Thursday, March 4, 2010

Is a healthy baby ALL that matters?

A guest post by Andrea Owen from Live Your Ideal Life.  

Is a healthy baby ALL that matters?

Once upon a time I was a clueless woman, pregnant with my first child. Sitting in my childbirth class only half listening to the teacher talk  about cesarean section. I thought, “They have to cut through FOUR layers to get to the baby? Yuk! At least I don’t have to worry about that.” And continued daydreaming about my first born’s birth. Out of my vagina. Just like that. 

Sitting in my obstetrician’s office at 36 weeks pregnant, as we both looked at the familiar beautiful skeleton on the ultrasound he casually said, “Yep, looks like he’s still breech. We’ll schedule your c-section for 39 weeks”. Again, just like that. I could almost hear the sound of screeching breaks in my head. I was not going down without (what I thought was) a fight. I asked, “Can’t I birth him this way?” He explained that it was monumentally dangerous, and in fact none of the 14 OB’s in rotation would do it. I was told I had no other option. None. Basically I felt like my vagina would suddenly explode all over the delivery room if I wanted to deliver a breech baby. I asked if I could wait until I went into labor on my own, then come in for the section. What if my son needed to gestate to 42 weeks? No, again. Pretty much all my power was stripped from me and I was made to feel that this was my only option. I asked no additional questions. I was beyond devastated, confused, didn’t know who to talk to and was terrified. I had never even had a cavity filled, never a bone broken. And yet I was about to have major abdominal surgery to remove my child from me. I didn’t get to give birth like my mother had 3 times, like my grandmother had 11 times. No stories of moaning, pushing, sweating, baby being put on my chest to nurse right away as I wept with joy. Nope. The next day, my water broke. 
My son was born 4 hours later via cesarean section. A great OB was on staff and the rest of the staff was nice as well. Did that make it great? No. For almost two years I held it all in. People would inquire about my son’s birth, I would tell them and embellish about how wonderful it was because GOD FORBID I say anything was wrong with my view of his birth! I had a healthy baby, and that’s all that matters....
When my son was 15 months old I got pregnant with our second child. I was hell-bent on having a vaginal birth (VBAC). It was somewhat of a battle (the journey is here), but I hired a doula, educated myself about birth and VBAC. The more I researched and the more I talked to people about birth, I kept hearing, “Well, it doesn’t matter how you deliver. A healthy baby is all that matters”. And I found myself starting to say this mantra too. But, deep inside, I was screaming. Screaming in emotional pain from my son’s birth. Screaming that I felt it was a violent and unnatural way for him to come into the world. Cursing myself for not being more educated and knowing my options. But, I kept my trap shut. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings that had a decent experience with their c-section, or anyone else for that matter that felt they needed to give me their 2 cents. And by the way, I know that c-section saves lives.  I don’t need to be reminded. After all, we’re all mothers doing the best we can. And at the end of the day, a healthy baby is. All. That. Matters. 
The day came and I successfully birthed my daughter and proudly wore the badge: VBAC. (click here for her birth story). Four days later at home, a particular female family member (who will remain nameless) called and I began telling her my daughters birth story. (This family member is a labor and delivery nurse for over 20 years. She told me once when I was about 5 months pregnant (and I didn’t ask) that she thought it would be best if I have a repeat c-section and not endanger my daughter by having a VBAC). So, I began telling her my story and she suddenly interrupts me, “I read your blog. The one about Colton’s birth. I think your story is an insult to my profession!”

