Thursday, January 5, 2017

So I Had Another C-Section

Alternative Title :  How to Be Friends When I Had Another C-Section and You Think It's the Worst Thing That Could Have Happened to Me

I decided to go with the short version...

This summer was definitely exciting.  There was so much going on and I was really doing my best to prepare myself for the arrival of my little girl.  I had a pro-VBAC doctor, in a pro-VBAC clinic, in a pro-VBAC hospital, in a pro-VBAC community.  We were going to do this.  In fact we were going to do this so much and so well we really hadn't talked about the alternatives because we were Team VBAC.

Everyone in my mommy circles seem excited by this.  Now I would get the "real" experience of birth.  Now I would have this wonderful shared experience with woman-kind.  Now I would be complete and on equal footing with all the other mothers I knew.  My community was excited, they were supportive, they were the greatest bunch of cheerleaders I could ask for.  I had enough book, technique and method recommendations to last me through three births.  I was going to do this and it would complete me.

And then things changed.

My 37 week appointment came with the discovery that my little girl was breach.  My 38 week appointment came with the confirmation that we was definitely still breach.  My 39 week appointment confirmed that she had her head squarely stuck in the top of my ribs, under my sternum with her feet wedged in my right side ribs.

And it was somewhere in those few weeks that many of my cheerleaders turned into pall-bearers.  Oh they were still being optomistic with lists and lists of things to try, but as the clock ticked and the due date got closer the tone around me changed dramatically.

I don't think anyone other than me noticed it because so many people were still focused on being supportive, but instead of supporting my new reality - one carefully decided with medical staff I would be under and the OB who had guided my reproductive health for the last three years - the cheerleaders were focused on the old one.

"I'm so happy", became "I'm so sorry".

"You're going to do so well" became "Have you really done everything you can to avoid this?".

"This is going to be a beautiful moment" became "This is such a shame".

"You're making such a great choice" became "I can't imagine choosing to do what you're doing".

To be honest, I was more than a little shocked and more than a little hurt.

Let me be clear, I know intentions were good and I know people thought this was yet another huge tragedy in my tumultuous path to motherhood, but it wasn't a tragedy to me.

Now, I know some people fear hospitals and have legitimate horror at the thought of needles, surgery, wounds and scars and what I'm saying does not diminish the reality of your choices, but I feel I need to be clear on this...

After three years of struggle to get pregnant and stay pregnant, after three years of loosing child after child to miscarriage I was being told subtly and sometimes directly that the method I spent hours agonizing over to insure a safe birth for my child was the worst outcome someone could imagine.

Trust me when I say the method of my delivery was no where on my "worst outcomes list", I already had a taste for the worst outcome four times in a row.

I had just spent three years mourning four children I could do nothing to save and faced with a situation that had multiple outcomes I chose the path I felt would ensure me the best chance at finally saving one of my babies and I was being told this was a tragedy.

My second c-section was not a tragedy (and neither was my first), but the language and the tone around me was that of disappointment and mourning.  I was volunteering to be lead alone to sterile operating room alone, have a needle inserted into my spine, strapped to a table and be cut open while fully conscious, separated from my child and stitched back together alone all for the safety and well-being of my child.

If there was a time I needed my cheerleaders it was then.  Instead, I dealt with all my fears and concerns quietly and under the radar save for the closest of friends and family.  I could not share my concerns about my total fear of my spinal block or my phobia of never waking up from anesthesia if I needed to be put under.  I could not share my dread of having to look at another ugly, itching scar to look at or in my case avoid looking at at all costs.

I needed my coaches in my corner, water bottles at the ready, mopping my brow and psyching me up and I what I got was sad stream of mourners patting hand and avoiding eye contact.

