I've been putting off writing part 2 to this trilogy of my birth stories, only because the last couple of weeks has not turned out exactly like I had planned it. I'm not sure what I was thinking; pregnancy and birth can never be planned, many times there are bumps in the road and sharp turns need to be made. But if you read my last post, you know that I didn't have the best experience with the birth of my son and that my cesarean section left me feeling, well…..scarred for life.
With this pregnancy I had planned on a vaginal birth. My situation is called a Vaginal Birth After Cesarean, called a VBAC (pronounced “vee-back”). There has been much controversy over the years about VBAC and I won't spend time going over all of the research I have done, but in a nutshell, I felt that a vaginal birth was completely safe for me and my baby and my obstetrician was in agreement and supportive. I was ecstatic to be able to have a baby the way nature intended.
At 18 weeks things began to go slightly downhill. I was told I had what is called a uterine synechiae, basically scar tissue on my uterus connected to the placenta. Basically it was caused by my previous c-section. Another thing to add to my list of “why my c-section sucked”. They said they are usually harmless, but weren't going to say a for certain “yes” to my VBAC until they checked it again, at 34 weeks. So I had to wait until then for them to not only check that, but check the baby to make sure she wasn't harmed by this and for them to tell me what they thought about the safest way for me to birth.
Week 34 came around and the synechiae was almost MIA, apparently it's typical for it to get pushed aside at that point. So, my VBAC was agreed by the perinatologist that I would be a good candidate. Hooray!!! I was so excited! I hired a doula and threw myself into researching about VBAC, natural childbirth and just birth in general. I couldn't wait to experince the magic of childbirth. Of course I knew that there was always a chance of another c-section, but I was content knowing that I would be able to allow my body to do what it was meant to do: Give birth.
At that appointment, I was told that my daughter was measuring small for her gestational age. She didn't seem too worried and asked about my son's size at birth. When I told her she said, “You're probably just one of those women that have small babies”. Okay. She told me to come back in 2 weeks to monitor her progress. They don't mind if she's still small, but they want to make sure that she's growing adequately. For some reason I wasn't worried. Something told me it was fine and that my baby was growing as she should be and there was nothing to worry about. So I went to the next appointment feeling confident that they would tell me she was still small, but okay. They didn't. The doctor came into the room and said, “Last time you were here your baby was small, now she is officially small, in the 8th percentile for her gestational age. And your placenta is showing calcification, a sign that it's aging”.
Time stopped. My mouth feel open as if to say something but nothing came out. I promptly burst into tears.
My head was spinning. Thoughts flooded: “What did I do wrong? I'm 34, I'm too old to have a baby. Why isn't she growing? What is wrong with my placenta? IS SHE DYING???”
I think I asked a question or 2, but the doctor might as well have answered in Chinese because I wasn't listening. I did ask what her recommendation of birth was for me; a vaginal birth or a cesarean section and she said I could go for what is called a trial of labor, they will monitor the baby the whole time, if she's fine I can go ahead with labor, if she seems stressed they will take her via c-section. Fine by me. I drove to my husbands work to tell him the news in person.
So for the last few days I have been going back and forth from being a complete mess about this, to feeling confident that everything will work out fine. The reason I wanted to share this is because of this:
I have learned (a little late) that opinions on this topic vary greatly. It's one of those things that if you have never been there it's impossible to say how you would feel and what you would do. It's a highly sensitive matter. Backing up a little, let me share with you my personal feelings about this. Keep in mind; these are my feelings, and I am not speaking for all women here.
I have come to the conclusion that women are given vaginas for 2 reasons: To make babies and to birth babies. We are put on this earth to reproduce and as a female, it is our inherent right to give birth. Modern technology has given us the gift to make sure our babies are healthy in the womb and have saved many, many lives of both mother and baby. If I had had the same pregnancy I had with my son 100 years ago (breech position and severe hypertension), there is a good chance I would have died during childbirth, as well as my son. I do think the best decision was made when it was decided to have a cesarean section. It goes without saying that I am grateful for modern medicine.
That being said, it still doesn't take away the feelings of failure that a surgical delivery brought to me. I feel like a natural child birth is something I was meant to do and it was taken away. My mother did it three times, and her mother did it 11 times (all at home by the way). I can't help but think: What is wrong with me?
At this point I have no idea how I will end up birthing this baby. The constant back and forth of decisions, feelings and emotions is almost too much to bear. One minute I think I should throw in the towel, schedule the cesarean and deal with the emotions later. The next minute my instincts say, “Wait a minute! I can do this! I was meant to do this! She is healthy and will be fine.” Whichever voice is louder at that moment wins, and the process starts over. Sometimes it's unbearable. This is not how I imagined my last few weeks of pregnancy to be. Worried sick about my daughters health and doctors telling me different things about how I should birth. Not knowing what's best and running out of time. The whole time thinking how powerful it is to love someone so much that I haven't met yet. That there are so many people fussing over her and she is blissfully unaware of it all.
Then there's the question of selfishness. Why is this birth so important to me? Is it really best for both me and the baby? Is natural labor really just as safe? Biologically and scientifically I believe yes, I have done the research both ways to come to this conclusion. Sometimes it's not, and in my situation as I type this, I'm not sure what the right answer is for me, if any. I suppose I will find out within the next 2 weeks.
I think as women, many of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves to have the perfect birth, the perfect magical experience, blissful breast feeding, etc. And when it doesn't go that way, combined with all the hormones, it's the perfect storm. I can only speak for myself in that sense, but I beat myself up a lot over those things. This time I am working on letting it go…..I can only control so much and most importantly I can control my emotions, my reactions and leave the rest up to God.
In closing, I have had to ask myself why this birth is so important to me. For me, I am at the end of my child bearing days. Pregnancy is beautiful and I have never felt anything so alive and amazing as having my child grow and thrive inside of me. I am very lucky to have experienced this. I have always imagined what it would be like to be in labor, to feel my uterus actually contract and begin to push my baby out of me, a new life ready to experience a life of his or her own. For me, this is the essence of womanhood.
*Note: Although I love comments, due to the sensitivity of this matter, please do not comment if you are going to tell me what you think I should do or to be snarky. I posted this because I feel there are other women who probably can relate to these feelings and that it's normal to feel them.
Photo courtesy of soartsyithurts