As I explained yesterday, I’m frequently asked about my choice to have a second c-section. C-Section v. VBAC is a very controversial subject right now, and I think the controversy will only continue to grow as universal healthcare awaits us. My husband and I have chosen to have a second c-section, so today I’ll share my honest thoughts on the c-section v. VBAC controversy. You can read about the birth of my first child in yesterday’s post.
Why I Dislike C-Sections
It interferes with breastfeeding. My breastfeeding woes began because of my c-section. There are several problems that can occur after any medicated birth, but one of the biggest issues is that if a pregnant woman receives IV fluids prior to labor, she will be swollen with fluids and the baby will have a difficult time latching. This is what occured with me. Further compounding the problem, a medicated body does not respond the same way that an unmedicated one will. Baby is often sluggish as well, thanks to the epidural, spinal, or other pain medications. Also, in the case of a c-section, the mother has not gone through the labor process and the usual hormones are not there at the same hightened levels, causing her body not to respond to nursing as it should.
Does all of this mean that a woman cannot nurse if she has a c-section? Absolutely not. I did, and I know many other women who did as well, and many did not have the struggles that Isabelle and I had. But a c-section makes it more difficult, and let’s face it: Breastfeeding can be hard enough as it is. Let’s try not to add any more difficulties to the list. Because I’m so passionate about breastfeeding, this is one of my primary concerns with having a c-section again.
Our bodies were made for labor. During my first pregnancy, the more I read about the pregnant body and the labor process, the more in awe I became of the way God created the body. Everything moves, shifts, and adapts for the new life to be carried for nine months and then come out. Why surgically remove the baby if you don’t have to? You’re interrupting the natural process that’s supposed to take place. I should add that I do know a few moms who have only been able to have children because of the beauty of modern science and the c-section. And when my dear friend, Leslie, woke up one morning unable to see, she was rushed to the hospital due to preclampsia. I believe her husband would’ve been left a young widower had it not been for their emergency c-section. For that, I am grateful for the possibility of a surgical birth.
It disturbs some of the sweetest moments of having a baby. Remember my “ideal birth” that I mentioned yesterday? None of this happens with a c-section. No daddy cutting the cord and certainly mommy doesn’t get to hold the baby immediately, much less nurse. In fact, as wonderful as our experience was, I remember that initially, Isabelle was given to nurses to handle and weigh, and there were so many people blocking the way that I couldn’t see my baby. I was dying to see her sweet little face, moving as much as I could to see around everything, until finally one of the nurses realized that I couldn’t see my child, so he moved the curtain a bit so that I could watch everything going on. Then she was wrapped up and brought to me so that I could kiss her sweet face for the first time. It was a beautiful moment, but it would’ve been much better had it been a normal labor and delivery.
Recovery, Recovery, Recovery. Every new mom has a period of recovery from labor and delivery. From what I hear, it’s hard and painful! There’s also a period of adjusting to life with a new baby, whether it’s her first or her fourth. But let’s add recovering from major surgery to that list of adjustments. It may be a very routine surgery nowadays, but it’s still a major one. An 8+ inch incision on your abdomen is not fun, especially when you have little ones to take care of. The pain lingers for quite a while, and taking pain killers does not make it easy to care for young children.
As soon as we made the decision to have a second c-section, I called my mother to enlist her help. When I gave her our reasons for the decision, she said she completely agreed with us and would be happy to help out every time we have a baby. I appreciate her help so much, but part of me also wishes that having a baby weren’t such a production for me and that I didn’t need so much help. I see my friends after their babies are born, and many of them are still glowing as they lay in their hospital beds. They’re often quite energetic within days of having their babies. I, on the other hand, hobbled around the house for a good while until the incision was moderately comfortable.
I’m realistic about all of this, and I know that it will take a while before I can handle simple things like laundry, so we’re going to put cloth diapers on hold for the first month (or longer). I’ll have time to relax and heal, then adjust to the new baby, adjust to life with two babies, and eventually get back to housework & preparing meals for us. Those are my priorities, in order.
I want a large family. The common myth is no more than two c-sections, but that simply isn’t true. Fortunately, I’ve been reassured by both my previous Ob/Gyn and my current one that I can pretty much have as many babies as I want, or at least as many as my uterus can handle. From what I’ve read, there might come a point when my doctor says my uterus can’t handle another pregnancy, but that’s not as soon as many people might think. Still, I certainly won’t be like couple I know who are pregnant with their eleventh baby. A c-section rules out that option for me (although I’m pretty sure I’m not geared to have that many children anyway!).
Sign me up for another c-section, please!
Given my laundry list of reasons to hate ’em, why am I signing up for another one?
I’ll give you the short version, primarily to avoid the risk of offending anyone. I don’t think you’re a terrible mom if you’ve chosen to VBAC. You made the choice you felt was best for you, and we’re making the one that’s best for us.
After having my daughter, I looked into VBACs (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) and was thrilled about the idea of a normal labor and delivery. Since our reason for a c-section was a breech baby (rather than failure to progress), I would be a prime candidate for a VBAC. We chose our doctor for baby #2 because we go to church with him and trust him, but also because we knew he would do a VBAC.
However, once we became pregnant, we discussed the risks of a VBAC with our doctor. I also did some research myself to find the statistics. Quite frankly, they were frightening. I’ll let you look into it on your own if you like, rather than presenting all of the information here. The main risk is a uterine rupture, which can result in quite a bit of harm to the baby, including brain damage. Those consequences to the baby are further increased by the fact that we are in a smaller town. We don’t have the option of going with a large teaching hospital, where we can be fairly certain that the baby can be quickly removed in the event of a uterine rupture. The longer it takes to remove the baby, the greater the risks of brain damage. We found a VBAC to be too risky for us and the possible consequences are too severe and too harmful to our baby. Surgery is not without risks either, but at least those risks are primarily to the mother, not the baby. I know wonderful moms who have opted for a VBAC, and I don’t fault them a bit for it, especially since I was so determined to have one. But for us, it’s simply a risk we do not want to take. Our doctor did not have to do any arm twisting to help us reach this conclusion. By nature, my husband and I are pretty cautious people, and the risks were just too much for us.
The likelihood of a uterine rupture is less than 1%, which sounds really small, unless you consider that it’s a baby we’re talking about. If your body and baby fall within that 1 in 100, it’s a huge statistic. And sometimes I feel like I fulfill statistics. For example, only 3% of babies will remain in the breech position at the end of pregnancy. My baby was one of those! And only about 3% of women continue to have morning sickness throughout pregnancy. Guess who gets to spend all of pregnancy vomiting? You guessed it: me (although currently I’ve gone 2 weeks without getting sick. Yay!). So I’d rather not play the statistics game. Of course the Lord is ultimately in charge of all of this, but after much prayer and thought on the situation, we don’t feel this is a risk He wants us to take.
I hope this post has answered many of your questions about our labor and delivery of choice. I think of this c-section similarly to the miserable iron pills I take on a daily basis. They give me reflux, which isn’t fun, especially when I’m trying to go to sleep. But I choose to take them because it’s what’s best for the baby and for my body. I don’t really want a c-section either, but we’ve chosen it because we feel that, while it may not be best for everyone, it’s best for us and for our baby.
This is the fourth post in a series called Oh Baby! I welcome any comments, questions, or thoughts you might have, even if you completely disagree with me on VBACs. Let’s just keep it respectful. Thanks! =)