Lisa sent in this piece to share…
A dear friend of mine recently mentioned that her new motto is “cesareans are forever”. I’ve never heard truer words in my life.
Last night, my precious little J (baby daughter) fell asleep in my arms. My husband was out, and J’s been sick. I didn’t want to wake her up by changing her diaper, because she’d been crying most of the day and I didn’t want to mess with her. For the first time in a while, I started combing back through my old posts…I’ve kept probably about 90%, or more. They go back to before I announced that I was pregnant with A (4th child – stillborn son), and I read through a lot of them. I read through my posts about how good I felt to be taking control, about *finally* having the family I’d always wanted, about how nice it was to not be under “care” of an OB practice…and I read my post from the hospital on dh’s Blackberry, when my whole life came apart in one night, and all the posts as I put it slowly back together. I read through various questions about and answers regarding physical issues (pain, numbness, stress incontinence, digestive upsets – you name it). I read all my ups and downs when the doctor couldn’t find Jenna’s heartbeat, and my frustrations with the u/s tech who was condescending about me “reading too much” and worrying about a previa or accreta. I read through my more prosaic discussions about what to ask for when I had my fifth – and last – c-section. The ups and downs were…amazing.
So, I sat here with J in my arms – reading myself saying, a little over a year ago, how much I wanted a baby in my arms again. I looked back on 3.5 or 4 years of my journey through cesareans, VBAC, RCS, etc. So many emotions…so many words…and it’s still just a *snapshot*. Those years are such a small part of the whole journey.
I’m 41 years old…and my journey with cesareans started in 1963…five years and four months before I was even “born”. It started when an OB instructed my mother to lie on one side for her entire labour, eliminating any faint possibility there may have been that my older brother could have moved out of his asynclitic position. Hell – maybe my journey started when my brother’s dad (he’s technically my half-brother, although I never think of him that way), broke my mom’s rib when she was pregnant – maybe that’s what started it all. I don’t know. I *do* know that her c-section with him ended up meaning that I was one of the roughly 5% of people my age who were “born” through surgery. I was never okay with that. It wasn’t something I thought about all the time, or dwelled on the way I have since I had my experience(s) with c-section as a mother. But, it was there…the knowledge that a line of women birthing women birthing women going back millions of years had been broken when I came into the world. (I didn’t think of it in quite those terms, of course – I understood that the way I was born wasn’t the “usual” at about 7 or 8…I was a weird kid, but not quite weird enough to think of birth in terms of millions of years). It always bugged me. An OB’s decision to cut my mom *47 YEARS* ago shifted my self-perception from an early age. I know now (and sort of knew even then) that it hurt my mom, too. She wasn’t happy about being cut…
But, somehow – I *never* for one minute believed that I would have one myself. When I was pregnant with my ds1, I was *ecstatic*. Homebirth never crossed my radar…no “crunchy” friends, and I was almost the first in my whole circle of friends to have a baby. But, I was going to labour at home until contractions were 5 minutes apart, and I was going to move around in the hospital when I got there. Pregnancy was a dream – aside from first trimester fatigue, I had no ill effects at all. People used to call me the “Earth Mother”…happy, mellow (my moods were more even than they’d ever been in my life) glowing skin, lots of energy…pregnancy suited me to a “T”. Labour wasn’t quite what I was expecting…the pain was a bit different than I thought it would be and it didn’t proceed as I was expecting…but it was actually *more* manageable than I thought it would be. I felt…exhilarated. And, it still never crossed my mind that anything could possibly go wrong. And, I was so inexperienced and…clueless that I didn’t even realize the lump that had appeared beside my navel when labour started wasn’t the baby’s bum (I thought the baby had rotated)…but his head. He’d flipped. He flipped when I went into labour. The strange pain I had – the constant backache – was because he was moving so much. I was beyond surprised to *walk* to the hospital (admittedly a VERY short walk), be told that I “obviously” wasn’t very far along yet, only to discover that A) I was fully dilated, and B) my son was frank breech. I was even more stunned to discover that saying “no” to a c-section didn’t actually mean one wouldn’t be cut…
My son is 17 years old. My next oldest is almost 7. Ten years. Those ten years were my first taste of what “cesareans are forever” means. I started ttc when ds1 was 10 months old (from my current perspective, I’m embarrassed to admit that I actually weaned ds1 at that time, in order to do so). It took a long time…and I miscarried that baby…and another baby 7.5 months later. After that second one, my first marriage finally crumbled into dust (it had been a while coming at that point). I met dh, and had an “oops”. Can you imagine? I’d been trying to have another baby for over 6 years, with only two miscarriages to show for it…and I had an “oops”?? Insane. I thought it seemed so out there that I’d finally have my baby, when I actually wasn’t trying, and it really wasn’t a great time. But, I was thrilled – finally. Only…no….another miscarriage. When I lost that baby, ds1 was almost 7.5. In some ways, none of this is relevant to c-sections. The reality is that my secondary infertility and my miscarriages were almost certainly a combination of extreme stress and what I not-so-fondly refer to as “stoned sperm” (not in dh’s case). My ex had some drug problems. But, there’s reality – and there’s emotional reality. My emotional reality was that I’d been a healthy young woman (had ds1 when I was 24) who conceived on my first attempt and had a problem-free pregnancy…and then I’d had a c-section and tried for YEARS to have another baby. To me, the c-section was the source of all my reproductive issues…and I carried that around with me for years. I cried on the toilet when my period started every month…and I cursed my c-section and my broken uterus. I cried even harder when the miscarriages happened…and I cursed my c-section and my broken uterus.
