1 in 3 births in the United States is a C-section.
I did not think I would be one of those 1 in 3.
Five years ago I had drafted up not one but two perfect birth plans; electing to go natural, trusting and relishing in the fact that I was meant to do this. My body would know.
Everyone asked about my plans and I was excited to tell them and was always met with approval. I was strong and healthy. I prepared my mind, took birth classes, read lots of books, practiced breathing, deep squats, all of it!
I didn’t plan for an alternative.
So imagine my surprise when things did not go according to plan. Nurses found protein in my urine shortly after going into labor.
Then everything started to spiral out of control. After my water broke while I was in labor I experienced significant blood loss and developed a condition called HELLP syndrome (unbeknownst to me at the time).
My body was in distress losing the ability by the minute to clot.
My baby was in distress.
I would be going under anesthesia in minutes to have my first baby. Wait, what? I started to spiral thinking this wasn’t real life.
I had no time to process only time to think desperately of my baby boy being ok.
I don’t know how much time passed when I finally came out of anesthesia but I do hazily remember meeting my baby for the first time and being overwhelmingly grateful to hold him in my arms.
He was perfect. He was safe.
While I was grateful to be alive and have my baby alive, a part of me was also weeping in disappointment and failure in myself. I had failed to give birth the way I thought birth was meant to be. The way everyone tells you it should be. I kept telling myself next time I’d do better.
Immediately after birth I was met with sighs of oh that’s too bad, we’re so sorry, and you’ll have to try for a VBAC next time. Like what I had gone through didn’t really count.
I felt broken. This experience took a huge emotional and physical toll on me.
I wouldn’t be ready to even think about another baby for 2.5 years. Anxiety, fear and what-ifs ruled me surrounding labor.
In the middle of my second pregnancy I was asked if I wanted a VBAC or elect a C-section. This decision weighed heavily on me. I was depressed, anxious, and dreading each day closer to my due date.
It seemed the expectation for me was to have a VBAC. Everyone seemed to assume that it was the right choice, the best choice. Here was my chance to do it right. For my body to figure it out and have the birth I had wanted 3.5 years earlier.
However, after reading and researching various sources I knew having an elected C-section was the birth I needed this time.
The Birth I Needed
I know some people reading this will disagree with my choice, but I believe we need to respect our choice to choose what is best for us. For me the anxiety, the unbearable what-if’s of being back in the labor room with people rushing around me, the loss of not having immediate contact with my baby, and near death experience was something I had a very hard time coping with.
The elective C-section allowed me to have some control in my birth. Of course there are unknown variables. I knew that.
However, this time I was able to choose my doctor.
I was able to have my husband with me, unlike the first time.
I was able to be awake and hear my baby cry as he entered this world.
I was able to hold him within a minute of him being here.
I was able to be coherent after birth to welcome in family to celebrate our new son!
As people asked about my birth experience I was still met with oh I’m so sorry. Or, did you try a VBAC? When I say I chose an elected C-section people often change the subject wanting to avoid discomfort, like I chose poorly to not try and have a VBAC.
Those reactions and questions to a C-section mom can be painful. Know that oftentimes it’s not always an option or even if it is, a vaginal birth isn’t always the best option for that individual.
Instead of saying that’s too bad or you’re so sorry to hear that, try asking how everyone is feeling and offering to help by bringing food, watching older kids, or dropping off wine (kidding…kind of).
Scars of Bravery
Vaginal or Cesarean: birth is birth. We become mothers in those moments despite how our babies enter this world.
Be educated, be aware of your choices, advocate for the birth experiences you want but KNOW about birth experiences that you may end up needing.
It is not shameful to have a C-section. You are not any less of a mother for not having a vaginal delivery.
I no longer feel broken for having a C-section. I feel empowered and grateful to wear my scar of motherhood for the rest of my life. I wasn’t fearless but I was brave and in that bravery I became a mother who would do it all over again.