Birth Envy

For the pass several weeks I’ve been finishing up my OB rotation which involves some quality time spent on deeper understanding of a process that I once thought I had already picked apart piece by piece – pregnancy.  Needless to say none of my pregnancies were normal by any definition.  If I could admit so, I was sometimes quite happy with how things transpired.  Obviously I could have done without all the dire diagnosis and nights of crying but when it came down to my birthing method, I was all too happy to accept the inevitable cesarean section.  I never once challenged my doctor’s decision.  His word was golden in my book.  Especially with my girlfriends all giving birth around me the natural way.

What’s wrong with the natural way you ask?  3 months prior to my cesarean, one girlfriend told me of her 36 hours of painful, and in her words, excruciating labor, only to be told she was not progressing and had to have a cesarean.  I remember only thinking, Oh my God, you poor thing! All that work, only to get cut in the end.  If anything, I believe in not wasting time.  Why bother laboring if it ends in a cesarean?  I was horrified at the thought.

Although that was nothing compared to my girlfriend who labored for 22 hours and delivered vaginally with an episiotomy, but still tore, to what I now know is a 4th degree laceration.  Read — all the way to the anus.  Yes, she tore, despite an episiotomy, thanks to her son’s big head, all the way to her anus.   She described weeks that led into months of painful urination and discomfort down there.  There was no way I was buying that a vaginal birth’s recovery was quicker and less painful than a cesarean section.

I happily went into the hospital on June 30th 2007 to deliver my baby girl.  I felt empowered by knowing all that was  to come.  There would be no surprises with my birth.  Never one to wait, and always one for instant gratification, I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  By morning’s end, my baby girl would be out of my body but into my arms.  I couldn’t wait!  My birth was so near perfect, it was almost abnormally so.  Hours following my surgery I was up and about.  I was so high on the birth of my child I experienced no pain at all.  No pain AT ALL!  I continuously turned away nurses and doctors with offers of pain medication.  They all kept chanting — don’t be brave, don’t be a martyr, take the meds.  I was not being brave, I was definitely not being a martyr for sure.  I was simply high on the birth of my first live baby.  I was arrogantly waving my painless cesarean like a flag.

It wasn’t until the birth of my son did I really consider the possibility of a normal delivery.  I was definitely curious but it was still faint in passing.  Once again, it wasn’t a choice for me to make.  A cesarean it was for my little guy.  It did lead me to wonder more about what a natural birth might be like.  Especially following when I was now experiencing what I called the most excruciating pain of my life.  No one told me until after I had my second cesarean that each subsequent one would be more and more painful.  Why do they keep such secrets from us? There wasn’t enough pain medication for the pain I was experiencing.  Although mostly predictable in process, my recovery time and pain was multiplied by leaps and bounds.  Considering I thought my first was painless, this was a rude and not welcomed awakening.  Perhaps my doctor also took my off the PCA (Patient Controlle Analgesic) pump within 24 hours but I didn’t care then, like I cared this time.  I was an angry postpartum mom.

So here I am today, hour by hour, picking apart the intricacies that make up a normal vaginal delivery and all I can think of is, Can I try this next time?  I think I’m ready now. I haven’t worked in labor and delivery yet, but I’ve been in the newborn nursery and worked with moms post-partum.  Tears were abound hearing their birth stories and I can imagine the overwhelming emotions I will feel watching a

vaginal birth.  I am giddy with anticipation.  Just to whet my palate I watched 3 episodes of born every minute and I cried through every single birth.  Each one so unique and beautiful.

I can’t pinpoint exactly what I was so afraid of, but all that aside, I know I feel, with eyes wide open, I’m ready for a vaginal birth.  BUT I CAN’T. You see, my last cesarean was the end result of weeks of preterm labor and during the procedure, my doctor found a uterine window.  I was moments away from a possibly deadly uterine rupture.  My doctor declared there would be only cesareans for my future children.  If it happens in one pregnancy, it’s highly probable to happen in subsequent pregnancies.

If luck be my friend on that front, a VBAC post second cesarean is so rare, you’d be hard-pressed to find a doctor who would be willing to take your case on.  I was further dismayed to find out if you’ve got (3) cesareans under your belt, you are often dropped by your practitioner if you choose to have another child.  The risks too overwhelming for them to take on.  Feeling quite dumb and ignorant, I now wistfully wonder if I should have pressed for possible vaginal deliveries.  Were they really necessary?  Maybe the second was, but was the first?  If only I knew the things I now know.  If only I wasn’t such a coward about birth.  Yes, I admit it — I was a coward.  All too willing to accept a diagnosis of cesarean birth.  While I’m not ready to cross that road again quite yet but I’ve definitely got a case of birth envy — Vaginal birth envy.