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The Necessary C-Section

By Robin Aronson |

How'd you get here?

Let me be clear: I think the C-section rate is much too high.  When it comes to childbirth, a woman should be able to have a vaginal birth.  Like John, I know that C-sections can be complicated.  Like Danielle, I wouldn’t elect to have a Cesarean section.

But I had a C-section when I had my twins. And even though it’s major surgery, it went very smoothly. I was up and about in a day and my overall recovery was  pretty easy.

And, there’s this: the C-section probably saved my life and my daughter’s. Who knows if my son would’ve made it if I didn’t, I’m glad we didn’t find out.  Why did I need that C-section?I had a complication called placenta previa.  Actually, it was a partial previa, which means that a section of my daughter’s placenta overlapped with my cervix.  Since the placenta delivers blood to the fetus, during childbirth, as the cervix opens, heavy blood loss for mother and child can result.   While I was pregnant, I was writing a pregnancy book, a holistic pregnancy book, and for it, I interviewed many people, including a midwife.  As we sat over tea, I told her I had a previa.  “Well,” she said, “then at least that decision is made.”

I didn’t really doubt that the previa would mean I’d have a scheduled C-section, and after trying to get pregnant for a good long time, I couldn’t let myself get too invested in the birth experience. I felt plenty lucky enough to have a pregnancy experience.  And still, I hoped.

I asked my yoga teacher if there was anything I could do about the previa, since sometimes what looks like a previa early on turns out to be simply a low lying placenta. Could I nudge the placenta over?  She is a very, very senior yoga teacher and gave me a sequence to do which involved a lot of inversions.

“Is it OK to do headstands?” I asked my doctor at 22 weeks.  He just looked at me and said, “I’ll let you decide.”

I stopped at 24 weeks.  But I still took a private Bradley birth preparation class, just in case the unthinkable happened and the previa moved and both kids turned head down (one was breach, the other transverse) and I could try a vaginal birth.  During the Bradley class I had a few days when I felt simply sad that I wouldn’t even get to have a contraction, and I’m grateful I did, have that sadness, I mean.  But, also being slightly oppositional by nature, I couldn’t help but poke a little fun at how earnest our instructor was about birth, never mind pacifiers.  I appreciated her passion, it just wasn’t mine.

I’ll admit to having had a few VBAC fantasies (not that I’m having a baby, but a girl can dream), to feeling a stab of jealousy when my sister-in-law described the elation she experienced at the physicality of birth, but I can’t knock the necessary C.  One of my oldest friends is a home birth midwife.  Her line is this: “If you want to talk natural childbirth, then you’ve got to talk death because in nature that happens during childbirth.  The point is to be fully present during your birth experience, and to accept what it is you need.”

I’m glad to be here to hear that.

What was your birth experience like?

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Robin Aronson

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13 thoughts on “The Necessary C-Section

  1. Nicky's mom says:

    I got my wish with a natural vaginal birth. Luckily there were no complications that necessitated any interventions. But lots of women have legitimate complications that make c-section the safest option. Clearly there are too many unnecessary c-sections in the US, but I imagine that women who had necessary c-sections feel caught up in the anti-caesarian movement. Having a c-section isn’t wrong when its the safest option for mom and baby.

  2. Marjorie says:

    Great post, Robin.

    We put so much pressure on ourselves (I did it with crazed determination to have a drug-free childbirth and to nurse for a year — it took me a long time to let go when things didn’t go exactly as I wanted) — it’s so sad. Yes, the c-section rate is too high. But no one should guilt herself (or be guilted by clueless, judgmental others) for a medically necessary and lifesaving c.

  3. Robin Aronson says:

    Indeed. And thanks!

  4. Samantha says:

    I read recently that cesareans account for 1/3 of US births. That’s too high to me. I’m 23 weeks pregnant myself and will need a c-section. I have a heart defect and epilepsy so labor is very dangerous and there is a high possibility I wouldn’t make it. I feel “cheated”, if you will, but it is necessary and in the best intrest of me and my baby (not to mention my husband).

  5. Ktbugs says:

    What it always comes down to is the health and safety of the little one(s).

    I had a c-section because Charlotte, my little one was frank breech.

    Besides – who *wants* that scar and the nearly automatic pouch you get right above it. Good bye Briefs, Hello Control Top Granny-Panties.

