Friday, October 16, 2009

You Know What I Can't Stand?

Or, In Defense of the C-Section Mom.

Yeah, I know. It's been almost 3.5 years since the day I had my c-section, I should just get the hell over it. But it seems like so many places I go today (both in my every day walking around in the real world life and out here on the interwebs), the mom who ends up with or for some reason, G-d forbid, chooses a c-section is made to feel like a second class citizen in the land Womanhood and Motherhood.

My c-section came as a total surprise to us; Ethan had been trying to make a hasty entrance into this world from about 20 weeks gestation on, so the idea that he wouldn't just fly right out when my water broke and my cerclage was cut was just absurd to me. He was 5.5 weeks early. He'd be tiny. My cervix had been gunning to dilate for months--I'd be at 10cms in minutes, sneeze, and POP! out he'd come. It would hurt like a mother, but it would be over pretty quickly, and of course it would be vaginally.

Perhaps I had an unrealistic vision of what my labor would be like given the circumstances of my pregnancy and early labor (and the fact that it was my first time and I was clueless). But "c-section" never entered my mind. And then we discovered that because of my cerclage, I wasn't going to dilate past a certain point (9cms--sonofabitch!), that Ethan was cord-wrapped and wouldn't engage with the birth canal, and that his heart rate was all kinds of pissed off at us. So the game changed and I found myself in a freezing operating room staring at a blue sheet and feeling tugs and pressure instead of pooping on the doctor and feeling the "ring of fire" of delivery.

Fine. So be it. For a long time I grieved that experience. Felt like less of a woman because I didn't deliver my child the way nature intended. Every time someone referred to vaginal delivery as "natural," I felt like a freak of nature. "Did you have him naturally, or was it a c-section?" My c-section absolutely contributed to my postpartum depression and I beat myself up over it a lot.

But as time went on (and the Zoloft kicked in), and I watched my little baby turn into a little boy, I started to feel that wound heal over. Seriously, look at him. Who cares HOW he got here? He got here. That, in and of itself, is perfection to me. And nothing pisses me off more than when the world around me sends the message that it's not good enough.

Go to any Barnes and Noble or Borders bookstore and head to the pregnancy book shelves. You will find books on hypnobirthing, writing your own birth plan, med-free birthing, at-home birthing, having a green pregnancy, a green delivery, all of it. What you won't find is a single book specifically about c-section. Preparing for one, experiencing one, recovering from one physically and emotionally, caring for your newborn after one.

Yeah, you'll find a cursory chapter about "if you should end up having a c-section" in the back of some pregnancy/birthing books, like an after-thought. But that's about it. And I get that no one really WANTS a c-section. I get that they are last options and not the way nature intended us to bring our babies into the world. But you know what? That doesn't mean women who have c-sections shouldn't have more information available to them than the discharge sheet their nurses give them when they are sent home, about how to care for their stitches or staples or whatever the hell the surgeon puts them back together with.

Because of my parenting choices, I tend to read the blogs of like-minded women, or follow them on Twitter. And because I coslept and breastfed and read Dr. Sears books, most of those women are also very anti-cesarean. How many times have they made comments about cesareans as unnecessary and bad for the baby and rallied behind a mother who didn't want to have a c-section, offering her advice about how to refuse one, without hearing the doctor's side of the story? The assumption that ALL doctors are evil cutters who want to "mutilate" women in labor so they can make their 4pm tee-time is insulting not only to the doctors, but the expectant mothers who would defer to them and later be made to feel like idiots because they let their doctor "talk them into" a c-section.

Yeah, I know those doctors exist. But I refuse to believe that my doctor was one of those. He stayed beyond his shift, called in another doctor to confer with about my case. Stayed until well after my surgery so that he could check on me post-recovery. Do I know 100% that my c-section was 100% necessary? Nope. Would I, or would Ethan, have died without it? I have no idea. But I'm going to go with "I trust my doctor" on this one. And I don't want anyone giving me a hairy eye-balled sideways glance because of it.

