I read a blog post yesterday that got me to thinking about my 2 pregnancies and subsequent births. Both were planned c-sections, but that was never the original plan.
When I fell pregnant with M-L in February 2009, the plan was a natural birth. I wasn’t on a medical aid, and natural birth is far cheaper than a c-section, plus the recovery time is quicker as well. Then we found out that my OBGYN had moved 200km away which kinda freaked me out, as no one wants to go into labour, pile into the car and then have to drive for a good 1.5hrs to get to the hospital. But, hey, it was doable and being a first pregnancy labour should last a while, right? Anyway, fast forward 5 months, and something was wrong. DOWN THERE. Now I’m not one for doctor’s, but when I’m pregnant I get paranoid. So off I went to the GP, who upon examining me, kicked my mom out of the room (that’s never a good sign) and gently asked how many sexual partners I’d been with recently.
I’m sorry, what?!
I had contracted an STD, genital herpes to be exact. I have never felt dirtier or more disgusted with myself, ever. Through a mixture of snot and tears, I told the GP that I’d only been with my husband (for the past 6 years anyway) and how did this happen?! Apparently this does happen in pregnancies, and it’s more common than a lot of women will admit to. Being pregnant, I couldn’t go on the antibiotics that are normally prescribed, so I was sent home for a week’s bed rest (if you’ve ever had this condition, you’ll know why – ow :( ) and life continued on as normal. At my next check-up with the OBGYN I told him what had happened, and that’s when he told me that a natural birth was pretty much out of the window. Heartbroken doesn’t even begin to describe it.
If a woman gives birth naturally whilst experiencing an ‘outbreak’, it is very dangerous for her baby, as if any of the blood is ingested by the baby, this can result in blindness as well as the baby now having the herpes simplex, and if you still opt for a natural birth, then your baby has to have a nasty injection once born, to combat any of the herpes nasties that will be harmful to him/her. I couldn’t do that to M-L; why should she have to suffer unnecessarily as well as have the risk of blindness, when there was another alternative? So, the husband and I decided, along with the OBGYN that a planned c-section was the safest way to go.
Before we found out that I was pregnant with twins last year, we discussed a natural birth with my OBGYN. I told him of my ‘condition’, and he said that there shouldn’t be any issues, and that many women have natural births after c-sections and that we’ll just monitor my ‘condition’. I was excited; this way my opportunity to experience labour, and to ‘push’. I firmly believe that a lot of my postpartum depression that I experienced with M-L, was attributed to the fact that I didn’t experience labour. I believe that labour is the body’s way of both mentally and physically preparing a woman not only for birth, but for becoming a mother. I walked into hospital, heavily pregnant, and walked out the next day in pain, with a baby. The bond wasn’t there. The connect wasn’t there. I was excited; I imagined me waking up the husband in the middle of the night, excitedly exclaiming that my water had broken and that we had to go to the hospital, you know, all movie-drama like. But alas, that wasn’t to be, as a few minutes after that discussion, we discovered that there was an extra invader in my belly. As much as a woman can birth twins naturally, my OBGYN didn’t want to take any chances, and said that he wanted to deliver them via c-section. Pop went that bubble.
I don’t feel any less of a woman because I’ve birthed my 3 children via c-section, but I do feel judged by some of my friends (and even random strangers) who have had natural births, like I have taken the easy way out. But I can assure you, there is nothing easy about a c-section. It’s scary, it’s painful and it’s not something that I’ve jumped into. It’s major surgery, and the time that could have been spent cuddling my newborn/s, washing bottles, folding baby clothes etc, was spent trying to get out of bed faster than a tortoise walking a meter without crying out in pain. And the postpartum bleeding after a c-section is no less than if you had a natural birth; I was shocked after my first c-section that I was bleeding, and so much, and for so long! So many woman think that you don’t after a c-section; believe me, you DO! After a c-section you aren’t allowed to drive for 6 weeks; a natural birth allows a woman to drive pretty much the same day, depending on what went on DOWN THERE. With a natural birth, things tend to shrink down to their ‘normal’ size relatively quickly (there is no normal size after pregnancy, I know) whereas with a c-section it takes so. much. longer. Being wheeled into the theater, drip in your wrist, catheter up your who-ha, having to schooch your big, heavy pregnant body over onto the operating table, having to somehow bend your body in half (impossible with a big ass tummy in the way) and then having to try and breathe through the needle being inserted into your lower back for the epidural, are all wonderfully soothing things that a woman looks forward to, right before bringing her child/children into this world. Right before her stomach is sliced open, her insides mooshed around, air filling every nook and cranny (air that she’ll know about for weeks after the birth) and a pressure unlike she’s every experienced before, all before welcoming her child into the world. Also with a c-section, the time spent with your newborn right after birth is not like the time spent after a natural birth. Because you now have to lie in theater for another 30-45mins (sometimes even longer) whilst your doctor stitches you back together, your baby is whisked away to the nursery, where the first bath is given, the first feed and you’re lying in theater, missing it all.
I wanted to push. I wanted to do that, be a ‘real woman’, whatever that is. But I couldn’t, and I’m ok with that. I have 3 beautiful, healthy children who are no worse off because their mommy didn’t give birth to them ‘like a real woman should have’. My mom had all 3 of us naturally, and I applaud her for that. Just like I applaud every other woman who has had a natural birth. Just like I applaud every other woman who has had a c-section. I applaud every woman that gives birth, whichever way she does so. I wish women would stop ‘comparing’ births; what matters is that your child is here, healthy and perfect, whether born naturally or via c-section.
Yes I wanted to push.
But I didn’t, and that’s ok.