Friday, April 16, 2010

Happy Cesarean Awareness Month!

To christen this blog of mine ( which is largely to chronicle our family's misadventures and my own personal neurosis to thoroughly debate everything with myself) I'd like to highlight that April is Cesarean Awareness Month. Now, you either know this already, or you're in the camp that's verging on veering towards another website because this topic is just so, well, not-your-cup-of-tea.

I'm here to wish you all a happy Cesarean Awareness Month. If you're a woman, or if you know anything about childbirth, you're probably aware that the C-section is the debate du jour of the interwebs nowadays. It's a useful point of conversation and argument, but also a convenient straw man that many like to wheel out on occasion and set fire to. My point here is not to create a debate between "natural childbirth" advocates and the rest of us (the "unnaturals," shall we say?), but to provide support for the minority of women who have had a C-section. Yes, minority. Because, despite rising C-section trends, the total rate in the US is still 30%, leaving us women who have been sliced and diced in a ever growing minority. Now, don't misunderstand. This isn't intended to glorify a surgery. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone that thinks that a C-section is the optimal way of birthing. It's very tough, has a big "eww" factor, and definitely not what I would have chose, given the opportunity.

After my first cesarean with Charlotte (that stubborn lady who presented frank breech at 39 weeks and 6 days), I felt horrible sense of guilt and failure. You know, the classic "I'm not a whole woman until I've pushed a ten pound baby out of my vagina" kind of feeling. Which isn't to diminish all that pushing. I hear it causes the hemorrhoids. (Which, consequently, is the most difficult word to spell in the English language). I knew that C-sections were riskier to both mother and child, but I also knew that attempting a breech birth with an inexperienced physician was even more risky. Plus, I didn't want to risk shoulder dystocia, which is a real concern, seeing that that it can cause temporary or even permanent paralysis. I knew that with my next child, I wanted to try for a VBAC, and my OB assured me that I had a great chance of success, seeing that breech presentations are rarely a reoccurring issue in subsequent pregnancies.

What I couldn't understand was WHY I felt guilty. Guilt is, technically, the remorse one feels for committing an offense. Who had I offended? Was a "natural" childbirth right and a cesarean wrong? I visited multiple internet forums, and the response I received varied from armchair OB-ing ("Don't you know that if you had done A, B, and C-255, then you could've had your baby the right way?") to the downright outlandish scare-tactic articles about the horrible atrocities that will befall both you and your baby if you dare, DARE, have a C-section. Like necrotizing fascitis, or more commonly, flesh eating bacteria.

There were Cesarean healing kits, to recover from the emotional trauma, Cesarean themed art, to deal with more emotional trauma, or Cesarean support groups to, you guessed it, handle more emotional trauma. I spent a lot of time here; sometimes they fed my need to heal from the "guilt" and feelings of failure caused by my C-section, but more often that not, they fed my Hulk-sized anger towards the birth community. A community that was so quick to second guess all my medical treatments or decisions. I felt attacked; I could sympathize every "sinful abomination" that had ever had Biblical verses stuffed mercilessly down their gullet in an effort to convince them how wrong they were. There was no grace, and very little love. I distinctly remember crying after I was told that my child hadn't really been "born," but rather was "surgically extracted."

Not cool.

I noticed that there was no place of support for women like me, women who either, by choice or by medical necessity, had a Cesarean. Women who weren't emotionally traumatized by their surgery or had dealt with the false-guilt created by the false dichotomy between natural and surgical birth. Women who insisted that their birth experience was just as worthwhile, just as wondrous, just as full of awe as any vaginal birth. Women who loved and thanked their obstetrician, and held faith in the medical community, rather than demonizing them.

So with Beatrix, my second, I strove for a VBAC. I fought for it. I interviewed various doctors and midwives, exercised, and used every herbal supplement known to man to prepare me for a vaginal birth. But I promised myself, and my husband, that if I needed a C-section this time, I wouldn't feel guilty about it. I would recognize that I did my absolute best, and I would leave the rest in the hands of a grace-filled God who knew better than I what the future would hold. So, when my water broke spontaneously at 40 weeks and 3 days, I was ecstatic. But when contractions didn't follow and my body didn't start dilating, I felt both resigned and comforted. I do wish that I had been able to have that VBAC, and I'm not unsure that I won't try again (making it a VBA2C), but I wasn't comfortable augmenting with Pitocin (you know, the Devil-drug) because it increased the risks of uterine rupture. So, off I went, to be sliced-and-diced, as I affectionately term it.

And you know what? I'm perfectly happy with it. Both with the results. And with the experience.

So Happy Cesarean Awareness Day! Wear that scar with pride. Because, it does look like a smiley face, you know.

1 comment:

  1. Sharon, I just found this, and I have to say thank you. I had an unscheduled Cesarean 8 years ago, and I was just so darned happy to have my healthy baby that I didn't mind a bit. I had the greatest doctor, the one here in my town who specializes in all the babies with perinatal problems, who just happened to be on rotation when it was my time (my own doctor was on vacation :-) I and my baby girl were safe and happy the whole time. I liked that I didn't have a lot of recovery issues "down there." I have to say I was lucky several of my friends had had C-sections, too, and though most weren't happy about it, none of them tried to "console" me or say anything negative about my experience. Online is really different. There is so much "trauma," and so little appreciation for the miracle of modern medicine that saves the lives of babies and mothers who would have died a century ago. Every once in a while over the years, I look on the internets for SOMEONE SOMEWHERE you was not traumatized and who just felt like she gave birth like a normal person, and finally today I found you. Thanks for writing.