I’m amazed by the baby-making process: have sex, sperm meets egg, form tiny human and then push it out of your vagina. It’s all pretty amazing, but the last part eludes me. Despite my best efforts I’ve never been able to have the vaginal birth I so badly want.
When I was pregnant with my first, I had a plan: no drugs, no episiotomy and if all went smoothly, no hospital. Just me, my husband, midwife and doula. It was going to be beautiful, the way nature intended. But as I soon discovered, Mother Nature is a bitch.
My pregnancy stretched to 42 weeks, and all “natural” methods to induce labor had been exhausted: acupuncture, castor oil, spicy food, even sex. So off to the hospital I went to be induced. I managed to avoid an epidural for as long as possible, but after around five hours of labor with no end in sight, I broke down and had one. I never really dilated, though, and the baby’s heart rate kept dropping dangerously low. That’s when they whisked me off to the operating room where, 45 minutes later, my son was born via cesarean. I was both elated and crushed.
After months of preparation for my natural birth, including meditation, hypnobirthing and yoga, it had never occurred to me that my delivery would end up in the operating room. I was thrilled with my healthy baby boy – that’s a given – but I found myself weepy when describing the birth, jealous of my friends’ “normal” deliveries. I’ll admit I was even a little resentful of women who seemed to have it so easy (you know, the ones who boasted how three pushes and the baby just shot right out). I was even jealous of difficult labors and the bragging rights that accompanied them.
A few years later I became pregnant again. My midwife assured me that I was a great candidate for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), and all the literature I read backed that up. I did less to prepare for my second delivery; this time, I’d let nature take over and trust my body to do what it was meant to do. After all, women have been doing this since the dawn of time, right? Cavewomen didn’t take classes to birth their cave babies, and most of my friends managed to do it, too (besides, their prenatal classes focused more on what brand of stroller to buy than on how to push out a baby).
When I finally went into labor at 41 weeks, I felt in control – excited, even. I would have my natural birth! As I labored without medication I felt empowered, only to get discouraged when, once again, I failed to progress.
As the hours passed I agreed to more and more medical intervention, until I was strongly advised to have another c-section. I begged and cried, but when you are the sole dissenter in a room of experts…well, I wasn’t going to let my stubborn streak put my baby’s health at risk.