I'm getting closer and closer to having another baby, and it looks like it will be another c-section. I really wanted to try for a VBAC (and I still may get the chance!), but the odds are looking like I'll have another huge baby. My gestational diabetes puts Abel at more risk, and so we can't wait around until 42 weeks to see if he'll come out on his own. Additionally, my doctor can't use certain induction drugs, so if he comes out on his own, before 40 weeks, it'll really have to be a miracle. (And believe me, I'm still praying for a miracle and think it's possible! But I'm also preparing myself for another c-section.)
Lately I've been thinking about women who were like me, who never wanted a c-section, but for medical reasons, were forced to have one. Unfortunately, many of these women end up dealing with postpartum depression because the birth of their child didn't go exactly "as planned". I am so grateful that I didn't deal with PPD at all, but I know that when you really hope for a certain type of birth, it's hard to let go of that mental image and let something else happen.
Because of this, I wanted to write a little about my experience so that people aren't so afraid of c-sections. It doesn't have to be the worst thing in the world. In fact, it can be the best thing in the world if it saves your baby. I don't want any woman to feel discouraged or like a failure because she had to have her baby cut out of her.
*Disclaimer: Obviously a natural, vaginal birth is ideal. If someone can safely deliver a baby, then they should never choose a c-section. All I'm saying is that sometimes, a c-section is necessary for the health and well-being of the mother and baby, and in those cases, it is the best option! And it's time for women to stop feeling bad about that.*
These are the misconceptions about c-sections that I want to correct, ideas and beliefs that scare pregnant women when the possibility of needing a c-section presents itself. I used to be naive, so I used to think these same things. But then I experienced a c-section for myself, and so now I'm experienced and educated. Here's the truth about c-sections, from someone who has actually had one. (Don't listen to people who've never had a c-section - they have no room to speak!)
1. Doctors and hospitals encourage c-sections when they aren't medically necessary.
This may be true for some doctors in certain hospitals, but that was in no way my experience. In fact, my doctor tried to encourage Sam and I to do one more day of labor induction before resorting to a c-section. I think the only reason she even agreed to the c-section was because of my diabetes, and the fact that it became more unsafe for Ellery the longer she was in the womb. If I hadn't had GD, she would have never agreed to do the c-section. It is unfair and untrue to insinuate that doctors want to do c-sections, and do them when it's not necessary.
2. C-sections are bad for the baby.
This might be the misconception that pisses me off the most. Because it implies that the mother has allowed something to happen to her child that is not in the child's best interest. (That untrue, guilt-ridden thought would send any new mother into a depression!) Obviously a vaginal birth is the best option, but the next best option is a c-section. In some cases, the only other option left is brain damage or death. To me, that sounds less appealing. People seem to forget that prior to modern medicine, childbirth resulted in the death of lots of laboring mothers and infants. And often it was because of complications during birth that could have been avoided if a c-section had been an option. Once Ellery came out, my doctor realized that she had been too big to possibly fit through me, and that if we'd tried laboring, Ellery probably would've gotten stuck in the birth canal, which would've resulted in terrible issues, possibly even death. After speaking with the staff at the hospital, I learned that in many cases of oxygen deprivation and major problems at birth, it was because the mother was so adamant against having a c-section, that the baby suffered. Issues can often be avoided if people listen to medical advice and let the doctors do their job of safely delivering a baby.
Additionally, Ellery has never experienced any side effects from the c-section. She's completely healthy, and has always developed perfectly normally, even being advanced in most areas. If you've ever spent time around my child, there's no way you could insinuate that she suffered any long-term affects from the c-section. (And if she has, she would have been some magical wonder child if I'd had her naturally.)
3. You're too drugged up during a c-section to remember anything about the birth.
This is ridiculous. I remember every single detail about Ellery's birth, vividly. I remember being scared, alone in the operating room while they administered the epidural, before Sam was allowed in. I remember the anesthesiologist at my head, walking me through what was going on, speaking in gentle tones. I remember Sam at my side, alternately looking at me and then at the surgery, watching as the doctor cut me open. I remember the pressure I felt as my midwife pressed on my chest to help the baby out while my doctor pulled her from me. I remember her first cry, and the complete rush of relief that flooded over me, and the tears that immediately came. They held her over me for a moment so I could see her before they weighed her, and I remember exactly what that view was like. I remember thinking she had the cutest little eyes. I remember my doctor exclaiming, "You're heavy!" when she pulled Ellery out, and all the nurses commenting on how big she was. I remember Sam being fascinated by my being sewn up, and my anesthesiologist telling me that I'd be back in bikinis in no time (and thinking that was really funny, since I've never had a pretty, flat stomach). I remember asking for her APGAR score, and, upon hearing how big and long she was, asking the nurse to repeat it because from what I knew of babies, 22 and a half inches was really long, and 9 lbs, 14 oz was really big. So no, I wasn't too drugged up to experience everything fully, and I remember exactly what happened, down to the smallest detail. (Like I remember the complete mortification of being totally naked and pregnant, lying on the table, while a male anesthesiologist and another male nurse were in the room. Obviously that whole "mothers have no shame after birth" thing wasn't true for me, because to this day I still remember how embarrassing it was!)
4. You can't bond immediately with the baby, like in a natural birth.
To be fair, this probably depends on the hospital you deliver at, as well as your doctor. I was lucky enough to be at a hospital that was very baby friendly, and they placed Ellery on my chest right away. As soon as they pulled her out, they held her over the partition so I could see her, then took her to be cleaned and weighed and measured, and to make sure there was nothing wrong. She was on my chest in less than two minutes of being pulled from my uterus. Sam was right next to me, and we just watched her look around, her sweet little face so close to mine. She stayed right on my chest while the doctor put me back together, and then we were wheeled into the recovery room. We were allowed plenty of time as just a family of 3, as I breastfed Ellery and she slept on my skin. I'm not sure what the protocol is for most hospitals, but they didn't even let my mom come in right away because they knew how important that bonding time was. The hospital in Portland where I'll deliver Abel is even more baby-friendly. I'll get immediate skin-to-skin time with Abel, even with a c-section, to encourage mother-baby bonding. (Apparently this hospital is so encouraging of breastfeeding that they don't provide formula unless medically necessary, and they don't even provide pacifiers.) So even with a c-section, the staff at this hospital has a goal of doing what is best for baby, which includes immediate skin-to-skin, mother-baby bonding, and breastfeeding.
If you can safely deliver your baby vaginally, that's wonderful! I'm truly amazed, because my body hasn't worked that way for me. But if, during your labor, something happens and your doctor suggests a c-section, please be open-minded. I really hope this post can help people realize that c-sections don't have to be something to be feared.
Yes, the recovery is painful. But so is labor, right? At least the pain from a c-section happens after you've had your baby, so your sweet little person can make everything better! (And at least it's your abs that hurt, and not your lady parts.) I'll admit, I did have a particularly good experience with my c-section, and not everyone recovers as quickly as I did. But just as there are c-section horror stories, there are vaginal birth horror stories as well. Some vaginal births go super smoothly - so do some c-section births.
Ultimately, I just encourage all pregnant women to be flexible with your birth plan. Remember that this is one of the first lessons in becoming a mom - that you have no control. You may have the illusion of control, but you really have no control. It's a great thing to have an idea of how you want things to go during labor, but if things change, you'll be happier if you can go with the flow and adapt. Because as any mother will tell you, those babies don't always cooperate out of the womb, either. And the more flexible you can be, the happier you'll be.