Once it had been decided to do the C-section it all went very fast: the midwife attached the catheter, the guys from the anesthesia hooked me up with some even stronger narcotics that rendered the bottom half of my body paralyzed, the doctor plugged another needle into my right hand and several other people started buzzing around me, doing stuff I only noticed very vaguely. I remember being moved into the operating room and lifted onto the operating table; limbs spread out, one needle in the left arm, another one in the right hand, the epidural stuck in my lower back. The doctor put something cold on my stomach and asked me whether I could still feel this and I said “Yes, yes I can” instantly becoming afraid of not being numb enough for being cut open while being fully conscious. In the meantime somebody else set up a screen below my breasts to prevent me from watching what was about to happen and suddenly my upper half started to shiver uncontrollably, which always happens when I am very scared. Luckily the shivering did not prevent the doctors from performing the procedure; it only took minutes until I heard weird, disgusting smacking noises and felt a violent tugging in my mid section. It was crazy, I felt no pain but knowing that in this very moment somebody was cutting my tissue, my muscles, my uterus and reaching into me was an outrageous feeling. I tried to capture this moment in my slightly sedated memory to be able to bring it up in the future whenever I would feel sad, or hurt, or angry or dissatisfied – because this honestly was the scariest thing I had to endure in my life so far and it would certainly put all other supposedly bad situations into perspective. But then the cry of a baby broke through the hustle – and in this moment I knew that everything was going to be alright and I felt grateful.
Pain makes you humble
If I have learnt anything from being pregnant and giving birth it is that we should be way more grateful. Every day without severe pain or physical restrictions is a good day; every day when all your loved ones are happy and healthy needs to be cherished; every day you are able to enjoy good food and have enough of it is a gift – but we tend to forget that. In our everyday lives, when we are focused on our jobs, on moving into a new apartment, on buying a bigger car or researching where we could go for our next vacation we are taking all those conditions for granted. I was no exception: having always been in good health and able to do anything I wanted, the notion that someday I could be sick or somehow “impaired”never crossed my mind. And now I am sitting at home with a whole new perspective on happiness and gratitude in life thinking how small and modest my wishes for the future suddenly have become.
“Baby steps” into a new life
In my circle of acquaintances, in my family or amongst my friends there are a lot of people who tend to complain about every little thing that doesn’t go as planned. Or worse: they complain about seemingly “bad” situations that would not be worth mentioning to other people. I know a retired couple who seriously complains about having a “stressful life” because both of them need to attend to doctor’s appointments once or twice a week while being able to take a nap every day and managing to watch TV for way too many hours. Other friends who still live in their parents’ house complain about “being busy at work” although they don’t have to do any household-chores when they get home and have never known the pressure of entirely providing for oneself. Another friend has decided to start his third degree course at university in his early thirties and now complains that it will still take years until he is allowed to work as a teacher. Thinking about those kinds of “problems” now, with a little baby in my life, really made me wonder if those people have forgotten how to be grateful for all the positive things in their lives.
After the horrible C-section and the days in the hospital when I could neither move without severe pain nor hold my newborn child in my arms while standing up straight I learnt to appreciate every little step that brought me closer to a “normal life” again. I tried to very consciously feel into my body every day to notice how I got better – I felt the pain in my mid-section decrease day by day, I noticed how I was able to walk better and better; after a couple of days I could finally lift my baby from its bed without being all tense and scared of not having enough strength and then, on the day we were released from the hospital, I was so proud of being able to walk from my hospital room all the way to the parking lot without having to rest once. It might seem hard for you to understand why I am even mentioning those very basic facts about recovering from a C-section (after all, it is “one of the most common abdominal surgeries worldwide” – which I have been told frequently from people who did not know how to respond when I told them how much pain I felt) – but to me this is exactly what helped me to go through this. I could easily have chosen to complain every day about how miserable I was (I did that too sometimes, of course), but how would that have helped me to get better? I was not able to change the situation or increase the speed of my recovery, so focusing on every “baby step” towards feeling better was the only thing that made sense to me. And if you read carefully you might have noticed that I used the word “chose” – because the way you respond to things happening in your life is an active choice. You decide how you handle stuff; physically and mentally. And when you’re physically at your weakest the only solution is to try to act very strong mentally.
Flipping the negative into something positive
Now that I am home with my son I am still focusing on how things improve day by day (because, booooy, have I underestimated the effort it takes to take care of a baby! Kudos to all moms out there!). For example I still remember how happy I was when I was able to sleep for four consecutive hours (happened two weeks ago, never happened again since…) or how grateful I felt when the little one smiled consciously for the first time although I had cried before due to exhaustion. Or the day when I was able to breastfeed my son without having to additionally use formula. Or the day we went out alone to a café for the first time and I was so scared. Or, or, or… I could go on for a while. And although the whole pregnancy and giving birth have not really been “my cup of tea” I am still grateful for the experience.
To all the retired people with doctor’s appointments, the stressed adults living with their parents and the grown-ups not able to decide what career path they would like to pursue I suggest: flip all the negativity into something positive. Everyone has doctor’s appointments – be glad that you’re not seriously sick. Being stressed at work is annoying – but how awesome is it that you can use all your spare time to recover while mom cooks dinner. Being a student over thirty-five is strange – but having the choice to swap careers so late in life in order to pursue what you love is great. Don’t whine, be grateful instead. Because you shouldn’t have to lie on the operating table with your belly cut open to realize how good you have it.