I read an article the other day that depressed me a bit.
You would have to (literally) be living underneath a rock to not know that Britain’s Kate Middleton just had a baby. The press for weeks prior to her delivery were foaming at the mouth, the speculation was rife with tons of, well..speculation and I’m quite certain that the photographers who have been camped outside of the hospital where Kate delivered would have snapped a picture of her baby boy crowning if they were given the chance. I would normally feel awkward saying that I feel badly for someone who will never, ever have to worry about the day-to-day stresses that myself and the rest of us will, but part of me does feel for her. I wouldn’t have wanted to be full term pregnant in the heat of summer with the eyes of the entire world on me, wondering if I had lost my mucus plug and if I desired to give water birthing a go.
But amidst all of the coverage and hoopla these past few weeks, this is the article that I found myself reading the other day and it got my gears grinding. And naturally, because one of the most famous women in the world was about to give birth, the conversation in the media turned to the topic of pregnancy and labor and delivery. You would think that no one in the world has ever given birth before the duchess with the way that the media establishment was “surprised” that Kate’s baby was “late?” ANWAY.
**This is a forewarning, this will be an entirely (semi-lady like) discussion about childbirth. If this gives you the skeevies, you can either get over it and keep reading it or you can pass.**
I am a woman of two cesarean births. And neither time was a pleasant experience for me, but because of different reasons. I have to admit that in the past, and sometimes now, I am a tad envious of women who have vaginally delivered their children. This isn’t because I believe the experience to be easier, but I wonder what woman wouldn’t want to experience the “true mark” (natch) of becoming a mother? It’s what we were engineered to do, whether you believe that in a biological sense or in more of a creator/created relational capacity.
I don’t want to sound as though I am putting women who have had c-sections down, or undermining their efforts (and for the love, I know that women are capable of doing more than being pregnant and delivering babies.) On the contrary, any woman who has ever had to recover from a c-section for weeks after birth know that it is a serious, serious ordeal.
Backstory: at the time of my first delivery, I was induced due to preeclampsia. Long story short, my blood pressure was high, I had elevated levels of protein in my urine and I had suffered a range of symptoms such as nausea, dizziness and spotty vision. I was also ridiculously swollen. And I do mean ridiculously swollen. Once May rolled around, the swelling began and never stopped or dissipated until almost two weeks after having my son. #cankles #grumpylady
Inducements tend to result in a higher risk for a c-section delivery. Check. A ‘slower’ or ‘stalled’ labor also tend to have a higher need for a c-section, which was sort of the case for me because I was not quite ready to pop. Check. The pitocin (i.e. horrible liquid stuff of death and fire) that I was given caused my labor and contractions to be harder and more sporadic, so I opted for an epidural, which, go figure, can also heighten a woman’s need for a c-section. Check.
Ultimately, after two and a half hours of pushing, my son’s nearly 16 inch noggin was too large for him be delivered vaginally (think of my sassy cervix declaring to him “you shall not PASS” because it’s funnier than picturing the reality.) I underwent general anesthesia for Jerry’s actual delivery because they could not get me comfortable by means of my already in place epidural and other measures they took failed to numb the pain. Jerry’s heart rate had dropped, and after nearly 17 hours of labor, they saw fit to put me under to deliver him.
I welcomed falling asleep – everything hurt beyond anything I could ever describe to you. I was asked to count back from 10 and I’m pretty sure I never made it to schfifty-five (or something.) There was no chance for me to experience nerves. I went to sleep.
Thankfully, my son was perfectly healthy and perfectly-perfect when I met him several hours later. That truly is the best outcome possible for any mother, that her baby would arrive and would arrive safely at that. Four years later, I’m stepping on his Lego’s and willing myself to drop him off at his summer camp with a smile on my face and not the frown I would prefer to wear as I watch my baby grow up. I am taking the time to point out all of this out to you because ultimately, my child, children, are healthy and they are here and that is what is important. Even if they are insane.
When reading the above mentioned article, it stood out to me that the rate of cesarean births have risen over the years and how they now account for nearly 30% of deliveries here in the U.S.. I am not alone in my (some would say “less than ideal” ) birth story. There are millions of other women who have delivered this way. And without naming names, I am not the only female that I know personally who has had a c-section delivery. In fact, I know nearly as many women who have had cesarean births as I do women who have had vaginal deliveries.
