Thursday, March 21, 2013

Vaginal Birth vs. Cesarean Section: My Experience

When you're pregnant inevitably the question of how you're going to birth your baby comes up.  Most people don't mean any harm by offering their advice, most of it based on their own experience, even when they have no clue of your medical history.  I suppose if I was a "normal" pregnant patient then I would probably do the same thing to other mamas.  If I had had all pregnancies that ended smoothly and ended up with healthy children then I would want to share my experience with expecting mothers, hoping they would have the same, beautiful outcome.  But, I didn't.  My first four pregnancies ended in heartache, two little gravestones marking the end of the two lives of our first two sons, and I have just the memory of those two pink lines on a pregnancy test for our two angel babies.

Whenever I was pregnant with Johnathan I really wanted to have a vaginal birth, I mean there really wasn't any other option.  I was excited to attend my birthing sessions and to learn how to focus, to breathe through the pain and to birth my healthy child the way God intended women to bear children.  During the latter part of my pregnancy we learned that having a vaginal birth might not be an option.  I had a massive cyst that could potentially rupture during labor and cause complications for me.  So, we had to decide, To "C" or Not To "C"...I wrote a post about it during my pregnancy with our little monkey.  In the end, for my health's sake, we decided to have a C-section around 38 weeks or so.  However, when I was 37 weeks along I got preeclamptic and ended up having to undergo an emergency Cesarean.  As it happens, when I had my sono before my surgery to see how the baby was laying the cyst had moved and was blocking the birth canal...so a Cesarean would have been inevitable anyways.

For Eli's pregnancy we went into it understanding that I would have a repeat C-section, and I was totally fine with it.  I didn't really consider having a VBAC, one, my doctor wasn't comfortable doing that considering my history and two, I had a really positive experience having Johnathan...although, believe me, recovery from a Cesarean is no picnic.  When I did end up delivering Eli at 35 weeks I was so grateful for medical technology, the fact that my Dr. was able to come in a deliver him in mere minutes via C-section saved his (and my) life.  Preeclampsia combined with partial placental abruption is not a recipe for a happy ending in most cases.  I Thank the Lord that He was with me that day, guiding me to seek help for my baby.

After having Eli, however, I did feel a little "less-than" for not being able to have vaginal births with my boys.  At times I felt like I didn't get the full experience of having a baby, like I wasn't quite a "real woman"...no one really gets proud of a new mom that underwent a c-section like they do a mom that had a "natural" birth...especially if no pain meds were involved.  There isn't that bragging right...oh, I did it all without an epidural and got the baby out in 5 pushes or whatever.  So maybe my pride was getting the better of me, but I did feel like I wasn't quite measuring up to what society seems to consider the proper, healthy way to have a child.

So what did I do...I made up for it in other ways (in my mind at least)....I nursed them both until almost 2 years old, did baby-wearing with Eli and did the cloth diaper thing...you know, the things that natural, "with it" moms do.  I didn't want to feel like having a Cesarean made me less of a mom.  I didn't want to adhere to the idea that having a C-section made my children less likely to bond with me...as you so often hear from those touting the benefits of vaginal delivery over Cesarean.  But the root of it all is that I think that I was just a little jealous.  Jealous of the experience of having children that I would never get to have.

Somehow, during my jealousy, I had forgotten the first two experiences I had with giving birth.  And with good reason, they were the two hardest things I have ever had to do in my life.

When I was pregnant with our first son, Gideon, things were going along swimmingly.  My pregnancy was picture perfect, not too much nausea, good weight gain, baby and mommy going along right on track...til 16 weeks.  My water broke during the middle of the night over the weekend.  At the time I didn't know what had happened, but later recalled that same scent (amniotic fluid) that I had smelled when I watched my mom deliver my little sister at home.  A visit on Monday confirmed what I am pretty sure I knew in the back of my mind.  My water had broken...and preterm delivery was imminent.  We opted to try to do everything humanly possible to save the baby and get further along in my pregnancy for the possibility of a healthy delivery.  I went on strict bedrest...no showers, no walking around, no nothing except for laying down and just getting up to potty.  During that time my husband and sweet family (we moved in with my folks) took exceptional care of me.  Getting my food for me, keeping my spirits up and even bathing me...you never know how much you trust someone 'til you let them shave your legs!  It was a hard, but very sweet time.