So where do we go from here?  We move on.  What's done is done and it's in the past, but as we move forward I hope you remember this.  I hope you remember that your worst outcome might be no where near mine.  I hope you remember that it takes just as much strength and courage to walk yourself to the altar of the operating table as it does to face a contraction.  I hope you remember that I still need, and deserve, the support and strength we can encourage in one another.  I hope you remember that it was not a selfish choice, but a loving sacrifice.  I hope you remember to ask me first whether or not I'm saddened by the change in plan or need to talk about my concerns in my new plan.  I hope we both grow from this experience, I know I have.

25 comments:

  1. ❤️ ((Hugs)) I truly believe "How are you feeling?" is one of the most profound and helpful phrases in the English language, especially when plans change and life surprises us. You are so right: one woman's tragedy can be another's victory and vice versa. It is hard to know what to say sometimes, but asking "How are you?" is usually a safe bet. Congratulations again on your most recent birth, mama!

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  2. Molly, I'm so sorry this happened to you. I'm Team Mom Knows Best when it comes to birth and you obviously did what was best for your baby girl.

    I know when I had my c-section, I had the opposite reaction. I had "Don't be disappointed, this is best for baby" and variations on that theme. I wasn't allowed to have any other feelings (other than with a couple close friends and my husband) and I really resented that. I've always been careful since to recognize that moms making the best decisions for their baby might also be a little sad about how it all went down. I'm not certain I said anything to you about having a repeat c-section (this summer was a blur) but if I did hurt your feelings, I am truly sorry. I only ever want moms to feel supported in birth, and I'm sorry you didn't get that.

    Big hugs.

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    1. Don't worry too much, I'm painting in very wide strokes here so I don't want someone worrying "was that me" - it was such a mixed bag and wasn't one person in particular.

      It's totally okay to be disappointed, I was disappointed to a degree too - I mean I had just spent 37 weeks preparing for something that went completely out the window in a matter of moments... just to not to the point others were for me ;)

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  3. I feel like people get caught up in the birth itself and forget that the whole point is the baby. Kind of like people getting caught up in the wedding and forget that the marriage is the point. Weddings and births are important and great, but they're really just the doorway to the real thing... in the end, the method you used to get there doesn't matter all that much. (I'm a 3-time c-section mama, with one VBAC thrown in there. My VBAC child isn't any more awesome than the others.)

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  4. Thank you for writing this. The emotions surrounding birth are so strong and it's so hard to know sometimes what the best way is to support mom and baby, especially from afar when you can't be literally in someone's presence. How much space do you give them, do you ask questions or is that too nosy, don't say anything unless asked, etc... I'm so happy for you and your sweet baby and I'm glad you were able to make the choice you needed to for both of you. I'm so sorry you didn't get the support you needed from those around you.

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  5. Congrats on your baby! And I'm sorry for the lack of support. I agree with Emily, certain circles tend to get so caught up in the birth they forget the important thing is the baby. No one with 10 year olds talks about their kid's birth, and if they do, they're considered sorta weird. I actually got away from those kinds of circles where the same birthing choices and parenting decisions are the ONLY THING that matter, and I'm glad I did; life is so much more enjoyable and I feel so much more confident as a mom, and I have real support now from good, faithful friends. I hope you find the same.

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  6. I, like Micaela, had a sort of opposite reaction after having one c-section and then having a breech baby. I wanted so badly to have a VBAC, and I tried everything I could to avoid another c-section, and everyone just kept saying, "The thing that really matters is having a healthy baby" and variations thereof. It was hurtful that everyone seemed to be completely ignoring my feelings about it, and I wanted to yell that I obviously knew that a healthy baby was priority #1!! I felt like the implication was that if I was sad about having another c-section, I was being selfish. I'm so sorry you had the experience of not being supported in your choice. Birth is so special and beautiful, even if it happens in an operating room. I'm so happy for you and your sweet healthy girl. Thanks for writing this!