From what I have read about child-birth, and believe me my knowledge is limited, I think that generally speaking there are two prevalent mindsets in the “child birthing debate.” Yes, that’s right, there are debates about child-birth, because we are talking about humans! We can’t have anything without having opposing sides anymore. Because, DUH.
This is merely opinion, but here goes: Most women, i.e. parents, do what they think is totally the norm for them when they are pregnant. They have regular prenatal check up’s with OBGYN’s. They have the normal antenatal screening tests and ultrasounds. They plan on giving birth in a hospital because, I mean, who doesn’t? They are open-minded to pain medication during delivery perhaps and even a c-section should their doctor suggest it. They may not explore other avenues of child-birth because ‘…there are other avenues??’ I don’t have a fancy name for these types of mom, but suffice to say that this is the type of pregnant lady that I was.
The flip side: the other side of the debate may believe in less medical intervention. They believe that since women have been doing this for thousands of years, their bodies know what to do, and we should simply aid that process and not get in the way instead of tinkering much with it. This could mean natural delivery methods – think The Bradley Method or Hypnobirthing – without the use of pain medications. Some women would visit a midwife and forego any of the more invasive prenatal tests that are available.
And then there are the folks who combine the two of these points of view when the big day arrives.
Why am I boring all of you with this?
I was a cotton headed ninny muggin (some of you will get that) about my pregnancy. I was 23, it was my first child. I did not prepare myself for birth, which I think can be mistake number one that any pregnant mother can commit. I might have on occasion mumbled something along the lines of not wanting an epidural, forceps or a c-section and then gone back to eating my Pop-Tart. But that was pretty much the extent of it.
I didn’t know what my body really had to do in order to get to the magical point of 10 centimeters. And I didn’t really consider that this could and would take hours and if necessary, a day or two. I visited one birthing class hosted at the hospital, lead by the woman who ended up eventually being my primary nurse during my second delivery, and she basically sat behind a desk and told us what would happen if labor stalled, if the baby wasn’t coming out or if this or that was happening. Nearly all of these problems ended with her holding up what I can only describe as giant salad tongs that looked to be straight from the mouth of hell, and said, “we’d use these.”
That was pretty much the extent of our birthing knowledge and preparation.
I didn’t arm myself, I didn’t go in with full confidence if I am being fully honest. Because doesn’t it all, like, just happen?
In some situations, though, would it even matter? Had I opted to be completely drug free, I would have eventually needed drugs anyway because I needed surgery – all of that pain (OMG, the PAIN) and stress for nothing. Then again, who really knows? Are women being needlessly subjected to cesarean births, which do carry more risk than a normal delivery? Should we simply embrace c-sections and their growing prevalence or is it time to begin to ask what is going on?
I know that this may be a sensitive subject for some. And I hope that no one is reading this as a putdown or attack on any mother who has had to have a c-section to deliver her baby. Because I am quite certain that any mother who has had have a cesarean did what she absolutely believed was best for her child or children. And that right there speaks volumes about a mother. But I also think that even in the most critical and perhaps vulnerable time of a woman’s life that a woman should have every opportunity available to her to safely deliver her child how she had planned.
I’ve known women who have had or almost had unnecessary c-sections. And while I would never presume to imply that their doctors were not attempting to provide their patient with the best possible medical care, I have to wonder if in this day and age of medical malpractice lawsuits around every hospital corner, are mom’s and their babies being unnecessarily exposed to risk and endangered needlessly? Are women being robbed of the chance to deliver their babies their way?
So I ask all of you – why do you think the rates of a c-section are rising? Do you think that moms are preparing themselves for the WORK and pain of labor and delivery? What was your child or children’s birth like? Did you prepare before hand?
In the meantime, Kate had a baby named George. And while I understand some folk’s curiosity about why the public is so enamored, I simply would explain my interest this way: women who have been pregnant and had babies sort of form a clique once all is said and done. And whether it’s a duchess, a teacher, a member of the Jersey Shore or a movie star, we moms can all fist bump each other with the unspoken understanding that “we get it.” And honestly, how can you not be glad that a new person has entered the world, safe and sound, much to the delight of two young parents? If only we put this much emphasis on the joys of becoming a parent, the importance of that work and the blessings that we reap from having children and getting to be parents – maybe the world would function a bit better. So congrats, Will and Kate, who I am quite sure will never, ever read this blog.
Have a good one!