Thursday, July 28, 2011

Under the Knife

"Remember this, for it is as true as true gets: Your body is NOT a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic." Ina May Gaskin

So I’ve been thinking a lot about my previous birthing experience and what I want out of this next one.

Most days pre-pregnancy I didn’t give too much thought to my birth experience with Barrett. He came out, we were both healthy, and that is definitely a good outcome. BUT it didn’t go the way I wanted AT ALL. I did a pretty fair amount of preparation for the birth. I read a lot of books about the Bradley method and natural childbirth, we attended a birth class, I set up a labor playlist on my ipod, bought thick, non-slip socks for the walks I envisioned through the halls, drank red raspberry leaf tea, tried evening primrose oil, longs walks, bouncing on an exercise ball for hours on end, and did just everything I read about to try to make this baby come out! I figured I was as ready for my birth experience as I could be.

But it wasn’t to be. Things descended as far away from my vision as they could. My goal was to have a medicine-free birth with as little interventions as possible. That plan was nixed when my child decided he was perfectly happy inside my belly and intended to stay there indefinitely. The closer we got to Christmas, the more I stressed and we finally agreed to induce at 10 days past due date. This was as much my fault as the doctor’s. They weren’t intending to let me go much further, but I didn’t try to stop it either. I was ready for him to come out and so I was onboard with this plan unfortunately.

The first intervention was the insertion of an IV into my hand immediately upon admission. Second was cervadil then a monitor around my stomach and then increasing levels of pitocin. I couldn’t easily get out of bed to use the bathroom, let alone walk the halls, because of all of this going on. When my water broke the next afternoon, I was confined to the bed. When the pitocin contractions became way too much to take, I finally and reluctantly agreed to an epidural. This led to a catheter. And eventually, I ended up with a c-section, which is pretty much as invasive as it gets.

My goal = no interventions. Yeah, didn’t happen.

I was pretty much the textbook case of why interventions lead to c-sections.

I can’t help but feel incredibly unsatisfied and disappointed by what happened. I was in intense pain for more than a week afterwards and moderate pain for a few more. I couldn’t get in and out of the bed unassisted, I couldn’t pull up my own pants, couldn’t put on my own shoes or socks, I couldn’t reach for my son or kneel to change his diapers. I was feeding vicodin to him through my body and that freaked me out. I think it took me a lot longer to recover from the experience both physically and mentally than it should have. And now I have this ever-present scar across my belly, which itches every day and will never disappear.

I blame myself a lot. I was so anxious and stressed for him to come out, especially before Christmas for both my convenience and that of our families,’ that I lost sight of my goal. When he finally did get lifted out of me, he was a mere 7lbs, 1 oz. Not a big baby, and certainly not one that wouldn’t have benefited from a little extra time. He knew what he was doing by chilling in there the whole time – he needed that time to grow some more. Why was I in any rush to hurry him along when both he and my body were telling me it wasn’t time?

My aim is to do a VBAC with #2. I am nervous, though, because of the lack of support that medical professions have with VBACs. Statistically, studies have shown that yes, there’s a risk with a VBAC, but that it’s less risky than a c-section. However, medical professionals discourage them and sometimes even refuse them. When I spoke to my new doctor about one, she sounded pretty pessimistic about my chances but said that she was okay with them. However, she did have some stipulations for VBACs that she didn’t have for other births: she won’t let me go very far past my “due date” and requires much more monitoring, including possibly internal monitoring. Um, we saw in my childbirth class what internal monitoring entails – this is when a fetal scalp electrode is screwed into the baby’s head to monitor him. I don’t want anything screwed into my unborn child’s scalp!

Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of time to drive any great distance to seek alternatives. I work full-time and have a toddler so my time is precious and I just can’t afford any significant amount of time away from work. My selection of doctors must be in the nearby area. Unfortunately, Illinois seems to be one of the worst states for VBACs and it's been really hard for me to find supportive providers. I've been told flat out "the doctor won't do VBACs." And that's it. With one practice, I tried to understand why the doctors would do something that is contradictory to the ACOG guidelines and pressed for more information so I could understand why they had these policies. The nurse told me no, that they follow the ACOG guidelines. I gave her the ACOG practice bulletin that states the ACOG's support of VBACs and she suddenly became extremely short with me, said "that's our philosophy" and suggested I look elsewhere for a doctor.

It makes me so upset because so many of these medical professionals are filling their patients' heads with so much misinformation. They either a) haven't updated their knowledge past what they learned 20 years ago in medical school or b) are just trying to get away with what's easiest for them and are disregarding the safety issues of the mother to do so.

And that leaves me feeling so stuck.

I admit, I have a lot of distrust of the medical profession now after Barrett's birth. Women trust their doctors and fall for these lies that they're telling them if they haven't done their independent research. Lies about the risks of a VBAC vs a c-section, lies about statistics and success rates. It makes me so angry that they take advantage of their patients' trust like this and these women are pushed into what is most likely unnecessary surgery in most cases. A repeat c-section should be the exception, not the rule.

After much calling and research of other practices, I've decided to stay with the practice I've started with but seek support for my labor and delivery outside the doctors and nurses at the hospital. I've hired a doula to be an advocate on my behalf, to try to help me get the VBAC I so desperately want.

Obviously the final result I would like is a healthy baby and mom. I just think there must be a better way to achieve this then cutting me open again!


  1. I am so sorry you are so stuck with your options. I really commend your decision to go ahead with a VBAC!

  2. I am so sad for you. Many of my local girlfriends have succumbed to the slippery slope of interventions. I hope you are able to have the birth you want this time around.