One of Our Own: Thoughts on Birth

My son was an emergency c-section.  He was born at 42 weeks and was an undiagnosed footling breech when I went into labor.  I had planned a home birth in water and was greatly looking forward to it, having had such a great home birth experience with my daughter several years prior.  At around 41 1/2 weeks one of my backup doctors had a “weird feeling” and actually called me at home to request that I stop in.  He was concerned and I was very resistant as I had lots of birth courage from my 1st birth (a very positive, empowering experience).  I put him off and then finally agreed to go in. A midwife in their office felt for the baby and noticed right away that the baby was not head down.  An ultrasound confirmed that baby was a footling breech.  My doctor agreed to do an external version the next day at the hospital and even agreed to get the room with the big bathtub.  I had had two external versions already and greatly preferred the one that began with a long warm bath.  That one was less painful.

My backup doctors & midwife realized he was breech midday and very shortly thereafter I went into labor.  I was an hour from home when I went into labor and knew I would have to drive home, get stuff, and return to the hospital.  Also, my mom was with me.  Since telling her before we were home would have put her in a panic, I kept the contractions to myself and didn’t mention it until we were driving up our street.  I told her we would have to very quickly pack a bag, grab something to eat (I am such a rebel, I know this), and make arrangements for my daughter (then 3).  At the house I admit, I dawdled.  I made myself dinner to eat in the car.  I packed up an assortment of adorable baby clothes and blankets, I brought my own diapers.  And reluctantly, I got into the car and headed back to the hospital.

Somehow, my crazy mind still harbored the hope that I would be able to change this situation to go my way.  I held out hope to the very last second, that I would be spare this c-section because I had a home birth! I was a vehement, educated, read-everything-Ina May-every-wrote, natural birth fanatic.  There was no way I could even entertain the idea of having a c-section.  And then I had one.  Even my midwife/doula friend told me it was unsafe to attempt an external version while in labor at 42 weeks.  So I had the c-section.  It is almost 6 years later and I still can’t believe that it happened to me.  It was one of the worst days of my whole life.  Not exactly what a Mama wants to feel when she is welcoming her darling baby into the world.

I was, however, very happy to have the chance to labor even as I begged and pleaded for any outcome other than surgery.  I lost that, and many other in-the-hospital-related battles.  I got my healthy baby, yes, but I had to endure a whole lot of misery, discomfort, & outright terror (surgery carries many many many risks, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!) in order to get him.  Six years later it still hurts me to think about that day, to think about the birth I really wanted, to read stories about vaginal breeches, or to hear about the c-sections being forced upon women through fear and intimidation.  I have made it my mission to help educate friends and relatives about the cascade of interventions so that they might be spared.  It seems like all of us who are passionate about birth do this, and rightfully so when we are doing it to help protect the Mamas we know and love.

An unfortunate side effect of my passion and zeal is that sometimes, I might not realize that the Mama I am talking to is one of our own.  And I might, inadvertently say things that could cause one of our own to feel badly about an unavoidable c-section.

We who are passionate natural birth advocates have to find a way to educate those who are not aware of the risks of the medical model of birth while being careful not to hurt each other should we stumble upon one of our own.  Most c-sections are the result of too many interventions & doctors trying to control mother nature.  But between a medical community which no longer knows how to deliver (nor will allow the delivery of) breeches, twins, VBACs, etc and true emergency situations, there are Mamas who know about birth, don’t want a c-section, and need our support.

Knowing what we know about the joy & empowerment of natural birth, how can we create a simulation of that empowerment and sacred feeling of birthing for someone who didn’t get the birth she wanted?

This post is dedicated to Carmen (@granolamom). I truly hope that this 3rd and final birth is joyful, fun, exciting, and sacred.  To send Carmen sweet baby-welcoming blessings, please tweet using the hashtag #mothersblessing.  Love to all who have experienced a disappointing or painful birth.
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4 Comments to “One of Our Own: Thoughts on Birth”

  1. This is something that’s so hard about advocacy. For example, when talking about breastfeeding advocacy– say you’re talking to a mom who stopped breastfeeding b/c of a myth or erroneous information. What do you do? Do you a) correct her, letting her know that she weaned unnecessarily and possibly dredging up all sorts of pain and guilt and regret? or b) not say anything, and allow that person to keep spreading that myth/wrongful information each time she tells her story? There’s no easy answer.

