If you’ve opened up this article and are thinking to yourself, well actually, I don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed about my (possible, upcoming or past) C-section, then good on ya. You don’t need this pep talk because you are a grown-ass woman who knows that having a baby is about a heck of a lot more than the moment you deliver. If you’re reading this because you relate to the headline, then you’ve come to the right place. Bringing a human into the world is a HUGE responsibility, and you should feel proud of yourself for weighing all your different birth options. If you’re reading this because you’re a judgey lady who has very strong opinions about everyone else’s pregnancy, then you can go ahead and close out. Byeeeee!
Alright, now that we’re all here for the right reasons, why am I writing this? Because over the last eight months, I’ve had countless discussions (both with actual people and in my head) about the “right” birth plan. I’ve considered a plan that doesn’t take my recovery into account, I’ve considered a plan that involves a huge number of unknowns and risks and I’ve considered a plan that ensures the healthiest baby and mom possible. And I’ve been subject to a lot of opinions — both welcome and unwelcome, accidentally judgmental, supportive, ignorant and empowering. The thing about opinions is, they don’t matter. What matters is that you (and your partner) make decisions that you feel good about, and you don’t question them simply because someone posts a totally misguided link on their Facebook page.
Let’s talk about all the terms people use when they talk about vaginal birth.
- “the full experience”
- “being present”
- “toughed it out”
Those are some badass terms! And in my opinion, they should relate to every version of childbirth because birthing a child is next level. Now, onto the terms that people use when they talk about C-sections. (PS: Most people don’t actually talk about C-sections; they usually skirt around the topic — bummer, right?)
- “no other way”
Before I get to my own story, let me caveat this by saying that vaginal deliveries are AWESOME! They are absolutely how our bodies were designed to deliver, but things don’t always work out the way biology tells us they’re going to. If you’re able to do a home birth without drugs, surrounded by family and all that natural goodness and that’s exactly what you want, that RULES. Let me also add that I have not yet had my baby. I’m eight months pregnant, I have two 12-inch metal rods in my spine and I have a scheduled C-section on March 10.
I’m someone who has spent a lot of time at doctor’s offices. When I was 12, I had major spinal surgery due to an extreme form of scoliosis. My spine was an S-shape with one curve being 56 degrees and the other 48 degrees. Before my surgery, my doctor told me (perhaps inappropriately) that I would be a high-risk pregnancy. I didn’t quite fathom what this meant, considering I had gotten my first period only three months prior, but it stuck with me.
Fast forward to adulthood. I’ve been in and out of physical therapy for the better part of a decade. So you can imagine my anxiety about pregnancy in general. What kind of pain would I be in for those nine (albeit, 10) months? How could I prepare? And delivery — what might that even look like? Considering I’ve found myself in need of physical therapy after having a bad cold (coughing and sneezing can be surprisingly tough on your back), what might happen to me during childbirth?
The day I found out I was pregnant, I scheduled a physical therapy session. In fact, my physical therapist was the first person besides my husband that I told I was pregnant. I figured, if I start physical therapy right away, I’ll hopefully avoid some of the pain I’ve been nervous about since I was 12. Without spending too much time on all the cool exercises I’ve been doing, I am happy to report that thus far I have NOT had any crazy back pain. Phew!
Okay, so, delivery. What to do? I kind of always assumed I’d need to have a C-section. When it was theoretical (AKA I wasn’t pregnant yet), people would reassure me that I wouldn’t need a C-section. It was immediately clear to me that no one is excited about a C-section. No one seems to feel empowered by it. In fact, if anything, it is viewed as something unnatural and not something to be on board with — even when it’s your best course of action. Most people I knew that ended up having C-sections never talked about it, as if they were ashamed that they couldn’t follow through with vaginal delivery. Listen, if your umbilical cord is strangling your baby or you’re at risk for about a million other reasons, you should be proud to get a C-section! Consider it your first real decision as a parent to ensure the health and safety of both you and your baby. That being said, if having a vaginal delivery is the best move for you and baby, then please do that! :)
After meeting with my OB, she referred me to the High Risk Maternal Fetal Medicine Department, and I set up an appointment.
The doctor my husband and I met with started out by saying, “I don’t believe in the term ‘high-risk’.” Okay, I get it. He’s trying to make me feel better and like I’m not *not* normal. Here’s what it actually did to me: Shut me down, made me feel silly for even being there, like okay dude I get that other pregnant ladies probably have way more serious problems than me, but… I’m here, and I’m supposed to be, so why do I feel so weird? He didn’t ask me any questions about the GIGANTOR rods in my back or my history of chronic pain. Without saying these exact words, he implied that he was only here to talk about delivery and was not invested in my recovery.
Ugh. I left feeling completely unsure about basically everything. Definitely the opposite of empowered. My gut instinct was telling me to protect my baby and my back, but this dude was telling me something different. I told this to my OB (in a bit of an emotional outburst, admittedly) and was basically like, someone needs be on my team.
Well, my OB did her research. At my next appointment, she shared a ton of information with me about my options and clearly took my concerns to heart. She set me up with an anesthesiologist who analyzed X-rays of my back to check out my flexibility and pain medication options (high-risk dude didn’t even do this!). We found that due to the placement of my rods, an epidural would not be possible, but a spinal block would work, making a C-section the most viable birth plan for me. My OB’s biggest concern and drive toward this recommendation was a thoughtful one — she too wanted to make sure I would be well enough physically to take care of my new babe.
Alright, decision made. Feeling GOOD. I came out of this series of appointments feeling awesome and excited that everyone was on board with the same plan. Then, conversations with random friends, family members and even coworkers that threw me for a loop. Some people would say odd things like, “Oh that makes sense; you’re such a planner.” I’m sorry, exsqueeze me?! I’m such a PLANNER? Are you nuts? Yeah, I like to plan parties and dinners and vacations. This is not really the same ballpark, bro. Please don’t ever make the mistake of telling a friend that an extremely serious medical decision makes sense because he or she’s a planner. That’s not a thing.
Over the last year or so, about a dozen close friends of mine have had babies. 75 percent of them have ended up having C-sections for one reason or another, none of which were scheduled. Most of them were totally unprepared for this even being a possibility, even an emergency one. And they were understandably upset by it. Part of this makes sense — no one is psyched when things don’t go according to plan, especially something as life-changing as giving birth. But part of this is the stigma associated with a C-section — that it’s somehow less natural, less feminine, less than. And we need to change that. Women need to support women, humans need to support humans.
As I shared my plan with whoever asked, I decided to get over feeling sheepish or less than. I am making an important decision here, and it has nothing to do with being easy or planned. It is about HEALTH. It is about freaking happiness. It is about the fact that I’ve spent 20 years with metal rods in my back, and I’m going to continue to make decisions that empower me to live a physically active and healthy life. And I will wholeheartedly support my future daughter when she needs to make these types of decisions in her life.
In our latest appointment, my husband and I PICKED MY DAUGHTER’S BIRTHDAY! Weird!!! Okay, we didn’t really pick it. We were given a Friday or a Monday option and picked Friday primarily to add two weekend days to my husband’s paternity leave. And unless this babe decides she wants to show up early, it’s set. It’s so bizarre to think, okay this is the date I become a mom. This is the date my partner of 14 years becomes a dad. This is the date we meet our tiny dancer. This is the date we become a three. It’s still totally surreal.
Have you had experiences with C-sections? Let us know @BritandCo.
Design: Marisa Kumtong