Before we head in to this topic, I want to note that birth is a really sensitive, personal subject for a lot of people. Lots of women have strong feelings about the kind of birth they want to have and that’s totally okay. I’m just sharing my own feelings and experiences with choosing to have a scheduled c-section and I hope not to be judged for the choices we’ve made.
My First Birth – An Emergency C-Section
At my first OB appointment with Ben, my doctor asked me “What kind of birth do you want to have?” I answered immediately (and half-kidding), “Painless”. She laughed and assured me that probably wasn’t going to happen but she’d do her best. My loose plan was to get an epidural ASAP upon arrival at the hospital and have a vaginal birth.
I also didn’t want to write an elaborate birth plan, take a bunch of breathing or birthing classes, or get my heart too set on any one thing. Stuff happens and I wasn’t going to set myself up to be disappointed if things didn’t work out how I’d hoped. Good thing because they sure didn’t.
If you’ve been around here for a while, then you know that when I had Ben I had a placental abruption. The chance of a placental abruption is a normal pregnancy is about one percent. I had none of the risk factors; not a single one. Just so you don’t have to google, those risk factors are: cocaine use, smoking, being over age 35, high blood pressure, multiples pregnancy, and of course, traumatic injury.
So like I said, I had none of the risk factors and it still happened to me. I am the one percent (lol but not that one percent).
It’s a weird thing trying to be chill now when reading about possible birth complications or things that can happen to our child. It feels like if I’ve already been the one percent once, isn’t it unlikely that something with a low probability would happen again? It just seems like lightning wouldn’t strike the same place twice.
But I also know that I absolutely can be that one percent. I had a perfectly healthy and normal pregnancy, until I didn’t. My doctor and I even joked that I was her most boring patient to which she always said – “That’s a good thing”. It was just a wild ride at the end there.
How I Feel About My Last C-Section
I never thought I’d have a c-section. Never. My Mom, Stepmom, and best friend hadn’t had one. I was in good physical shape – I ran a half marathon at 14 weeks pregnant! I figured my body was all set to do its thing naturally. That didn’t happen and I feel fine about it.
Truthfully, I didn’t think recovery was that bad. I think this was in part because I was in physically pretty good shape combined with the fact that I was so distracted by my baby being in the NICU, I didn’t notice my own pain.
Since Ben was not physically with me (he was two floors down in the hospital), I had to get up to go see him. Talk about motivating! They say you recover faster if you get up and walk and I sure did that, no question. I walked to the elevator, rode it two floors down, and then stood at his incubator for hours. I only recall a few instances of being in significant pain (usually involving sitting up, not actually walking). So yeah, I don’t have horrible painful memories of my own physical recovery and maybe that’s clouding my judgement here or maybe my body just did a great job at healing for me (thanks bod!).
Also, the end result was the same: a baby. It does not effect my life at all on a day-to-day basis that I had a c-section instead of a natural birth. It also does not effect Ben’s daily life. I honestly rarely think about it.
What My Doctor Said About VBACs
I talked to my doctor about it extensively at my first OB appointment this time around. Even given my history, I was still a candidate for a VBAC if I really wanted one. She’d let me try.
In my case they very much view the placental abruption as a one off. My risk this pregnancy is now 10% because I’ve now had a placental abruption before. They don’t really know how this would effect my chance of a successful VBAC but it wouldn’t be considered more dangerous, in my case.
She also noted that I should consider how many children we want to have. She said any more than three c-sections is not great so if we were planning on having a large family, she’d be more likely to encourage me to try for a VBAC.
I saw another doctor from our practice at one appointment and one of the things he mentioned that would be in the “pro” column for a c-section is that there are less possible complications for the baby. N and I had never thought of that so it was something to consider.
The one thing my doctor did say is that I need to take how I feel about birth into account. She’s had many women who felt that they’d missed out on a huge thing by not being about to have any vaginal births. There are plenty of women who are deeply disappointed when they have to have a c-section instead of the vaginal birth they were hoping for. Growing humans and birthing them is a huge physical thing, but it’s a huge mental thing as well. My doctor wanted me to consider my mental health.
Of note, this birth is the tipping point. Once I have two c-sections, I probably wouldn’t be a candidate for a VBAC if we have another child. She asked me if I thought I’d be disappointed if that was something I never experienced. Would I?
She also mentioned that the chance of a successful VBAC is usually about 60-80%. So if I did go ahead with a VBAC, how disappointed would I be if it didn’t work out?
VBAC vs. Scheduled C-Section? A Decision
We decided to just go forward with a scheduled c-section. It was an easy decision for me. I’m not a person who feels strongly that I’ll miss out on this big, womanly thing to not have given birth naturally.
Mentally, the idea of trying to do something that will be physically super challenging for my body (labor) only to feel like I’ve failed and then have a major surgery…it’s not something I desire enough to risk those physical and mental repercussions.
In some ways I’m choosing the known over the unknown. I know my doctor will probably be the one who delivers our daughter. I know her birthday will probably be December 6th. In some ways it feels like the exact opposite of Ben’s birth. It’s comforting to be given the gift of knowledge and choice this time around.
I had zero choice in my first birth – if I hadn’t had the c-section (possibly, when I did) Ben would have died. There were no options presented to me and I had zero time to prepare. But you know what? The end result was the same – a baby. I have a healthy, happy kid because the doctors and nurses acted quickly and I’m grateful. I don’t feel like I missed out.
As an aside, the thing I do feel like I missed out on is the normal coming home from the hospital, first few hours/days with your baby stuff. Having a baby in the NICU for any amount of time is rough and that is a part of my previous birth that I’d like to avoid at all costs. Mentally getting past that and what I’d imagined our first moments/hours/days as a family would be like (I never imagined an incubator, CPAP machine, tubes, wires, etc.) was much harder than getting over not having the vaginal birth I’d planned on.
I know having a natural birth would be an incredible experience. A little part of me will always be envious of the women who got to experience that. But for me, having a scheduled c-section is the right choice and I’m grateful that it’s one I get to make.