Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On Birth

Where to begin?

The beginning... I am a mom, which means that I have been a pregnant woman. Twice, actually. During my first pregnancy, Eric and I were a pretty average American pregnant couple. I saw an OBGYN,  took Lamaze at the hospital where I planned to give birth, took prenatal water aerobics classes once a week, and had a vague sense that I wanted to attempt to have my baby without pain medicine but an ingrained fear of what kind of pain that might mean having to bear. I had a very healthy pregnancy - some problems with sciatic nerve pain in my hip, and an "irritable uterus" after being in a car accident at 30 weeks. I happily registered for gifts and had multiple baby showers. I "went with the flow" and didn't question much.

My daughter was born via c-section at almost 41 weeks when I went in for a standard "past due date" ultrasound and non-stress test and they discovered she was breech. Not a single contraction. Time from when we discovered she was breech to the time she was born: about 3 hours.

Honestly, just like I had a routine pregnancy, I had a routine c-section. Some itching from the meds, but no trouble breastfeeding, healed quickly, L did well. We were home in the standard 3 days. I remember waiting to go in to the OR to be prepped and telling the nurse and my mom, "What happens after this? I didn't read anything about c-sections while I was pregnant!" My first post-delivery gift was a book about c-section recovery from my mom.

I've learned in the almost 4 years since then that my story is becoming the "standard American pregnancy" story. Pregnant women do not, in general, educate themselves about c-sections -- the recovery, the reasons a c-section might happen or, most importantly, the things we can do to avoid one. I do not believe all c-sections are unavoidable, by the way, but I think MANY are.

Yesterday on Facebook I posted this article about increasing c-section rates.  I actually thought twice about posting it because I didn't want to offend anyone.  Women are as defensive about their c-sections as they are about their parenting decisions. And, despite common stats that put the US c-section rate at 30-35%, a quick mental check of my friends who have had kids within the last 5 years puts the percentage of women I know who have had a c-section at closer to 75%. No kidding.

The sad thing about c-sections that is not mentioned in research based articles, is that often women who have c-sections really regret their birth experience, especially if they later find out their c-section was not medically necessary or they or their child suffer from one of many possible c-section related complications.  I felt regret  about mine, and my experience (missed frank breech presentation) is one that is typically placed in the "medically necessary" category (though I now disagree).  Eric and I missed the chance to experience childbirth together with him as my partner. Instead my daughter was born while my arms were strapped to an operating table and Eric was peering over a curtain at my exposed body organs.

In my case, and in the case of many other women I know who had c-sections, it becomes a case of "If I only knew then..." After my daughter was born, Eric and I immediately knew we wanted to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). We spent my second pregnancy researching VBACs, natural childbirth, ways to reduce likelihood of a c-section, ways to avoid medical interventions during labor, etc.  Both Eric and I became very passionate and pretty knowledgable about those kinds of things. And the funny thing is that we experienced a surprising amount of negative response from friends who could not understand why I wasn't "ok" with my c-section and/or why I didn't "just do what my doctor tells me" and have a repeat c-section.  Um... because it's healthier for me and baby to have a natural birth?

It's a controversial topic, one written about more eloquently by others. I just wish that more women were educated about the facts related to c-sections and birth while they still have options to get to that birth experience they want for themselves. Instead, in our culture, it does usually end up as an "If I only knew then..."

1 comment:

  1. Just another perspective. I had a NECESSARY c/s with my first one. If I had refused, he would've died and I might have as well. When it came time for baby #2, I researched VBAC vs. 2nd c/s and decided that I felt a VBAC was riskier than a repeat c/s. Like almost all parenting decisions, everyone has to research and decide what's right for them. And VBACs aren't necessarily "healthier".