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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's My Decision, Don't Judge

Miles was sick with the croup last week. He's fine now, but in the middle of it he was waking up at night, unable to breath well. On one of those nights I got up at 4:30 am to soothe him and put him back to sleep. Within 20 minutes he was back down, but it took me over an hour to fall back asleep. It was a combination of hunger and anxiety. My stomach was growling but I refused to get food thinking that would make me even more awake. I figured if I lay in bed long enough I would pass out, like I normally do. But there were all kinds of anxiety thoughts swirling in my head. I couldn't push them away and an hour later I was still awake.

Miles was born via planned C-section. See, I had a Myomectomy (uterine fibroid operation) a few years prior to having Miles. My particular fibroid was attached to the top part of my uterus and embedded within the muscle. T.M.I.....sorry! Point is, the scar is not at the bottom of the uterus like they are with c-sections, it is all the way at the top. The part of the uterus that expands and balloons out during pregnancy. My doctor feared that with the scar having expanded so much, it could rupture during labor and I could bleed to death. Not cute.

The doctor explained all of this to me (even drew pictures) and said he recommended that I have a cesarean. I was devastated. I had been reading all the books, eating well, staying strong and flexible, doing my yoga, basically preparing myself mentally and physically for a natural labor. I knew that I was capable of doing it and I wanted to go through it and allow my body to do its thing. I wanted to experience the most natural, intense and God-given right that we have as women. I cried. I felt cheated by my body. But the decision was still up to me. That was just my doctor's recommendation, he didn't say I had to do it. So I sat with that information for a few days. I searched my spirit to see what I should really do.

Should I challenge my doctor? The same doctor who performed the Myomectomy and did well enough that I was able to get pregnant in the first place? Should I get a second opinion? Should I be stubborn and stick to my guns, do what my body was "meant" to do as a woman? No. The answer was no. See when I searched myself, I realized that I always knew, deep down inside that I would not give birth naturally. Maybe my body was not "meant" to do that. Yes, women have been giving birth naturally since time eternal, but they didn't all make it. Nor did their children. Just think as far back as your grandmother. How many of our grandmothers lost children during birth or became so ill they almost didn't make it themselves. As women, it is our design to give birth. Our bodies are built to have children, but that doesn't mean that the circumstances and conditions will be right when it comes down to it. And some women simply can't do it. Maybe I am one of them. I can conceive and carry a child, but maybe I'm not meant to deliver them naturally.

In fact, I don't need to look as far as my grandmother. I need only look as far as my mother, who almost hemorrhaged to death while giving birth to me. She had to have a blood transfusion, right there on the table from the doctor's arm to hers. The doctor happened to be her father, so he knew her blood type and acted like a champ and saved his daughter's life. And a few years later, during my brother's birth, my mom actually had a heart attack, flatlined and had to be brought back. Yes. She saw the white light, then came the paddles, clear, the whole thing. She ended up having my brother via emergency c-section and they were both safe.

Okay, if you're pregnant and reading this, I'm sorry, I don't mean to scare you. This is my history and part of why I made my decision to have a cesarean. It's got nothing to do with you, we all have our own very different histories to explore. My sister was the first born and my mom had a typical, natural delivery with her. And when my sister gave birth to her daughter, she did it naturally and within two hours. So like I said, this is my story and in no way should influence yours.

After careful soul searching, I knew that having even the slightest possibility that my scar could rupture during labor and that I could bleed to death would keep me from allowing my body to do what it was supposed to do. I could feel that I would hold back because of my fear. And maybe I gave in to my fear, maybe I was being overly cautious, maybe I could have delivered Miles naturally. Maybe if worked harder to deal with my emotional demons, I could get past the fear to deliver naturally. But I know me, and I knew that it would hold me back. So I chose the cesarean. And then I spent the next 4 months having to defend my choice. And this is where my current anger, fear, anxiety stems from.

