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I had my little girl last week-October 29th. Coming from a small town and still living in SC by most social standards I waited a while to have my first child. I am 34 years old. I'm active and healthy but I had still allowed my mother and sister's somewhat traumatic birth stories of Cesareans after hours of labor convince me that I should just resign myself to the same fate. In addition I'm a petite woman and my grandmother had been telling me since I could remember that pregnancy and labor would never be easy on me. I didn't go as far as schedule a Cesarean but I told my doctor that I expected that would be the way it would go. A friend convinced me to watch The Business of Being Born. She had delivered two babies vaginally and naturally in less than 2 hours of pushing total each time. She wanted me to know there were options. I found myself taking it all in and analyzing my mother and sister's experiences and decided mine would be different. Even if a Cesarean was still required for me I wanted to have a positive experience with every stage of labor. I hired a wonderful doula that same weekend. She literally was an essential part of my wonderful experience. She answered questions, all those ridiculous questions you feel you should already know the answer to but still need to ask. She talked to my husband, suggested readings and the day of she did everything from massages to speaking for me when I was too overcome in labor to respond to nurses and doctors. My doctor group was supportive of both my doula and my birth plan. I labored at home assited by my husband, doula, hot showers and an exercise ball until I instinctively knew it was time to make the 10 minute drive to the hospital. Longest drive of my life. Upon arrivng I continued to use the shower, ball and various positions to labor--finally requesting the doctor break my water to get me over the final hurdle. An hour later my girl was born, vaginally and drug-free. She was immediately put on my chest and didn't leave my room or my sight the entire stay. I labored for 15 hours, pushing for two, before she made her entrance. I was euphoric with my daughter's birth. Proud that I had accomplished what other women in my family could not and proud that I defied the idea that size determines a woman's ability to bring her daughter into the world naturally.
Congratulations Dana and what a wonderful story. I hope you and your daughter are enjoying each other. Research actually shows that expecting a good birth (having "high expectations") and having a good birth often go hand in hand -- so fabulous to hear that was the case for you. Take care, Annie
Hi Friends -- Annie (Lyerly) here. I am getting ready for my fifth birth, scheduled for Monday. I wrote some thoughts about the "good cesarean birth" on my Huffington Post blog -- see what you think. I'll be back in touch soon. Cheers, Annie
I was scheduled for my second c-section exactly one week before my due date but I went into labor early- exactly two weeks before my due date. My water broke only an hour or two after I had my lunch so when I got to the hospital they told me I would have to wait about 6 hours to go into surgery. Unfortunately that gave the nurse assigned to me in labor and delivery plenty of time to push her VBAC agenda on me while I waited. I have seen a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle shaming of C-sections in the world of "what to expect" books and mommy blogs etc. All these dire warnings about failure to bond, failure to produce milk, finger wagging about increased risk and overuse of the procedure with a hint of malpractice on the part of the doctor and weakness on the part of the mother. These admonitions stood out to me even more after my first birth was a c-section. My nurse, Kris who was to be my caregiver while I labored, began by asking if I had elected to have a second c-section and then wanted to know if I had "considered VBAC". During the time she cared for me Kris continuously extoled the option, seemingly applying pressure on me to consider it. I wanted to scold her and ask her to set the subject aside but I felt vulnerable- this was the person assigned to care for me and nearly the only person I had seen since I checked into the hospital and I felt wholly dependent on her. The risk of offending her and thereby possibly compromising the quality of my care felt too high. In a too-subtle bid to get her to drop the subject I told her that it was a something that I would be interested in discussing WITH MY DOCTOR. My message that her discussion with me was unwelcome was lost on her as she promptly scurried out of the room calling over her shoulder that she was calling my doctor to tell her I wanted a VBAC. My OB shot her down. Sensibly she said that she wouldn't brook a change of decision at this point in the labor. From there on Kris pouted and complained that the doc wouldn't consider it. Even as she rolled me down the halls to the OR Kris continued pouting over the decision for no VBAC saying things like she was sure the way my labor was progressing the baby "would just slip out” (personally I have never heard a woman describe the delivery of her infant using such terms) and saying that she wanted to check my dilation and was betting I was close to fully dilated. The idea that she would do an invasive vaginal exam like that just to satisfy her own curiosity was infuriating. To my great relief, I found out on arrival at the OR that Kris' shift was ending and that I was to be turned over to another nurse who would remain with me through the surgery and recovery. My story changes tone entirely at this point as the surgical and nursing staff were nothing but supportive and caring. And though I am still appalled weeks later at the at the pressure this nurse placed on me when I at my most vulnerable, my birth turned out to be a good one in spite of her.
Julia, thanks so much for sharing your birth story and these reflections. This is such an important story for women and their providers (and policymakers, too) to hear. There does seem to be so much concern about access to VBAC that women's informed preferences for a repeat cesarean can unfortunately get dismissed -- I am so sorry to hear that happened to you. My hope is that we get to a place, someday, when trusting women means trusting them to make their own choices, whatever they are. No doubt a snag in that (Amish) quilt, but I'm so glad to hear that you did find the "positive and profound" in the rest of your birth experience. Take care, Annie