To the Woman Who Had An Unplanned C-Section

I remember meeting my son through a fog of anesthesia.

As excited as I was for my husband to place my first born child in my arms, and even though that moment was incredible and life-changing, all I really wanted to do was go back to sleep.

I was terrified.

Before I became a mom, I had a mixed idea of what parenting was like. I was deathly afraid of it while also completely romanced by it. Bless my heart, I think I actually thought that parenting was going to be easy.

Isn’t that cute?

I didn’t realize that parenting is actually a lot like climbing a mountain, only this isn’t merely some journey of self-discovery and an opportunity to survey the foliage around you.

This is, like, the Everest of mountains.

And along the way the things you learn about yourself aren’t always that great; in fact they’re like salt in a wound, bittersweet to their core.

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Then at some point, you quit wondering whether there even is a peak waiting at the top of this thing. You just settle for trying to take in the beauty of where you are at the top of the world – even when the air is almost to thin to breathe. 

Parenting is like that. There is so much beauty in the most unexpected of places, but sometimes, it really just feels like you can’t catch your breath. 

So yea, for some reason that is still unbeknownst to me, I thought that parenting was going to be easy, and that labor and delivery were going to be the hardest parts.

I thought my baby would just emerge from me, and we would go home together as a complete family unit.  Don’t ask me what my plans were for keeping things perfect after that….

In turns out that sometimes, things don’t go the way you think they will. Babies get stuck, and you need some assistance to pry them out into the freaking world because, “COME ON, BABY. DON’T DAMPEN THE MAGIC OF THE MOMENT!!” 

Such was the case for me. And maybe for you, too. 

There are dozens of reasons why a c-section needs to happen. I could sit here and list them all out, but the truth is that that doesn’t really help the woman who is hurting because she needed to have a c-section. 

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My reason was pre-ecamlpsia coupled with my son’s larger than normal head having wedged itself firmly in my pelvis. He just wasn’t going to come out on his own.

As they were wheeling me back to the OR quick, fast and in a hurry, it was my first lesson in how parenting isn’t always going to happen the way you think it should.

This was not the plan, I cried internally to myself. 

My epidural began wearing off, and the contractions steadily rumbled back to life and rippled down my legs. I laid there in the frigid operating room with a fire in my stomach and in my back, as the pain suddenly become unbearable, hoping that someone would just help me not to hurt anymore. 

I ended up having to be sedated for my c-section.

Which means that not only did I miss out on delivering naturally, I missed my son’s first cries.

I missed the first glimpse of my baby emerging from the womb.

I missed the cord being cut, his first bath, his official weigh in. Because I was intubated and dead to the world. 

But still, I never forget what I missed in those ninety-three minutes.

I feel like such is the way it goes with c-section mommas.

We always wonder and feel like there is something that we are missing by delivering via cesarean. 

There seems to be something ethereal about laboring, and the aches and pains that come with birthing a child. It’s almost like a rite of passage. A mother’s anguish and pain turn into joy at the moment of release when her body and her baby are no longer one. 

Clara newborn

At least, that’s what it seems like from the outside. 

Instead, we c-section moms are waddling to and from the bathroom for several weeks afterwards, popping pain killers while we are trying to breast feed our babies or trying to remember how much formula was in the last bottle they drank, peeing though a catheter those first few days after labor, and struggling to stand up from the bed, right?

I couldn’t even lift my baby for several days after my c-section. And I hated it. 

For the longest time, I kept my thoughts to myself. Even though they played on replay while I was coping and trying to exist and ignore them: I didn’t feel like I had just had a baby, I felt like I had just had a c-section. 

I was slightly traumatized. Had we lived a hundred years ago, my son and I might not be here. I should have been thankful that we have such medical wonders on hand for us women to give birth safely. I was grateful to still be here, for my baby and I to be safe. 

And yet….

Pause. 

Something about the entire situation made my heart ache. 

Was there something wrong with me? No, really. Is there something wrong with me? The way I’m shaped??? Could I have held on longer? Should I have tried something else? Did I do my child an injustice by just accepting a c-section??

It has taken nearly seven years for me to stop asking myself those questions. 

For a while afterwards, I would joke about how my c-section would make talking about the birds and the bee’s a lot easier with my children. I could always just say that the doctor took them out of my belly, and it really wouldn’t be a lie. Because it was funny, right???

But then the conversation would be over, and I would be reeling from knowing that deep, deep down, I wish I wasn’t a mom who needed to have c-sections to have her babies. 

But I am. 

But we are. 

And that is okay. 

