I thought I had healed, both physically and emotionally, from my experience of having a casesarian section when Norah was born. Over the past five or six weeks, I've come to realize that I was somewhat mistaken on both counts. I was out one evening with five other women from our parish, three of whom are young mothers as well. We were discussing our labour and delivery experiences, and one woman, even after hearing what I went through, and even though she'd had a rather easy experience said, "I'm scared of going through labour again! I wish I could just ask to have a c-section!" It was probably one of my greatest moments of self-control. I continued to sit in my seat and smile politely, when all I wanted to do was run crying from the coffee shop.
Why would anyone choose such an experience if it weren't necessary? Why would one want to be numbed from the ribs down, have her arms strapped down straight out by her sides, have a sheet draped in front of her face, and be totally cut off and disassociated from the birth of her child? Every time I watch "A Baby Story" and the woman ends up having a c-section, I end up in tears. I know I certainly never want to repeat that experience.
And yet, that is what I have chosen to do.
If you've read my older posts, you know that recently my OB offered me the option of attempting a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian). I was overjoyed at the prospect of being able to fulfill my dream of actually pushing out my baby. Actually, the way I explained it to Francis was "to actually give birth, not just have a baby taken out of me". So, like with just about everything else in my life, I sat down and started researching the pros and cons of each option.
There are risks involved with both c-sections and VBACs. And those risks are not insignificant. For example, with a c-section (which is major abdominal surgery):
- The maternal death rate is twice as high for elective c/s as for vaginal birth
- Babies delivered by c/s have an increased risk of respiratory problems.
- Serious complications for women undergoing c/s include infection (up to 30% of women acquire one postpartum), haemorrhage, blood transfusions, bladder and bowel injury, heart and lung complications, blood clots in the legs, anesthesia complications, possible scar tissue adhesions, the ability to establish breastfeeding is reduced, and possible hysterectomy (both in current and future pregnancies)
- In subsequent pregnancies, women with a prior c/s have higher rates of secondary infertility, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, and serious placental abnormalities.
See? Scary stuff. Believe me, I don't take any of that lightly. But here's the difference: with a VBAC, the biggest risks are to the baby, whereas the risks with the c-section are primarly to the mother's well-being.
The most significant risk in attempting a VBAC is uterine rupture. Sure, it's my uterus that would rupture, but it's my baby whose life would be on the line. Best case scenario - oxygen-deprivation related problems like cerebral palsy. Worst case scenario - baby would die. Because of the extreme pain I've been experiencing at the site of my internal stitches, I worry that this may be an indication that I'd be at higher risk for complications during labour and delivery, should I attempt a VBAC.
As a woman, I have strong preferences about the kind of birth I would like to experience, and nowhere in those preferences will you find "c-section". But as a mother, I know that it is my job to do what is best and safest for my baby regardless of my preferences. And isn't that, really, what so much of motherhood is about? Dying to ourselves, dying to our preferences, to do what our children need.
I'd prefer not to change poopy diapers. But I do, and I do it with love. I'd prefer not to let my dinner get cold while I try (often in vain) to find something that will suit Norah's tastes of the day. But I do, and I do it with love. By the time I was using my third kind of antibiotics and was bleeding nearly constantly, I would have prefered to stop breastfeeding. But I kept going, and I did it with love.
I'd prefer not to give up my hopes and dreams of being able to push my baby into the world. But it's safer for my child, so that's what I'll do.
And I hope I'll be able to do it with love.