Saturday, November 27, 2010

I'm Going There

I have a confession: I don't always fail to blog because I don't have any ideas. I have plenty of ideas that I would really like to communicate, to get down on paper/in text box, but they seem too huge to undertake or I don't know from which angle to approach it or whatever excuse I can come up with.

One of these topics is birth. It is so hard to begin to touch upon the many facets of the issue, let alone my emotions pertaining thereto. Perhaps I have more feelings than ability to express them, as is often the case. In such circumstances, I read as much as I possibly can, which is cathartic but, ultimately, confusing.

Today I read this post from the ICAN blog about the rise in unnecessary cesareans, and I've had a moment of clarity. It summarizes the root of my anger. I had a c-section with my first and only (so far) baby. I believe this c-section was unnecessary. My doctor could probably give you a handful of good-sounding reasons why I had to have a c-section. I don't buy any of them.

Here are the facts:

  • I had elevated blood pressure for the final few weeks of pregnancy.
  • I was not dilated or effaced at all.
  • I was induced for high blood pressure five days before my due date.
  • I did not respond to the Pitocin in a textbook way: contractions were irregular, even at maximum dosage.
  • The doctor artificially ruptured my membranes at 1.5 cm dilation, against my expressed wishes.
  • I did not progress beyond 2-3 cm dilation.
  • My baby weighed 9 lb 1 oz at birth.
The "reason" I ended up with a c-section, according to my doctor? Big baby, of course! Never mind that smaller women than me give birth naturally to much larger babies every day. Never mind that I had a rock-bottom Bishop score, which indicates a likely unsuccessful induction.

Are all c-sections bad? Of course not. Does the procedure save lives when properly indicated? Absolutely. I'm really glad there is such a thing as a c-section and that it does not necessarily kill the mother like it did in days of yore. And to be completely fair, I do not fault a woman who, having educated herself and been informed of her options, chooses a c-section. 

But I did not choose a c-section and I had one anyway. So what now? I want several more children and no more major surgery, so I must pray and hope for successful VBACs ever after. 

I am still angry. Not just because of what happened, but because of what came next. This is what my doctor told me in my postpartum visit, I kid you not
  • I probably won't ever be able to birth vaginally if all my babies are as big as this one.
  • I can't be induced as a VBAC candidate, so if I go past my due date, it's an automatic scheduled c-section. Yes, the "due date," a mere midpoint in a long range of possible days to give birth (50% of all births occur after the due date, including 100% of my mother's, if that matters), will now become an unfair and somewhat arbitrary deadline for nature.
  • If I have another baby within two years, it's an automatic scheduled c-section.
I am never seeing that doctor again. And now my search for something better has me more and more horrified at the state of obstetrics in our country that something like this is as common as it is. I'm not denying the possibility that the alternative to my c-section could have been much worse. But the skyrocketing c-section rates, especially among first-time mothers should mean that there is a sudden and sharp rise in giant babies and woefully undersized pelvises--indeed, an epidemic! sweeping the nation. The very notion is ludicrous. This rush-to-induce and failure-to-wait has to STOP. 

It crushes me every time I hear of another first-time mother who is induced and sectioned. Doctors trying to lighten their case loads and hospitals trying to free beds in their labor and delivery wards are seriously jeopardizing the bodily integrity and reproductive freedom of women everywhere. It's shocking to me that this does not bother some people in the least. It saddens me when others trivialize my anger by telling me (or implying) that at least my baby is healthy or that so-and-so's vaginal birth was bad so I should be glad I had a c-section.

It scares me that a second c-section might necessarily limit my family size. I'm scared that, as educated as I am, I may fall into the system's traps again. I'm scared that I won't go into labor, or that I will but will then fail to progress. And when I think about how scared I am, I get angry all over again.

My daughter's birthday is something to celebrate. She changed my life forever and every passing year of her life is something to treasure. Her actual birth, however? One of the worst days of my life, actually. 

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