My son was an emergency c-section. He was born at 42 weeks and was an undiagnosed footling breech when I went into labor. I had planned a home birth in water and was greatly looking forward to it, having had such a great home birth experience with my daughter several years prior. At around 41 1/2 weeks one of my backup doctors had a “weird feeling” and actually called me at home to request that I stop in. He was concerned and I was very resistant as I had lots of birth courage from my 1st birth (a very positive, empowering experience). I put him off and then finally agreed to go in. A midwife in their office felt for the baby and noticed right away that the baby was not head down. An ultrasound confirmed that baby was a footling breech. My doctor agreed to do an external version the next day at the hospital and even agreed to get the room with the big bathtub. I had had two external versions already and greatly preferred the one that began with a long warm bath. That one was less painful.
My backup doctors & midwife realized he was breech midday and very shortly thereafter I went into labor. I was an hour from home when I went into labor and knew I would have to drive home, get stuff, and return to the hospital. Also, my mom was with me. Since telling her before we were home would have put her in a panic, I kept the contractions to myself and didn’t mention it until we were driving up our street. I told her we would have to very quickly pack a bag, grab something to eat (I am such a rebel, I know this), and make arrangements for my daughter (then 3). At the house I admit, I dawdled. I made myself dinner to eat in the car. I packed up an assortment of adorable baby clothes and blankets, I brought my own diapers. And reluctantly, I got into the car and headed back to the hospital.
Somehow, my crazy mind still harbored the hope that I would be able to change this situation to go my way. I held out hope to the very last second, that I would be spare this c-section because I had a home birth! I was a vehement, educated, read-everything-Ina May-every-wrote, natural birth fanatic. There was no way I could even entertain the idea of having a c-section. And then I had one. Even my midwife/doula friend told me it was unsafe to attempt an external version while in labor at 42 weeks. So I had the c-section. It is almost 6 years later and I still can’t believe that it happened to me. It was one of the worst days of my whole life. Not exactly what a Mama wants to feel when she is welcoming her darling baby into the world.
I was, however, very happy to have the chance to labor even as I begged and pleaded for any outcome other than surgery. I lost that, and many other in-the-hospital-related battles. I got my healthy baby, yes, but I had to endure a whole lot of misery, discomfort, & outright terror (surgery carries many many many risks, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!) in order to get him. Six years later it still hurts me to think about that day, to think about the birth I really wanted, to read stories about vaginal breeches, or to hear about the c-sections being forced upon women through fear and intimidation. I have made it my mission to help educate friends and relatives about the cascade of interventions so that they might be spared. It seems like all of us who are passionate about birth do this, and rightfully so when we are doing it to help protect the Mamas we know and love.
An unfortunate side effect of my passion and zeal is that sometimes, I might not realize that the Mama I am talking to is one of our own. And I might, inadvertently say things that could cause one of our own to feel badly about an unavoidable c-section.
We who are passionate natural birth advocates have to find a way to educate those who are not aware of the risks of the medical model of birth while being careful not to hurt each other should we stumble upon one of our own. Most c-sections are the result of too many interventions & doctors trying to control mother nature. But between a medical community which no longer knows how to deliver (nor will allow the delivery of) breeches, twins, VBACs, etc and true emergency situations, there are Mamas who know about birth, don’t want a c-section, and need our support.
Knowing what we know about the joy & empowerment of natural birth, how can we create a simulation of that empowerment and sacred feeling of birthing for someone who didn’t get the birth she wanted?