Oh. No. She. Just. Didn’t. 
But, wait, she wasn’t done: “You have two healthy babies! DO YOU KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE?!?!?
And that’s what pushed me over the edge. 
I was tired of accepting the “Who-gives-a-shit-about-your-feelings-you’re-just-the-incubator-anyway” attitude. I was tired of the “Is it selfish?” question about VBAC. I’m not going to get into the facts about the safety of VBAC or the risks of multiple c-section, but rather the misinformation, the lack of education is what really pisses me off. When you don’t know what you don’t know, ignorance is bliss. Like me when I was ignorant and pregnant with my first. It’s what I see over and over again. Most mothers trust their medical staff, their obstetricians. They listen to horror stories at baby showers and watch crap shows like “A Baby Story” and “Birthday” on TLC (And they call themselves The Learning Channel. What a joke!). They fear birth and let doctors induce, allowing a cascade of interventions, usually ending in cesarean section. They give up control of their bodies, their babies, their birth. So, what happens over and over again are cesarean sections that are difficult (at best) for the mother. But, she’s pushed aside to lick her wounds herself. Hushed. Coupled with the fact that many times the husband sees a healthy baby and physically healthy mother. All is good in his eyes. Time passes and she says nothing. 
I cannot watch a cesarean being performed on TV without having a physical reaction. I cry, not happy tears one usually cries when seeing a baby born, but tears of remembering my own traumatic experience. The curtain. The mom strapped down, flat on her back. The staff and husband in head to toe scrubs. The huge surgery light above. The baby is pulled out, tended to, wrapped up and showed to the mother. If she’s lucky she can lift her head just enough to give her newborn babe a kiss. I mean, she’ll have the rest of her life with him, that's enough isn’t it? Isn’t it???
It hurts my heart. It hurts my stomach. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed to say I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from my cesarean. I don't blame my OB. it is what it is. Lots of women have feelings about their traumatic birth, cesarean or even vaginal, and are afraid to voice them. It’s time to talk about it. It won’t get better on it’s own, bottled up. 
There’s always someone that has it worse than me or you. I know there are women that can’t get pregnant. Or that have miscarriage after miscarriage. I personally know women like this. My heart breaks for them. But that doesn’t mean that my feelings about my son’s birth or your feelings about your child’s birth are any less legitimate or valid. Whether you chose to talk about them to your therapist, mom, husband or spew your feelings on a blog, TALK about them. Because what matters, is your mental and emotional health. THAT’S what matters! It matters to you, your family and to the health of your baby. 

By Andrea Owen from Live Your Ideal Life

Andrea Owen is a blogger, Life Coach, birth activist, VBACtivist and lactivist. Self esteem and body image activist, empowering women and girls, eating disorder awareness, loving wife and semi crunchy mom. All while being a kick ass lady. You can read more from her here:

"Be the type of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning, the devil says, "Oh crap! She's up!" 


Samantha McCormick, CNM said...

Great post. Love how you wrote from the heart.

Jasmine said...

yes yes yes! This is a monumentally important subject, thank you!

Poppet said...

Thank you, Andrea. Maybe if we were all as honest about our experiences, there would be more women trying to learn about all their options, rather than just the ones presented to them by the medical profession. I for one am going to be fighting for MY VBAC when it's my time to have another child, too. :O)

Tiny Footprints said...

Thank you thank you thank you. I also had a c-section that was pushed on a seriously innocent and undereducated girl. Unfortunately I also had to have a second because my doctors wouldn't budge and for other health reasons of my own I couldn't change mid-pregnancy and I couldn't just do it at home. I also feel like I was traumatized by the delivery of my children and worse I imagine what it was like for my poor babies. It tears me in two. I am addicted to watching birth videos now and my husband after watching one with me the other night said "So basically our children were brought into this world and tortured for the first couple of hours when you really think about it." I couldn't have put it better myself. I can't change the past, but I sure wish that I could. And like you I believe that I suffer from a little bit of PTSD from my experience. All I can do now is move forward, forge the best possible lives for my children, and hopefully help a few women to have the birth experience that they should have.

Tiffany said...

I totally teared up from this. You are a terrific writer and this is something that needs to be said. I am lucky to have been able to birth both my children vaginally, but I had way too many interventions (breaking my water artificially without my consent, pitocin, catheter when I could have flipping peed on my own, being required to lay flat on my back, not allowed to get out of the bed, etc.). I'm not as sad almost 4 years later, but I'll always think about what might have been if I had just followed my instincts.

Tiffany said...

