the window at the snow. everything was quiet. it was march 3rd. she thought of her nana and grandpa’s house in summertime filled up with light. the thought of nana’s ripe roses, fragrant in july. she heard nana’s feet, padding down white carpet, grandpa calling out “dear….” abby came over. the snow outside was coming down harder. mommy roasted a big cauliflower, covered in salt and pepper and olive oil. she made an arugula salad with avocado and pumpkin seeds. daddy came home; sunny ran into his arms. it was 7:30. daddy lit the barbeque on the patio outside. sunny zipped herself into her green puffy snowsuit and strapped on her purple “fancy” snow boots. she joined daddy outside. daddy put steak on the barbeque; it was 26 degrees outside. mommy watched from the kitchen. sunny and daddy built a little snowman. smoke poured out of the barbeque; the snow kept coming down hard. daddy and sunny came back inside, trekking snow with them. the steak was perfectly cooked. everyone sat around the table, mommy and daddy, sunny and abby, their plates full of food. they held hands. they said “thanks for the dinner!” to whoever was listening. they waved their hands around, brought in good vibes. mommy and daddy looked at each other across the table. everything was warm and calm. soon daddy put sunny to bed. mommy took a hot bath with lots of salt and lavender oil. she put on her pjs’ and climbed into bed. daddy joined her for a cuddle. it was a cold and toasty night.
the next morning, rachel came over early. sunny was playing at her kitchen wearing car pajamas. mommy hugged her. they kissed on the lips. rachel gave mommy a bottle of peppermint oil, then pressed a mother mary medallion into her palm. mommy got into the car with daddy. they picked up domino the doula on the corner of whythe and grande and drove into the city. neil young was on the radio. they pulled up to the hospital. mommy and domino went in. daddy parked the car. they took the elevator to the sixth floor. a baby with one large eyebrow in the waiting area stared at them suspiciously.
soon mommy was called into the prep area. she changed into a blue gown and a blue shower cap. a lady came in and did another ultrasound. “still breached!” she called out. another lady placed a hep-lock into mommy’s arm. another lady appeared and started shaving mommy’s nether regions. daddy put on a blue suit and a shower cap. domino waved lavender oil around mommy’s nose and put her hands on her head. “breathe in positivity and hope,” she said. “breathe out fear.” dr. russell came in. “still breached!” she called out. mommy signed a bunch of forms. another lady wheeled her into the operating room while daddy was led into another area.
in the operating room mommy held dr. russell’s hands while the epidural was placed in her back. a bunch of women came in. mommy’s legs and feet became numb. the ladies started poking her. “can you feel that?” they called out. they put oxygen tubes in her nose. they put up a curtain that divided her top area from her bottom area. daddy appeared. he sat next to mommy as the ladies went to work. in just twelve minutes i would enter the world.
daddy held his phone to mommy’s ear and started playing their favorite nick cave song “rock of gibraltar”, the same one he serenaded her with at their wedding. mommy started to cry. daddy said, “sshh, i know it hurts.” mommy said: “mike! you’re so annoying. it doesn’t hurt. i am crying because i am happy.” daddy stroked mommy’s head with a tender hand.
the smell of burning flesh wafted over from the curtain.
mommy went back into her happy place, nana and grandpa’s house, the hallway filled with light and smelling of roses, their feet padding down the carpet and how grandpa would call out “dear”. then cat steven’s “the wind” came on. daddy held mommy’s hand tight. on the other side of the curtain, the women were hard at work. suddenly dr. russell called out, “WHOAH! the cord is wrapped around your baby’s neck three times! good thing we didn’t try to flip her!”
“WHOAH,” called out all the other ladies in the operating room in unison.
“i want to see my baby!” mommy screamed, and in the next second, dr. russell pulled me out of mommy’s tummy.
both mommy and daddy burst into tears.
dr. russell hoisted me over the curtain and pressed me up to mommy’s face. mommy started kissing me like crazy. i was warm gooey and warm.
mommy loved me madly.
well, that’s really it, i guess. there’s more, like how it took the doctors forty-five minutes to sew mommy up, and three times she thanked the surgeons and the women in the room and said “i am so grateful i am so grateful that my baby’s birth was so peaceful and safe and powerful” and by late afternoon she was stretching her leg over her head, and how rachel and abby brought big sister sunny to the hospital that day, and she was wearing her purple snow boots and a pink dress and she climbed into bed with mommy and stroked my head and said “baby sister is gonna love me? and i am going to show her how to build a little snowman?” and the next day mommy’s boobs grew into engorged baby watermelons the worst pain ever flaming hot burning boobs hellfire and she screamed out to the nurse on duty in the middle of the night “get me out of here i am taking my baby and leaving this shithole” and there was a fire drill in the neo-natal unit the morning i was checked out of the hospital, ringing crazy bells blaring for four straight hours. and how a woman named shalini encapsulated mommy’s placenta and dropped it off with her doorman along with my dried up umbilical cord. and the night mommy brought me home she cried so hard and so hormonally that daddy thought he would have to check her into bellevue pysch ward. but that’s all in the past. today i am three weeks old! life is good.
one last thing: my full name is caroline virginia wildflower guy. caroline was mommy’s nana. virginia is daddy’s mommy. and wildflower, well… duh. it’s just that little bit of something special that my mommy couldn’t resist.
can’t wait to hug and kiss you all.
xoxo love baby caroline