Skip to content
 

Cesareans Are Forever

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…

11 Comments

  1. Jenny says:

    Lisa, This is heartbreaking. My heart goes out to you and your family. I hope that your daughters someday will get to break this cycle. Healing to you and yours ~

  2. Heather says:

    As a mom of 3 girls, who had a cesaerean when her first was discovered to be breech at 5 cms dilated I feel sad that you have such a bad view of the operation that allowed 4 children to be born alive. I have had both, the Vag Birth after Cesarean, and the Cesarean. I had 2 miscarriages between the first and second child. Never once have I regretted the C-Section, I have the MOST beautiful pictures of that surgery as they removed my baby from that cut in my body. While the Vaginal births were easier, I did not feel more of a woman when I had them vs the C-Section. My first child is the joy of my life and I am grateful every day that the miracle of that surgery was there to save her life. She would have died, I would have died, because her feet were not crossed and she could not have fit through my birth canal no matter what was done. I am a bit older than you and I do hope your girls are not scarred by your emotional burden because done right, while awake and even watching, the C-Section was an amazing beautiful life saving event for me, my baby and my life partner.Whatever way a baby graces this world, the miracle that they are here is the celebration, not the way they arrived. I have no long term effects and no scars, nor do any of my friends that have had more than one section. Perhaps one need not use one brush to paint the surgery, but check out the surgeon, and plan for an awake section with viewing and bikini cut so the experience is a joy with little pain and no later problems. I encourage woman to always have that Plan B. so should it occur it is not a giant shock, and one knows what the event will hold and it can be as wonderful as any Vaginal birth.

  3. Very beautiful! I too was born by C-Section and cried the day I found out my daughter would be born the same way. I felt as if I was in a cycle I could not control and I too wonder the affect it will have on my daughter.

    My son was born by C-section as well (failed VBAC) and though we are not trying to conceive anytime soon, my mind seems to be constantly thinking toward my future. I see two paths. I crave the path of having the birth I want, but the path that looms closer everyday as my children grow older is the one you’ve been down.

    C-Sections ARE forever. My two will always affect me. Even if I were to get my vaginal birth. They have changed the core of who I am as a mother and an advocate for my child. Would I be as leery of the “mainstream” focus of birth as an illness? Would I be as confident in my decision making? Would I research choices for my children as much as I do now? I don’t know. But I do know that my C-Sections have made me the mother I am today, and I believe I’m a darn good one.

    I just need to remind myself of that when future fears overcome me.

  4. Jeannine says:

    Beautifully written, your words touch my heart. I, too, have experienced similar trials in my life. I too was born by scheduled c-section, no labor. When I was pregnant with my first, I wondered if my body would know what to do. I ended up with a c-section after a failed induction, no labor. Why didn’t the doctors trust my body? I went on to have one miscarriage and two wonderful homebirths. I feel terrible that I can’t look back at my first child’s arrival without a shudder, but I am so very grateful that I was able to birth my other children. Our bodies do remember. Two generations of modern intervention cannot erase millions of years of birthing mothers. Our daughters will remember.

  5. KK says:

    Your post is very moving. I hope that you find some peace after everything you have been through, and I am glad that your four surviving children are all happy and healthy. I’ve had a vaginal delivery and a C-section (breech) and am pursuing a VBAC right now. I was the first person anywhere in my family to have a C-section. It is hard to have to fight for something (a vaginal delivery) that should be practically a given and to have others tell you that a C-section is no big deal.

  6. Susan Peterson says:

    Heather, I think you are mistaken to think that you know that your child could not have been born breech.
    In the past, all kinds of breeches were delivered vaginally. There is a higher risk attached, but it is still a small risk. There is no way you can say your child would have died. Anyone who told you that was misinformed or not telling the truth. An older doctor said to me, back in 1977 “I just went to a conference out on the west coast, and they are saying that all breeches should be delivered by C section. I have delivered hundreds of breech babies vaginally and there is nothing wrong with any of them. But if they don’t teach doctors how to do it, they will have to be born by C section. What’s the point of being an obstetrician-they just want to make surgeons out of us!”

    There are positions for which there is no mechanism for delivery, such as transverse lie. Very early in labor some of those can be turned to breech, but on the whole that is an indication for a C section. (My father told me how when he was an army medic he came upon a woman struggling to deliver such a baby, and a doctor told him how to turn the baby; I believe the woman was given an injection to relax her but I am not sure. There is a great danger of rupture doing this but out in the field during a war there was no other option. He managed to turn the baby and do a breech extraction while the doctor gave him directions over the phone, and both lived. He also saw women give birth easily out in the field, and I wonder why he came home and let his wife be subject to the usual childbirth practices of the 1950’s. ) Anyway, no form of breech is in itself impossible to deliver. Some women can’t deliver some breeches, but if you had a section at five centimeters, there is no way you can know if you were one of them. Since you have had your VBAC I think you can handle my saying this.