Like I said, parenting is like this Everest sized Mountain that you have to climb, and we have to find the beauty in lots of unexpected places. And as with any expedition, we have to hold fast when inconveniences and obstacles arrive. We have to choose to keep going. 

Which means that though our babies didn’t come forth from us in the way we thought they would, momma, we can still find beauty in that unexpected obstacle. We can press on, and lean in and love our babies. 

That moment when my husband set my son in my arms didn’t detract from how absolutely incredible it was to see his face for the first time, even with a ninety-three minute delay. And believe me, he was perfect. 

Those moments where I couldn’t get out of bed unassisted afterwards just meant that I spent that much more time with my baby’s warm skin laying against mine. 

The moments when I’m naked, standing in front of the bathroom mirror, and I see a belly that looks like a deflated ballon, but also an eight inch scar across the front of me that reminds me every day of what I did for them. Sure, it’s not the prettiest thing, but it’s REAL. Like, really real. There’s no hiding from it.

Sometimes, I think that on this climb, having a c-section is something ultimately akin to which pair of hiking boots we decided to wear. One day, when they’re all grown and we are holding hands around the table at Thanksgiving, it won’t really matter how we got there. 

One day, when we arrive, something like this won’t really matter, because what matters most is how we loved them. 

What matters is how you labor over them day after day, week after week, year after year. What matters is that you find beauty in the most unexpected places at every opportunity. What matters is what we keep breathing, even when the air is thin, and sometimes, we fight when we have to, but we always choose to love no matter the cost. 

I learned that labor and delivery, though bloody and painful, are actually the easiest parts in this whole thing. They are by no means a small thing, believe me when I say those words. 

We are measured by the faces around the table, the faces we see when we close our eyes in introspection. Not by the scars across our bellies.

But it is our first tastes of how pain can turn into something beautiful, filled to the absolute brim with grace. 

 

 

 

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A pregnancy rant: It’s 2015, and we still know squat about pregnancy

We have learned nothing. And we have no excuses. In the last two years, we have learned absolutely nothing new about pregnancy and child-birth. 

How do I know this?

Because Kate Middleton just had a baby. And everybody has lost their collective minds. 

Yes, I follow news on the royal family, because shut up, so do you. Don’t act like just because you’re an American that, “it doesn’t or shouldn’t matter.” Are you kidding me

Why not? I like Kate. Her arse isn’t hanging out of every outfit she puts on, and she doesn’t have a cloying reality show that we all can’t escape from.

In every effort to avoid the news and the upcoming presidential election, I will happily look at pictures of a gorgeous newborn baby and yet another awe-inspiring bespoke Jenny Packham gown for Kate Middleton.

I also find it incredibly admirable that she works with charities that promote therapy through the arts, aids individuals who are riddled with addiction, and provide children’s hospice services.

I’ll take that over CNN almost any day.

SO, anyway, Kate had another baby. 

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To put it into perspective, even celebrities in the upper echelons of Hollywood do NOT have this kind of pressure when they are about to have a baby. The closest that I have seen in my lifetime was Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, and that is as much fervor as you are going to see over a celebrity baby, probably, ever again. 

Since this was her second baby, I naturally assumed (dumb) that there wouldn’t be such hysteria this go around (wrong.) The general public and media would surely wait for the news that the baby had come, and act like rational people do when babies are afoot.

As excited and ready as we were for her to deliver, I can almost guarantee 1000%that Kate was even more so. Try to tell a pregnant woman how much you simply can’t wait for her to Give birth, and see if you don’t get a box of Swiss Cake Rolls thrown straight at your head. 

Just kidding, a pregnant lady would never waste those.

Instead, we were treated to three weeks of baby “countdowns,” ridiculous speculation and the opinions of “experts” willing to sit down and have a chat with tabloids to inform us morons about how babies “work.” 

I can’t tell if it’s the media I should be angry with, or the general population. 

I mean, really…do we not know how labor and delivery work? Do we not know how long pregnancies are? Do we not know that babies are sometimes late???

I get lost trying to picture either the writers behind their keyboards typing this stuff up, and the people at home, reading the news and nodding in awe of such pertinent information.

“Babies come out of vaginas…interesting…”

Should there be a third royal baby, I would like the media and the masses to keep a few things in mind for the next go round:

1.) Babies come when they want to come

Pregnancies are 40 weeks. For some reason, though, we still consider it a nine-month process, which both confuses and irritates me. I feel like this factoid needs to be spelled out somewhere so that us women can have our dues.

While a woman is given a due date, it is highly unlikely she will deliver on or even by the actual due date. In fact, quite a few go early, as they are safely still considered full-term a few weeks prior to their due date. But quite a few also go later than their estimated due date.

