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Friday, April 8, 2011

Birth Story - Part II

I apologize for how long it took me to get the second part of my birth story up. I really struggled with this post. I didn't realize the depth of my emotions until I started writing, and while the writing process has been cathartic, I struggled with the idea putting my emotions out there for everyone to read. As I wrote and dealt with my feelings, I did alot of editing, and finally decided to post. I hope my story helps you to better understand what happened to me, as well as how I've come to terms with my (unnecessary) cesarean.

This post is a continuation of Part I of my birth story, which can be found here.

Coming to Terms with Happened:

If you know me, or you've been reading my blog for very long, you probably realize how much I desire to live as naturally as possible. I'm a fan of chiropractic care, I regularly take herbs, and I avoid medicines as much as possible. So to say that my birth didn't go as planned, would be a huge understatement. I had a certain vision in my head of how birth would go. I envisioned a normal, vaginal delivery with no drugs. I knew that a natural birth would be better for me, but more importantly, for my baby. I was deeply afraid of the pain, so I did go into it with the knowledge that I could turn to the drugs if I couldn't handle the pain.

I remember learning about the cascade of interventions (i.e. one intervention leads to another, which leads to another, etc, finally ending in a cesarean) during our hospital birth classes, I just never imagined that the cascade would hit me. I never imagined that I would become a statistic in the 32.9% cesarean rate. And further, I never realized just how much I would be affected by my cesarean.

In the hospital, I remember having a general feeling of disappointment in the way that my son's birth played out. I was disappointed in my body for not being able to safely bring my son into the world. I felt like a failure for having to resort to a surgical procedure to remove him from my body, and I was disappointed in myself for not being strong enough to deliver him. I was envious of the friends around me who were experiencing normal deliveries. I was thankful for my healthy baby, of course, but I couldn't shake the disappointment. I did my best to move on from the experience, and I took comfort in the fact that my cesarean had been a necessary procedure to save my baby's life. He could have died had they not been able to remove him when they did.

When I went in for my 6 week postpartum visit, I sat down with my doctor to discuss what had happened. I had been told in the hospital that the baby wasn't handling contractions well and that the cord was most likely wrapped around his neck which was leading to the heart decelerations. When the doctor reviewed the surgical report, he told me that there hadn't really been a cause. The cord was not around his neck, and the heart decels were "just one of those things that can happen." I brought up the idea of a VBAC (or vaginal birth after a cesarean). I had been encouraged when I found out that the old idea of "once a cesarean, always a cesarean" didn't necessarily hold water anymore. Unfortunately, my doctor dismissed the idea rather quickly by saying that it was far too dangerous and that he doesn't perform them. He went on to tell me that they used to do them all the time, but stopped when they started losing too many mommies and babies. I left the appointment feeling absolutely crushed. All along I had been under the impression that my cesarean had been necessary to save my baby's life. And that there would be a medical reason to explain why my body had failed. I had been clinging to the hope that my next delivery could go the way that I had originally intended. I left his office, and quickly headed to my car before breaking down into sobs. My poor husband, who had come with me to the appointment for support, was so confused as to what was going on. I did my best to explain in between sobs, and in the next few months, I tried to move on from my experience. I did my best to deal with the fact that I would never get to experience a natural birth.

So What Actually Happened?:

When Shepard was around 9 months old, my husband and I started thinking and praying about when to start trying for another baby. I had been researching birth options for months by this point, and had discovered the ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) website where I had initially learned how VBAC's were indeed safe, and that they carried less risk to the mother and baby than a repeat cesarean. I also learned that my doctor's argument against them was based on old research from a time with VBAC patients were induced with strong drugs that made contractions too intense for a scarred uterus. I began to get cautiously optimistic that I could birth naturally. Luckily, right around the time that I became pregnant with this baby, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released a policy statement that said VBAC's are a safe and reasonable option for most women.

Early on in my pregnancy, I decided to watch Ricki Lake's documentary The Business of Being Born. I had heard glowing reviews that it offered a true picture of birth in America. I was contemplating my birth options at this point, and thought it would be a great starting place. I had attempted to watch it during my first pregnancy, but had quickly turned it off because I felt like it wouldn't apply to me. I decided to give the documentary a second chance because I had seen it referenced so often in my research. When I finally sat down to watch it, I broke down during this scene:

It described exactly what had happened to me. It seems silly to say, but watching this scene was a life-changing moment for me. I rewound it and watched it several more times before finishing the film. It was at this point that I realized that my body hadn't failed me at all - it was the medical system that had failed me (and my baby). It was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I had been carrying around all of this guilt and shame, and here was my explanation as to what happened - finally!

My cesarean was caused by a cascade of interventions - the first intervention being the pitocin, which lead to artificial, excruciating contractions, which lead to me caving and receiving the epidural, which slowed down labor and lead to even more pitocin, which ultimately put too much strain on my baby and put him in distress, resulting in the "need" for a cesarean. All of those months I had spent blaming myself and my body for what had happened - and to learn that it hadn't been me at all -I felt enormous relief. And then I was mad. I was tweeting my thoughts while watching the documentary, and so many of my followers shared similar stories with me. While comforting to know that I wasn't alone, it made me even more angry to know that women are constantly put through these experiences. I was mad at the medical profession for relying so heavily on interventions that don't necessarily produce the best results. I felt anger towards my doctor for allowing this to happen to me. I had trusted him with my body, my health, and with the health of my baby. I felt taken advantage of - because he had taken that trust and pushed interventions on me when he knew how important a normal birth was to me. I began to question his reasoning for having me on pitocin in the first place. Why was I given a drug to speed up labor when I was progressing without it? Why was the pitocin increased so often? And further, why was the pitocin increased after my son's heart rate dropped the first time? Why was I not removed from the drug to see if that's what had caused the heart rate drop? And more importantly, why was it increased the last time (right before my c-section was ordered)? Why would he make those decisions? Why needlessly cut me open, forever altering my body and any future pregnancies for shear convenience? Ultimately, I don't blame my doctor, and I don't think he's some horrible monster. I am forever grateful to him for his care during a miscarriage before having my son. But that's not to say I'm not disappointed in him for what happened to me.

Most of all, I was mad at myself. Mad for not being more informed about the interventions that I was given. Mad for being so trusting. And mad for allowing labor to go in the complete opposite direction that I intended. Ultimately, I know that it was my body and my choice to place so much trust in my doctor. I had assumed that my doctor and the hospital staff would always be looking out for me and my baby. I had no reason to believe otherwise.


After throwing myself into the research, I've been able to process many of the emotions and feelings regarding my unncesarean. I know that I'm not alone, and that my feelings are real and valid. I've grieved for my birth, and dealt with the trauma that comes from having an unplanned, "emergency" surgery. I've struggled and prayed through my emotions, and the more that I process them and turn them over to God, the ultimate physician, the more I feel like I can heal and move on. I plan to write a post detailing what things I plan to change with my upcoming birth, and I pray that I have a healing birth in the next few days.