My friend wrote a post on the Huffington Post last week called 12 Things I Loved About My C-Section. It made me realize that I never wrote anything here about my own birth experience. Before I was pregnant, the thing I was most worried about and almost made me decide to adopt kids instead of giving birth was my severe fear of childbirth. I mean really, really severe – like I would cross my legs when someone spoke of delivery. I read a lot of birth stories, books, and interviewed all my friends who had delivered “naturally” (I know who tore and how many stitches they had!). I learned a LOT about the gruesome details, particularly post-birth recovery, or lack thereof, and ironically, decided that “natural” birth seemed like the furthest thing from “natural”. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Yet, I eventually decided that I could and would do it.
When I was pregnant, I took a birth class where I diligently took notes and my partner learned how best to support me. I chugged pregnancy tea, which I was convinced would strengthen my uterus so my two babies would come shooting out, and I tried to learn how to meditate. When both my babies were breech, I headed to the swimming pool to do headstands, which ultimately flipped baby A (or maybe he just flipped on his own). My doctor reassured me that that was what mattered – baby B could be “retrieved” naturally with a breech extraction.
Then, the week before I delivered, I developed preeclampsia. After a couple of false alarms and threats of induction, I was told that I had to deliver that night and that there was no doctor available to do a breech extraction. I had no choice – I had to have a c-section. WHAT?!?! I had not even considered this possibility. Would my babies lack certain immunities by not traveling through my birth canal? Would they have fewer IQ points? I seriously considered these things because I had read about them in the context of the benefits of delivering naturally. I had done virtually no research on c-sections, very uncharacteristic of me, and here I was about to have major surgery. I cried. I freaked out, but then I channeled my inner varsity athlete and got ready for game time. This was what was happening. I needed to get ready.
I had a c-section because I didn’t have a choice. Well, I guess I could have refused, but I wasn’t willing to risk my life or my babies’ lives, so I had one. It was kind of scary – I’d never had surgery before, but it was also kind of cool. I don’t have a different birth experience to compare it to, but the big, bad things I’d heard about c-sections didn’t turn out to be true for me. No one whisked my babies away before I could see them. A nurse even insisted on taking pictures of us in the OR, which I adore him for. The recovery was pretty easy (maybe even easier than if I had an induction and vaginal delivery from what I’ve heard) and not very painful at all. I’m actually very grateful that I didn’t have a choice because I feel like I lucked out by being forced to have a c-section since it’s not something I would have chosen. Maybe my kids will be obese or get celiac disease because I had a c-section, but I doubt it even though it was those fearmongering articles out there that made me dead set on delivering “naturally”.
Language matters. It’s ridiculous that I have to distinguish my birth from a “natural” one. Even saying that someone “elects” to have a c-section makes it sound like they’re making an unnecessary, bougie choice. Why don’t we say that someone “elected” to have a vaginal birth? Before my “unnatural” birth, if you had told me that you were electing to have a c-section, I would have judged you. Now, I realize I was uninformed and sort of brainwashed into thinking there is a “right” way to give birth. Of course, there are pros and cons to both the mother and baby of having a c-section, but when a mom makes that choice, who are we to judge? (I do draw a distinction between myself and moms who elect to have c-sections very early to stay slim if those people actually exist. I have a hunch they don’t and are created by People magazine). The language of a “caesarean epidemic” certainly makes it clear how a good mom is supposed to deliver, but I support a woman’s right to make an informed choice about how they are going to give birth and that’s why I really appreciated Kathryn’s perspective. Everywhere you look, there is pressure for women to have “natural” births and why it’s preferable, but it’s much harder to find stories about women who are thankful and grateful for the medical interventions that helped them give birth or saved their lives and their babies’ lives. Let’s tell those stories. I’m not asking for a big gold star because I had a c-section, but I also shouldn’t feel ashamed or like I have to justify why I had one. Instead, let’s talk about how parenting, and life really, is always a balance of what research suggests is best right now and what works for you and your family. Let’s recognize that we are all doing the best we can and support each other. Kumbayah.