Most women have their ideal birth experience in their heads.
Sometimes this thought takes shape before pregnancy, but often the idea and imagery of the experience forms after one finds out they are expecting. For some, their ideal may be a non-medicated birth, while others just want the baby out in the least painful way possible (hand over the drugs!). Most don’t picture their birth experience ending in a cesarean section. No one expects to not even be allowed the option to try labor, because a c-section is what is safest for mom/baby.
I was like most women. When I found out I was pregnant with our first child I had the idea that I would go into the labor and delivery experience with an open mind. I would try to birth without drugs, but if it got to a point where I couldn’t handle the pain then I wouldn’t be opposed to having them. To hopefully make the labor process as easy on my body as possible, I did prenatal yoga, exercised, and ate healthy my entire pregnancy.
Having a c-section never even crossed my mind (even though I was born via c-section myself). I read about labor, what to pack for my hospital bag, and envisioned going through hours of pain and hard work to have the ultimate reward: meeting our child. In fact, one of the many reasons why we didn’t find out the gender at first was because I thought finding out at the end would motivate me in labor.
All of these ideals started to fade a bit when I had my 20 week ultrasound appointment.
My doctor told me that I had something called a low-lying placenta. What?! I had never heard or read about this in any of my pregnancy books. Basically your placenta can implant anywhere, and mine happened to implant too close to my cervix. It wasn’t completely covering my cervix, which is an even riskier condition called placenta previa. But it was close enough for them to monitor things throughout the rest of my pregnancy.
She then explained that 90% of women with low-lying placentas see the placenta move up as the pregnancy goes on. I would have another ultrasound when I was 32 weeks to check the progress. If the placenta didn’t move up, it would be dangerous for me to deliver vaginally. The potential risk of delivering the placenta first and causing issues with the baby and myself were too high. The c-section thought then entered my mind, but still wasn’t a huge reality. I had 12 weeks for the placenta to move up, and 90% of women saw theirs move up. The odds were completely in my favor…or so I thought.
Twelve weeks later I found myself in the ultrasound room again, meeting with my doctor. I was feeling optimistic that I’d hear everything was great and I’d be able to try for a vaginal delivery. Nope, the stubborn placenta hadn’t moved even a millimeter. It was stuck in the same place it was at 20 weeks. A c-section was quickly becoming more of a reality, and I was feeling disheartened. My doctor said we could check one more time at 36 weeks to see if anything changed, but I was quickly losing hope. My 36 week ultrasound gave similar results, so a c-section was the safest way for my baby and me to deliver. We scheduled our c-section for 38 weeks (they don’t want you going into labor on your own when you have placenta issues) and I left the doctor’s office crying.
My husband tried to comfort me the best he could, but I was upset that I had done everything “right” in my pregnancy and still wasn’t able to have a vaginal birth experience. Some fluke thing of where the baby’s placenta implanted was preventing me from even trying. All images of laboring for hours and pushing to meet my baby were quickly replaced with someone cutting my stomach open and pulling my child out. Also, I pictured myself strapped on a bed and wide awake during the surgery.
I had never had any surgery before, and here I was having my first major surgery while I was awake.
Needless to say, I was frightened and had no idea what to expect. When we got home I began to research and read as much as I could about planned c-sections. I wanted to know what the surgery would be like (without actually watching a YouTube video–too much detail for me). I wanted to know what to expect for recovery, and things I could do to have as easy of a recovery as possible. A couple of my friends had had a c-section, but they weren’t planned like mine.
I found myself not wanting to share with others that I was having a c-section, because I was ashamed.
I was ashamed that my body had failed me, and ashamed that I wasn’t able to experience natural labor. Even after my c-section, I didn’t post pictures of the operating room online, because I didn’t want people to know that I had one. It felt so personal at the time. It just wasn’t something that I wanted to accept and allow the social media world to know.
In the end, all that matters is that I had a healthy child.
But it took me months after our daughter was born to realize this.
A friend who experienced a c-section told me that a stranger told her that a c-section isn’t a real birth. Excuse me?! Just because our daughter was born via c-section doesn’t make our experience less than someone else’s vaginal delivery. A birth experience is a birth experience, and it doesn’t matter how you get there. We all grew a human being for 9 + months and had them taken out of our body.
I endured pain, but just a different form of pain than a vaginal birth. I was taken back in the operating room by myself while my husband waited for them to put the spinal tap in my back and prep me for surgery. I was terrified to not have my support system with me, and he was nervous seeing me go through what I had to do to have our child. I felt joy when I saw our daughter for the first time, but experienced sadness when I wasn’t the first one that got to hold her. Because of multiple layers of muscle being cut and stretched apart, I experienced discomfort and pain every time I laughed, sneezed, or moved the wrong way.
I’m proud to say that our daughter was born via c-section now. If the surgery didn’t exist, she may not have made it through a vaginal delivery alive. I also could have died. I’m thankful the surgery exists and wouldn’t change my birth experience at all.
Did you have a c-section? Was it hard for you to accept your delivery after?