I remember the first time I saw my precious baby girl very clearly even though I was in a drug induced state. My husband was with her and was watching as the nurses were checking her vitals and cleaning her off. I remember seeing her grab his thumb with her tiny, perfectly formed hand. I remember my husband bringing her over to me to let me see her right before they took her to the nursery and wheeled me away into recovery.
You see, I had a c-section. That’s how my daughter was delivered. I know I say that as if it was some unspeakable way of having a baby, but that’s how I felt about it. I wanted a natural birth, no medication–the old school way–the “right” way. Because I had physicians in my family who were experts in women’s health, I had been convinced to birth in a traditional hospital instead of a birthing center. I was okay with this because I knew that if there were an emergency, all the medical care I would need would be right there. I’d had friends who’d had an emergency and had to be rushed from their birthing center to the hospital across town. That was scary and I didn’t want to do that.
I really wanted to have a natural child birthing experience. Several of my friends had birthed naturally and I’d heard their stories–how amazing it had been-tough but fulfilling, euphoric and such a bonding experience when the moment you felt the culmination of all your labor and the slimy wet newborn being laid on your chest. I wanted that–the way it was intended. I’d watched documentaries about C-sections and how harmful they can be-how they can have a hand in post-partum depression and how they may even affect the hormone levels of newborns, etc…I’d even done research on the U.S. cesarean section rate and the rate of the region I lived…it was astounding…almost 50%. I couldn’t believe it! Especially elective C-sections…who would ever choose to have surgery over a vaginal birth? I couldn’t comprehend it.
I did end up having a C-section and at the time, it was as if my worst nightmare was coming true. This is the first time that I am truly at peace with what happened which is why, I believe, I can finally write about my own experience.
On Friday, November 5, 2010, I had an appointment with my OB and she told me that I was dilated 3cm. She then told me to go home, make sure my bags were packed, and get ready. Instead of going home, I went back to work, finished teaching, finished up my substitute plans and copies and let the principal know what was going on (this was happening 2 weeks early). After sharing the exciting news with my fellow teachers, I went home, packed, and waited! Saturday passed and nothing happened. Sunday came, I went to church and just felt so…strange. My body was totally up to something and I knew it…I was so uncomfortable. That night, I prepared to go into school and teach the next day although I was extremely tempted to call in. We went to sleep and at midnight I woke up to go to the bathroom (as usual). Suddenly, my water broke (I’ll spare you the details) and my husband and I excitedly drove the 15 minutes to the hospital. We got there, signed in, and waited.
The nurses sent me to the bathroom to change into a gown and sent my husband to who knows where. By then, my contractions were coming on so strong and I was vomiting from the pain that I couldn’t even dress myself. I finally got dressed, headed out and the nurses got me into a bed. After measuring me, the nurse scolded me for waiting so long to come to the hospital–I was almost fully dilated and ready to have this baby. I didn’t have the strength to tell her that we came right away.
I don’t remember how much time went by, but what I do remember is getting into a room, the nurses not allowing my husband in because they wanted to ask me questions like, “Do you feel safe at home? Do you feel like your baby will be safe when you take it home? Is your husband abusive?” and then being in so much pain I finally succumbed to an epidural. (Later, we realized that my pain was so intense because my contractions were causing damaged nerves from a high school sports injury to be pinched). They finally let my husband come in and some time later, my mom got there. After that, time sorta just blended together. I know the doctor arrived, I pushed and pushed with nothing really happening. Sofie would crown, even to the point we could see her full head of black hair, but never more than just the top of her head. I was getting so frustrated with myself because I couldn’t feel anything, yet I was supposed to push a baby out using legs I couldn’t move, without muscles I could control. After about 3-4 hours of this, the doctor told us the Sofie was in essence, stuck, and she wasn’t coming out even with my best efforts. She was fine at the moment and the situation wasn’t an emergency, but it could quickly spiral into one if her heart-rate dropped. I didn’t want a C-section. No, I desperately didn’t want a C-section. More powerful than my dread of having one was knowing that I wanted a healthy baby. Still, I was so emotional and exhausted, when my husband came over and talked to me about it, I just cried and told him to tell the doctor to do what was needed…what was best. Soon after, more medical staff came in and started prepping me for surgery. During my surgery, I could feel everything. I don’t know if I would say it was painful, but it was the most uncomfortable thing I have ever felt in my life. Imagine someone having their hands in your abdomen and pushing your organs all around…yea, I felt that. The only thing that kept me on the OR table was the fact that I was strapped down and the only thing that kept me sane was that I chanted in my head, “It’s not pain, it only pressure. It’s not pain, its only pressure” over and over again.
