When I was 13 I had a long, invasive and very painful surgery which placed Harrington rods along the length of my spine to correct a dramatic S shaped curvature. At 13 I was not considering future childbearing implications nor had any doctor every hinted that there would be any. When I became pregnant I was in an OB practice that (like many others) rotated you through to meet all of the doctors. To my shock, each doctor in the practice had a different opinion about my abilities to give birth vaginally and/or receive an epidural successfully. One went as far as saying he absolutely would not attempt natural child-birth and I might as well schedule the c-section immediately. I visited various doctors, cried, thought, researched and agonized. Why, you may ask? Well, not because I was adverse to the idea of a c-section but more because the diversity of opinion worried me. More importantly the idea of having to just “choose” a birth method just seemed so darn unnatural to me. What if I made the wrong choice? What if I attempted a vaginal delivery and couldn’t receive an epidural? That may be ok for some but I have NEVER believed that medals are earned for pain endurance, nor have I aspired to go au natural. What if I attempted a vaginal delivery, was unable to receive an epidural, couldn’t deliver vaginally, and THEN needed a c-section under general anesthesia? Now that sounded like the quadruple whammy of childbearing horrification to me! What if I had a c-section and had to have general anesthesia? What if I was unable to see my baby being born (no matter what the route)? The doctors told me that if I needed general anesthesia not even my husband would be allowed in the room. That very thought, of my little baby being born, with no family witnessing his first sweet breaths, brought the hot and sticky tears quickly every time.
I decided to take control and changed OB practices completely. I found a doctor that sat down with me for over an hour and weighed all of my options with me. She was honest, open, kind, and most importantly we decided NOT to make a decision until we had to. She literally showed me her calendar and said, “I will come to the hospital any time you go into labor (except these days because I will be at football games).” We thankfully also had a “game plan” for other doctors to follow on football days, too. At 40 weeks pregnant I had no contractions and no signs of dilatation despite all efforts to bring them about. I also had oligohydramnios (or low fluid levels) around the baby. We could have waited, but instead, with the help of my kind doctor, we made what was felt to be the smartest and safest decision at the time for the baby: a scheduled c-section.
With the big c-section decision made I felt a bit of relief but I still agonized over the issue of the spinal. I was terrified that it wouldn’t work and that I would would end up under general anesthesia. I was more than a bit of a bear to my family. I begged them not even to come to the hospital when the baby was born. I envisioned myself missing the birth, groggy from general anesthesia, in grave pain, severely cranky, and not wanting to see visitors. Quite the Debbie Downer I was. You should know that as a nurse I have seen dozens of c-sections and yet? I was still terrified. Even my registered nurse logic could not talk myself out of sobbing the entire way to the OR. In the end, the spinal worked like a dream, my husband was there stroking my face, and my fears of fear quickly turned into tears of joy.
I understand all too well that a c-section is not a choice that anyone wants to make, nor is it something that anyone dreams of having done to them. I am here, however, to tell you after all of the agony, questioning, doubt and tears that I had a great c-section experience and recovery. I went in rested. I had a planned date and time. My bags were packed. All arrangements were made with work for my time off. I am a planner, and I sincerely loved having all of my ducks in a row before this baby was born. As far as the physical recovery goes, I believe it is all about your expectations. I have had some pretty horrific surgeries in my 29 years so I was expecting the same level of pain for a c-section. I was blown away by how easy (in comparison to my expectations) the experience was. Not a walk in the park certainly, but I was breastfeeding 3 hours after surgery, walking 6 hours after surgery, home 48 hours later, and out for light walks to the nearby mall within a week. I drove myself and the baby to Thanksgiving two weeks after my surgery. I have a few friends with vaginal delivery complications that were envious of those stats.
I may not have braved an all natural delivery, and I did not labor for days on end. However, I wanted the same as everybody else: the best for my baby. I know that some people feel shameful or guilty about their c-sections and others see it as a failure. I don’t subscribe to these notions. We are mothers, we grew actual people, we delivered (via abdomen or vagina) a human. I think all mothers should be proud of themselves for we have all sacrificed ourselves and our bodies in some way.