Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The C Word

No, not that 4 letter C word, but one that has equally negative connotations, I am talking about C-sections.  Cesarean sections have gotten a lot of negative coverage and many moms are made to feel like they are not real women if they have C-sections.  I think this has got to stop.  Yes, C-sections may be unnecessarily preformed way too often in America but sometimes, it has to be done.  I think water birth, home birth, and vaginal birth are awesome.  But don’t feel guilty or less than because you couldn’t have the birth of your dreams or stick to your birth plan.

I hate the term birth plan.  As if you could really plan something like the birth of a child.  It should be called a birth suggestion because you really need to be flexible.  What you want, and what the about to be born baby may want could be completely different.  How much do you like to get out of a nice warm bed on a cold winter morning?  I imagine it is kinda like that for about to be born babies.  I know the doc had to pull me out with forceps.  If you have never given birth, how can you plan something that you really do not understand even if you have watched all the videos and taken all the prep classes?  

I had a C-section. I did not want to have a C-section but I do not regret having my C-section.  I did get the most beautiful baby out of the experience.  I was a high risk pregnancy from the start and it took me about 9 months before I could even try to get pregnant (really it took about 5 years).  I have M.S. but I also have all these crazy antibodies which are usually associated with Lupus.  These antibodies can cause the placenta to age rapidly and suddenly.  For this reason, I had ultrasounds every 2 weeks after the first trimester then every week during the end of my third trimester.  My OB also did not want me to carry beyond my due date.  Really, she didn’t even let me carry to my due date because it was on a Sunday and they don’t schedule inductions on the weekend.  All in all, my pregnancy was pretty run of the mill except for that one week of bed rest due to low amniotic fluid.   

I didn’t try anything but walking to bring on labor.  I had heard horror stories about women trying to induce themselves.  I think your body will be ready when it is ready and anything you do to speed things along is only to keep you and your mind occupied.  I am not even convinced that inductions at hospitals work.  I think it is really all about the timing.  Maybe your body was close to being ready for labor and the induction helped move things along and you were able to have a vaginal birth.  Maybe your body wasn’t ready for labor and the induction did not help and you failed to progress and required a C-section.  The latter is what happened to me. 

I went into the hospital for my induction and they began the process of ripening my cervix.  They said I was already having contractions (didn’t feel them) when I first showed up and was 1 cm dilated.  They worked on ripening me up through the night.  I woke up in the dark, maybe 4 or 5 am and I was able to feel the contractions and unable to sleep.  Around 7 am, they started me on Pitocin which I had requested to start with the least amount possible.  The contractions got stronger but my water had yet to break.  So they broke my water.  Eventually, I progressed to 3 cm but that was as far as I was gonna get.  The contractions got stronger and stronger as they increased the Pitocin.  

I remember watching some teen pregnancy show on TV because, hey, I was having a baby too.  Around 1 in the afternoon, I started to freak out.  I had been told that this was going to be a very big baby.  How was I gonna give birth to such a huge baby?  My mom died when I was 25 and there I was 32 and crying like a baby because all I wanted was my mom.  How could I give birth without my mom there to help me?  I had my husband but he was also freaked out and did not enjoy seeing me in pain.  It was at this point that I had the epidural. 

Honestly, I felt so fucking good after that epidural.  I was relaxed and calm which is a very good way to be.  Aside from being more comfortable and feeling nicely intoxicated, nothing else progressed.  It was around 6 pm, when my OB came by to say that I had not passed 3 cm and it was time for a C-section.  The longer we waited, the high my risk for infection.  They would have done the operation sooner, but they had been really busy.  There was like 20some babies born the day I had Orion.  It was close to 7 when they finally got me ready for the operation and Orion was born at 7:13 pm.

On the operating table, I could only stare up at the ceiling.  I remember the white form panels and the grey metal strips between them.  If I looked at those metal strips I could see a slight reflection of what was going on down below.  My husband sat next to my head but really, I can’t remember what he did or said.  He remembers kissing my forehead and stroking my hair.  There were a bunch of people in the operating room.  There was my OB, another OB, 2 anesthesiologist, 2 or 3 nurses just for the baby, and a few more for me.  I could feel pulling and tugging and then there was new life in the room.

When I heard him cry, I cried with relief.  It was the best sound I had ever heard.  He was not too happy about being ripped out of me and showed it by immediately pissing on one of the nurses.  I had a hard time seeing my brand new baby boy because I couldn’t really move my head.  I think that was mostly fear because my body was open and they were working on putting me back together.  Patrick brought Orion over to me but I was just too scared.  I am glad that Patrick was able to hold our baby and that Orion was perfectly healthy.

It took about a half hour or close to forever for them to patch me back up.  I was taken to recovery and then, finally, was able to hold my baby.  He smelled like cupcakes.  He was so perfect and I think he still is.  Once I could wiggle my big toe (totally made me think of Uma in Kill Bill) I was able to go up to our room where we would stay for the next 3 nights.  It took us awhile to get up there because they were slammed with new babies but we did get a room of our own.  