There is a stigma attached to women who choose to have cesareans. I did it for a medical reason or maybe it was fear, but that fear was based on a medical reason. The point is, it was my choice. And I am now finding that once again I have to defend my choice. After speaking to my doctor this time, we both felt it was safest to do another cesarean for baby #2. And I feel comfortable about that choice for mine and my baby's safety. Yet women are constantly trying to convince me to try and give birth naturally this time. Other women give birth after a cesarean. It's called a VBAC. Yes, I know this very well. Trust me, read all the books, took the class, etc. It's not me, it's not my story. I have to defend my position.

I love my yoga and have been going to pre-natal classes recently, like I did with Miles, and everything is always geared for natural birth. "Make these sounds, bond with other women, feel comfortable having other people touch you and see you in uncomfortable positions, do squats, don't be afraid to yell"... and on and on and on. I do all of it. I go with it because I like to bond and I'm not afraid of being loud, the whole while knowing that I won't be using these techniques because I'm having an operation. Yet I keep going because I'm working on keeping my body fit, for a fast recovery and my mind strong and flexible so I can get through the operation. Because it's scary! So I have a problem with women judging my decision to have a cesarean. I don't judge their decision to give birth naturally. Shit, I applaud them! I wish I could do it. It's got to be so difficult and scary, yet beautiful and emotional at the same time. So when I get the attacking comments, looks and stares, I feel like they are trying to diminish my experience. As if I was a terrible person for choosing to make sure I didn't die during labor! As with everything in life, it's all about strength and flexibility. Women need to have the strength and courage to go through the fear and pain, and the flexibility of heart and mind to go with the flow. Even if the flow is against our original plans. I didn't want to have a c-section, but I had to be flexible. I didn't want to have a child with Down syndrome, but I had to be flexible. At the end of the day, the way your baby comes into this world is not as important as your baby coming into this world, healthy.

In the prep room where I got hooked up and tagged before going into the OR

I am not preparing to push a baby, but I am preparing for an operation that though routine, is still an operation. And to me, it's scary! I have to go into a hospital (I hate hospitals), have huge needles poked into my veins and back (I'm afraid of needles, even when they draw blood!), go through the freaky feeling of my body being numbed from the waist down. Essentially feeling amputated. Seeing my baby for the first time but being so groggy that I can barely move or react and then feeling like a junky coming off drugs when the anesthesia wears away? It sucks. The whole experience is totally intense. My body goes through trauma. My mind needs to be strong and remember that I will be fine. I will feel my legs again and I will be able to breath well again and that the teeth chattering and cold and hot flashes are just part of the drugs wearing off. I need to be courageous and go through it because I have a baby in my arms and I need to nurse her and take her of her now.

Miles and I in our room just hours after he was born.

What am I getting at? It all counts. Bringing a child into this world is a beautiful, intense, scary, and tough experience no matter how you do it. We all get battle scars at the end of it. And since we are all different, we chose to go through it in different ways. But it all counts. Even though I've already had one cesarean, I am still afraid of going through it again. I'm probably more afraid this time because I know what to expect. And that's why I was up for over an hour the other night. I had anxiety about what I need to go through again to have this baby. And that's why I continue going to yoga, to focus on my breathing, my strength, my courage and flexibility. All the things that will get me through this experience once more. I am afraid yet I know it will be okay.

So please, don't judge. This is my journey, not yours.


  1. BRAVA, Loreni! I, too, had to have a planned c-section (I had a fibroid that was potentially blocking the birth canal). Now, this happened about a week before Emilia was due, so I didn't have to defend my choice to anyone for months. But afterwards, I felt like I had missed out on a big female experience, and I still feel like that a little bit. I guess we just have to own our birth experiences!

  2. just as Nicole said, I tried till last minute to have a natural birth experience, had a perfect pregnancy and thought, just like you, that I was going to experience the most natural way of giving birth. I guess nature had other plans for me and ended up with a C. I understand the thought of feeling cheated by your body, that is exactly how I felt, but after some time I realized that maybe, in a past life I or my bb could have died in the process so I am grateful for science. It's what life had in mind for me and I am grateful for that! lets embrace it! Who cares what other women say??