At around 21 weeks my body went into labor, and sometime mid-morning on December 19th our sweet Gideon went to be with Jesus.  I still remember time last time I felt him kicking inside of me...I had been having contractions throughout the night and by morning I hadn't felt him move in quite a while.  I prayed for Jesus to let me feel his sweet little kick just one more time before he died.  Immediately following my prayer Gideon kicked...and then he went to be with Jesus.  My labor with him and delivery was something I'll never get over.  I didn't want to have any pain meds because I wanted to be able to recall every second I had with my sweet baby.  Even with pitocin to help my labor  progress I didn't fully dilate.  So my doctor had to reach up inside me and pull my baby out.  It was the most gut-wrenching, heart-wrenching pain I have ever felt in my life.  I could literally feel my doctors hand inside of me, ripping out the only life my body had ever held and nurtured.  I screamed, I cried, I blacked out...it was pure torture.  And I felt every bit of it.  A part of my soul was ripped out that day too.  And that was my first experience with vaginal delivery.

With Daniel my pregnancy progressed much the same as Gideon's did.  Everything seemingly fine until about 16 weeks.  At  16.5 weeks I started to leak a little fluid and my body went into labor.  When I arrived at my doctor to check on things I had already dilated to about a 4 and I was sent right over to the hospital.  During my labor the nurses told me to prepare for the baby to be born alive and to die shortly after because it the lungs would be too immature to breathe.  I prayed for the baby to die before he was birthed...I couldn't imagine watching him struggle and not be able to do anything about it.  It seemed like the cruelest thing to have to watch.  Our sweet boy slipped into Heaven before he made an appearance on earth, and I was thankful for that small gift.  My delivery with Daniel wasn't nearly as physically painful.  He was much smaller so it was easier for him to come out.  The heartache was still unbearable, especially since it had just been a mere 9 months since his older brother had passed away.  Two tombstones in one year...and that was my second experience with vaginal delivery.

So I guess you could say I have experienced both ways of delivery with extremely different outcomes for each.  For me my only memories of vaginal births are full of heartache.  While my Cesareans represent two, sweet healthy boys.  Most scars are a reminder of pain, but for me, my C-section scars remind me of my two most cherished gifts.  They are my glory marks, the place where life was brought forth from my body and nothing to be ashamed of.

*Grace*

5 comments:

Emily Minich said...

Tears for you, and also such a happy feeling of peace that you have your sweet boys and one more precious blessing on the way. I remember feeling the same, that I haven't 'had' a baby. But, I don't mind. In fact, I'll choose a c-section if I ever get the opportunity again. :) I DO NOT want to have to wear an ice pack in my undies. <3 God bless and keep you and yours, Grace.

Practically Ava said...

Oh Grace what a beautiful post about your precious babies. {tears} I know that the Lord will use you in a mighty way to minister to other women who find themselves dealing with similar issues.
Your babies are all loved, and I know there will be such a glorious reunion one day in Heaven!
Satan is so good at wanting to steal our Joy and make us feel vulnerable to what we aren't in the eyes of ourselves and others. I love that you have found joy in your "glory marks," how beautiful.
I have heard from several other women that have had C-sections, that they feel like they are less than a mom, or that they feel unfulfilled for not getting the opportunity to "give birth," but in my heart of hearts I truly believe that being a mom is so much more than having a picture perfect birth story. You are a beautiful mother to all of your children. You exceed all of the qualities that it takes to be a mom. I love you dearly. And pray many sweet blessings over you. Thanks for sharing this. How humbling
Kayla

Tanna Horton said...

Amazing post girl, thank you for sharing. It is amazing how God can use our experiences to help others and I know He is using this one! Love you

Gail said...

Gracie,

Such a beautiful and honest story. I have wondered before if you've felt this way. But I want you to know, when I look at you and your birth stories, I see someone who has SO MUCH MORE COURAGE than I've ever had. You've gone through something none of us "natural" mamas have gone through...extreme heartache, difficult decisions, but ultimately two glorious babies. Some may say "your joy is increased if you've had a a natural birth" because you had to go through the pain to get the other end where you held your child's life. Your story is the same, only with a different spin.

I love you DEARLY sweet sister. You are such an inspiration to me of perseverance, courage, love and sacrifice.

Keep sharing your story. God is going to use this..I just know it!

Love,
Gail

Ivy said...

Grace, you are so right! And so sweet! I love that post because it reminds me of what Mary said in the gosples, "may it be done to me according to your will." God worked in her life according to his own perfect plan (in a way that was really not socially acceptable!) and all for his own glory. And that is what you are saying. God is the one who has done these hard things in your life. And now you can sing your own magnificat! My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. :-)