My mom had all three of her children by c-section. The sight of the dark scar running vertically down her belly used to fill me with disgust and dread. I had this irrational fear of having a c-section myself. I can’t really explain it. That’s the thing about irrational fears, they’re not rational. For many years my fear kept me from seriously considering childbirth.
When I was pregnant with my first child, the fear of a c-section was constantly on my mind. I had gestational diabetes, because of this there were concerns that the baby would be extra large. As the end of my pregnancy approached the O.B. wanted to discuss a scheduled c-section. I refused to even consider the idea. When he later insisted on an induction, I was reduced to tears. I had heard the stats. I knew that an induction increased my chances of further interventions or complications. I was paralyzed with fear that it would lead to a cesarean birth. I fought against it every step of the way. Eventually, after a partial induction, I managed to give birth naturally to my first daughter. I was elated. I felt like a superhero. I was also immensely relieved. I had escaped. Made it through childbirth without the dreaded c-section. My fears were laid to rest.
When I was pregnant with my second child I decided to prevent any arguments with the O.B. by going with a midwife instead. I didn’t give a cesarean birth any serious thought. I figured I was in the clear. Then my water broke and based on the fact that I was strep b positive and I wasn’t in active labour, the midwife insisted on an induction. I fought it, but not as hard as I could have, because it was so last minute. I was blind-sided. I explained to her that I didn’t want an induction because I knew it increased my chances of a c-section. She insisted. She told me I could go with her advice, or cease to be under her care. She would transfer me to the care of whatever doctor was on call and head home. I felt like I had no options. After stalling as long as I could, I let her put me on the pitocin drip. Then it turns out, once you’re hooked up to the IV, additional fetal monitoring is required. The portable monitor was on the fritz and kept cutting out. I ended up strapped down to a bed with constant monitoring. The monitor had to be held just so. If I moved at all it would cut out. This was exactly the situation I knew I needed to avoid.
Everything went to hell. All of my worst fears were confirmed. After a dozen hours of labour, I made to it the active pushing phase and the baby’s head was crowning…. and then the monitors cut out. They couldn’t find the babe’s pulse. I was rushed down to the operation room. I was told that they were bringing me there “just in case” and that once we got there I would be allowed to push more.
Once we were in the operation room, everything just happened. My midwife, my husband, they weren’t even in the room with me. I was surrounded by a bunch of strangers in blue masks. I was deep in labour and trying to breathe through the contractions. Just trying to get through. If you’ve ever been in labour I think you’ll understand that you can’t really converse. I was just grunting and breathing and trying to hold myself together. Terrified for the baby. People kept telling me not to push. To hold still. Sign this. Don’t move while we give you this epidural. Sign here. And then the doctor asked me if I’d like him to tie my tubes since he’d be in there anyway. My husband and I had discussed the fact that once this babe was safely born we would be done having children, and he would get a vasectomy. I thought my husband would be happy, as I’d be saving him from having it done. I was so very tired from not sleeping the night before. From hours of labour. I was terrified. I was shaking. I told the doctor to go ahead and do it. I signed yet another paper. My hands shaking so badly that my signature was completely illegible.
I remember one of the first things the midwife said to me in the recovery room is, “Oh I’m so sorry, and here you didn’t want an induction because you were afraid of a c-section…” She assured me it was all for the best, as my babe was perfectly healthy, and she made some remarks about how I managed to get a two for one deal by having my tubes tied while I was cut open to remove the babe. I wanted to slap her, to punch her. Instead, I smiled and nodded and didn’t say anything that wasn’t polite and banal.
I was so ANGRY and lost after my second child’s birth. Recovering from the c-section was horrible. I had all manner of complications. The incision became infected. I had problems with extreme, unending, migraine like headaches – a side effect from the epidural. I also regretted agreeing to the tubal ligation. I don’t think that is something that should be decided on the spur of the moment. Nor something that should be asked of someone who is currently not in her right mind.
I was so relieved when the baby came out perfectly fine. But here’s the thing. she was perfectly fine. As far as I could tell from everyone I spoke to afterward, there was no need for the c-section. They panicked when the monitors cut out, so they erred on the side of caution and operated. Turns out she wasn’t in any sort of distress, and I should have been able to have a normal birth. But I didn’t. I had a c-section. My scar is small and discrete compared to my mother’s. It runs horizontally along the edge of my panty line. In all probability, no one will ever see it. But I know it is there. I am scarred, both inside and out.
Today is my birthday. I am thinking about my life. I stand in the shower with my hand over my scar and I am thinking about how my children have marked me, inside and out. The process of bearing children has marked my body, with my scar from the c-section being the very least of it. I have been changed and marked in so many ways that I could never have anticipated. Like any woman who has gone through childbirth, regardless of the ease or difficulty, I have been transformed from the person I was before into a mother. I have been blessed to have these wondrous, annoying, frustrating and amazing little people brought into my life. If I had never had that c-section, I would still be marked. Like my mother before me, I am scarred, but maybe it was inevitable, and maybe it’s not so bad after all.