Then there's the condescending, "Well, I mean, c-sections are okay if they are REALLY necessary," which I imagine falls on my ears in the same way that formula feeding moms hear, "Well, formula's okay if you REALLY can't nurse." It's such a "poor you; you have to live with being inferior" sentiment handed out by the ever-so-smug "I can do it better than you can"ners. I'm tired of it.

Recently I was having a conversation with a group of women about TLC's "A Baby Story" and said how I loved watching it when I was pregnant and still watch it from time to time now (because I am nothing if not a glutton for punishment--hey, infertile lady! Come watch babies being born!!! Awesome). One woman who had trained for hypno-birth told me that she had been advised NOT to watch the show because of how "negatively" it presents delivery and all the things that "can go wrong." Well, TLC's "A Baby Story" has never shown a baby die. Or a mother die. So, I'm not really sure what they show that is "going wrong," but I have to assume she meant the women who end up in c-section. My baby's delivery didn't go wrong; it just went differently than I'd intended. And it probably would have gone that way even if I'd spent months studying with the best hypno-birthing teacher money could buy.

I mean absolutely no disrespect to women who have had vaginal births, med-free births, hypno births, water births, home births, etc (and definitely not to anyone referenced in the above paragraph). Some of my favorite people have had those very experiences, and I am so happy that they got to experience it the way they wanted to. I even follow a woman on Twitter whose labor went so fast she unintentionally delivered in her own home, trying to get down stairs to go to the hospital. She's a freaking rockstar in my mind. BUT that doesn't mean that in that metaphor I have to be a fat, greasy roadie lugging amps around while the rockstars congratulate themselves and each other on being such kick-ass baby deliverers.

I've stopped reading blogs by people who push anti-cesarean agendas and I've unfollowed them on Twitter when they start painting negative pictures of c-sections in broad strokes, or use the "well, it's okay if it's really necessary" line. I've asked the associates at the bookstores, "Where are your books on Cesarean Sections?" and stood there as they looked at me slack-jawed and clueless.

I get that I might be alone on this, but I am sick of feeling like a second class woman and mother because of how my son found his way out of my uterus. Put him up against any other kid his age who shot out of his mom the "right" way, and I will guarantee you that he's as happy and as healthy as that kid. And that? Is the ONLY thing that counts.


Hey You said...

excellent excellent post. Oh and I am a c-sec veteran who breastfed for forever, sorta co-slept and is definitely AP. WE DO EXIST WORLD!

Sarah said...

That's it! That's the book you need to write!

Jennifer said...

I had two c/s and I don't care what anyone thinks about it. I have healthy daughters and that trumps public opinion. Finding a way to support other moms that have c/s is a noble thing to do.

gringa said...

Well you know that I'm right with you! Two C-sections and I think the results can stand up to any scrutiny. I think you'll agree.

Anonymous said...

I am right there with you. I had an unplanned c-section with baby #1 and have thought about doing VBAC with baby #2. Now that the "big day" is approaching I have pretty much decided that another c-section is the right decision for me. (Just based on research, and my now fear of an unsuccessful VBAC and that I feel my birth will be similar this time around to last time). C-section is the right birth plan for me, and I don't care what anyone else thinks!

AJU5's Mom said...

I think there are only a few people who want a c-section the first time, and most of them, are silly because they are afraid of the pain. But, many of us have them and then agonize over what to do next time. I think doctors are getting a bad rap these days, and that is why you are seeing more and more midwives. But I love my doctor and in no way has she pushed for a c-section this time. She has even shared successful VBAC stories with me.

Venti Vixen said...

I am so happy to read this post. I had an emergency C-section and was distraught over it. I completely agree with you 100% and have so walked that lonely road. And it sucks.

Darlene said...

thank you for writing this post. I have had one c/s and about to have another come January. It's not what I planned but it was best for my daughter. I can't begin to tell you how many people asked why, why didn't I try to have her natural, etc. I had two doctor's tell me to go with the c/s route and I went with their expert opinion. I hated the questions from others and still do! Again, thank you for writing this post!

KMW said...

This is all so true. I find that the "holistic" parenting/birthing community has proven to be one of the most judgmental narrow-minded groups of people I've ever met around this subjectp--and weaning and all sorts of other things!

Emi said...

