When I was 10 weeks pregnant with baby #1, an aunt said, “Of course, you’re not planning on having a C-section.”
Um, at 10 weeks does anyone plan on having a C-section?
I put on my best Southern lady smile and said the following things. In my head. Using more colorful language: Well, I just “finished” struggling with infertility for SIX YEARS and would now like to simply bask in the moment of I’M PREGNANT!
Must we jump right into the mommy wars?
Unfortunately, the mommy wars really do start when you get that positive reading on the pee stick. And natural birth vs. surgical birth pretty much tops the list. (Quickly followed by formula vs. breast milk, cloth diapers vs. disposables, co-sleeping vs. crib.)
The aunt was a maternity ward nurse, so I’m guessing she
deemed herself qualified to share her unsolicited opinion with me meant well. She views C-sections as a last resort. (Or maybe she views them as a “no” resort.) That hospitals shouldn’t be so trigger happy to do one just because mom is way over lugging around the baby weight. Or because mom’s gotta schedule around that board presentation at work or because the doctor’s tired of chit chatting and wants to get er done.
Sure, why not set your mommy dreams on an unmedicated, vaginal birth? At home in your bathtub surrounded by patchouli oil. If Alanis Morissette can do it, you can, too. I do know several real women who went the no-drugs route. As a 2x C-section veteran, I seriously applaud them. They tapped into primal power, joining women across the millennia. Generations upon generations have accomplished this. But not me.
At 10 weeks, I’d never heard of placenta previa. And then at 26 weeks – the day of our 12th wedding anniversary, the day we were headed on a babymoon – my doctor gave me the following lecture:
Congratulations, you have complete left lateral placenta previa. You can google it (no, wait, you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t actually google anything.) Basically, the placenta is blocking the “exit.” Most placenta get on with life and move as the pregnancy progresses. But you’re old, and Old Lady Placenta is kinda curmudgeon-y, so don’t get your hopes up. In case you needed something to worry about, should you suddenly notice blood running down your legs, go immediately to the ER. Oh, and enjoy your babymoon, but NO SEX.
Then came the dreaded “C word.”
By the way, if Old Lady Placenta doesn’t get her act together, it’s a C-section for sure.
We took childbirth classes and crossed our fingers, hoping to AVOID THE C-SECTION AT ALL COSTS. Because, heaven forbid, a C-section.
People like to stoke the natural birth vs. surgical birth debate. They casually fish around to see if you have a birth plan, then they want details. If you drop the “C word,” they look on with pity and start to extol the benefits of vaginal. The narrative often goes like this: a C-section takes away your chance to experience childbirth as a rite of passage and reduces your ability to bond with baby.
I liked to toss “placenta previa” at them and watch them squirm. Then I’d drop the mic and walk off.
With baby #2, I did try for a VBAC. Hell, why not? I figured it would at least make the birth experience novel. I’d already gone the scheduled C-section route, so let’s mix things up a bit and see what the ole vajajay could do.
My doctor terrified me beforehand with tales of uterine rupture (just writing that phrase gives me the heebee jeebees.) But I found an incredible doula who empowered me and my husband through the entire (medicated) experience. Nope, doulas aren’t anti-drug. Yes, I loved the epidural.
And when I didn’t dilate much beyond 4cm after tons of hours, my doctor recommended pitocin at half the typical dosage. Just enough to get things moving, without straining my fragile uterus. But baby was sunny side up (back labor, anyone?) and the plates in his head started overlapping precariously. (Writing that phrase also gives me the heebee jeebees.) He and I tried for 44 hours. We gave it our all.
I ended up with another C-section. And I’m proud of it. Neither C-section diminished my role as a birthing mother.
If you traveled a similar route to motherhood, bless you. You did an amazing job. You birthed your baby. You have the scar to prove it. And you might have emotional scars, too. People say awful things. Childbirth can be a humbling experience that’s quickly followed by the darkness and confusion of sleep deprivation. You’re more vulnerable in that state to believe those false narratives and to let others write your birth story for you. Don’t let them tell you you’re lesser because nature had other plans for you.
Sit with yourself for a while. Reflect on the birthing experience. What were the highlights that day, that night? Where was the beauty?
And I get it, terrible things can happen when you’re under the knife. There’s a story going around online that is (maybe) true about a mom waking up from a C-section to discover her legs were amputated. What?! (Why did I just tell you that? I now hate myself.)
There’s also concern that baby misses out on important good-germs if he doesn’t travel the “traditional” route, but there’s hope for that, says the journal Nature Medicine:
…Researchers ask doctors to put a piece of gauze inside the birth canal of women giving birth by C-section before delivery to soak up their microbes, and then take out the gauze just before the baby is born. As soon as the baby is born, the doctors swab the baby with the specially prepared gauze, focusing on the mouth and face before moving onto the rest of their body.
So, C-section mommas, let’s celebrate if baby is happy and healthy and thriving. You made it through the journey of pregnancy and childbirth. You did your mom thing.
I’m not here to promise everything will be great or even ok. But if delivery heads in the direction of a C-section, your role as a mother is not diminished. You have not failed. You are not a coward.
If a C-section is the right thing to do, you are fulfilling your first obligation as a mother. You are becoming a mother. You are making crucial decisions for the health of your baby and yourself.
You are honoring your role as caregiver.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Rewrite your story so the light comes through.
Share your C-section success stories below or on Facebook at MothersRest.
Photo credit: Bonnie Kittle from Unsplash.com