  3. Just wanted to let you know that I had a similar experience with my pregnancy and birth of my son last March. I, too, had a very invasive myomectomy and followed my OB's advice to have a C-section. In addition, my son was diagnosed with a severe heart defect at 18 weeks in utero that would require major surgery. I loved my pre-natal yoga, but it was often hard to listen to others go on about natural birth or about their fears of childbirth when, for me, a natural birth was not an option and I was so scared my son might not live. Yoga helps me be at peace in the moment, just as things are, though, so it was also a tremendous solace. I think I also realized that because I wanted a natural birth, I anticipated judgment even where it might not have existed. Now I am just so thankful that my son got through his surgeries and is doing well. Who cares how he got here!

  4. Thanks for your comments. They mean a lot. And yes, who cares how our babies get here, just as long as they do!

  5. Your post moved me my friend. Thanks for taking the time to write and share it! It feels so sad that we as woman and society continue to be so very critical of one another especially during this emotional and special time of bringing a life into the world. It would feel so much better if we could start giving each other love and support for the choices that we are making. There is no blue ribbon being given and there is no right way but god there is just so much judgement. Just know that I support you and see the strength in your decision!!

  6. Loreni - it's been years since we've seen each other and I didn't know you were blogging. I'm just catching up and reading about Miles and your journey as a mama and now this new baby...congratulations :)
    I too had to give up on the dream of a natural birth and I mourned it for a long time. I HATED the Cesarean and never wanted to have another. I was so jealous of those who could birth naturally and not know what it feels like to have a spinal headache, or stand for the first time after the operation.
    I send you love and strength on this journey. Some of us would have died in childbirth a hundred years ago. I'm grateful to be alive, to have a beautiful child, to have had wonderful surgeons. Sometimes modern medicine gets in the way. Sometimes it saves lives.
    Love and understanding goes a long way. I'm sure by being your beautiful self, you'll help others see the bigger picture.

  7. I'm commenting a little late here. I'm a little shocked and saddened that you have received criticism or judgment for your scheduled C. A myomectomy (or placenta previa or a host of other uterine medical conditions and procedures) doesn't make your c-section much of a "choice." There are conditions that warrant - and even necessitate - a c-section. I'm so sorry that you were not always supported in your "choice." Of all people, Ms. Loli, you are one of the most thoughtful, natural and loving women I know! You would not make this "choice" willy-nilly.

    I think that maybe the hoopla comes in over women (or doctors) who schedule c-sections as an alternative to normal birth, women who aren't contraindicated for normal birth but may see c-section as an equally "safe" option, and that's pretty debatable.

    I had a c-section with my twins after planning a natural birth myself, but my Baby A was breech and never turned, and I developed pre-eclampsia at 38 weeks. Since 38 weeks is term for twins, we went ahead with the section, and it was okay. It wasn't great - my milk didn't come in right away, the recovery was difficult, and I collapsed from exhaustion after leaving the hospital. But it was the right move for me and my babies - it was the way it had to be, and we are all great now.

    I'm pregnant now, and trying to VBAC at home, so we'll see how that goes! (We're minutes away from the hospital, so that's a great thing!) I actually felt discouraged in the opposite direction - I found very little support for a VBAC in the medical community, so that's primarily why I'm going the homebirth route. I think I actually have a better chance of VBACing without hospital interventions (and having more time to labor), so I'm giving that a shot.

    I do think this discussion is all good - there is lots not being discussed about women's health (and especially birth) in this country, and so much armchair quarterbacking when it comes to women's choices in mothering on all fronts. When a mother has made a thoughtful decision for herself, her child and her family, it's ashame that instead of opening our ears to her experiences that we judge before we've heard. Brava to you and your family for what has now been the beautiful and uneventful (thank God!) birth of your daughter, Ella!!

    Much love, girl -- and thanks, as ALWAYS, for sharing the stories of your journey. From one mother to another, they are so helpful and comforting to read.

  8. I saw this and thought of this entry on your blog. http://avital.blogspot.com/2011/01/cesarean-courage.html#axzz1qjQGsa7t