Cesareans and Grief

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Guest post by reader Natalie


I get upset when I hear women denying validation of grief for other women, but I will admit I was once one of them.  I couldn’t imagine “grieving” because I needed a c-section to give birth.  Really?  Grief???!?! 
I was smug.  You see…I thought I could give birth in any situation.  I gave birth to my first daughter, 7 lbs. 4oz, who was “sunny side up”.  I had an induction, because I was a first time mom.  I was ignorant, and was still suffering from hyperemisis after 10 months of pregnancy (she was almost 2 weeks overdue).  I pushed for 9 minutes, and ended up with a very bruised baby and 30 stitches.  If I could birth her, I could do anything.   After reading and researching I found out that her birth position was probably due to too much pitocin, too fast of a decent, and a way too fast labor.  I was discouraged by the lack of compassion, especially when I told my nurse that I was ready to push.  She stated, “Honey, you have hours to go….!” and left the room.  I started pushing on my own, because I couldn’t stop, and my husband ran out in a panic…..”I see the baby’s head!!!!”  I finally got some attention after that!!! 
Just 2 months after her birth I was pregnant again (yes, I was breastfeeding on demand!).  Her brother was born easily, naturally (meaning: without pain management), with a hospital midwife, and was close to 10 pounds.   He was genuinely 3 weeks “late” born via induction, and came out green with long fingernails. 
By this time I was done with medically managed births.  I never wanted an induction.  I wanted to know what it would be like to have a baby born on it’s natural time schedule.  I started looking for home birthing midwives, and planning on a homebirth for baby #3. 
When I got pregnant again, I felt wrong.  Something was off.  I had previously had several miscarriages, so I went in for a progesterone level.  It was off the charts.  I went in for an ultrasound, and they found my triplets.  Spontaneous triplets. 
I was distraught, for several reasons, but I won’t deny that my loss of a homebirth was near the top of the list.  You see, I have a blood clotting disorder that made my midwife leery of a homebirth in the first place.  Triplets would be out of the question. 
I was desperate.  I asked my OB if a trial of labor would be OK.  She said, “Absolutely NOT.”  I was heartbroken.  I LOVE the process of giving birth.  To me, it’s empowering.  It’s raw, and it’s real.  I was scared.  I made “plans” to go into labor at home, and arrive at the ER giving them no choice but to deliver me vaginally. 
Little did I know that I was about to have the most necessary c-section ever. 
At 35 weeks I developed HELLP syndrome.  I also had 3 breech babies, and I was in preterm labor.  I had a mild placental abruption, and I had no choice.  It was either a c-section, or it was a dead mother.  THIS is what c-sections were developed for.  I was a REAL case of a necessary cesarean. 
I was laid out on the table, after my spinal, and my husband was brought in.  I was not allowed to have video cameras in the room.  I was not allowed to photograph the c-section, though we were allowed to photograph the babies…just not the “surgical area”.  I was not allowed to watch.  I was not allowed to hold my babies.  They allowed me to see “baby B” briefly, before they were sent to the NICU (and proclaimed to be in perfect health).  I was wheeled to recovery, and was alone.  I made my husband swear that he would follow the babies where ever they went, and that left me devastatingly alone.  I ended up being allergic to the morphine that they put in my spinal.  I was itching my skin off, so they countered the morphine with another drug.  It knocked me out for 8 hours.  When I woke up, I met my babies.  I felt disconnected from them.  Who were they?  Did they REALLY come out of me????  It just didn’t feel like it. 
I was very, very, very sick with HELLP.  My liver was failing, and I was on many different drugs.  I couldn’t hold my babies.  I didn’t birth my babies, and nothing was helping me connect with them at all.  I attempted to nurse them, as I had my older kids, but with all of the drugs doping me up…I just couldn’t do it.  I gave up on day 6 in the hospital, and I was applauded for it.  I was feeling resentful of these babies who were keeping me away from my older children, who I missed like crazy.  They still just didn’t feel like they were mine. 
I finally made a turn for the better around day 8, and they let me go home with home health care nurses to monitor me, and to give me meds and blood work. 
It took me weeks to bond with my babies.  It finally happened, and I was in love…hook, line, and sinker.  It was different, it wasn’t immediate.  It was different.  My older kids when from inside my belly, to on my belly directly after birth.  I connected.  I nursed them within 3 minutes of birth.  My babies went from belly to the NICU, and from the NICU to bassinets beside my bed….even though I was too doped up to hold them without assistance. 
With my vaginal deliveries I healed within a few days, walking never hurt, and I didn’t have any staples in my abdomen.  The c-section brought me pain, a seeping wound, and a 6-10 week recovery that I was not ready for. 
Most of all, I learned that c-sections are a LOSS of a DREAM.  If your dream is to be cut open to give birth, that’s great for *YOU*.  If your dream is to passively let a doctor control your birth that’s great for *YOU*.  BUT…if you’ve researched, and educated yourself, and you come to the conclusion that YOU want a natural birth, or a birth at home, and for some reason you had a RARE necessary cesarean, I learned that it’s OK TO GRIEVE!!!!  It’s ok to grieve the process that saved your life (and your baby’s life).  It’s not wrong to wish that it had been different, because who WANTS to have major surgery?  Who wants to have a brand new baby, AND to recover from major surgery?  Not many people sign up for that…and it’s OK to be resentful that you needed to have it done. 
I can also now sympathize, get angry, and advocate for women who have had truly unnecessary c-sections….because for as sad as I am for myself, I can’t imagine the grief of women who were bullied into a cesarean that was just not necessary.  My sister had an unnecesarean, and I was angry for her.  She was *bullied* into a c-section, at a hospital with a 44% cesarean rate.  She was meek, passive, and lost her voice.
In the end, I find it appalling that feminists advocate for women to have the choice to terminate a pregnancy in any way they please….but it’s rare to find a women who will let a woman advocate how she gives BIRTH!  Can’t we all band together and let our voices be heard?  All we want is a choice in childbirth, whether it be an elective c-section (something I personally could never understand!), an unassisted homebirth, or something in between.  This is not a governmental decision, this is a woman’s decision. 
For information on HELLP:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HELLP_syndrome  (I have also become an advocate for mothers with HELLP.)