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.
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…
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.