December 14, 2009

The Unnecesarean

I wrote these first few paragraphs around the end of November (November 28, to be exact).


During the month of November, I have written about ten posts in which I have tried to explain what's been going on in my life. Certainly, there's been Thanksgiving and Facebook and FarmVille and sleep training and my dad's being put in a nursing home and marriage and all that stuff, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the dirty undercurrents, the waves of emotion that accompany everything I do. This post will not be talking about all that stuff.

To close out the month and the ever-challenging NaBloPoMo, I want to talk about just one thing. One big thing.

Since Charlie's birth, I have suspected (quietly, to myself) that my C-section was not medically necessary. The OB on call that day told me that my cervix was swollen and that I would likely not progress any further. He said he could perform a C-section or that we could wait it out and see what happened.

I jumped at the chance to get the baby out ASAP, because I was so tired and in so much pain and I didn't know how much more I could take. Why would I choose to wait it out if I wasn't going to progress any further? And so I signed forms and was wheeled away and strapped down to the operating table and put under. And then I woke up to a whole new me and a whole new life and a nice red scar to cherish forever. (Not.)

I discovered yesterday that a swollen cervix can indeed resolve itself during labor. Just when I thought I couldn't feel any more resentful, angry, bitter, or sad about my birth experience, I discovered that I could - because my suspicions about my C-section being medically unnecessary were confirmed.


And now here I am in the present.

Every morning I wake up and think of how all the emotional upheaval I've experienced since Charlie was born (concerning his birth) has ultimately been unnecessary. But now I've started seeing my birth experience on a larger scale. This isn't something that just happened to me; it happens all the time to women all over the nation. With the C-section rate being at an all-time high (31%) in the United States, there's definitely something wrong with the way labor and delivery are handled.

This is not to say that C-sections should be abolished. I certainly am grateful for modern medicine; however, I do think that C-sections are being performed too often, just like I think inductions are performed too often (and the two are linked). There are a lot of women out there today, it seems, who would actually prefer a C-section over giving birth vaginally. Having experienced a very traumatic labor and ending up with C-section, I can't understand why anyone would prefer to be cut open when they can more than likely just push the baby out, but whatever. It's not my choice to make for others, and honestly, I really don't care what other people do with their bodies.

Recently I watched The Business of Being Born and read Your Best Birth. I found myself nodding in agreement through most of both. If there is anything I regret, it's that I didn't take the time or the effort to really think about what I wanted from my birth experience when I was pregnant. I honestly just wanted Charlie and thought the rest of it was just something to get him into my arms. And while that is true on one level, on a much deeper level I cannot deny that his birth was a transformative experience. The journey towards having an outside baby shook me to my very core.

And while it was an extremely negative experience, now I'm starting to see more positive coming out of it. The way I approach the world is different. The way I think is different. I no longer see the labor and delivery process as a means to an end but as something sacred. I understand now that my future births will be experiences to be fought for and protected. I don't think I will ever be able to put myself (and my children) in the hands of doctors without reservations.

I now understand that my body didn't fail me during labor and delivery. The doctors did. The hospital did. The entire medical system did. They forced me to surrender when really it should have been my choice to surrender. No one should have ever taken that away from me. I shouldn't have had to sit here for all these months and feel this deep self-loathing because I failed.

And yet, that is exactly what happened. But if it hadn't happened, I wouldn't have sought out ICAN. And if I hadn't sought out ICAN, I wouldn't have met Sheila, who's had two C-sections but will be trying for a VBAC at a birthing center in March. I recently found out that Sheila was looking for someone to photograph her VBAC, and I offered myself up for the job. And she said yes. So in March I'm going to be a part of something beautiful and healing. I'm going to witness birth as it should be. I'm going to be a part of it. I'll be providing her with memories that will last her a lifetime, and I know the experience is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. I am very excited.


As is the case with traumatic experiences, out of the ashes rises a new person. The new me will never be thankful for what happened when Charlie was born, although she will always be thankful for her perfect, healthy baby boy. The new me understands that saying things like "You should be grateful" to a woman who has just been through hell and back is incredibly insensitive and damaging. The new me understands that birth changes you as much as the new baby does.

The new me is asking all you women of child-bearing age out there to please, if you ever intend to have children, consider your options for birth. Many women out there will tell you, "Get the epidural!" or "Haven't you had that baby yet? Why don't you let the doctor induce?" But just know and understand that those aren't your only options. Don't make the same mistake I did and think that birth doesn't matter. I can never emphasize enough just how much it does matter. Think about you want from your birth, and go for it. (Even if it is a hospital birth with an epidural - childbirth is painful, and I will never begrudge anyone their epidural! Just make sure it's what you want.)

I'm already planning my next birth, and assuming my next pregnancy unfolds in the same way my pregnancy with Charlie did (no complications, relatively low anxiety level), I will be trying for a VBAC, and it sure as hell won't be in a hospital. I am scared and excited about the possibility of giving birth the way I want to. I'm sad and angry about being forced into an induction and C-section I didn't want. But in spite of all that, I'm feeling something else, too.

Empowered. I feel empowered. It's taken me a little while, but Leslie's getting her groove back.

(PS - I so wish I had come up with the title of this post on my own, but alas, I stole it.)


kim said...

I am totally one of those people who wants a c-section. But I will add that it's mainly due to the sharing a placenta thing and not wanting to deliver one vaginally and the other via emergency c-section.

I am sorry your birth experience haunts you every day. That must really suck. But I am glad you have a different plan for #2. I hope that is a much better experience for you!

khairun said...

Im on the verge of tears reading this, having had a similar experience. I just want to say that I wholeheartedly agree with your viewpoint and advice to other expecting mums. I wish I had read this before.
Well done you. You have my utmost support on this issue.


When you are facing labor again, take Bradley classes. They are amazingly informative. I had no idea how many things I had options about during labor and delivery. It doesn't matter that this would not be your first birth. My friend is taking them with her fifth, having had all epidurals so far. You will learn so much regardless of how many children you've had.

Best wishes.

amber said...

I'm glad you're getting your groove back. {{hugs}}

Alisha said...

Feeling empowered and getting your groove back...I am very glad to hear this.