April is a lot of things for our family. It's my husband's birthday, my son's half birthday and the month our daughter was due.
It's also C-Section Awareness month and I proudly shout from the rooftops that we had an elective c-section.
Yes. We chose to have a C-Section.
I'm sure the first thing to pop into your mind was "why?!" with a little gasp. It's fine. Well, actually, it's not fine. But, everyone does it. Hopefully after hearing our story you'll sit in this inappropriate reaction and grow. Also - I hate the word inappropriate, so the fact that I'm usually it strongly suggests how not okay gasping and questioning a woman's birthing method is.
Alright so back to *gasp* "why?!"
TLDR: birth choice.
If that's all you gather from this post - that a family chooses to have a c-section simply because they have the right to choose how they birth - then I've done my job and I've done it well.
But, of course, want to be open about our journey, I'll gladly walk you through our family's choice. As always, I hope our story provides you with either a sense of comfort or a new found knowledge on how some families navigate the not so easy world of pregnancy and postpartum.
From day one, our birth plan has always been to go natural until we can't. Whether the "can't" was because I couldn't handle the pain or the "can't" was because it wasn't best for baby or myself, we were flexible. I never saw going natural as a thing I felt like I had to accomplish. In all honesty, I have a high pain tolerance and thought it would be cool to see how long I'd last without drugs. I wasn't tied to anything though. We'd experienced pregnancy loss. I already knew that expectations were the thief of joy. At the end of the day, all that mattered was that I was going to have my healthy, breathing baby in my arms.
Pregnancy isn't easy. I've said it a million times and I'll say it again. Pregnancy after loss is fucking hard. Like - I'm terrified to be pregnant again. It got dark - the kind of dark you don't know is dark until you're back in the light again. I spent most of - no the entirety of - my pregnancy waiting for the other shoe to drop. I should say we - not just I - because Adam also experienced a very real trauma, too. With each milestone came a new fear. I constantly felt like my baby was going to be taken away from me. That fear, unfortunately, never went away, but was, instead, only interrupted with moments of peace.
We let out the biggest sigh of relief when we received nothing but good news at our 20 week anatomy scan. Baby boy was measuring almost 2 weeks a head and was looking good from his head to his toes. Our ultrasound tech mentioned something about his umbilical cord but said it was nothing to be concerned about - just something the doctor's like to know for delivery. It wasn't mentioned again by the doctor so I thought nothing of it.
Until the next day, when the office called. As soon as I saw the caller ID I knew what it was going to be in reference to.
I have to reiterate in every post - our doctors and midwives were nothing but amazing. They knew from the very beginning that we experienced a traumatic loss. Our doctor started the phone call with "Your baby is perfectly healthy - your anatomy scan looked beautiful." She continued with "We did notice a Velamentous Cord Insertion which means that the baby's umbilical cord attaches to the side of the placenta rather than at the center. This is something the doctors just like to be aware of for birth so they don't tug on the umbilical cord - this type of cord is more susceptible to tearing." She then let me know that we would have extra ultrasounds to ensure baby boy was getting enough nutrients - that his cord wasn't impacting his growth. She ended the call by reminding me, once again, that everything looks perfectly healthy.
I hung up and went down the rabbit hole known as Google. I knew it wouldn't be good. I've lived this life before. I couldn't help it.
I sobbed. Increase rates of stillbirth? Less than 1% of umbilical cords? How could we possibly be a part of the less than 1% AGAIN? Thankfully, I found a support group on Facebook. Through this community I discovered that this condition is more so worrisome if you have a low lying placenta - one that covers your cervix, or if your baby is not growing - two things we, fortunately, were not experiencing.
I calmed myself down. I looked at the positives: we would get extra ultrasounds and more opportunities to see our baby boy - something I knew was a blessing in disguise after all we'd been through.
I didn't think much of it until I hit 30 weeks. With 10 weeks to go, it all seemed that much more real. We were going to have our baby...hopefully.