  6. Robin Aronson says:

    Agreed healthy mom and baby are most important, but it’s also helpful to acknowledge the more complicated feelings that go along with a C-section esp when its necessary.

  7. Rosana says:

    I guess technology has given people the false sense of certainty that many people count of these days. As moms or moms to be, the first thing we need to understand that we need to prepare ourselves ahead of time for things, but we need to also prepare ourselves to deal when things do not happen the way we want. We it comes to labor we should always have Plan A= vaginal birth (if it is even an option) and Plan B= C-section.
    I have had two vaginal births but I although the thought of a C-sections scares me, in the back of my mind, I know that is an option if needed. I think low self-esteem and the feeling of failure are the engines behind the this vs that battles that we moms have to face. Just make sure you do your research to learn about birth and to let go when needed, believe me it will be the same after the kids are born, you have to learn when to keep your expectations and when to let go :)

  8. Gretchen Powers says:

    of all the things a person SHOULDN’T feel guilty about, having a C-section is way up there…I mean, even if it could have been avoided with different birthing environments/techniques, it’s certainly not the mother’s *fault*, and it’s sometimes just how things go…

  9. Claire Reiner says:

    My son was acynclitic and got stuck behind my pubic bone while I was pushing. I pushed for 3 hours after 44hrs hard labor. I had planned for a completely natural birth for my entire pregnancy and ended up with a c section. My uterus was so exhausted from laboring for so long, it failed to contract after I was stitched up. They had to fix it with and emergency surgery an hour later. I lost a ton of blood and almost lost my uterus and possibly my life. I mourned the loss of my natural birth experience for months. It sent me headlong into post partum depression. After a while, I came to terms with it. Is it what I had planned? No. Had I done everything I could to have a natural birth? After 44 hours of labor, 3 hrs of pushing and vacuum assistance, I’m pretty confident I did. Did I have an amazing, beautiful, healthy boy, even though he came out “the wrong way”? Absolutely. While I think that the anti-section movement is great for keeping women aware that their bodies are meant to have vaginal births, it also does a lot to guilt women who just couldn’t do it. I lost out on some bonding time with my newborn when I was too depressed to be fully present with him. I felt like I had failed. Now I have dreams of VBAC for his future siblings birth and I remain thankful to be alive and able to have more babies. If you’ve had a section due to circumstances beyond your control, cut yourself some slack!!!

  10. Leanne says:

    I think there is a mis-perception that those who work towards safer birth conditions in the US (and beyond) frown on c-sections on mass. Nothing could be further from the truth. Thank goodness for OBs with their excellent surgical skills. Thank goodness for hospitals who provide care for the sick. When a woman has a medical need, surgery is awesome and amazing and noone would wish it didn’t exist. It’s when we use surgery as a routine mode of delivery that is shown to have negative effects on women and their children that health advocates start to get skeptical over surgical birth because even when they save your life, they are still a dangerous procedure with serious, even tragic, consequences.

    In my experience, planned c-sections seem to be fairly easy, on the whole, to recover from. C-sections after a moderate to lengthy labour tend to be more difficult and lengthy recoveries. This could be a reason why some women have a harder time processing a surgical birth after they have been labouring for many hours with the hope of a physiologically normal birth.

  11. Robin Aronson says:

    women need to have more choices in birth and feel more empowered. the process shouldn’t be controlled either by doctors or by those who say any medical intervention corrupts the experience. if you can manage to have a birth where you feel emotionally present and supported that’s the key to whatever kind of birth you have–that’s what a doula can do for you, or a dear friend, or even your romantic partner–be there with you so you the laboring woman can focus on what you’re feeling and know that you’re not alone…..and it’s true, we all need to go a little easy on ourselves on the birth front

  12. FloridaNavyMommy says:

    What is most important, and said multiple times in your post, is that it’s more important that you and your babies are fine. C-sections are a wonderful thing if you need them. There IS medical necessity for them, especially when it saves both Mom and baby. It just makes me sad when there ARE people that elect for it, without any need for it at all. It’s such a touchy subject though, some people get very heated on the topic.