Thank you for writing this!! I can't tell you how many times I've said, "But he's healthy and that's all that matters!".. To the point that I believed it until I read your blog. I appreciate you reminding me that my feelings are valid - I think so many people looked at me like I was crazy when I even began to express my sadness that I began to believe it too.

It's like I told my husband - most people don't realize that natural birth can be truly beautiful so when I complain about my feelings of inadequacy about our emergency assisted birth, it seems they think "It was childbirth - did you think it'd be fun?".. No, but I thought it'd be mine, and it wasn't.

Brittney said...

Wow! My eyes are a little misty... This is a BEAUTIFUL post! Thank you for sharing your powerful story.

Ez said...

Thankyou for writing this. I had my heart set on a natural, active birth and ended up with a forceps delivery and spinal block (after 20hrs of no epi). I was HUGE while pregnant, had been identified as at risk for macrosomia (high birth weight), and had already had the Birthing Suite option removed from me - my daughter's size made me 'high risk'. I had people question why I would even attempt a natural birth of such a big baby, and was told I'd never be able to do it without an epi. I was just lucky that my OB was understanding of my wishes. He didn't push me into an induction that would have most likely resulted in a c.

I have also struggled with the feeling that I missed out. My daughter was in distress and I know she had to come out, but I am still disappointed in my birthing experience. I managed to avoid the c, but my episiotomy, forceps delivery and 3rd degree tear were almost as traumatic for me :(

Lilly Rose said...

I hated that phrase. But I had supportive friends who understood that it wasn't all that mattered. Who said "It's okay, you'll have a VBAC next time!" and cheered me on my fourth pregnancy (my second and third were lost at different gestational ages, two babies I never got to hold) and I had my VBAC and it was amazing. Not perfect, no, but it was so much better. And no, a healthy baby is still not all that matters, even having lost two. Even with all the struggles I suffered trying to conceive again. Wondering if the cesarean broke me permanently. If it had taken away my ability to carry a pregnancy to term (secondary infertility, it's called).

And when three times the number of cesarean born babies die as compared to the number of vaginally born babies, it's hardly "selfish" to refuse to schedule a cesarean. It's protective. It's selfish that my risk of death went up by 7 times--which would have stolen me away from my baby. Taken the mama milk she loves so much. Left her with just her dad, struggling to make ends meet, raised in daycare*... no. Planned cesareans for no real medical reason are selfish.

I have a friend who suffered clear birth trauma from her cesarean. So did her son, but it seemed only she saw it, but didn't really understand. It broke my heart for her, especially as she prepared to call for therapy, over and over, and would feel better and just not do it. As though she felt she didn't deserve it for something like that.

I once talked to a mom at a park who told me about her traumatic cesarean birth, how horrible it was. She said she hadn't been able to tell anyone else about the bad parts, they wouldn't hear it. I told her about VBAC and ICAN and I hope it helped her. Just a stranger and I don't think we even exchanged names. I don't know how it came up, but it was like she knew it was safe to talk to me.

Her kids were 2? 3? (twins IIRC) I can't recall precisely. Those years passing with no one to talk to because "a healthy baby is all that matters." It's bullspit.

*I am not downing on necessary daycare, I'm downing on it becoming necessary when it wouldn't have had to be. And if you think women don't just drop dead, think again:

That was my nightmare as they wheeled me to the OR. That I would never meet my baby. It happens, much more often than doctors admit.

Jill said...

Thank you. I am a VBAC mama as well. My Cesarean was 5 years ago, my VBAC 18 months ago. I'm pursuing photography as a hobby and daydream about photographing births...but I could never do it, because I can't handle witnessing a birth in a hospital, much less a Cesarean. The scars are still fresh. It was the one thing that kept me going through my VBAC: knowing that if I couldn't get this baby out of me, I would have to live that nightmare all over again and I would be indescribably destroyed.

