When I became pregnant with my second baby, I knew from the start that I wanted a VBAC (Vaginal Birth after Cesarian). After much research, I felt that it was the safest option as long as I did not have high blood pressure, as I did during my first pregnancy. As it turned out, my blood pressure was perfectly normal but my placenta staked out a spot covering almost my entire cervix. While not diagnosed as full placenta previa, it proved to be enough of a problem that no doctor or midwife would even consider a VBAC. Unassisted homebirth is not for me, especially considering the medical condition my placenta was presenting, so I was left without a choice.
On Friday, June 13th, Sophia was born via planned c-section. Much to my surprise and delight, it was an absolutely beautiful birth, that went as planned. I wasn’t riding the frenetic roller coaster of choices that my first birth put me on. I knew what to expect this time around . My caring anesthesiologist was also an amazing photographer and captured the day in perfect detail.
I got to nuzzle and nurse my beautiful baby girl immediately following the birth. I remember my husband holding our warm, pink-faced burrito-blanketed baby with a quizzical look on his face as he questioned, “huh? They just leave her with us?” I was awake and savoring every precious moment as I replied, “Yes! She’s fine honey! She’s ours!” She had fared much better than our first born, who had a tumultuous birth and spent much recovery time in the NICU. I never, ever would have imagined how special a planned surgical birth could be.
When I became pregnant with my third baby, again I began researching and thinking and worrying. At the time I was a co-organizer of an Attachment Parenting group of parents. While I don’t like to label myself, I certainly felt similarly in many respects to a lot of the philosophies that were common among these amazing women. Natural, vaginal birth was among those dearly held mothering experiences and an area where I fell short. I did and do feel passionate about a woman’s right to have the birth that she desires and it was disheartening for me to have two prior c-sections on my plate, when that was not what I desired. Part of me felt as though I hadn’t earned my “birth badge” and felt inferior among the Natural Mommy Competition.
Once I made my pregnancy public, I was constantly being asked about what kind of birth I would have. I started attending ICAN (International Caesarian Awareness Network) meetings and tried to find confidence in my body. Knowing that I would have three babies in less than four years, I was only comfortable with an OB/GYN and amazingly, I found one who was supportive of me going for a vaginal birth.
The problem was that although I had support from my doctor, my AP and La Leche friends, a strong network of birth crusaders, and most importantly, my family, I didn’t support myself. On paper, going for the VBAC made sense because I had always dreamed of a natural, vaginal birth. I ached to feel natural contractions that my own body created. I so desired to have the experience of using my body to push my baby out. But I continued to deliberate. My poor husband had to listen to every last statistic, birth story and emotion from me for months. He was amazing and when I changed my mind, time and time again, he supported me. He assured me that no matter what, I’d make the right decision.
At 34 weeks along, I began having contractions and I began a seemingly endless cycle of monitoring. The contractions didn’t stop with rest or water. I never dilated or effaced and yet, for weeks on end, they continued. I held on to the hope that maybe, just maybe, my body was doing what it was supposed to do. Maybe wanting it enough would make my body work. I ignored the fact that all previous internal exams as well as my first birth clearly indicated my narrow pelvis. I wanted so badly to believe that I could have my vaginal birth. The truth? It was what I felt I should do.
During the countless trips to have my contractions monitored, I became friendly with a new doctor in my practice. One Monday morning after a weekend chockfull of take-my-breath-away contractions, I broke down on the exam table, watching and feeling the painful waves. She dashed in and held me, without saying a word. I looked up at her sobbed, “I’m so frustrated. I’m so scared.” She continued to embrace me and simply asked, “what do you want?” There were no statistics involved, no strings attached. Just the simple question. For the first time in nine months I was able to think clearly.
“I want a c-section.” And that was that.
I let go of all of my hopes for a natural vaginal birth but I also released all of my fears. A third c-section was certainly not without risks, but in my heart, it felt safe and right to plan that kind of birth.
Ultimately, simply being asked what I wanted was the most meaningful thing in the world. My body’s previous birth failures did not matter any longer. What mattered was that my voice was heard, and to me, that was the perfect birth.
Margaret Ann aka Maggie was born via planned c-section on Wednesday, May 26th 2010. Within minutes, we nuzzled and nursed.
I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Thanks for writing this and being so honest with us all! This is another one of those decisions that we make as moms that should not define us as a mother. We do what is best for us and our little ones, and that is all that is important! And I hope my little Maggie is half as cute as yours!
Yay! I love this post, its important for women to listen to their bodies AND medical professionals. Shame is so destructive and we so often play the comparison game. I can relate to so much of what you wrote, even without having c sections. I certainly had some ideals I held too tightly during my births. Thanks for writing this.