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    1. I'm sorry to hear that was your experience too. I really think we need to address how we talk about these situations - a woman should be allowed to be confident and relieved or sad and worried. I think we've just swung too far on the pendulum. We've gone from "medical birth is the only way to go" (in the 50's-70's) to "natural birth is the only way to go" (in the 90's - 10's) and there's clearly room for a happy medium of "Confident and Supported Birth is the best way to go", whether that involves painkillers, interventions, planned sections, homebirth or any combination of it all.

      I think there's a happy medium we still need to find between "healthy baby is the only goal" and "good birth experience for mom is the only goal" too. We need to support women so that their opinions, bodily rights and desires are heard, while removing stigma against potentially life saving interventions.

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  7. I chose to have a repeat c-section with my second and now I'm expecting my third and planning on another c-section. And yeah, it sucks to feel like you have to hide the fact like it's a dirty, shameful secret. I had my reasons for choosing a c-section the second time around and I'm grateful in retrospect that I chose it. I've made peace with the fact that my kids come into the world this way, I just wish others, especially in this small group of open-life Catholics, would respect c-sections as a valid choice and not some easy way out. You are so right about the courage it takes to walk into that operating room! So, thank you for writing about your experience, Molly.

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    1. Ellen, yes, a csection is by no means the easy option! It takes so much courage and love to have major surgery to deliver your baby. I also hate how mothers feel they have to justify the choice or lack of choice. I love how you don't feel the need to explain other than say you had your reasons. I'm not sure if you are pregnant because you said you're planning a third csection but if you are congratulations and prayers for a smooth recovery.

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    2. Oh I reread your comment and you are expecting your third! Congratulations 💐🙌🏻 How exciting!

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    3. Thanks Mariaa! Yeah, I partly say "I have my reasons" because I'm emotional and I can't get into it right now! But also, it's not anyone's business and I don't need to go explaining myself. It's taken me 32 years to figure it out (and listen to my mom), but I really don't owe anyone explanations for anything!

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  8. You can find a great group of cheerleaders in the "Catholic C-Section Moms" Facebook group. I recently had my 6th c-section and can say what a blessing it was to have support from a group of women who've had 1-10 c-sections themselves and knew what I was going through. Congratulations on the birth of your daughter!

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    1. Thank you! I'll look you guys up in a couple years ;)

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  9. Thank you. Something I needed to hear. As I deal with the reality that I might not be able to have a VBAC this time either. And while I don't regret the first c-section and won't regret the 2nd, it is a struggle when your support group cannot relate and some think that it's the easy way out.

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  10. Congrats on the arrival of your little one. Such a joy for your family and the world.

    I am facing the possibility of not being physically able to try for a VBAC with our second due later this month. It has been an interesting adventure talking to others about it. I am looking for advice and options, but everyone's experience informs different ideas.

    The bottom line is that a mom has a right to feel any way she wants about the birth she experienced. It is our job as friends not to assume how they feel, but offer love, excitement for what is good, and an open ear.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

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    1. Yes, probably the best advice I'm picking up from this post and comments is mothers need to be listened to and supported no matter what kind of birth she has or will have.

      Amy all the best with your upcoming birth. I'll pray for peace of mind and heart for you.

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  11. It sounds like everyone should take a cue from one of my counseling professors and make a point to always lead with the question, "And how did that make you feel?," so that we can be sure offer the right kind of support. With everyone knowing how much you wanted the VBAC they were probably just responding with the sympathy they thought you wanted and guessed wrong. I would suggest boldly saying that actually you're confident in your decision and then telling the sympathizer what support you really need, but I'd probably never actually do that--I'd just go somewhere dark and quiet and brood over the whole situation by myself so maybe that isn't helpful. Birth is hard and I'm so sorry you didn't have the support you needed. Hugs friend.

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  13. Molly congratulations on your baby!!!! You are amazing! Thank you for this insightful blog post! Birth is so personal and emotional. Let's be honest, it's no easy and plans can change in a heartbeat. I'm so happy for modern medicine because it has literally saved my life twice while giving birth. I can relate to your feelings a lot despite not having a c section but let's just say things took a turn for the worst after both my babies were born and if I wasn't surrounded by medical professionals, I would not be here today. The bottom line is women need to be listened to so that they can process their birth and feel supported and loved. You are loved.