A healthy mom matters too. A healthy mom is what's best for baby. A mom that is both physically and mentally wounded with real and emotional scars is not a healthy mom. A mom that bleeds out one week after her baby is born due to a surgical error that was kept hidden from her, as I nearly did, is not a healthy mom. I hear people say "but I would have died if I hadn't been in the hospital!" and I want to laugh in their face. The hospital almost killed me. I wish I had been educated enough to know my options when I was 21 and pregnant and naive. I wish I'd never set foot in that fucking maternity ward. Seeing myself going into that dark tunnel and knowing that my precious baby would be left without a mother was a hundred thousand times worse than the Cesarean itself. And it all could have been so easily prevented...if I'd only known.

Molly said...

A friend said this last year. I think it fits well here:

It might be my biggest peeve of pregnancy. So here's my canned speech on it (feel free to quote, cut/paste anywhere you like!):

This is not true. Having a healthy baby is extremely important, and having a healthy baby and a healthy mother is the most important thing. That does not mean it is the only important thing. When a mother undergoes a traumatic emergency situation in delivery, with lasting damage to her body (this can happen during vaginal or c-section delivery), that matters. To suggest that it doesn't because the mother got a healthy baby as the end result is another way of saying that the mother does not matter outside of her role as an incubator for said baby. This is a narrative that gets repeated a lot in our culture about motherhood - that once you become a mother your role as independent person either diminishes greatly in importance or alltogether ceases to exist. It is a sexist and untrue narrative.

Additionally, telling a woman that her preferences about labor and bodily integrity don't matter sets up a climate ripe for post-partum depression. Mothers struggle enough with the idea of their own needs and wants being subsumed to those of their new baby without anyone telling them that they cannot grieve over a less than ideal birth experience.

I know someone whose husband was mugged and whose face was mutilated on the day of their wedding. If you wouldn't be willing to tell her that "the fact that you came out of it married is the only thing that matters", then I don't think you have any business telling a mother that "a healthy baby is the only thing that matters".

I personally know women who were so traumatized by their birth experiences that they have chosen not to have any more children, or waited many more years to have other children than they would have otherwise. Clearly it mattered a great deal to them, and I don't think its anyone else's place to tell them they are wrong.

Anonymous said...

What a great article! As someone who has just become pregnant, I am guilty of the same fantasies. I have already read an entire book on pregnancy and birth, yet I skipped the c-section chapter altogether. I am going to go back through and read it. I watch crap baby shows on TLC all the time and it's true that they ALWAYS end with some sort of medical intervention and almost always c-section, often with little explanation why.

My husband was in the hospital last year and I believe I may have some form of PTSD resulting from it, mainly from the lack of control and the way medical staff assumes you are an idiot no matter how informed you really are. I am subsequently terrified of losing all control at my child's birth, whether a c-section is involved or not.

Brave post! Women need to remember that you can love your family and still have your own needs and emotions without being a villain.

Lauren said...

This brought tears to my eyes; wonderful post!!!! I was bullied and manipulated into an unnecesarean with my first and suffered from PTSD for months afterward. I began to research birth and was bound and determined to have my VBAC next time. Long story short, I had a natural birth with my 2nd just four months ago. It was truly a triumphant moment and helped heal me. :)

Laura said...

While I've never had a Cesarean, I did have a traumatic birth experience with my first. I remember trying to justify it as a good birth experience and I still have that blog somewhere around the internet. That birth experience left me with absolutely no confidence about my body being able to birth a child and when the time came for my second to be born, I pushed for an unneeded induction because I had associated the issues of the first birth with my son's weight (9lbs). Thankfully, my induction went great (meaning it didn't end up in a C-section), but I do regret having been induced. However, the induction did show me that I AM able to have a wonderful birth despite the weight of the child! I birthed a 9 lbs 7 oz child with no complications like with my first. I trust my body now, and this baby (my third) will come when she wants. I trust I can birth an even bigger child with no complications.

Christa said...

I had twins first. And people assume that when I say I had a horrible experience that I had a c-section. But I didn't I was induced 8 weeks early, threatened every moment of every day for 9 days that I would have a c-section. I was given scare tactics, ultimatims and a deadline. I was denied food and water for 9 days, I was put on drugs that I BEGGED them to stop. I WAS LIED TO. But when push came to shove... I pushed. 4 times to be exact and brought my two baby girls into this world.

