Controversy Wednesday: CAESARIAN SECTIONS

23 Mar

Note: After speaking with several women who have had c-sections, I’ve noticed a common thread among them: they have strong feelings about it.  So, since I’m packing for our upcoming move this week, I’ve asked my BFF (a very talented writer) to describe her c-section experience for Controversy Wednesday.  I hope you’ll take time not only to read this but to comment if you’ve undergone the same surgery. 

Remember, friends, how we treat guests?  With kindness, an open mind, and a sense of humor.  Alright then.

Kisses,

Jaime

 

————————————————————————————

C-Section? You mean Get-Outta-Jail-Free-Section!

I hate telling people I had a c-section. Though there’s something cool about having had a major surgery to impress people with, c-sections are looked at more as a cut-and-run (no pun intended) kind of way to escape the real birth experience. The only part of me that remotely enjoys sharing that I had a c-section is the same part of me that put Band-Aids all over my uninjured body when I was in pre-school in the hopes that my classmates would think I had been-there-and-done-that. For the most part, whenever I say I had a c-section to someone who has either never had a baby, or a mother who gave birth through the ol’ tunnel of love, there’s a pretty standard response I get: “Lucky you”! Eh hem. I’d like to politely disagree.

Here’s how the birth of my beautiful monkey went 14 months ago:

3:30am – Checked into hospital

10:00am – Doctor shows up. “You in labor, gurrrl!” (no, she’s actually kind of a stuck-up whitey with a pole up her butt, but she’s more interesting when I make her sound like Whoopie Goldberg in Ghost.

Next 10 hrs – Pain, boredom, Larry David movie (bad idea), pain, anxiety

8:00pm – Start pushing

10:00pm – Whoopie Goldberg tells me that after 2 hours the baby has made no progress, and the baby and I both have a fever now. I get wheeled to the OR.

10:34pm – Through a 3-4 inch incision just below my bikini line, out comes my little monkey.

When I was 34 weeks in, I learned in my birthing class that if the baby hasn’t flipped by week 34, that there’s a decreased chance that they will in time for the birth – and most hospitals opt not to deliver breech babies these days – thus, a c-section. For a couple of weeks, I felt disappointed and sad, to say the least. I felt like the homeopathic hippies in my life would pity me and my baby for not having a real, healthy, and proper birthing experience. Returning to birthing class the following week would be like a trip to Payless for the footless man. I decided my body wasn’t good enough to have a baby the natural way, and I was going to have to deal with the abashed consequences of getting off scott-free. I spoke to a friend who had recently had a c-section. She told me what I know now which is that there is nothing “scott-free” about having one.

However, by my 36-week appointment, my monkey flipped over. My 1.5 second long excitement to this news reverted immediately to the original fear of “Oh my God, that means she’s going to come out of where???” (It’s always something, right?) The homeopathic hippies in my life were thrilled.

But as the itinerary above shows, flip or no flip, she came out the side exit door anyway. Thirty minutes prior, after 2 hours of unproductive pushing, Whoopie recommended the c-section. I felt like I had somehow failed the whole process: my body wasn’t strong enough to push; my muscles were too tense to relax; and maybe even, my soul wasn’t worthy of being the mother you are. I know, that’s going kind of far, but after 32 years of life, nine months of pregnancy, nineteen hours in a hospital bed, and a minor in women’s studies, I was going to make this molehill into a mountain, goshdarnit. But then, like that moment at the end of the movie, when the hero pulls himself up by his bootstraps and takes one last stand, I said to my husband and Whoopie: “I’m going to try one more time”. My husband took my right leg, the nurse took the left one, and Whoopie waited at the other end for signs of life. Three contractions and three of the greatest pushes known to mankind…

Nothing.

Thirty-four minutes later in the operating room, the whole thing was over. And my new life began.

I peed through a tube for a couple of days after my monkey was born. When the nurse pulled the thing out and kindly told me it was time to walk to the bathroom, I thought I had been given Nurse Hatchet. “Get up??” I thought. “Why, you must have confused me for someone who is capable of sitting up!” My first trip to the bathroom, which was only about five (normal) steps from my bed, took approximately fifteen minutes. It was a few weeks before I was able to walk normally again. Because I pushed for two hours, I still managed to get all beat up downstairs, so sex wasn’t much fun for about 6 months, and then I learned I was crazy dry down there (until I discovered Vagifem – woohoo!) Parts of my abdomen were numb for months afterwards, and my incision scar is still mildly itchy on an almost daily basis. So in response to how “lucky” I was, I think the only thing that was lucky was that modern medicine got my monkey out safely.

Then there’s the mess of people (my husband included) who think that a c-section isn’t good for your baby, and that if they don’t get squeezed through your teeny tiny vagina, coming out with a conehead, that they’re going to encounter a slue of health problems in the future. I’m no doctor. Again, I’m no doctor. But I think my daughter is as healthy, and will continue to be as healthy, as any conehead out there.