    Honestly, both my pregnancy and my labor was a nightmare.
    I ‘developed’ severe preclampsia, despite the fact that I had been telling my doctor for more than a month that something wasn’t right, and I didn’t think the extreme swelling and pitting in my legs wasn’t normal. On my very last day of work before my maternity leave (how ironic) the hospital called for me to go in and have my blood pressure taken. Of course I start to panic, and when I get there, they tell me they want me to stay for the night.

    Less than an hour and a half into the ’24 hour’ urine test, they tell me that they are going to induce me. I was almost a full month away from my daughter’s SAFE date, not even her due date.

    To make things worse, in this military hospital, I couldn’t call long distance. My family is in Maine. With so much military from OTHER places, I do NOT understand that concept. Sure, they save money, but I would have liked to talk to my family. Which, with my husband being deployed less than two weeks before they induced me and not having ANY way to contact him, I was beside myself.

    I was so sure I was going to have a natural birth with my daughter. I have a high tolerance for pain.. unfortunately the pitocin paired with them manually trying to pry my cervix open (which was agonizing as it wasn’t even make-believe ready for it) I ended up getting the epidural… Which, wasn’t until my second day in the hospital bed.

    I still don’t like the concept of starving mothers that are preparing for birth. Sure, they can throw up, but I had spent most of my pregnancy tossing my cookies. What’s one more time? I hadn’t eaten before work the day they induced me, and two days into this thing, I could barely pretend to be awake.

    Enter magnesium sulfate. The doctor scolded me and called me bullheaded. I didn’t want it. I had never looked up on it, because I didn’t have time before I went in for the induction, and I didn’t think I -would- get an induction. She didn’t tell me a darn thing about what it would do to the baby, and just said ‘you’ll feel like crap’ to me. As though lying in that crappy hospital for days, already swollen from all of the iv fluid and hungry and uncomfortable isn’t feeling like crap.

    So they gave me that too. It was like my first trimester times ten. After a while, I really did stop paying attention. I couldn’t focus. I don’t remember anything on my daughter’s birth. At all.
    I’ve been told the first things I said, and that the actual pushing labor part was 19 minutes and 6 pushes, but I don’t remember. I was told I argued with the doctors when they said I wasn’t ready to push the baby out, apparently I knew. And I was right.

    Thankfully, I didn’t need a c-section, and didn’t stupidly ask for one to end the torture that was the induction. There was very little staff there that was kind. Just the nurses that took my readings, which I had a blood pressure monitor strapped to me the ENTIRE time, as well as something on my finger for my heart rate.

    I had to stay in the hospital another week, which thankfully for that, was NOT because baby was sick; quite the contrary. I was incredibly lucky and she was perfectly healthy, but I was not recovering well. The magnesium sulfate continued to deteriorate my health, and I had to BEG, and I do mean beg, for them to take me off of it. I was on that stuff for almost three days. I should never have to beg a doctor to take me off of something when I know it’s making me feel worse. I’m no doctor, but the reason I had been sick wasn’t inside of me anymore.

    I won’t have another child. I know there are lots of women that really do struggle to get pregnant, but I’m afraid if I did it a second time, I’d be without my husband and family again, or they would mess up and one of us wouldn’t make it.

    If my husband wants more children, I am for adoption. There are so many children that NEED love in their lives.

    And thus starts his and my heated debate on one of us getting ‘fixed’, which he does NOT want to do.

  13. Laura says:

    I had c-sections with both of mine due to cervical stenosis, which occurs when some type of trauma to the cervix causes it to be unable to dilate. I was induced and had water broken in an all day affair in an attempt to have my first, but to no avail. I went straight to the section with my 2nd and thank god for that because we didnt know how big she was and she was 10.5 lbs! However, i was glad to have c-sec both times because i am one of those women who was absolutely terrified of having a vaginal birth. I had absolutely no desire to go through that. Never did have that desire. I just knew because of my skin and my smallness…down there…that i would have had a mangled mess between my legs if i went the vag route. A lot of women cant believe i wud not want to experience the beatiful vag birth experience, but i just tell those ppl to shut it and go finish their granola. I am lucky and dont get too much flack about having a section because it was for medical reasons, but i did get some looks that were quickly changed when i told them my very personal reason for having them. Most ppl get awkward when u drop the word cervix in conversation. And let that b a lesson to those of u who like to jump on ppl for their choices…you might just get more info than u want in return.

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