My horrible experience wasn't because of surgery, it was because no one stopped to reallly weigh the options, the possibilities. They all stared at the ultrasound screen saying, something is wrong, there's two of them in there, something HAS TO BE wrong.
Did I ever recieve an apology from the doctors who threw me to the pack of wolves? No. Did they ever admit that maybe they rushed into things? No. Instead they said "Thank God nothing was wrong with your babies! Thank God WE delivered them and they're going to live."
Truth be told, they would have continued living just fine in my uterus, they would have been born a full gestation, and all would have been well.
So now as a mom who has had it both ways, one "high risk" over managed, pregnancy and hospital delivery, and one midwife monitored pregnancy and a home birth. I choose the later, and will every single time.

Suzi said...

omg yes.
My daughters birth did NOT go to plan, and i ended up with all the inteventions bar a csection... episiotomy,forceps,epidural etc etc

all anyone told me after she was born is that all that matters is shes here safe, when all i kept thinking was... i didnt even feel how to push my baby out, i grieved so much for that birth that i needed to do... for me. noone understands it though...

Andrea said...

@Samantha, Jasmine and Brittney, THANK YOU!

@Poppet- Yeah for VBAC! My fight turned me into a birth advocate!

@Tiny- I'm a birth junkie too. And it drives my husband crazy too! But, it's a subject we sort of agree not to get tangled in. If he questions my emotions about birth, he knows he'll get an earful of tears, so he stays away :)

@Tiffany- So many women don't think they have options when their provider wants to embark on interventions like the ones you mentioned. I think they COUNT on women thinking they have no power!

@Tiffany #2- I love your quote at the end. And I know lots of women that DID think their birth was fun. But, I do think regardless of fun, as women, we have the right to experience it.

@Ez- I hope you find peace and get to process your feelings :(

@Lilly Rose- Thanks for sharing your story! Interesting that you found a woman who told you a horror story about c-section, usually we only hear those about vaginal birth all our lives!

@Jill- Now, when I hear "A healthy baby is all that matters" I respond with. No, a healthy MOM matters too. Then the argument starts about how safe c-section is for both. If I'm in the mood, I start rattling off research about the risk, especially of multiple c-section. Then I end with my PTSD. That usually shuts them up.

@Molly- Beautifully said! And yes, it IS sexist!!!

@J- Thanks! I think as women, as Woman Uncensored can attest to, when we speak our minds, no matter how educated we are, no matter if it comes from a place of peace and love, we are considered a villain. In this patriarchal society, most people are intimidated by outspoken women.

@Lauren- COngrats on your VBAC!

@Laura- Yes, women have traumatic experiences from both c-section and vaginal birth. No matter what, all the feelings matter!

@Christa- HBAC!!! Congrats! That's my dream...

@Suzi- I"m sorry that you have those feelings. The more I started talking about it, the more women in my circle of friends came out and shared similar experiences. Not all, but some!

Anonymous said...