Then, the same group page that provided me with a sense of calm, also rocked my world. A woman had a still birth at 39 weeks 5 days pregnant. She had wanted to be induced at 39 weeks - she was nervous to go beyond that with Velamentous Cord Insertion (which I'll be referring to as VCI). Her doctors didn't listen. They reassured her it was fine. Two days away from being induced, she lost her baby.
I was terrified. I turned her story into ours. I quickly remembered someone I personally knew who had a stillbirth and found myself searching social media to find her blog post from years ago about it. She had gone into labor - hit 10 cm - and within 2 hours lost her baby. They believe it was an issue with the umbilical cord.
In both stories, everything was fine with the umbilical cord until it wasn't. I was shook. I began to tell myself story after story. "What if the umbilical cord can't handle contractions?" "What if something happens while I'm pushing?" I was convinced something would go wrong and I was not willing to wait it out. So, I weighed my options.
I expressed my change in heart to Adam. I no longer was so sure about our all natural until otherwise birth plan. I was leaning towards a c-section. At first, he was disappointed. Labor and delivery were the part of pregnancy where dad's got in on the action. He was looking forward to that experience. I found a visual provided by @mommy.labornurse. She used playdough to depict what VCI looks like compared to your typical placenta. With VCI, the cords attach to a sack that is attached to the placenta. I let him know my biggest fear was one of these more vulnerable cords snapping during labor or delivery - risking our son's life. Living out this glorified birthing experience wasn't worth it to me. All I cared about was bringing our boy home. He got it. He was on board.
At my next midwife appointment, I told them I had started to think more about my birthing options and was much more interested in a c-section. Would I be allowed to choose? Once again, our OBGYN practice proved to be heaven sent. Our midwife told me, "this is your birth. It's your choice. Let's make sure you see a physician at your next visit so you can ask them your questions and you get all the information you need."
We met with a physician at our next appointment. She did more than answer our questions - she made us feel heard, understood and cared for. We picked the date of our c-section based on when she was working. I would be 39 weeks and 1 day pregnant.
Y'all. Let me just say - our birthing experience was absolutely magical. One of Adam's biggest hesitations to having a c-section was based around this story our society creates about the birthing experience. I am by no means discrediting how empowering vaginal births are for both partners (or I assume to be...clearly wouldn't know from personal experience). But for whoever needs to hear this - I'm going to say it again. Our birthing experience with a c-section was absolutely magical.
We had our date picked out - Thursday, October 17th. Knowing when our big day was allowed for us to have a date day the day before our sweet Hollis Beau arrived - pedicures, a movie and dinner. The morning of, we called to make sure our appointment would still be on time. They were backed up from the night before, so asked us to come in an hour later than we anticipated. We arrived at the hospital at 930 am. They monitored Hollis as Adam and I watched episode after episode of Friends. Finally, at 2:30, it was go time. They gave me my spinal block and shifted me onto the table. My body began to go numb. All that was left was the feeling in my fingers. Adam joined us - covered head to toe in scrubs - looking like he was ready to pass out. We're pretty sure the nurse checked on him more so than they did me. After what felt like no time, they raised the clear curtain and let us know that the big moment was about to arrive. A felt a huge amount of pressure in my abdomen and began to hear Hollis' muffled wails. His cries became louder and they held him up for us to see over the clear curtain. Adam looks at me with tears streaming down his face, repeatedly saying "He's here. He's finally here." My first thought was, "oh - that was easy. I could totally do that again." I watched as my husband and the doctor's cleaned Hollis up. I so love that Adam held him first - that Adam got that moment with his son. Shortly after, they put him on my chest for skin to skin as they continued to stitch me up. Magic.
We chose to have a c-section because it was what felt best, what felt safest for our family, for our baby, for my body. There are some families who do not have a medical reason behind what feels best or safest. There are some families who do not have a choice in what is best or safest. Our doctors reassured us over and over again that they believed a vaginal birth was safe. But, in the end, they supported us and our right to choose. For this, I am forever grateful.
So, the next time you go to ask someone why they are having a c-section, don't. It's none of your business. A woman's body is never your business unless you are said woman. If she wants to confide in you the reasons behind her choice, she will. Until then, all you need to do is simply share with her how joyful you are for her upcoming experiences.