• Thu, Sep 8 2011

Labor Pains: I Was Secretly Relieved To Have An Emergency C-Section

The birth of my first daughter involved an emergency c-section that, I’m not ashamed to report, I actually preferred over a vaginal delivery. That’s right, I willingly kissed my Jillian Michaels abs goodbye and “chose” major abdominal surgery over natural childbirth. My daughter was slow to arrive on the scene and the situation presented to me was this: I had a 50/50 chance that she could emerge the “natural” way or, you know, the other way (via c-section). The choice for me was a no-brainer.

It’s only when I share my birth story with other moms that I get the feeling I had somehow “cheated” myself out of a True Motherhood Experience simply because I wasn’t very good at bearing down on a yoga ball, or squatting in a kiddie pool surrounded by moon cake and mulled wine.

I may be coming off as snarky but, truth be told, real live childbirth – aka labor – scares the good taste out of me; mocking others is the only way I know how to deal. (Okay, not really. In real life I’m a total and utter fan of women who do what I consider to be heroic things with their bodies. I’ve just never been inclined to do heroic things with mine.)

When it came to being pregnant, laboring and subsequently giving birth to my daughter, I was both blissfully unaware and unapologetically ignorant. I wasn’t quite like those women on TLC who give birth and claim that they didn’t know they were pregnant (!), but my ignorance was self-induced and very much a protective device. Because, in all honestly, giving birth was a terrifying concept to me.

The back story goes a little something like this: Growing up, I never really fantasized about motherhood or marriage. I played with dolls and I babysat and, like most little girls growing up, I was voted “Most Likely To Procreate” (just kidding). Where my 1950s Hollywood birth narrative departs from the rest is where I proudly declare that I greatly dislike the idea of pushing out a tiny human through my vagina – even though women have been doing this since time immemorial – and would rather lay splayed open on a operating table, where the aneasthesiologist gives me copious amounts of pain drugs and a masked surgeon extracts a beautiful baby from just above my nether region and below my pierced navel.

After my newborn’s bottom is soundly slapped, I am awakened by infant crying, after which time said beautiful crying bundle is laid upon my exposed ample bosoms to breastfeed. Precious bonding moments later, the doctor, still in glistening surgical scrubs, wheels me and baby into the waiting room and proudly announces to my perspiring, smiling husband, “It’s a [insert sex here].” Cigars are subsequently lit. Yes, in this version, smoking is allowed in hospitals. (Couldn’t you just die?)

The irony, of course, lays in the fact that the aforementioned birth narrative pretty much went down like this in real life. Except the part where I knowingly skip prenatal classes where they will be showing graphic birthing videos in which white women with extra-large, pendulum-like swinging breasts (replete with 1970s bush!) will be groaning and breathing heavily – “naturally” doing what seems so frighteningly surreal. And except for the part where I become the unwitting recipient of not one, not two, not three, but four induction gels after having my water broken by the doctor, and to subsequently expedite my “delayed” birth.

Minus the part where I flunk Dilations and Contractions 101 until I am given “the drip” shortly followed by the potentially spine-altering, life-threatening pain reliever known as “the epidural.” And also minus the part about being blissfully knocked out during (emergency c-section) surgery, in which I yell over the sheet covering my exposed lower bits for “somebody [to] please put additional pressure on my knees because I can’t bear to feel you tugging and pulling at my body parts!” After which time I subsequently tell the surgical team, “Y’all better do better than this next time, because no woman should ever feel this god-awful tugging sensation!”

There’s also the part where I tell the surgeons to please stop discussing the details of my c-section and switch to golf-talk instead. Ba-doom-boom.

And then there’s this post-baby issue with my non-existent abs (although it’s a crap-shoot as to whether a jiggly tummy is preferable to a saggy labia). That said, I should tell you that everything is fine now. And it was always fine. In some ways I can’t believe we did it! And I say we, because had it not been for my husband pressing his sweet lips to my ear and talking me through every anxious moment, I’m not so sure I could have managed. And, yet, when you’re about to give life, really anything can happen – and generally speaking, it’s usually all good.

(Photo: iStockphoto)

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  • Pauline McDonagh Hull

    I have from heard from many women with a very similar story to yours, including those who felt relieved when a medical or obstetrical reason meant the needed to schedule a planned cesarean too.