Hey girl.. and you have said this may be your outlet for your first book... There is def a market out there as C-secs are the most often performed surgery in the US and there is a big gap in info.. and esp for those women who choose csecs.

Becca said...

Definitely a book! You even have a writing space now! Dooooo it!

You're totally right-- healthy mom, healthy baby is the only thing that matters. By the end of nine months I just want that baby OUT and I don't care which way they do it!

I don't need my birth experience to provide some transendent womanly experience. It's the entire pregnancy--your body producing another HUMAN--that is the miracle, not the birth.

sclangs said...

As a mom who has had 3 c-sections I totally understand where you come from. I felt the same way after I had my first one. Like I was jipped out of the "whole" birth experience. My 1st c-section wasn't a planned one, I debated a VBAC for the second, but she was breech, and being that they installed a zipper....the 3rd was sectioned out too. :)

I think it would be a great idea to write a book about this. There is sure to be a doctor or 2 or more that would give you the medical info and you can write about your experience and find other mothers that have had them too so you can get them to tell about their experience too. Looks like you have 10 or so here already.

Thanks for voicing what we all feel.

Amy said...

I think you've found your book subject my dear! Now, make it happen!

I get so pissed at people who get all judgey about c/s or, for that matter, women who push back against the wishes of their doctors when they clearly need to take all info into account. There are some births that are not going to happen vaginally no matter how hard they try. And the alternative is death, for mom or baby.

Seriously, HOW the baby gets here doesn't matter. It's that the baby gets here safe and sound that matters. When you child is graduating from college, no one is going to lean over and ask you how he was born. It's just insane how some women are always trying to feel superior to others. I actually wanted a c/s with Jack and my doctor vetoed my request!

ana said...

Go write a book !!

The thing is, they don't give awards on the way out of the hospital on whether or not it was a "natural", no epi, c-section etc.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you. I had my heart set on having a "natural" delivery with no drugs. I was convinced that I could do it. What I never thought about was that I would have to have an emergency c-section. The thought had never crossed my mind. I was devastated and terrified when the ob told me they were wheeling me into the operating room immediately because the baby was breach and I was already very far into labor.
I was never prepared for how upset I would feel about the fact that I didn't get to have a "natural" labor. I also had no clue how painful and difficult recovering from a c-section while trying to care for and nurse a new born would be. Some people seem to think that c-sections are the easy way out, but as a person who went through labor and then had to deal with the pain of recovery after the surgery I completely disagree.

Way to go on this post. It made me feel better about my labor and birth experience.

RoseAnn said...

I agree that this is absolutely a book you should write!

I don't have kids but my BFF had 2 c-secs and voiced such discouragement and defeat when she couldn't deliver vaginally. This is one of those things that exist for a reason; better to have a safe, healthy baby than risk it!

lonek8 said...

Amen sista! I was unaware of this negativity since I was able to deliver my children vaginally, but I can't imagine why anyone would need to feel guilty or like less of a mother because she had a c-section. And people who would try and make someone feel that way are a waste of time. I do however understand a bit how you feel comparing it to the formula feeding because I have bottle fed my kids and have experienced some of the scorn from that. Good for you for rising above it, and I totally agree with everyone else - you should write the book on it!

Lillian said...

I feel the same way! I wanted a vaginal birth but after pushing for 3 hours and trying the vacumn, the only way to get the baby out was C-Section. The goal is to have a healthy baby and mommy so it does not matter how the baby got out.

Anonymous said...

I can't stand the comments about "natural" vs c-section. Natural does NOT equal vaginal!!! These women are probably the same ones who brag about "surviving" a 72-hr labor. Please.

Anonymous said...

I did not have a c-section. But I am lucky my son is as healthy as he is because the doctor SHOULD have performed one. He had shoulder dysplacia (sic?) and the cord wrapped twice around his neck. By the time they got him out ( by vacuum extraction) his hands, arms, feet and lower legs were blue.
I did not breast feed after two weeks by choice. I did co-sleep most of the time. Being a mother and having a baby are personal things that we all must decide how to do in a manner which is best for us on our own. Don't let anyone make you feel bad about anything you choose. EVER. You aren't here to please them.