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  14. Hello. I read your post on Blessed is She and I was nervous to read the whole thing. I have had two C-sections and bottle fed my both my twins from the first and my daughter from the second C-section. I was happy to have the C's both times as that's what my doctor recommended as bast for the babies. But I understand your heartaches over the whole breastfeeding drama. I assumed I would breastfeed my twins because my sister made it look so easy. What a reality check for me. In a week I had bloody nipples and dreaded each feeding like the plague. The result was babies who were upset and probably hungry because they weren't getting enough to eat. The milk was there, it just wouldn't come out. Anyway, my beautiful sister said the words I longed for someone to say, "Just try a bottle." I did. It was the most beautiful experience of my life. I looked down with joy on my daughter as we snuggled and thought to myself, "Holy crap! This is what bonding really is!" I delighted in making the bottle for her twin brother and then snuggling up with him as well. My younger sister gave me a gift when she said, "Formula or breast milk, you are still feeding your baby. Lose the guilt, Elaine"
    It's a shame that we are made to feel guilty for feeding our babies and making the choice to keep them healthy. When we moved two years later with our six month old to Australia, I was looking through an ad and an advertisement for baby formula had written in small letters, "Remember, breast milk is best." The horror! We mothers are in the need to stick together and suppor each other. No one is choosing a lesser road when they choose to feed their babies - no matter the choice of food. Breastfeeding moms have to make sacrifices with their bodies and moms who use formula have to sacrifice their child'a future college fund in order to buy the formula because it's so expensive!!
    God bless all the moms out there and let's not judge each other. We are all doing our very best to raise our babies into future saints and let me tell you - now that my oldest two are 14 - I wish some of the decisions in my life regarding their well being were as easy as breast milk or formula! We mom's need to stick together!

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  15. Oh no, Molly! I'm so sorry for this extra negativity you had to carry at the end of your pregnancy. I think people probably didn't mean to make you feel inferior, though intention doesn't change the fact that it was the opposite of supportive for you at the time! I'm really happy you were able to bring this out to the table instead of being silent about it. As usual, you are an inspiration!

    P.S. Isn't C-section the safest way of delivery for babies in every situation? I don't know where this preoccupation with "natural is better" came from. Blegh!

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  16. Sorry, I know you wrote this a while ago, but I am APPALLED at the judgement and negativity! Especially in light of all your losses! What the H-E- Double Hockey sticks! A baby is coming, let's just support mom!!! For heavens sake!

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  17. I just returned to your blog via Blessed Is She after a while away and OMG CONGRATULATIONS on your little girl!! Thank you for sharing this. I had/sometimes still have weird guilt issues about inducing my first two deliveries. My feelings were based on how I perceived I was supposed to want things to be. But it was never my plan to begin with! God's will in all things, not mine.

    Also, I think you might find even more beauty in these photos than I did: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/26-stunning-photos-that-capture-the-sheer-strength-of-c-section-moms_us_58b9d50be4b0b9989417944b?

    God bless you and your family!

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  18. I have never been pregnant or had a C-section but I volunteered at a pregnancy center, and got to see so many lovely moms in a variety of unpleasant situations. And this touched me so deeply, because it goes to the heart of the pro-life movement as well. How can we tell women that children are a blessing when we shame them about the circumstances of their delivery? When we make them feel unworthy if they don't do everything "perfectly"? As a daughter born through a C-section, the method of my mother's delivery made no difference in my life- and I am grateful every single day that my mother chose to do what was safest for me. And so does every other child born this way. So I commend you-both for your sacrifice in choosing to undergo the procedure for your child, and for speaking out against a culture that often unconsciously makes motherhood about the externals instead of about the child.

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