So true. It has taken me a long time to deal with my c-section, I think I am not totally healed inside. I think that our doctor made us believe that a c-section was necessary after only 2 hours of pushing because he was posterior. She made us believe that I was putting him in danger if I delayed the c-section. Nevertheless, afterwards, she told us that there wasn’t a reason why I wouldn’t successfully vbac next time around. So we went back to her still thinking that even my experience had been horrible, she did her best to help our son be born safely. But her earlier support for a vbac started to dwindle the more and more we talked with her. She mentioned the risk of uterine rupture with vbac, never talked about the risks of repeat c-sections, she mentioned my supposedly only 50/50 change of success based on my previous indication for c-section (who knows how they get their #s), and when I insisted on having a vbac, she said okay but “I would induce you if you are overdue or we suspect a large baby” (two bogus reasons to induce). When she said that, I knew that a vbac with her would be nearly impossible and that I really would run the risk of having the uterine rupture they love to mention so much to push the need of a repeat c-section if I allowed her to induce me. So I changed caregivers late in my pregnancy. My parents were totally shocked asking me "but aren't you and N. healthy? Wasn’t he born safely? Why do you question her opinion?". The attitude that doctors know best and that they have your best interests at heart is so pervasive that makes me sick. According to my medical report, my baby's heartbeat was great, but she made us believe at the time that his rate was not stable, and that my only option then was a c-section to have him safely. I am mad that I could have given him birth vaginally if I had had a doctor or a midwife who had the patience and the knowledge to help me give birth vaginally to my posterior baby. I am mad at myself that I allowed this to happen to us. I am also guilty of not paying attention to the c-section sections on the books I read and childbirth class. As I approach my due date this time, I am hopeful that I would succeed to have a vbac with the help of my doula and midwives. I have a doula that will defend me from being rush into anything. I don’t think I am blindfolded this time around and I feel that whatever happens this time, I will have given it my best shot. It’s easier to deal with the aftermath of a c-section when it was clearly to save your life or your baby’s life, not because your “caregivers” decide that “time is up” for you or other bogus reasons that don’t have anything to do with the health status of the baby or yourself or because they pressure you to have a bunch of interventions that end up sending you to the OR table.

Morgan said...

This is great conversation. I am brought to tears for the posts I read and the recollection of my amazingly beautiful Bradley pregnancy & birth - trying to add a comment in a few words is hard. I have my delivery written and would love to share it with your blog if you want it.
I faint at the sight and thought of blood and was terrified of labor. A friend who had a Bradley water birth encouraged me to educate myself about labor & delivery & medical interventions ( At the time, I thought she was a nut for delivering in water and not wanting drugs). I am forever grateful. My son is 8 months old and I frequently recall the amazing feelings of labor and the pride I have in myself and my body for delivery. I can't explain it. I'm a small person and the Drs had me jumping through hoops with their prediction of me not being able to birth the "large" baby I was carrying (delivery weight was 8lbs 11ozs). My story is so common. Baby is too big, let's schedule a cesearean. I embraced labor, I knew what my body was doing, relished in the double peaking contractions, stayed in control and delivered using a squat bar in a hospital. Nursing students were frequently brought in to observe me laboring outside the bed and my room was filled with nurses and students when I delivered. My Dr never experienced anything like my delivery and nurses from other areas of the hospital came by to see me as the news spread. I am in tears as I recall clutching the squat bar and looking down at my son and announcing "I did it"!

Follow your passion and educate the generations to come. Our bodies are meant to bear a child and know how to deliver.

wookumu said...

so glad i found your website, so glad there are more people out there like me. most days i feel like my family and i are wandering around on the wrong planet. we're not alone! yay

Andrea said...

@Anonymous- Thanks for sharing your story! Sounds like you have educated yourself this time around and it's awesome you hired a doula. Mine was instrumental in my VBAC and she was worth every penny :) Best wished on your VBAC. Oh, and it's common that providers pull the "bait and switch" when it comes to VBAC. Mine did at 37 weeks but it was too late to transfer.

@Morgan- Your birth sounds amazing! The nurse asked me if students could come in to watch my VBAC but I declined. I didn't want anyone there, but I wish I could have at least talked to them!

@wookumu- Thanks for your comment :) No, you're not alone!

Clarinda said...

this brought tears to my eyes. This could have easily been my story. I VBA2Ced and the negativity from others was astounding!

Lilly Rose said...

@Andrea--of all the times, one idiot friend came in while I was IN LABOR with my first and talked about her horrible birth and my Mom joined in! I was so angry. I pretended to go to sleep and they were asked to leave.

Really, for the most part, I heard wonderful birth stories--how much my family loved their epidurals *rolls eyes* and they didn't get me not wanting to get all drugged out.

But I also surrounded myself with natural birth stories while I was pregnant. Before that, I really just had media birth >_< and cats, lol, for a frame of reference. But I wasn't scared of birth. I believed I could do it. I didn't think I'd really have much trouble. And my labor was so easy. So it was all the more crushing when they were wheeling me into the OR and the nurse grabbed my face and was yelling at me to "shut up" because I was "scaring the other patients." No, I'm not kidding. I was terrified, in pain and desolate and that's how I was treated. They wouldn't even let my husband hold my hand while they put the spinal in. I screamed and screamed for him, too. I had to hold onto the nurse who yelled at me.