Women are typically allowed to wait until up to 2 weeks past their due date (or roughly 42 weeks of pregnancy) before being induced for fear of complications. Women are full term around 38 or 39 weeks, though some deliver even before that and are just fine.

Here is a fun fact: due dates are estimations. Which means that the 40 week mark is just a guesstimate, not an exact science. Doctors make every effort to be as close as they can when calculating a due date, but that date can be wrong by several days, perhaps even a week in either direction. And as with everything related to pregnancy, weeks, and even days, can make a huge bit of difference. 

In other words: “here is about the date that your baby will come, but probably not, but probably. Your baby could maybe probably come early. Or your baby could possibly probably come late. But your baby will probably sort of come around this date. But probably not. Enjoy your indigestion and swelling.”

2.) Yes, women can deliver quickly,

especially so after their first child:

People were shocked, SHOCKED I SAY, that Kate delivered within three hours after being admitted to the hospital. Quick or not, consider these two things:

– If Kate truly went to the hospital right after going into labor, and did deliver naturally within several hours from the onset of labor, it was probably a.) still not fast enough for her and b.) no cake walk. It was still an 8 lb.+ object passing through a relatively small opening. Ouch.

-Kate may have very well labored at home for some time as opposed to going straight to the hospital, and dealing with the mass hysteria of people outside with cameras, who would gladly take a photo of her cervix if they had the chance.  

Many women choose to labor at home, where they feel more relaxed and comfortable. It is not unsafe and not uncommon. In fact, in the case of a “typical” pregnancy, women are urged to spend some time laboring at home prior to going to the hospital.

Yes, women can deliver quickly, especially if it is not their first child. In the case of a mom having a second go around with giving birth, it’s one of the few “perks” that nature gives you.

“At least your labor probably won’t be 28 hours this time. Hooray! Oh, but your new infant will keep you up at night while your toddler runs you ragged during the day. And your uterus is gonna hurt more this time as it contracts back down to normal size. But at least you won’t labor as long, so you can get home faster….

Whatever. Calm. Down. People.

51728581 The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge outside St Mary's hospital with their new born baby girl in London, UK on May 2, 2015. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge outside St Mary's hospital with their new born baby girl in London, UK on May 2, 2015. Pictured: Prince William, Kate Middleton FameFlynet, Inc - Beverly Hills, CA, USA - +1 (818) 307-4813 RESTRICTIONS APPLY: USA ONLY

3.) No, women don’t typically look like Kate Middleton did roughly ten hours after giving birth.

I’m not sure how much magic Kate Middleton actually has in that wavy brown hair of hers. It’s probably full of secrets, like Gretchen Weiner’s. Or, perhaps, she has a stylist, a hair dresser, a makeup artist and an assistant hiding up those bespoke sleeves of hers. That seems the more likely answer.

But she looked darn good right after delivery.

I won’t fault her for it.

If BILLIONS, that’s right, b-i-l-l-i-o-n-s of people, were going to be looking at me right after delivery, I’d ask for the best pain meds the doctor had on hand, pull up my mesh underwear, throw on some spanx, and call in my dream team to help me look like I wasn’t just run over by a truck.  Step aside, Avengers, this is a job for stylists. 

Women deal with quite a lot of pressure in general when it comes to their looks, let alone actually being allowed to look like they just gave birth, ya know, right after they give birth.

The media freaked when Kate’s grey hair grew out a touch during this pregnancy. So heaven forbid she leave the hospital in a wheelchair or looking gimpy or (gasp) swollen.

Even though we wonder why Kate made such a fuss over her looks, the collective media will soon be looking for immediate signs that Kate has since recovered from having a baby (read: flat stomach.)

The media constantly acts confused by the standards that they set. Shocking, I know.

I would want to look like she did on any normal day, let alone right after giving birth. You would, too.

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4.) She went home too quickly – depends on who you ask?

I didn’t leave the hospital for nearly 5 days after my last baby was born. I was too busy hobbling the 6 feet from the bed to the bathroom in all of my Eye of the Tiger glory. Granted, I had a c-section, my third actually. But I could not have imagined going home within 10 hours. 

But I can see the appeal. 

Being in MY bed, in the privacy of MY home, with MY family and friends nearby, and getting back to my children? Yes, that all sounds lovely. Who wants to stay in a hospital with an uncomfortable bed, where bed checks are going to wake you up every two hours so that they can poke on your uterus. Even if in my case that is something that would never have happened, and that is not something I would fault other parents for.

I give William and Kate enough credit to not be rash in their decision-making. They have access to the best of the best when it comes to medical professionals. And I’m sure that those professionals are willing to make house calls to the future king and queen of England. 

