April 2015 is C-Section Awareness Month.
There are a lot of moms out there who think that a c-section is a cop out, or cheating.
In birthing classes, teachers talk about all the things moms can do to avoid c-sections. Women telling delivery room war stories often insert things like “Well, there was no way I was having a c-section!” right before they get to the part where they rallied and delivered.
As if c-section moms didn’t try hard enough. Couldn’t handle the pain. Didn’t love their babies enough to push them out the way God intended.
Or worse, that c-section moms are control freaks who need to fit their births into their busy schedules, appearing at the appointed time with perfectly coiffed hair and fresh manicures, attended by doctors who have tee times later.
Dana and I have five c-sections between us, but we agree, it’s the first one that leaves the biggest scar.
My water broke at 36 weeks, so my labor started off with a clang. From six pm to midnight, I went from 1 cm to 7 cm before I asked for an epidural. At 3 am I was fully dilated with a contraction pattern the nurse said she had never seen before—it was a constant up and down on the monitor with no break. I pushed for three hours, but I don’t remember much because the epidural dropped my blood pressure so low that I could not stop puking.
One moment is crystal clear: I heard the nurse say “Call her doctor” and I knew that wasn’t good. I opened my eyes and saw my mom and Shea look at each other across my belly. For the first time, I realized my mom was still there. We had decided to do it alone, but later Shea told me that it was so scary he was glad she was there.
Then the baby’s heart rate started to drop, and he hadn’t moved at all from the place where he’d been for three hours. Later he would come out with a giant bruise around one eye, swollen and puffy from where he’d been slammed against my pelvic bone again and again while I pushed.
Our birth plan was simple: Everybody lives. So when the OB told us it was time for a c-section, we said yes. My mom, a former Lamaze instructor who had three unmedicated births, stood outside the door praying we would say yes.
A week later, after I’d had time to process the delivery a bit, I asked my mom what would have happened 100 years ago, if I had labored in some dim room in a Victorian house, attended by her and the town doctor.
“Would Gabriel have died?” I asked.
“Yes” she answered.
“Would I have died?”
And not only that. There would be no Kate or Annie, my second and third c-sections.
There would be no Mazie, whose heart rate dropped off the table during Dana’s delivery, and maybe no Dana. No Violet.
No Jack and Noah. Brixton or Kennedy. Bella or Diego. Gino, Dean and Darren. Wyatt, Avery or Trey. Nick. Eleanor or Emma. Samantha. Marley or Koa. Jason. Quinn. Nicholl and Jennifer. Austin, Christian, Alec, Craig, Alijah, Colbe, Aubrey or Clare.
Maybe you think that list makes the point that c-sections are too prevalent.
I think it tells a different story.
The story of moms who labored, at first in hope and then in fear. Who understand how quickly a moment of life can be overshadowed by a threat of death. Who thank God often that they became mothers in this century and not in any other.
Because facts tell us that the historical level of maternal mortality during childbirth has hovered at 1 in 100. It’s estimated that at some points in the 1800s, 40% of women died in childbirth. The number in the US dropped to 11 in 100,000 in 2009. Many things have contributed to that drop, among them c-sections.
Dana and I think the shaming of c-section moms needs to stop. Both of us are peaceful about how our beautiful children came to be here, but there are women who struggle with the events that led to their c-sections, who suffer post-traumatic stress over their difficult deliveries.
When we tell them they are less than the mom who delivered “naturally”, we hurt all of motherhood.
And we give a lie to the truth that there is only one birth plan that matters: Everybody lives.