I have debated posting this–worried that it was too much, too quickly. Or just too much, ever. Too vulnerable. Too raw. Too emotional for me to open it up to the court of public consumption and opinion. But, if creating authentic space remains the goal here, then this is something I need to do. And a snow day offers just enough quieting of the soul to allow it to happen.
A little over a month ago, my son, Ezra, turned two years old. If you know me, you have probably heard Ezra’s birth story. If you don’t, here is the short version: Ezra was born on December 7th, 2015 at 9:08pm, after thirteen hours of labor. He was born via an unplanned, emergent C-section. After pushing for three and a half hours, the doctor informed us that continuing to push was no longer an option, as his heart rate was dropping intensely whenever I pushed. He would not fit through my pelvic bone and every push was putting him in an unsafe situation. So they prepped me for surgery and off we rolled. Ezra was born healthy and I healed up fine, physically. That is truly a long story, short.
Up until a few months ago, I would have been able to relay this story to anyone in a fairly unemotional fashion. I’d probably crack a few jokes about how I thought my naturally wide hips wouldn’t have failed me like they did and moved on.
The long story, long, though is how I have finally been able to acknowledge how traumatic Ezra’s birth was, for the both of us. I have realized I have something to grieve. I avoided this fact because, if I gave birth to a healthy baby, there seems no reason I should need to grieve, right? And compared to what could have happened? I should be celebrating my healthy baby boy. And believe me, I did and I do.
What I’ve been asking myself, though, is this: Is there space to both celebrate a moment and grieve it, at the same time? I think there is and I think many women have similar contradictory emotions about their birth stories. It’s disorienting to feel two things at once and not be able to reconcile them. And so, we often ignore the more uncomfortable emotion in favor of the safer, easier one.
I decided to give myself a gift for Ezra’s birthday this year. I got a tattoo I’ve been dreaming about since Ezra was born. It is the picture you see above–a chart of the stars and their places in the sky at the exact time he landed earth-side.
Why this tattoo? Or why a tattoo at all? For me, this is the moment time split in two–before and after, Before Ezra and After Ezra. This marks the juxtaposition of how this moment shook my world, while also acknowledging the rest of the universe probably didn’t register the movement. It was a day that saw the best and worst of me. I got a tattoo to honor that and I wrote this poem about it. And if you have a story to share, please share it in the comments. There is so much space in the world for all of our birth stories and how they changed us. I’d love to hear yours.
Note: I will place a trigger warning on this post. It references birth and c-sections in some detail and if you have unresolved feelings around those experiences, please take care of yourself and read with caution.
The Stars Over Raleigh (on December 7, 2015 at 9:08pm)
I’d like to ask the stars
where they were,
in the night sky,
on December 7, 2015
at 9:08 pm.
If they watched from that great distance,
as the scalpel cut
the stretched skin.
Did they see how
I was taken apart,
piece by piece,
to make room for the hands
because I could no longer
If they held their celestial breath,
as I held mine–
waiting for him
to disrupt the universe
with his first cry.
And, if they exhaled in unison,
as they heard his cry pierce the night.
Did they notice the second birth
happening that night?
Did they bear witness to the one
in my soul—
product of a longer labor?
If they felt the
as my soul screamed
its new breath
into the pillow of
my swollen, torn body.
If they counted the stitches on my stomach,
as they counted the hairs on his head.
I’d like to ask the stars
did they know
before I did,
what it meant to be
all at once?