    It’s such a shame that some women are made to feel somehow ‘less’ of a mother because they didn’t do everything naturally, when nothing could be further from the truth.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    (Read more at cesareandebate.blogspot.com)

    • xobolaji

      thank your for your comment!

      i hope that i also made it clear that i have never actually felt “less than” because i’m fully aware of my own limitations and capabilites. at the same time, i often wonder if i actually had a more sympathetic doctor and perhaps a community of women who were able to assuage my fears if i might have been able to do things differently. indeed, for my 2nd pregnancy my doctor discussed VBAC but i “insisted” on a elective-c, and he didn’t try to convince me otherwise.

      will definitely check out your site. cheers! xobolaji

  • Jen

    Do you think that your experience could have/would have been better if your doctor(s) had taken more time to talk with you about the experience prior to your labor? Did you have any females in your family to “talk you through” the labor process? No judgment about “natural” vs c-section, just honestly curious about your pregnancy and labor experiences. I never realized until Mommyish published all these labor articles just how bad it was for pregnant /birthing women in America.

    Just wanted to note: you CAN actually not know you are pregnant. It’s incredibly scary, but true.

    • xobolaji

      hi jen:

      great questions!

      i have two sisters, my older sis has 3 girls [all delivered "naturally" with doulas, several days of labour and laughing gas, no epidurals--yes my big sis is my shero!] and my younger sis has a girl & boy, the first i believe was natural and the 2nd was thru an elective-c.

      i don’t recall us ever really talking abt birth/labour too much, nor did i ever discuss fear/pain with them. as i mentioned, alot of my process most likely had to do with me blocking the reality of the experience until the final moment. i really did believe that i could have a baby “naturally”, and in hindsight i never once expressed my fear to my doctor, who was actually kind of abrupt through the whole process anyway. i got the distinct vibe from him that because having a baby is a “no-brainer” i didn’t need any kind of special treatment. granted, i didn’t think i needed it either, so i think that what it amounts to is a communication issue. also, there are things that women “never” tell other women b/c each experience is so very unique and personal. and the last thing you want to hear while your pregnant is what went “wrong” for another woman.

      i’m not sure that it is necessarily ‘true’ that it is “bad for pregnant/birthing women in america” but i do know that because experiences are so varied, it may be that women are reluctant to share the more unpleasant stories which don’t match with the blissful narratives we’ve come to enjoy.

      and oh, yes nothing under the sun surprises me anymore so yes, i can very well see how a woman can be pregnant and not know.

  • Amber McSherry

    Thanks for this! I went through the same stuff; gels, pitocin, and them breaking my water. It got me pretty much nowhere, so I could wait longer (which may have been risky) or have the c-section. I was so glad to have it afterwards because the thought of tearing my bottom had scared the crap outta me since I went to birthing class. It’s not like the c-section is really anymore pleasant though. I may have had less work than a natural birth but the recovery is longer and more painful from what I’ve been told. The bottom line is I had my baby and that moment to me was just as special as any other mother’s, regardless of the way of birth!

    • xobolaji

      hi amber!

      thanks for your comment. i totally agree. i’m wondering if there isn’t a better way to guide/educate women better without resorting to these seemingly archaic labour videos. surely by now healthcare practitioners have heard the rallying cry of women for whom the experience of labour and childbirth is sometimes difficult.

      and i totally believe that we need to bridge the gap between women who exist on both sides of spectrum.

      i also take issue with the notion that because you supposedly “forget” what happens before, during and after that ‘they’ shouldn’t somehow improve the process so that you don’t have to forget anything.

  • Rachel Rankin

    Your story is unique and I’m glad I found it on my facebook feed.

    I, too, prefered a c-section. So much so that I OPTED for a cesarian birth with my first (and only) child, with no medical reason whatsoever (most insurance companies will cover elective c-sections these days, FYI).

    Like you, I’d never dreamt of that magical moment of pushing a baby through my vagina. TOTALLY creeped me out! I very much wanted to be a mom, but giving birth naturally didn’t excite me in the least. So I just didn’t try. I did it my way, and I wouldn’t change a thing. It was wonderful.

    You can read more about my birth story at http://www.UpperBottom.com.

    Thanks for the great article!!

  • Wolfmother

    I was not secretly relieved to have a c-section, I was loudly and obnoxiously relieved to have a c-section.

  • morri

    I had a secondary section as the gate failed to open up at induction. I was relieved . The woman i was sharing the room with was also inducted and she wen naturally and needed 20 stiches afterwards.

  • http://twitter.com/DiscordantFlesh Silent Agony

    “(replete with 1970s bush!)” <<I find that comment un.necessary and body shaming other than that this makes me feel great if I ever decide to give birth I cannot handle pushing one out, Ive been sexually traumatized in the past and I just want them to cut the damn thing out of me and spare me the suffering and reliving of trauma. I let the gyno do the necessary exams but the doctors all up in my business in childbirth would be wayyy too much, im not even going to try breast feeding and damn if someone gives me shit they better watch out.