Once the spinal was in, the actual birth was calm and happy, like the last three minutes of hell hadn't happened. Six minutes later, I was looking at my baby. It was still my beautiful, perfect daughter's birth, even if the experience I wanted was stolen from me.

But I didn't get to change her first diaper. I didn't get to see her first bath. I couldn't go to the nursery with her. I missed SO MUCH. I couldn't move for almost a whole day, my legs were numb and dead. I couldn't sit up on my own for two weeks. I couldn't use the bathroom on my own for a week. I was in pain; I couldn't lift my own baby without help...

No, a healthy baby isn't all that matters. My cesarean was a "good" one. No complications, except when I overdid it going up the five stairs to my home, holding my baby. She was beyond my lifting limit by the time I could actually pick her up and not fear dropping her.

My VBAC baby, I wore the day after I birthed her as I walked through the store, getting some groceries for the babymoon.

The difference... oh, the difference. :( And so many doctors would have denied me that just because my first was a cesarean.

Hallie D said...

What about induction and ceserean birth is "healthy" for the baby anyhow....

The process of birth is so important to the transition from girl to mother. Even the pain plays a large role in this transition. I also see birth, be it natural at home, or highly manage in a hospital as a rite of passage, a time of transition, to respect the changes, it needs to be such, if we steal this away, or allow mothers to suffer in silence about it being less than expected, or painful, or down right aweful. Or chastize women for bragging about their successes, overcoming past birth dissapointment, or belittling their choices (wanting natural) before their birth occurs (you think you want that now, but just wait till your in labor, you'll be begging for an epidural) its not only mean and thoughtless, but it fails to show respect for the significance of the experience of birth.

StorkSories said...

Andrea_ This is an excellent must read for all of the healthcare professionals I work with AND all the young women out there. Today I am trying to view the NIH VBAC webcast livestream (which keeps cutting out on me) and the multitude of issues presented are fabulous! You have a wonderful story telling ability, sharing your emotional journey and raw pain. I can see you are a strong woman. That female family member...?... her view...unsolicited and IRRELEVANT! Hurtful just the same. Keep telling your story.. I will share where I can. @Birth_Lactation

tierrafiona said...

Thank you for dispelling the myth that we all have to be so grateful for our healthy children that we cannot mention any disappointments about our birth experiences. My doula disregarded EVERYTHING I told her was important to me. I wanted to watch Law & Order while I was in labor (because I don't have cable at home and also realized it might be my last chance to watch an entire episode without interruption), the peaceful place I wanted to visualize during meditation was the aisle at Target where everything costs $1, and was content to follow my doctor's advice regarding C-Sections. She decided the TV was too distracting and turned it off, encouraged me to think of meadows and babbling brooks and fought my doctor on the C-Section to the point that he asked me to sign an acknowledgement that I was going against his medical advice because I was endangering the health of my child. It turns out that the C-section was medically necessary (and I haven't seen Law & Order in 18 months). I encourage all women to OWN their experience and to find a birthing partner who will stand up for their desires when push comes to shove.

Anonymous said...

I'm a labor and delivery nurse and women like you are the saving grace of my profession. Women who educate themselves and fight for natural deliveries are preserving normal birth in a time when people are forgetting that it's possible. My own first birth was only semi-traumatic and we did manage a vaginal delivery just barely. My second delivery was a wonderful, gentle home birth with a licensed nurse midwife. Birth options should be available to every mother. They are worth fighting for. Congratulations.

kristin.mccown said...

Thank you for giving my feelings a voice. I may be fowarding this blog to a few people I know who always say, "But at least you have a healthy baby."

Traci said...

May I also add that the "healthy baby is all that matters" also does disservice to the many children born with any sort of disability. Do they not "matter" now? Are they not "all that's important?" Every baby is a baby that's worthy of love, no matter what the circumstances surrounding their conception, the route they take to enter this world or their condition once they arrive here.