    That said, IF it were true that a baby would die without a C section, any woman would choose the C section. The safe C section is a blessing when it is truly necessary. It is certainly better than what was done before C sections were safe, before IV fluids and antibiotics, which was to crush the heads of undeliverable babies to save the mother’s life. Birth works the vast majority of the time, but those few times when it really doesn’t it is wonderful that we have safe C sections. The thing is not to turn an extremely rare necessity into a normal method of giving birth because we don’t trust women’s bodies to be able to give birth.

    And Heather, I don’t think you should tell Lisa she shouldn’t feel the way she does feel. People tried that with me too, when I was unhappy about my unnecessary C section. I still felt that way. I am sure Lisa is grateful for her children and happy to have them and that they know it. Feeling bad that she wasn’t allowed to give birth is a whole separate issue. She feels that way; don’t try to delegitimize it. Of course, like every other disappointment and grief in life, you can’t let it destroy you. But that’s not the same as pretending it isn’t a loss.

    Susan Peterson

  7. In another time, another place, I could have had three vaginal deliveries instead of just one. My boys (first and third children) were both breech and I totally know how you feel – the nurse just looking at your belly and telling you she knows your child is not in position. I was so let down after the third birth, and in some ways remember clearly how emotionally detached I was from the entire thing, even though I love my son dearly. I am thankful I had a VBAC with my only daughter, and wonder, is there another one out there? Do I even dare, after two sections? How in the world will I find support, considering how hard it was the first time? In some ways, do you find bittersweet relief in knowing you won’t have to face surgery again?

    Heather, while yes – having a healthy baby is the ultimate goal – sometimes the journey to that birth is just as important. Considering the loss this woman has experienced, it makes that journey all the more poignant. You were lucky to be more of an ‘active participant’ during your surgery, while many of us were not. We can’t get that time back, either; the idea that while we had a surgical birth we were treated like more than meat on a table about to be butchered than the mother of this beautiful baby who is coming into the world.

    The one very important thing this woman can do is to take those experiences and try to make them different for her daughter. That daughter, like mine, will grow up with the knowledge and understanding that can help her break the chain of surgical births, hopefully. What a beautiful thing!

  8. Lisa (post author) says:

    Heather,

    Where did I say those c-sections allowed my children to be born alive? My oldest was in a perfect frank breech position, and may have been birthed vaginally just fine…with a care provider who had a clue. My second section was done before I went into labour, and may not have even been breech when I did so, if I hadn’t been badgered into OR before she or I were ready. My second son was totally healthy, and the only “indications” for surgery were post-dates (which are in my husband’s family) and my two previous sections. He had an initial apgar of 9, which hardly sounds like a baby on death’s door, yk? My last? No medical reason at all. I was just tired of fighting with people who claimed to have my best interests in mind, despite being clearly unaware of what my best interests are.

    I have been awake and aware for three of my sections. I *much* prefer general anesthesia, as I hate being numb, and don’t actually want to be awake while they cut me open. YMMV. I agreed to the spinal because 1) that was the only way my husband could be there, 2) it was less likely to have a negative impact on breastfeeding/bonding with my babies, and 3) it’s unlikely they’d have let me choose a general, in any case, as it’s physically somewhat riskier for me. I have absolutely no desire to watch, and the pictures I have of one of my surgeries almost made me throw up when I found them on my camera. I completely agree that a c-section *can* be a lifesaving operation (I don’t believe any of mine were)…but I don’t find them beautiful, in any way.

  9. Jer says:

    ((((((LISA))))))

    Cesareans are forever. Every day, every scar-sister, every blogpost and ICAN email, demonstrates that to me, over and over. And the only good I can see– other than our children, of course– is the vast amount of love and compassion I’ve found as a result.

    so much love,

    Jer

  10. Lisa (post author) says:

    Deranged Housewife: I missed this “In some ways, do you find bittersweet relief in knowing you won’t have to face surgery again?”

    Absolutely. It’s hard to know I’m never going to give birth, but when they wheeled me out of OR last June, I remmeber thinking, “I’m never, ever going to have to go through this again”, and feeling a profound sense of relief. I’ve commented on it to my husband a few times. I think he’s relieved, too. (I may need surgery for a really bad diastasis, and I’m trying not to think about that!)

    Jer…much love right back at you. You’re one of the shining stars of the birth world, imo. The women of ICAN are the only plus out of this whole mess. (I don’t count my chlidren as a plus out of it, because I believe they’d be here even without the sections.)

  11. Tracy says:

    I feel that the medical community, doctors and insurance company are literally stilling families. As women we are limited in our ability to be cut wide open so many times. I was 26 years old when I got pregnant with my first child. I was perfectly health no complications, so I was confused when my doctor suggested that I come in for induced labor. No one told me the risk involved with this procedure, being induced raises your chances of c-section. So my first child was a c-section, my second a c-section, just because it was the norm. 13 Years later at age 39 I got pregnant with my 3rd. No one told me that you have a good chance at having a vbac if its been that long. I have lost all faith in doctors. Do your on research and remember every one is different.