And, finally, finally…10 years and 2 months after ds1 arrived, I carried a second pregnancy to term. I had *another* problem free pregnancy. I had another problem-free conception (dh and I had waited until my divorce was finalized – and we “caught” dd1 on our first attempt). When I got past that 12 week danger mark (2 of the 3 m/c were at 12 weeks), I felt like I’d been let out of jail after a 9.5 year term. I was *pregnant*….really, truly, honestly pregnant, and it wasn’t going to just slip away. And, I was an “excellent candidate” for VBAC. Nobody – not ONE SINGLE PERSON – not me, not dh, not my family doctor, not my OB – NOBODY thought I’d have any problems having a VBAC. I honestly hardly even thought about it. The c/s with ds1 was just a blip, after all. My reproductive life was *finally* back on track.
So, yeah – 39 week checkup. “Oops – can’t find baby’s head – will schedule an ultrasound this afternoon”. Baby’s head was up high, because she was footling breech. The next morning, I was woken up by the consulting OB’s (the guy I’d only met with once!) office, calling to give me my pre-op instructions, because my cesarean was scheduled for the following day. I wigged out. I freaked on her, on my family doctor, on the OB – and then I caved, because IT WAS ALL HAPPENING AGAIN….after everything…after the infertility and the miscarriages, and trying SO DAMNED HARD not to give up, IT WAS ALL HAPPENING AGAIN. So – that was number two.
Number three…fought for an entire pregnancy. OB threatened to withdraw care. I caved again. I went into labour first, and my morale wasn’t terrible…not great, but not terrible. Of course, that was the c-section that ended up causing me the permanent nerve damage, and issues with my bladder.
Number four…I didn’t fight. I sidestepped. I went outside the system. I was so looking forward to my HBA3C. It was a peaceful pregnancy (except that ds2 was becoming really hard to handle, which wore me out). And…we all know what happened there. A’s ashes sit on my bookshelf, beside pictures of his siblings. Did the scars on my uterus kill him? I don’t know. I probably never will. But, holding his dead body in the hospital viewing room, with a police escort standing by, was…heartbreaking, surreal…and somewhat obscene. What was I? A criminal? A victim? Of whom? What did I do, that I had to have a police witness for such a moment? Well…I tried to buck the system. And, its okay for the system to abuse, bully, cajole, force, coerce and SCAR…but it’s not okay to want to be whole. A is my angel baby, and I love him, and I’m never going to know him, except that he was very active in utero. 2007 (44 years after my mom’s first cesarean!!) – my son was conceived in January, dead in November and cremated in December. And…how much of that was because of my sections???
And, finally…here I sit, with that fourth living baby in my arms (okay – technically not – she’s in her swing at the moment – but she was in my arms when I started this novel). I always wanted four children. She’s perfect. She’s absolutely perfect. She’s healthy. She’s happy. She’s one of those babies who just radiates delight and makes everyone around her smile. She’s had such a healing effect on my heart and my family. We all adore her.
But…she, too, was cut out of me. I initiated it. I scheduled it (sort of – my preferred day was 3 days later). I even got some concessions…but she was still cut from me. By a complete fluke, I had a very few contractions, and a hint of bloody show right before surgery, so she was more-or-less ready to be here, unlike my older daughter. But, she was cut from me. She was my last.
I have four beautiful children. They’re adorable, smart, active, enthusiastic, creative, engaging and incredibly precious. I’m not having any more, and I’ll never face OR for a c-section again. I’ll never have to fight for my *own* birth again. But…I have two daughters. One was “born” with no labour. One was “born” with only a hint of labour. I don’t know if that will affect *their* births (if any) in the future. I just don’t. Nobody does. This isn’t something there’s research on. I’ll do my best not to project my fears for their reproductive futures onto their lives, but those fears are there. I’m a daughter who wasn’t born. I’m a mother who’s never given birth. That absolutely affects who I am, and how I think, every single day of my life. I’m a mother whose child died, *possibly* because of my prior cesareans. That also affects every day of my life.
So…Jer, my very dear friend…you’re right. Cesareans *are* forever. And, boy…does that ever suck…