Plus, it isn’t as if Kate was going home to peacefully lounge. Big brother G will be sure that there is no time for lounging.  I’m sure that one week later the grace period will be over, and George will soon be dropping toys on his younger sister and poking her in the eye, like siblings do.

There you have it. How amazing would it be if for the third time, she just emerged in sweat pants bought at Target, with a messy bun and eating from a box of donuts? 

Just kidding, I never did that after having a baby….*cough*

My Journey to (potentially) VBAC’ing

The Why’s

Okay, so, that last pregnancy related post of mine?

Yea, not one of my proudest moments.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. While I don’t want to complain about my pregnancy (or anything, for that matter) every chance I get, at the same time, it was all the truth. I’m Abraham Lincoln when it comes to pregnancy discomfort – I cannot tell a lie.

Thankfully, some of those less than great days have passed for moment. I could also be feeling better because I took two Tylenol PM’s the other night, and got about seven hours of uninterrupted sleep. It’s amazing how getting some sleep can affect your outlook.

This is my third pregnancy. My oldest child is five, my middle is three. Both of them were born via cesarean. This time around, though, I’m exploring the option of delivering via VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean.)

Here are the why’s.

With my son, it was necessary to deliver via a section. I was induced for preeclampsia, and after about 17 hours of labor, nearly three of them spent pushing, he wasn’t coming out. Turns out he had a watermelon for a head. Goodie. I was given general anesthesia and had a c-section. Stat!

My daughter was also born via c-section. We live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and our local hospital’s policy is that once you have delivered via c-section, all subsequent deliveries there are by cesarean.  This is because they do not have an anesthesiologist on the premises at all times, so should a woman rupture during a VBAC attempt and need an emergency cesarean there would be no anesthesiologist readily available for her. Makes sense to me.

Initially, a repeat c-section is what I thought I wanted. It was actually rather terrifying and unpleasant to make it entirely through labor the first only for my son to be “stuck.” I thought a planned delivery was the way to go the second time around. I was wrong.

Recovering from cesarean number two was…a task. Recovering from having baby number two, regardless of how you deliver, is harder the second go around. Less rest, less down time, more stuff to do. Making this process even more fun was the fact that my nursing care was less than great.

 

IMG_0899 While they got me out of bed once, about 24 hours after delivery, they pretty much left me to my own devices after that. No re-checks to make sure I was up (or able!) and walking, nobody eager to help me stand and shower if I so chose. While I understand that their hope is that a patient would be able to get up and be able to move a bit more freely by that point, this just wasn’t the case for me.

My IV pain medication was also not working for me. I spent the first 24 post-op hours having a minor reaction to my morphine. Lots of itching, lots of drowsiness, next to no pain relief. And no desire to get out of bed unless I absolutely had to.

It also turns out that I was hooked up to a bag of pitocin after my delivery, which no one told me would happen. When trying to describe my level of pain to my nurses and all that I could equate the feeling to was like I was having continuous, medium-level contractions they stared at me, puzzled. Go figure.

Throughout all of this I felt as though I was a complete inconvenience to the staff. You would have thought that I was there to get a cavity filled, not for major abdominal surgery. They didn’t see the big deal in much of anything that I was dealing with.

The cherry on top of all this is that my precious daughter was not a good breastfeeder. I asked every nurse that walked through my door their opinion on the matter, and every one of them reassured me that it was “normal” for her to be a less than enthusiastic eater.

As a mom who had previously breastfed and knew some of the ropes, I didn’t feel as though I was being overly cautious, but I also know the stigma that can sometimes come with asking too many questions: they think that you’re being overly paranoid while they think that they know best.

Calling for help!

Calling for help!

There is a happy medium between making a woman feel like she isn’t crazy, especially when she has enough hormones pumping through her body to power a small city and has a six-inch cut across her abdomen, while also doing your job and making sure that it really is normal for a baby to be eating hardly anything. I just wanted to know my options before heading home.

Apparently they felt like I was asking them to make me a unicorn or to catch me a leprechaun. Because it seemed the answer they wanted me to be satisfied with was “it’s normal for newborns to not take to nursing immediately. So stop paging us, already.”

I had a compete meltdown on the last day of my hospital stay. I just felt utterly and completely incapable of being able to take care of myself. At all. Which is something I knew that I needed to be able to do when we were back at home and Rob returned to work.

I had a baby who wouldn’t eat, I had no extra hands to help since Rob needed to go home at night to be with Jerry, and nurses who didn’t seem to want to answer my questions or who didn’t even seem to want to put my baby in the nursery for me so that I could get a break.

