I have two children that I carried to term, but I have never had a vaginal birth. I didn’t even get to push at all with either of them. Now this may sound like some sort of dream delivery, but it often makes me feel like I missed out on the “Delivery Club”—as odd as that may sound. When moms get together, you’re pretty much guaranteed to hear some birth stories. It’s quite the momentous occasion! My first birth experience gives me some credibility for the Delivery Club, but it’s my second that makes me feel like I cheated.
For my first birthing experience, I was induced three weeks prior to my due date because my daughter had stopped growing. I then labored for 26 hours and was just getting ready to push when her heart rate dropped. I was rushed to the operating room for an emergency C-section. It was scary, and I was not prepared for the possibility of having a C-section. I had taken all the prerequisite new parent baby classes, including Lamaze, and had only glanced over the C-section pages in What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Luckily, I had my wonderful husband and an amazing friend that happened to be a nurse in the OR with me.
My daughter was born at a whopping 5.8 pounds, and the best part was being able to hold her on my ride back to my hospital room. Because her birth was an emergency situation, I never questioned this birthing experience.
It’s my son’s birth that makes me feel like I cheated. Because I had a previous C-section, I was pretty sure I was at least going to try for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) with my second. I ultimately decided the week he was due to go ahead and schedule a repeat C-section unless he naturally came on his own. I was not confident in this decision because it felt like too much of a responsibility to pick out his birthdate. I already had to pick out his name! I struggled with what felt like “playing God” for his birth.
Even as I was getting prepared for surgery I was crying and called my doctor to see whether there was anything else I could do. He told me I could go home if I wanted to wait. I was still unsure, and it was not a pleasant experience. So why did I go through with it? Well, that’s another part of my mommy guilt. I feel selfish, but I was trying to make the best decision for myself and my family.
We had recently moved to the area from Iowa and had a 19-month-old at home. Both sets of grandparents were planning on coming and had already scheduled their allotted time off from work. I knew that I would need as much help as I could get with two under 2, especially if I had to have a repeat C-section regardless of waiting for nature to take its course. I feared my mom would be here a week before the birth, and then she wouldn’t be here to help out when I actually needed her. If I ended up with another C-section, then I wouldn’t be able to pick up my older, and avoiding stairs in our split-level home would be altogether impossible. So I elected to have a repeat C-section on a convenient date.
Obviously, the most important part was delivering a healthy baby boy, and I was fortunate to recover pretty easily from both of my surgeries. This nagging question of “what if?” remains. What if I hadn’t gone through with it? What would his birth have been like? Did I make the wrong decision?
My son is now 2 ½, and I have come to peace about my decision but still feel like I have missed out on the Vaginal Birthing Award. Maybe it’s because of the fantasy birth I had envisioned from watching all those episodes of A Baby Story on TLC or just the comparative and competitive nature of parenting. It’s also probably part of proving myself to myself. Proving that I am strong enough and for some reason or another I want to share in the global pain of childbirth.
In closing, here are seven tips from an experienced C-section mom:
- Don’t chug a bunch of Gatorade upon arriving to your room after surgery. You will get sick.
- Discuss your doctor’s protocol on when you can hold your baby. My first experience was wonderful, but I wasn’t able to hold my second for more than an hour.
- You will have a scar. Initially, your wound will look much scarier than any friend’s healed-up scar. I had dissolvable sutures for my first and what looked like copy paper staples holding me together for my second, but had a similar healed scar with both.
- You will stay in the hospital longer. My first experience felt like a mini vacation with room service and help caring for our sweet baby for five days. She wouldn’t eat, so we had to stay longer. Please stay at the hospital as long as they will let you. I came home too early with my second because I felt like I should come home to see my daughter and my family that was in town.
- It will hurt to move. I slept on the couch with my second baby when I first came home and remember having to roll out of bed for a very long while each time the baby wanted to nurse.
- It will take time to completely heal and to not be sore. Stay on top of your pain medications and refill them as often as you can. Don’t try to be Super Mom.
- You will feel better but you will always have your scar. It will diminish in time but is a helpful tool telling your kids where babies come from!
Stephanie Loux writes from Olathe and is blessed to mother Layla, 4, and Mason, 2.
As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.