Sure, I guess I wish I had had a “normal” birth. But maybe that’s just because my ego hates feeling like I haven’t earned my stars, though I know I have. But the other reason I have shame about my c-section, is that I feel like I’m not a member of The Club. I feel like, because I didn’t have my baby the old fashioned way, I am in some way, not invited to join the “pains of motherhood” club. Even when my own friends tell me the stories about their labor, it seems almost as if they’re talking to a childless woman, and not me- the person who had a baby just like they did. But again, maybe that’s just my fragile ego talking. But if you had a c-section, I know you know what I’m talking about.

Whether you had an emergency c-section, or a pre-scheduled elective one:

1. You had to work hard to have a baby – just like the rest of them.

2. Your baby’s ear infection is not because he came out the side door. He’s a baby. He gets ear infections.

3. You’re a mother – just like the rest of them. The cool thing is, you have a pretty little scar to remind you every day that you brought this beautiful being into the world.

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12 Responses to “Controversy Wednesday: CAESARIAN SECTIONS”

  1. Ang March 23, 2011 at 8:39 am #

    I think you deserve a special badge of honor… you had it worse than those of us who had a “normal” birth… you labored (longer than both of my labors) pushed for as long as I did and then had to recover from MAJOR surgery… I think we put too much pressure on ourselves. You are a SUPERMOM and have been all along. Your little monkey is lucky to have you!

  2. Hannah March 23, 2011 at 9:58 am #

    For most of us- birthing aint easy no matter which way you do it. I had 3 “normal” births- and with the first I was admitedly asking for a c-section at the end…actually I think my shout was “I don’t care what you do vacuum, c-section, just get it out of me- NOW” But I have discussed c-sections with many women (mom and sister) and I think it all evens out. I just think the idea of those babies coming out the “natural” way is crazy…so people like to talk/brag. The people we should gang up on are the ones that have 45 minute labors and 3 pushes, like my sister in law, and walk out like it was nothing- B#^$@*s.

    • Caroline March 23, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

      “The people we should gang up on are the ones that have 45 minute labors and 3 pushes, like my sister in law, and walk out like it was nothing- B#^$@*s.”

      Ha ha ha. Totally. 🙂

  3. Nikki March 23, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    I have four children, three of which were born via c-section. One (my second-born) was a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). My first c-section was performed because my baby was breech at term. I had feelings very similar to the author regarding c-sections although I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. I just knew that I had a sense of loss over what had happened. As a result, I was determined to give myself my best shot at a VBAC the next go around. And I did. My second son was born via natural childbirth and it was one of the best, most beautiful moments of my life. I’ll never forget it.

    I thought I’d put c-sections behind me forever and I loathed even hearing about them. So when I went into labor with my third, I expected all to go well like my previous birth. Such was not the case. I was progressing well but I was hemorrhaging and passing clots the size of baseballs, and they didn’t know why (later, during surgery they saw my uterus rupturing). That night, the very thing I loathed, literally saved my life and my son’s life. No question. I hated it but I couldn’t deny it. I mourned that birth for a year and saw it as a major, epic failure. My body had betrayed me again. Yet my husband saw it as it was-a rescue.

    Nearly two years after that, I had my third c-section, which was scheduled this time. I was scared to death of it. I didn’t want it but I had no choice. And you know what, it was okay. I actually think that if we decide to have one more, I could really go into it with much less fear and even some acceptance. It’s taken me some time to get to this point but, I really could.

    All that said, I’d encourage anyone I know, who’s had a previous c-section to try for a VBAC. What happened to me only happens 1.5% of the time and having the experience of a natural childbirth (if you want that) is really incredible. It’s also really healing. If I had been allowed to try for a VBAC with my fourth, I would’ve done it in a heartbeat.

    I don’t think most women get what they expect when they give birth no matter how you slice it. It’s a vulnerable time where we go down into death to bring life to another person. And really, if you’re going to “die” you can’t expect it to be easy. But the birth is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sacrifice anyway.

    There’s many more years of it to come after that.

  4. N'sMomma March 23, 2011 at 7:16 pm #

    Thank you for sharing, and thanks to Jamie for asking you to share.

    I read this feeling like I’d written it myself. Even the hours are nearly exact to my own long hours of waiting, pushing, and finally rushed into the OR. I am further guilted and beating myself up by the fact that after the surgery I spiked a massive fever and started convulsing and going in and out of consciousness so didn’t get to completely and utterly devour my baby boy with love until an HOUR after he was born.
    We Mothers set our standards so high for ourselves and as my good friend likes to say motherhood comes with a life full of unimaginable amounts love and likewise amounts of guilt. So true.
    Every time I think of it and start beating myself up, I just try to remember that I was born via csection and I love my Mother no more or less than any of my brothers or sisters who were born vaginally.
    I hope you have some Mom friends that also had csection because I feel we all know so well the same feelings and it helps to talk to one another about it.

