On a special day in May, I will deliver my third child via cesarean section, my third– one with each of my children. Though I admit that maybe “happy” isn’t the right word, I am at peace with this in a way that some may never understand.
Just the Beginning…
Just over 5 years ago, my husband and I announced that we were expecting. Having miscarried the first, we were simultaneously cautious and excited. As the pregnancy progressed, everything went well, but as we neared my due date, we realized that our baby had no intention of turning head down on her own. I thought it strange at the time that I carried her only on my right side, and in retrospect, I remember her trying to turn – it felt as though she was about to crawl out through my rib cage. My plans for a natural, drug-free birth evaporated when my doctor broached the topic with that dirty word: cesarean.
I spent more time in those following weeks with my butt in the air than I’d ever spent in my life. Trying every remedy I could find, I prayed desperately that she would turn. I put cold items where her head was; I played music toward the bottom of my abdomen where her head should be; my husband talked to her feet in hopes she’d turn to listen; I stopped just short of doing handstands in the pool during winter, all in an effort to get her to turn over. Nothing worked. Finally, we discussed one last option: external cephalic version
Four hands, one belly, one baby: my external cephalic version.
For those of you who are new to the term, this is a procedure where the doctor, or doctors, tries very carefully to turn your baby over by manipulating them from the outside. I’d heard this procedure proved rather uncomfortable, but hoping for the best, I decided to give it a try. However, because she’d been breech throughout the pregnancy, I wondered about the chances of success. After talking with the doctor, she offered this option: we’d try the version with a spinal already in place so that they would have maximum laxity in my abdominal wall to turn the baby. If it worked, we’d adjust the meds and induce labor. If it didn’t work, I’d already be prepped and ready for the cesarean.
Two doctors, working together, successfully turned my baby over half-way each way in my abdomen, but no further.
The version failed and we commenced with the cesarean.
At this point, I had already grieved the loss of my birth plan. Let me pause and say, ladies, that it’s okay to be sad if your plans for your pregnancy and delivery don’t go as you’d hoped. It’s okay to grieve that loss. We tend to want to put a happy face on everything – healthy babies, happy mommies and all. Of course we want healthy, happy babies! That’s a given – I don’t know a momma who doesn’t desire this. But it’s also okay to admit when we really wished things could be different.
Getting to know you, uterus
I found out post-op that I have a uterine abnormality which some estimates say affects less than 1% of women: a unicornuate uterus. Only one side of my uterus is fully developed and balloons during pregnancy; the other side is attached but completely undeveloped. Studies show that this particular abnormality is associated with a host of fertility, pregnancy, and delivery issues. I won’t get into the many depressing percentages, but this one percentage was staggering: women in this study with this particular uterine abnormality have a live birth rate of only 29.2%.
Maybe happy should be the word after all: happy I could have a healthy baby at all.
My second pregnancy went much the same, except for one week when she positioned herself head down. I expressed a desire for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) should she stay that way, but the reality is, my uterus provides a rather uncomfortable environment for a head-down baby, and she quickly turned over. This time, I didn’t grieve. I wasn’t thrilled, but I accepted the situation.
Here we go again…
This third pregnancy, I contemplated what would happen should this one position head down. I decided to give a VBA2C a shot should my doctor agree, but she, too, is breech and has been throughout the pregnancy. Having learned more about my body, I’ve accepted the need for a cesarean; in fact, I’m completely at peace with it. I have grown to consider it God’s provision and protection for my life and my baby’s.
Here’s the deal: people find it hard to believe I’m okay with having a c section. More often than not, they offer unsolicited advice on how to “fix” that pesky problem.
Friends, let’s say you find out that a friend is having a cesarean, and you heard about this obscure midwife who still delivers breech babies, a practice which has not been actively taught in the medical community since the 70’s. May I suggest that you only offer that information if solicited or if it is a really good friend? Especially during my first pregnancy, when I was fragile with grief, it grew wearying to try and defend my decision to go forward with a cesarean. Was I doing enough? Should I work harder to get her to turn? At that point, I had no idea about my unique uterine shape.
Our offerings of advice are a natural, somewhat maternal, instinct. But we need to remember that we don’t know the whole story, we often cannot see the inner turmoil, and it isn’t our business unless we’re invited into it. Offering unsolicited advice can be offensive, destructive, and cause needless hurt and confusion.
When I tell people that I am having a cesarean and that my previous two were also cesarean, I get a kind, but pitiful smile. I get questions about whether a VBAC would be a viable option, whether I’ve tried the different methods to try to turn her. I explain my uterine abnormality, but it still doesn’t seem to help. This time, though, I tell them that I count it a blessing.
Putting it all in perspective.
I’ll be honest, I’m not looking forward to a third cesarean. I’m particularly apprehensive about the spinal this time. But I’m happy to do it because it means that I am delivering a living, breathing, healthy baby. I am one of the few with a crazy uterus who has done this not once, not twice, but soon to be three times, and my gratitude that I am even able to do this quite literally takes the edge off the pain.