    It’s a very fine line between giving information that clearly supports one option, and also reserving judgment and lending support to those who did/could not use that option (how exactly do you tell someone what they did had big risks to their baby without making them feel bad about it?). It’s a nearly impossible line to walk, which is why I think any of us who seek to advocate for natural/vaginal births, or breastfeeding, or any other such cause, MUST do so with compassion and understanding in our hearts, rather than rigid rules about “how things should be done.” We must remember that every woman has her own story, and we don’t always know all the facts. And, remember that two people can look at the same information and form different conclusions about what’s best for them.

    • Exactly Marcy. And it is SO hard to do! But I think the mindset you are talking about is exactly right. I work on cultivating a better way to talk to people every day. Its hard to get through the misconceptions which are so prevalent in the mainstream. Sometimes I think the best women to talk to (openly about my own experiences) are the ones a few years away from pregnancy. They seem to be the most open minded about it. Breastfeeding is the same. Its hard to be so passionate and still be kind, loving and respectful. But we all keep on trying!

  2. Neither of my births went according to plan.

    Yet… each one wonderous with moments of awe.

    I find comfort in the moments where I felt most empowered – with my 1st birth, it was the hours of laboring in the shower, where my midwife would just pop in now & then for encouragement & a quick heartbeat listen. With my 2nd birth, it was the ability to clearly make my needs and desires known, communicated, understood, and carried out – even in the midst of an emergency situation: resulting in my son being brought to my chest immediately after birth, where I held him, just seconds old, as my incision was being sewn up, and I pretty much never put him down for the next two days in the hospital – his strength and nursing ability was amazing as a preterm. He never spent a second in the nicu and stayed skin to skin most of his first days.

    It is those moments I hold on to when the fears and the what-ifs or the natural-birth-finger-waggling-know-it-alls threaten to invade my birth story peace that I’ve worked to hard to acheive. Those moments AND the knowledge that I did everything I could when I could. I trusted those I should have trusted with the knowledge I had. I did everything right. But sometimes, what you want, what you plan for, what is “right” doesn’t match up with what happens – birth just isn’t predictable. You plan, you research, you pray or wish or visualize, you do the best you can with the info you have at the time, you trust in those around you, and the rest is up to the baby, your body, and the universe.

    I am thankful for the doctors, midwives, and nurses who treated me with respect. For my husband who thought I was the most brave person he’d even seen (when I was feeling like the least brave for not being able to push my baby out). And thankful for my babies – healthy and amazing children they are now who touch my scars and know that’s where they came out of mommy’s tummy – and they feel proud to feel and see that connection with me. And their pride makes me realize I should be as well. I am proud to have carried them, and birthed them as well as I could.

    All the rest (the what ifs & finger wagglers) is just… stuff I don’t need to focus on that sucks my energy.

    ALL MAMAS who have gone through pregnancy and birth – via cesarean or vaginal, natural or medicated, deserve to feel proud of their births, to have moments of joy and wonder, and to feel blessed. Because they are – no matter what choices they make or are made for them – all births are real births, all births are to be lauded, as are the mothers who did the birthing.

    • Kelly! This comment is one of the best things I have ever read. I am so grateful for your thoughts! “I find comfort in the moments where I felt most empowered” I didn’t speak up and get my son on my chest. But I DID fight like hell to keep him from getting eye drops, to have him on me constantly the entire time I was there, to nurse him constantly even though the medical staff had their opinions about that. I was alone in the hospital for much of my stay and it was one of the hardest things I have done. Knowing that I can see this as a strength and a victory, rather than a loss and a tragedy is a nice change of reference. And I did squeeze in as much labor as I could before the CS, knowing that those hormones are good for the baby. Thank you so much for this. Well put!

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