    • Caroline March 25, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

      We’re more alike than you think! Though I didn’t have convulsions or lack of consciousness afterwards (my goodness, that must have been terrible for you!) my body shook for hours after, and I needed help at times holding the baby because I thought my arms were shaking too much and I would drop her. I thought I was dying and kept reaching for the oxygen mask to be put back on. I was totally out of it and felt too awful to enjoy the experience of holding my daughter for the first time. Like you, I totally beat myself up for that too. Thanks for sharing!

  5. AKeo March 24, 2011 at 5:34 am #

    Amen! I’m in the c-section club. It wasn’t my intent but my body and my baby needed to end labor or a horrible end would have come to us both. I didn’t even get to push. I didn’t even get past 5 cm.
    I agree with the “lucky” being a horrible term. I didn’t feel lucky for many reasons – but “avoiding birth pain” is ridiculous because major surgery has it’s own pain and it was pain to birth my child.
    I can’t tell you how awesome it is that you wrote this post and Jaime that you put this post. I’m tired of being judged for something I had no control over. I am a mother because I am raising a child – not because of which part of my body gave birth. For some mothers (like mine), someone else birthed their child they raise – but are mothers all the same.

  6. Kelly March 25, 2011 at 5:51 pm #

    My c-section story is quite different than most, in that my first child was born via pre-scheduled cesarean section. Several factors led us to the decision, but the biggest was when my niece was diagnosed with HPV 4 1/2 years ago – at the age of FIVE. It got the family talking, and it came out that EVERY SINGLE FEMALE in my mom’s side of the family, ALL cousins, ALL aunts, both of my sisters, my mother, my grandmother, etc, etc, etc has HPV. No one ever talked about it. My husband and I decided that if something could be done to stop the trend, we’d do it. HPV is an STD, and the only way it can be contracted is through sex – so how does a 5 year old that has had no fowl play in her life contract an STD?!? Well, she came through the birth canal, didn’t she? As did her mother, and me, and my sister, and every other female in the family. So we decided that we’d attempt to stop the passing-on of such an inheritance. My daughter can’t be tested until I believe she’s 4 or 5 years old, but when the doctor lets us test, I’ll be ready and waiting, because they say you can’t get HPV through blood – only through “body fluid of the bottom” or however you want to look at it.

    Do I feel cheated? I did. A little. When we first made the decision. But every single second of surgery and recovery was worth it, if I stopped the trend of passing HPV along to my children.

    (And I don’t think anyone has mentioned it yet, but recovery from a major surgery when you have not been in labor for hours and pushing, etc, etc, is really not that much different than having knee surgery, for example. Yeah, I had to take it easy. But three days later, I was truckin’ around Target like a champ. I was on my feet 7 hours after my daughter was born, and was peeing all on my lone-some the next morning.)

  7. Sheri (Mommy Stuff Blogger) March 28, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    I think the only time people have a problem with C-sections is when a mom has no reason to have one at all, but books one anyway just because they don’t want to go through normal child birth. My friend wanted a natural, drug free birth and ended up being in labour way too long and eventually needing a c-section. My hat goes off to her, I think she worked a lot harder than I had to when my daughter was born, and no one thinks any less of her for having to use the emergency exit.

  8. Sara McGrath March 29, 2011 at 10:40 pm #

    I recognized a lot of my own experiences and feelings in this post.
    Two and a half years after the fact (c-section) I realized I was still grieving. ICAN (Int cesarean awareness network- once amonth at the SLO LIbrary)meetngs have been great- talking about the birth experience has been awesome- with other women who listen attentively and can relate, that being said not all of them have had c-sections, but they all have had birth experiences they wish had been a little different, and many have gone on to have another birth they felt more in control over.

    I think the c-section, the epidural, allof it hindered a bit my breastfeeding experience, but, if it hadn’t been so hard for me, i may not be a breastfeeding peer counselor today! so i guess i could say that some things indeed do happen for a reason.
    I am hoping my next birth is a vbac- getting a doula has been a great decision for me, and going to mtgs and talking about it, to heal int he way i needed to.

  9. aemartini1 April 9, 2011 at 8:19 pm #

    As an anesthesiologist, I escort many women through childbirth via epidurals or c-sections. I feel bad for women who stress themselves out over having the ‘perfect’ childbirthing experience and then beat themselves up when life happens. They are mad at themselves for getting an epidural. They feel like a failure when they need a c-section because that 9lb baby can’t squeeze out the other way. I was very fond of my epidural. It beat puking from pain. Peanut didn’t line herself up too well.

    I hold hands and stroke brows and remind them that the important thing is that they and their little one are safe and healthy. Birth is just one day out of a lifetime together.

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