Anastasia’s story, continued from Part 1.
Fifteen months after surgery I found myself pregnant again. Being in this situation was surprising. I had always wanted to have three children, but since the cesarean, I was considering not having any more of my own. I never wanted to go through it again, but there I was.
Although I wanted a VBAC, it meant more to me that this pregnancy be about healing and closure and I set out to do just that.
I made a point to be optimistic, but prepared. I decided to stay with my (current) OB to deliver my baby rather than go in search for someone I knew was aggressively pro-VBAC.
I struggled with whether choosing a doctor predicts the outcome, but came to the conclusion that when I searched for a midwife/establishment that supported my wishes for natural birth previously, it nearly killed Piper – so I stayed with who I felt comfortable with despite his gender, title and hospital affiliation.
I did what I could to stay physically fit and strong to increase my chances of success. I read up on statistics, hospital ratings and averages, techniques, advice, birth stories, and weighed the pros and cons of every situation. On one end I knew in my heart that a VBAC was statistically safe and the healthy option for the majority of mothers and babies, but I felt as though I had Stockholm’s syndrome to my own previous birth.
I feared a repeat “emergency” section and found myself drawn to the idea that planning would be easier. I was terrified of both choices and wished that I had taken care to prevent having more children long ago.
My pregnancy went on blissfully uncomplicated, but instead of making me more confident, I continued to struggle with what I wanted. At many times I expressed to my husband, in frustration, that it would be easier if I didn’t have a choice in the matter at all, if I absolutely needed a cesarean, so, I continued to work on my feelings about my last experience.
I would gain confidence then get deflated and depressed. The weeks leading up to the final day were torturous. I was up and down, back and forth about everything and getting exhausted with myself.
Trial of Labor
When Keeley decided to make her entrance it was not surprisingly strange. I labored at home for 21 hours and finally checked in to the hospital when the contractions were close and long. I was afraid that telling the staff when my labor had begun would invariably lead to the timer being started, so I told them I’d started at midnight of that morning.
They didn’t rush me but the mood in the hospital was unkind and unfeeling. They seemed to doubt everything I said and I felt a lack of confidence in their eyes. As I lay there I was reminded of every detail from my last birth. It was uncomfortable to be in this place again and I knew that it was too soon.
Being back in labor was something I don’t think I could have prepared for well enough. Though I had no fear of death or that anything horrible was going to happen, I still felt like the act of childbirth was unnatural for my body, that the scar on my uterus had changed me too much. It had. As much as I had tried to deny it while pregnant, I knew then that nothing could bring back the confidence I had pre-Piper. I needed to make my decisions based on who I was now, scar and all.
When my doctor came in several hours later to check my progress, he informed me that I had yet to dilate at all. Though he wasn’t aware of it, I had been in labor for over a day without progress and it concerned me that these transition-like contractions were not advancing my labor and I was beginning to weary of the process.
I considered the options: take Pitocin (leading me down a path of interventions which would almost certainly result in an emergency C-Section) or tell them I wanted to wait it out (continuing on my current path, in pain, haunted by my previous birth and expecting a slow progress). I felt like my body was telling me something and I needed to listen. If that was the only thing I learned from Piper’s birth it was to listen to my body above all other influences.
I told them to schedule me a cesarean.
The words leaving my mouth went against everything I believed in, they were alien to me, but strangely felt right.
I had a sense of peace. I received an epidural and was able to think clearly while awaiting surgery. I lay there surprised by my confidence in what I was doing. Being able to talk about what was happening, preparing my family, and seeing Piper beforehand helped me feel secure. It was still strange venturing into a surgery that had caused me so much pain, but I was viewing it from a whole new perspective.
In surgery I was scared, apprehensive about whether I was doing the right thing for my baby. I was acutely aware of the people around me: the females in the hospital had an air about them that they were disappointed, they seemed to be disheartened that “another one” had failed at something seemingly so natural.
They ceased to look me in the eyes and I felt like the outcast, the statistic, the failure once again. They were cold and distant and made me feel sectioned off from Womanhood and Motherhood. But ultimately, despite my misgivings, the cesarean showed itself to be the wiser choice as the surgery progressed and revealed that the previous birth had caused adhesions and an abnormally thin uterus.
Recovery was completely different this time
I had more bleeding than normal and needed extra watch initially. The hospital staff worried about blood-clots and the comedown off of the epidural was unbearably long at (three days of constant itching). But bonding was my biggest struggle.
Whereas with Piper, I had fear to kick my maternal instinct into gear, with Keeley, I had nothing to connect us. I brought forth life but there was no feeling, no rush of emotion, no instant contact, no physical sensation. I knew that the feeling I developed during pregnancy of love and endearment would eventually return but worried that she also suffered this same disconnect from me.
I began to doubt and feel a tinge of guilt hit me, so I asked my husband if I had done the right thing. Had I cheated myself and her, had I betrayed who I was? Not to my surprise he assured me without the slightest doubt in his voice that I did what was right for our situation.
It dawned on me then that I had been fighting for something that was never meant to be. I could speculate whether it was an avoidable outcome but the truth would remain that for us, this was how my girls were to be born.
For two years I had fought to place blame. My first cesarean was not an invalid surgery – there was no doubt that Piper was in need of medical intervention – but it had been easier to point fingers than to except that for some of us, it is not an act of medical persuasion or manipulation, but just how it was meant to be.
I’ve learned that my daughters’ births should not define me; it’s me who was meant to define their births. I will not be having that third child, I may never ride roller coasters again, and I’ll never know the feeling of instant elation after the grand entrance of my child to this world; but, they are my blessings all the same, and worth every bit of the struggle.
I will never again regret how my daughters’ entered this world. My scar will never again be the symbol of my failure as a woman nor the token of my cheated passage into Motherhood, but rather it will shine as the physical personification of how deep a love I possess to endure all for my little angels.
Photo credit: ~lonorising on Deviant Art
Anastasia is a 24 year old wife and SAHM living in sunny San Diego. She says: motherhood has blessed me with my wonderful family and I strive to be the best Mama I can be for them. I enjoy making memories with my family, participating in my Book club and writing about life’s many lessons in poetry and on my blog.