I might ruffle some feathers here. And it’s unintentional. It’s not judgmental. It’s honest and I hope it speaks to somebody out there (in a good way).
After reading a post from my friend Elizabeth about a C-section carrying so much stigma, it stirred a lot of feelings in me on this topic. And I realized that I’ve never posted about it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned my son’s birth story except in passing. I asked Elizabeth if she wouldn’t mind sharing the spotlight on this topic this week and she happily obliged.
Her post resonated with me because there is a stigma attached. Not just for the mothers who deliver via c-section, but for the babies that are born that way. I’ve heard friends on more than one occasion mourn for their inability to deliver naturally (in this case, meaning vaginally) and I have another friend who has started a beautiful blog, Scars for Love, just to help mothers deal with the physical and emotional healing that comes from a Cesarean birth.
When I went through birthing class, I have to admit that I sort of nodded off during the whole Cesarean part of the class. I was opting for that. I didn’t need that and I wouldn’t need that. But I do, very clearly, remember the instructor telling us that she did not use the term C-section. It sounded clinical and procedural. She used the term Cesarean birth because she didn’t want to minimize what the mother has to endure to deliver her child.
I swear to you, I never thought about what she said, in terms of the terminology, until I sat down to write this post. And now I get it. I understand it. A c-section is not a shortcut. It doesn’t make you less of a woman. It’s just a different means to the same end.
Here’s how my story went down.
I had planned to try for a natural birth. And by natural, I mean, natural. I mean, why not? Women have been doing it for thousands of years without drugs and they survived (most of the time). I liked the idea of letting my body do what it was designed to do. I kept the epidural option in the back of my mind as exactly that – an option. But I didn’t like the idea of needles in my back and I was pretty sure I had a high pain tolerance.
I practiced breathing exercises. I thought about what I would bring to the hospital. The music and books. Maybe some handheld video games. I could see myself bouncing on the birthing ball holding my husband’s hand saying, “hee-hee-hee, hoo-hoo-hoo.” And everything would be magical.
As we all know, life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan. It went to the doctor at about 32 weeks concerned that my baby had not yet turned. I could feel his head firmly wedged in my ribcage. And yet, the doctor casually examined me and told me that the baby had, indeed, turned. Hmm, I thought. Maybe that’s his little butt sticking into my ribcage.
I went back for my next visit 2 weeks later, at about 34 weeks. I had a different doctor this time, because in the practice I went to, they made you rotate every time you went in. This doctor was wonderful and knew almost right away that the baby had not turned. The baby’s position felt exactly the same as before so one look at the doctor and we both knew I had been given incorrect information.
He told me he’d like to take me into another room for an ultrasound to confirm his suspicions. He was right. My baby boy was in the breech position. He informed me, at that point, that I should consider a c-section. My world started spinning and I started crying. I would have never expected that reaction from myself. I had no idea how important the actual birth of my baby had been to me.
He didn’t push anything on me. He simply explained options. He told me that we could schedule the c-section for sometime between 39 and 40 weeks and hope that my baby turned on his own in the meantime. He also said we could try a procedure called External Cephalic Version (ECV).
Basically, an ECV is where doctors grease you up and massage your belly and try to manually turn the baby around inside your belly. This procedure is generally done at around 36 weeks. But he went through a few caveats:
- It’s generally quite painful.
- It’s not always successful.
- If it is successful, the baby can still turn breech again before delivery.
- Sometimes, the procedure triggers labor in which case an emergency c-section would be performed.
Some of these reasons sounded uncomfortable/unpleasant to me. But mostly that last one made the decision for me. I didn’t want to send my baby into pre-term labor and have to suffer through the risks of an emergency c-section. After talking it over with my husband, we decided to schedule a Cesarean birth.
I made jokes about it to other people saying that I didn’t blame my baby. If I had a choice, I’d rather enter the world with my feet on the ground instead of diving in headfirst. And then they called to schedule my baby’s delivery date. His due date was January 27th and they wanted to schedule the procedure for January 23rd. I was fine with that until they told me the doctor that was on duty that day that would be delivering my baby.
I didn’t have a choice about much but if I was going to raise a fuss, it was going to be about this. The doctor on duty was not one of my favorites. I found her to be cold and abrasive and I refused to let her bring my baby into the world. They told me they had another opening on January 24th, my brother’s birthday. Seems silly but I called him to ask if it was okay for my baby to be born on his birthday. He told me he was fine with it.
So it was settled. I knew the day and the time. I went to the hospital the day before to consult with admitting nurse. She gave me a pre-surgical scrub to use and told me to eat lightly and leave the makeup at home. I casually mentioned that I had scoliosis and was concerned about the spinal block I would be receiving. She called the anesthesiologist and I was able to consult with the best of the best so they were prepared the following day.
We were a little dramatic with our photos.
I arrived at the hospital right on time. My mother was en route to our house to watch out pets and help out with the baby. My son was born a few hours late (apparently hospitals don’t always run on time) but it was close to a picture perfect delivery.
I’ll admit I was scared. I was emotional. It hit me that day that this wasn’t the birth I had envisioned. But in the end, my son came into the world a healthy, happy baby and life was never the same again.