I was worried that I would have a hard time breastfeeding and bonding with my baby.  These fears were totally unfounded.  When Orion was 5 days old, we went to the pediatrician and met with a lactation consultant.  When I expressed my fear regarding bond with my baby she told me about how much she hates hearing that.  She eased my fears by telling me that I would be bonding with my baby every time I held him, feed him, and clothed him.  When I came back a few days later to meet with her again, she gave me an A for my breast feeding skills.  I do feel lucky that Orion and I had such an easy time breastfeeding.  I was visited by 3 different lactation consultants while in the hospital, each had a different method, and then saw the consultant at my pediatrician’s office, who was awesome.  I understood that breastfeeding wasn’t this automatic natural skill that babies and moms know how to work.  

Having a C-section is painful, it felt like my belly was consumed by fire.  About 8 hours after the operation, they came in and got me out of bed to use the bathroom.  It hurt so incredibly much and made me wish I still had the catheter.  Somehow, my husband slept through it on the most uncomfortable hospital chair/bed.  Everyday, a few times a day, I had to get up and walk around, even though it hurt and I wasn’t able to stand up straight.  I was told all this would help with a speedy recovery.  It hurt for a few weeks with the fire dying as time went on.  Then for a while I felt nothing where my incision was but with time, everything felt like normal again.  

When I got home, I went up and down our stairs only once a day.  I went down those stairs backwards and very slowly.  If you have a C-section, you really do need someone at home to help.  You have just had an operation and now have a newborn baby, you really can’t take care of both.  Thankfully, my husband was home with me for the first two weeks and I had some far flung visitors come to lend a hand.  Aside from doctors visits, I did not leave the house until Orion was 10 days old and I was in desperate need of strawberry open face pie.

The upside to having a C-section is that I did not feel all the pressure to get things done that I had heard many women experience after vaginal birth.  I did not make myself a to do list of 10 things then beat myself up for only getting 3 of those things done.  And I do love to make a to do list but I seldom beat myself up about not accomplishing the items on my list.  Those first few weeks with the baby, I focused on taking care of myself, my baby, my husband, and my dogs.  That was enough to keep me occupied for a while.
I had been pregnant for 9 months, about 259 days or 6,216 hours.  I did not want to fuck it up in the last 24 hours.  I was too tired and sacred to argue against the C-section.  I also knew going into the hospital that it was a possibility, especially for me.  I am not a doctor, I had never had a baby, I had never seen a live birth, and I had hardly spent anytime around pregnant women or babies.  I did trust my doctor and I was going to take her advice.  I knew she wasn’t rushing off to make tee time or tea time or just go home for the day.

I don’t understand why women like to brag that they were in labor for 72 hours.  So what, do you want a cookie?   Personally, I know my body and I wouldn’t want to do that because of my health issues.  After something like that, I think I would be useless and bedridden for a week, more than I was after the C-section.  Giving birth is not a competitive sport, it is not something to brag about.  Some women can’t get pregnant, do you want to rub it in their faces.  In this heyday of social media, it is way too easy to hurt other people’s feelings by posting ultrasound photos, making your kid’s picture your profile picture, or using Facebook to announce a pregnancy.  I know I have been guilty of doing some of these things or asking how someone’s baby was born.  Now, I am trying to be more sensitive and remind myself that it really doesn’t matter how a baby was born.  Sometimes we do want to share our birth experience but I was not the kind of person who wanted to video tape it and show it off.   

If you are scheduling a C-section ahead of time to better fit your life, then I think you are in for a rude awakening.  Nothing is more inconvenient than a newborn baby.  The first 6 weeks (or more) with your baby is on baby’s schedule of doing whatever baby wants whenever baby wants.  I think it is important for a new mom to be ready, willing, and able to devote themselves entirely to their baby in those early days.  Yes, I do think mommy needs some alone time but you brought this baby into the world and it is time for you to take care of your creation.  

Orion has been in our lives for almost a year and I wonder what we ever did before him.  Every single day, my husband and I comment on how firggin' cute he is and how much he makes us laugh.  It is amazing to see him use his hands, crawl, feed himself and figure things out (he knows if he presses a certain button on the remote the TV will turn on and he will turn his gaze towards the TV and celebrate once he manages to turn it on).  

So, don’t make me feel bad for having a C-section.  What I had was a wonderful, healthy, happy baby.  How my baby came into the world really does not affect you.  What really matters is what happens when you bring that baby home.  How you take care of the new life which you created will have a much bigger impact on the world.  What happens in the hospital is kinda like Vegas, the memories blur.  I know Orion will not have any memory of his first hospital experience.  And let me just say that my night nurse, Danielle (who was about 4 months pregnant), was awesome!  I miss her because she really was a kind and caring person.

Once Orion turns 2, I hope to try for another baby.  I hope to find someone who is confident in me to help me to have a VBAC, vaginal birth after cesarean.  I had always wanted to have a water birth but that was not an option with my previous doctor.  It is not because I want another chance to do it right but because now I know what to ask, what to expect, and how to be better prepared.  If having a water birth or a VBAC is not a healthy option for me, that is ok.  I will, hopefully, get pregnant again and have another happy, healthy baby by C-section.    

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