With Childbirth, You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Late in my first pregnancy, my doctor casually mentioned the possibility of a c-section due to the baby’s size and position. He guesstimated a birth weight in the eight-pound range and voiced his concerns about the size and shape of my pelvis. He brought up the topic merely as a cautionary measure — there would be no intervention, no induction or scheduled surgery, I would continue to wait for labor to begin and attempt to deliver vaginally, because of course these size estimates are wildly inaccurate, and a woman’s pelvis can do extraordinary things in labor — but he wanted me to prepare myself for a possible change in plans.
I made the grave error of mentioning this conversation to the Internet. Most women were sympathetic and encouraging — they delivered big babies, they delivered small babies who were supposed to be big, they had the c-section and it wasn’t bad at all, besides, ALL THAT REALLY MATTERS is a healthy mother and baby, right?
Right! But I also heard from the women who were raw with regret over a birth that did not go as planned. Who felt pressured or even bullied into a c-section that they since deemed unnecessary, who were planning for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), who took it upon themselves to spare me from a similar experience, usually with emails full of terrifying statistics about fetal death and future miscarriages and horrible doooooooom. Being a first-time nine-months pregnant woman, these emails did not seem particularly helpful AT ALL.
Noah was indeed, a big baby — nine pounds, 15 ounces big, nearly two pounds OVER my doctor’s concerned guess. He never rolled over and I pushed and pushed and pushed and made no progress and his heart rate plummeted more and more with each contraction. I had that c-section after all, and I have never, EVER had a moment of regret or second-guessed that decision. It was the right thing to do; the only thing to do.
And I was not-so-secretly a little judge-y about those women who felt sad about their c-sections, or had a difficult time letting go of that sadness. What a silly, selfish thing! You’re safe and your baby is healthy! Who cares how he got here! It’s not like you get an extra merit badge for pushing him out your vagina! So what if morons want to think you took “the easy way out” by getting hacked in half on the operating table or spout garbage about not bonding with your baby and quote that one chapter in that one book about how “your body won’t grow a baby too big for you to deliver,” in spite of women dying in childbirth or suffering terrible injuries because of too-big babies! WHATEVER. IT’S ALL DUMB. LET’S ALL GET BACK TO JUDGING EACH OTHER ABOUT BREASTFEEDING AND HOW INFREQUENTLY WE BATHE OUR CHILDREN.*
And then, I got pregnant again.
(You see where I’m going with this, right?)
Ezra was born via a scheduled c-section, either on his official due date or a few days before, depending on what ultrasound measurement you went with. He was seven pounds, seven ounces. He was positioned perfectly. He was a baby that I most likely could have delivered vaginally.
And I am sad about that.
No, it’s nothing intrusive or depressive or debilitating. I know (I KNOW!) that since I wasn’t in labor the day he was born, I could have very well have gone another two weeks and ended up with another 10-pounder and another emergency c-section. I know that he was perfectly healthy and mature, with high Apgars and zero health concerns. I bonded with him beautifully and intensely, and our breastfeeding relationship could NOT have been better. I know it doesn’t matter, except that…it still kind of does.
I know that after Noah’s birth, I couldn’t have read that last paragraph without scrunching my brow and rolling my eyes and muttering something about “keeping it in perspective.”
Ezra’s birth, I suppose, just didn’t really reflect the type of relationship I have with him. I breastfeed, I baby-wear, I co-slept, I cloth diaper and make his baby food from scratch. Maybe I’m trying to make up for the sterile, detached abruptness of his arrival. His birth should have been the natural, intervention-free birth that I knew I wanted, but was simply too scared to attempt. I did want a different experience this time — Noah’s birth was what Noah needed, and I am nothing but grateful that the intervention was available the second we needed it — but I was convinced that was out of my grasp. I worried that if I tried, I’d risk both of our safety (and would then possibly need to get put under and miss his birth entirely if I ran into trouble) and thus it was better to simply play it safe and keep the unknowns to a minimum. Go in, get him out.
And I’d heard from literally HUNDREDS of women who loved the ease, convenience and relaxed vibe of their scheduled sections. I fully expected to happily join their ranks.
Now I have that pesky 20-20 hindsight and know that I possibly COULD have had that natural birth, and that kind of blows, even though — I didn’t KNOW that. I couldn’t have really known that. We make the best decisions we can with the best information we have at the time. I know this too.
I’ve decided, though, that it’s not such a bad thing to admit, to accept, to risk other people thinking that I’m silly and selfish and need perspective. I am over the moon about my baby. He is perfect and amazing and my heart explodes into a million pieces every time I look at his gorgeous little face. Every day, my mind boggles over how I ever got this lucky. His birth sucked.
I can’t change that. But I know it doesn’t change anything that really matters.
*Once a week. Maybe twice. They get all rashy otherwise! Plus sometimes I send ’em through the sprinkler in the backyard and that TOTALLY COUNTS.
If you landed here but are still pregnant, visit Amalah’s Pregnancy Weekly. You won’t regret it.