When they did relent, they returned with her within the hour to tell me that the baby was hungry (duh! she wasn’t eating!) I wanted to tell them that it was “normal” and that it would work itself out (see what I did there?) but I just didn’t have the energy for sarcasm, which tells you how I was feeling. I was basically holed up in my room like the unibomber – by myself and on my own.

I could barely make it from the bed to the bathroom I was in so much pain. I made it to a rocking chair in the corner of my room to pump and after barely even making it there, I sat down….and cried. And cried. Well, there was one thing I was at least capable of doing at that point.

The nurses finally took notice that maybe something was off. Plus, by this point, my husband was also going out of his mind at the sight of my misery and was being very vocal about it. 100_0158

The head nurse pulled up a chair and sat with me, listened to me pour my heart and soul out about my worries (a baby who wouldn’t eat, my inability to even get out of bed, how I thought I would be further along by now, the state of the economy, the ending of Old Yeller…) and she sat and stared while I vented.

After I finished, she looked at my blankly and said (and I quote.)” “Okay……….so what do we need to do to get you go to home today?”

If you think that she meant,” okay, Ashley, let’s get your pain meds comfortable, address Clara’s breastfeeding habits and get you both prepared and feeling ready to going home…” then you are mistaken.

This was basically, “okay, well your stay is up at midnight tonight. So, what can I do to placate to you for the next 9 hours until you are mandated to leave because your insurance will stop covering your visit?”

Making it home (FINALLY)

Once home, once back in my house, tensions eased up some. Also, we switched my medication (something that could have been done SOONER) and within the first few days, I was much more comfortable and at ease with moving around and being at home.

Clara lost about 12 ounces during her hospital stay. My milk came in like the Euphrates River, but she remained a picky eater for the first six months of her life. First no left breast, then no breasts at all, then only breasts and nothing else. That’s a saga for another time. Don’t worry – it really was as terrible as it sounds.

Needless to say, cesareans haven’t necessarily been my friend. While I know that a lot of my anguish from last time can be attributed to some of the nursing staff, who I must state were not all bad, I truly did struggle to get over that initial hump in the beginning.

Don’t mistake me, c-sections save lives. My son would not be here, I might not be here, if cesareans didn’t exist. And I really have had fabulous doctors both times. Of them I couldn’t complain about. But, if it isn’t necessary, why put yourself through one? Why go through the ordeal of being cut if you feel like it may be something you don’t need?

I can appreciate differing points of view on the matter. There are some women who had a situation like I had with my first delivery and they are comfortable having another c-section simply because of memories of the stress of having a labor go slightly awry. I can understand that. But after my second delivery, I realized that next time, if it was an option, I needed to ask questions and see what was possible for me. I simply had to know if there was something better.

This time I was ready to venture into the territory of VBAC deliveries. This means venturing across “The Bridge” to find a practice that allows for VBAC’s. Initially, I had no luck. With two prior cesareans, I was either directly turned down or my messages not returned.

I plan on steering clear of midwives, if only because in a dire situation, such as a case of my uterus rupturing, I would want an OB with me, ready to spring into action. Make no mistake, I have heard wonderful things about midwives, and statistically, women tend to be as happy, if not happier, when delivering with a midwife.

My OB office actually put me in touch with doctors who deliver out of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Thus far, it seems like this could  be a promising relationship. It sounds like my first appointment with them will be toward the end of August. Somehow, this summer, and this pregnancy, are flying by. I’m already looking at the cusp of autumn and my mind is blown.

My only concern is finding a doctor who won’t feel the need to induce my labor either drastically earlier than my due date, or for any reason other than it being absolutely necessary. I do believe that one intervention can lead to multiple interventions. This time, I don’t want pitocin, I don’t want IV medication. My husband and I are still discussing epidurals and whether or not we will go that route this time. IMG_0994

No matter the outcome, I am determined to have peace about what happens. If I need another cesarean, if God closes these doors fully, then me and Rob pray to be content with it. We don’t feel like we will be done after having baby number three, and my skin is already crawling at the thought of not just this c-section, but also another c-section down the road.

But, when we started this journey of potentially VBAC’ing, we always said that we wanted what was safest and best for our baby. And we meant it. If that means mommy needs to be cut up again like a shish-kabob, then that is what we will do. Because that’s ultimately anyone’s goal.

The pains of any delivery, vaginal or cesarean, it’s something that becomes null when you have them safe in your arms. You know it was all worth it. You know that is all that you ultimately wanted anyway.

Thanks for reading! I’ll be  posting up a follow-up post or two to let you know how things are progressing!