JudyC said...

Great post. 36 and 38 years ago I felt the same. Same comments and same feeling inside about my invisibility except as an incubator. I became a midwife after that. Qualified 30 years ago so that I could do my dammedest to help women have a better time of their births.
It helps.

Anonymous said...


This is EXACTLY how I feel.

Emilie said...

What a great post! I am currently 40 weeks and 1 day with a breech baby. I have tried everything to get this baby to turn, but nothing has worked. We have had to schedule a c-section when I'll be 41 weeks and 1 day. A number of friends and family members have told me "a healthy baby is all that matters" and I haven't been shy about adding, "yes, but my health matters too"! As a nurse-midwife, I am fortunate to be informed about what a c-section means and my husband and I plan to do everything we can to make this a special experience (although, I must admit that I too pushed the possibility of surgery out of my mind my entire pregnancy!). I'm also happy to hear you had a successful VBAC because I will definitely try for a VBAC next time! The L&D nurse in your story needs to get up to date with the literature on the safety and success rates of VBAC vs. repeat c-section.

KAS said...

Thank you so much for this post. While both of my children were birthed vaginally, and I was not forced into a c-section as you were, I still experienced a LOT of pushing and intimidation toward the desires I had in store for MY births. Two kids later, two inductions later, two births later after being ticked down that terrifying timer that screams, "You only have so long to progress before you'll be cut open" and feeling that I am beyond fortunate to never have been torn open as my mother was, I feel as though I have learned so much: about myself, about the medical profession, and about especially the topic you speak of, how women are monumentally ignored and shoved aside when it comes to childbirth by that damned mantra. Women experience PTSD and extreme levels of PPD because of their experiences during labor and delivery, and have this so ingrained into their minds that they never speak up and say that to them, the whole experience mattered and that THEY DESERVED BETTER. During labor we are treated like nothing more than a warm body in a bed. Our importance and our role in birth is typically ignored, but the medical community is quick to blame US for any problems with misleading, accusatory wording ("YOU failed to progress," "YOUR body just can't do this," etc). Part of that pressure to meet some impossible preset standard for what a perfect medical labor and delivery should be is what makes so many women clench up and begin to fear the whole process.
Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for helping women who have had similar experiences feel less alone in the world and less guilty for the legitimate feelings they have. As a woman I am proud of you for standing up for your baby AND yourself.

Anonymous said...

Your post brought me to tears. My son is 10 months old and I am just figuring out how traumatized I am by the birth of my son. My midwife really let me down and the cascade of interventions defiantly happened. I was very close to having a c section but my baby was forced out with a level 4 episiotomy and forceps. :( It was horrible. I was pressured into getting an epidural after not progressing fast enough and "not handling the pain well" Midwifes words not mine......sigh anyway, your right. We need to talk about this.Yes my baby is healthy but he was never able to nurse. I dont know if we were both so traumatized it didn't work out or what, but I ended up exclusively pumping up till now (10 months) and that is a very hard thing to do, I pictured naping with my baby not putting him down so I could rush to pump every 2.5 hours. I pictured nursing him, not washing bottles and and being attached to a double pump for hours...Thanks for listening. :(

Lindsay said...

What a great post!! Thank-you for this! The birth of my daughter was such an unsettling experience for me, even with it being a vaginal birth. I educated myself after having her and my experience when having my son was completely different! Such a healing experience. I hope your second delivery was just as healing for you.

Anonymous said...

I agree that doctors and some individuals who mean well focus so much on the baby they forget about the mother and it isn't just c-section verus vaginal birth either, it's whether or not to treat depression/anxiety during pregnancy. I had severe post partum depression that next time I'm insisting on staying on meds, however some doctors are paranoid about at and I'm at the point it's either find a doctor who understand my point of view or I won't have another child because I need not go through things like I did last time!

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! Did you tell her that even ACOG, the almighty god of her field of work, has proclaimed VBACs (even after multiple ceseareans) to be safe?

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