After I got to see Sofie, I was put in the recovery room. I remember feeling like I had been submerged in an ice bath and I was shivering uncontrollably. Nickie got me more blankets from the nurses and I finally fell asleep…I was so exhausted.
Sometime later, I awoke in my own hospital room. It was so amazing getting to really see Sofie for the first time without being under anesthesia. Getting to be there with my husband and holding our new baby together was completely euphoric. This tiny little human being that had been entrusted to us was snuggled in our arms. The next 2 days in the hospital went by so quickly and before I knew it, we were driving our little one back home. It was so exciting…having our little Sofie home with us.
I recovered very quickly from my C-section. We were out within 3 days, shopping for groceries and a rocking chair. Grossing out my family by showing them my incision was even humorous. We eventually got into a rhythm at home with new little family and everything seemed so…right.
I guess the only thing that still bugged me was that I had a C-section. Nobody ever said anything to make me feel bad or like I did something wrong to cause it, but I always had a nagging feeling that there was something I could’ve done differently like exercised more or done yoga, or just pushed harder and longer during labor to have the natural birth I wanted. I had convinced myself that if I hadn’t gotten the epidural I would’ve been able to control more of my labor and thus would’ve avoided surgery. I never told anyone, but I really did blame and resent myself for my failure.
Now fast forward 2 1/2 years and I’m expecting our second daughter.
As only normal, the topic of birthing has come up again. At first, I was all gung-ho for trying the natural birth thing again. I was starting to “dream” again and looking into midwives that assist in deliveries at local hospitals. Now that we live in Denver, there are more healthcare choices and people seem to think differently about birthing up here. Still, the nagging feeling that I might have to have a C-section kept tugging at my mind no matter how much I pushed it out. I did NOT want to have a C-section again. This was going to be my chance to deliver my way.
Then, about 2 months ago, it hit me…I was being incredibly selfish and even judgmental. I wasn’t thinking about the health or safety of my baby. I was only thinking about what I wanted without even considering how it would affect my family. The way I had started thinking about C-sections was so unhealthy to the point where I thought I had failed in some way. In reality, I was so fortunate to had been in a position where I could take advantage of modern medicine and not to have to worry about me or my baby dying. I had been so blessed to be in the hands of medical staff that could work efficiently and professionally and protect my life and the life of my baby. Slowly, I started feeling at peace that if I did have to have a C-section again, it would be alright. I realized that the way my baby came into this world has absolutely nothing to do with how I will bond with her. It has nothing to do with the fact that now, I have the most amazing relationship with my 3 year old precious daughter. I can have a C-section and it doesn’t have to have any negative impact on my life or my family in any way.
Now here comes the shocker and the conclusion to this seriously long post…I am now not only at peace with the possibility of having a C-section, but I am actually electing to have one this time. You’re probably thinking right now, “What?! This whole hatred toward C-sections and even your judgmental attitude toward women who have elective C-sections and now you’re electing to have one? This lady…”.
Yep, I think the same thing sometimes.
I’ve come a long way in my attitude toward the whole issue. I know the research, I’ve seen the documentaries, and heck, I even have my own somewhat negative experience, but my reasons for having an elective C-section are deeply personal and have much to do with my family. You may or may not agree with them or not even care, but I’m totally at peace with my choice and my husband has been totally supportive with whatever I wanted. When I had my first C-section, I was stressed out, exhausted and completely afraid. This time around, I know what to expect and know that I don’t have to be worried. I can deal with the side affects and know how to mentally prepare for them. Also, because we live away from family and our closest friends live 30 minutes in the opposite direction of our hospital, I can now arrange to have Sofie stay with friends ahead of time instead of being in a mad rush when my water breaks (as we were last time) and not knowing what to do with my 3 year old while I’m trying to have a baby in the other room. There are still many unknowns (what if my water breaks before my scheduled C-section, will I change my mind, am I really ok with this), but I know that I have the full support of my husband and I am truly at peace with my choice. Like I said before, I’ve come a long way in my thinking and instead of constantly obsessing and stressing about my birthing experience being “perfect”, I am now simply looking forward to meeting our precious new baby girl once she gets here.
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