It’s the biggest lesson I can continue to try to learn. It’s what I keep telling myself. My first wonderful daughter was born in December 2011. I wanted a natural birth. I took the Bradley Method, saw midwives, ate right, exercised, did yoga. I went into labor on a Saturday, on my own, before baby was due. I labored at home for days. I never had normal labor patterns and the midwives kept telling me to stay at home, that I wasn’t ready to come in. I had terrible, painful back labor.

Finally by Tuesday morning,  after three days of no normal contraction patterns, and no sleep or rest, I begged my husband to take me in.We got to the hospital and my midwife was the one on call. Awesome! She checked me. “I have delivered thousands of babies and I can count on one hand the number of women who have come in completely dilated. You are at 10cm! Let’s go have a baby”. I was shocked. I wasn’t ready. Really?

That was around 10am. We got a room and signed paperwork and were told to start pushing. I didn’t have the urge to push. My contractions spaced apart – they were never the “text book” 4 minutes apart, anyway, at any time through labor. We were told to walk the halls to get contractions started again. We did. We came back in and were told to push. I pushed and pushed, with people telling me maybe I wasn’t pushing right. No one could see the head. I got into different positions. My water broke. Still, no head, no baby. Then the threats came. “We will have to transfer you to labor and delivery if you don’t make any progress”.

What? There wasn’t much I could do differently – I was pushing with all my heart!! But no station change happened. No progress on our baby’s position.

I don’t know what time it was. Maybe 4pm at this point. I was transferred. They recommended a C section. I refused. They said they could reach in and turn the baby because the baby was mal-positioned. But I should get an epidural because it will be painful. I consented. The doctors said they turned the baby. I could push again.

I couldn’t feel the contractions so the nurse told me when to push. The doctors checked again after 45 minutes. Still no progress, no station change. My heart sank. I cried. I was exhausted. I must have fallen asleep after signing the paperwork. We went into surgery. It was rough. Our baby was stuck. Pushing, pulling, sweating doctors. “I can’t get the baby out”. I didn’t know what was happening. Finally, they got her out.

A girl!! My husband cried and cried-tears of joy – we both wanted a girl!! I saw her but couldn’t connect with her. I was too worried about myself to understand I was now a mother. There was lots of talk of an injury. Urology had been paged but they were on lunch or something. They needed to do a tracing to look for a bladder injury. Finally, after quite some time, they got to work , figured it out, and closed me up.

I went to recovery and my daughter breastfed like she was supposed to – I had learned a lot in the Bradley Method  and the classes I took on breastfeeding. We went to a room. We slept. We were all exhausted! I told my family the news. Then the doctors told me the news.

They gave me a “never labor” letter. I had an inverted T incision on my uterus. My baby girl had been posterior and wedged in my pelvis. Too dangerous to ever labor in the future because of the chance of uterine rupture. I was shocked and then devastated. I cried, a lot. I talked to social workers. I talked to my midwife. She thought the baby’s station had changed once they turned her. That was not helpful to me. My dream of having a natural birth had vanished forever.

People told me I should be thankful for a healthy baby, that I needed to think about her needs and not what had happened to me. I couldn’t accept that. I had nightmares. I cried to my husband to just make the memories of the birth disappear. I had trouble connecting with my daughter.

But my daughter made sure we would connect! She breastfed…a lot! She cried…a lot! It took time to accept what had happened. I joined ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network). I found a group of women who had unusual Cesarean scars like mine. I got my operative report. I read the literature and got informed. I found the support I needed and the resources I needed.

I got pregnant again when my first daughter was around 2. I saw a high risk obstetrician because of my scar and my age. I told him I was considering VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean). He told me the facts and the risks, plainly. I considered it all throughout my pregnancy and I did my research. The recommendation was repeat planned Cesarean at 37 weeks for the safety of me and my baby.

I hired a doula, I did positioning exercises, I took care of myself. As the end of the pregnancy approached, I considered my options. I knew that I was in control of the situation. It was my choice. I had prodromal labor and it scared the hell out of me. Prodromal labor occurs when your uterus contracts for hours and it can come and go, sometimes for days. I was too scared to risk a rupture of my uterus because of my T-shaped scar. I made my decision and continued my pregnancy to 40 weeks and went in for a scheduled Cesarean section.

I mourned the loss of my dream of a natural labor and birth. I cried for days leading up to the day of my scheduled Cesarean. I cried as we waited a very long time for the surgery. I tried to make the best of the situation and I joked with my doula and the nurses. And then, I met my baby.

The surgery still sucked, but it was different than my first surgical birth. We had discussed with everyone our wishes for a family centered C-section. And we got most everything we asked for. My husband and I announced the sex. The curtain was lowered so I could see my baby emerge. My husband cut the cord after the surgeon milked it. We tried for skin to skin contact but I was shaking too badly from the anesthesia. She latched onto my nose.

The surgery still took a while. My uterus was a mess. Scar tissue “obliterating” the lower segment. They had to do a mid-transverse incision. The incision then extended down the midline of my uterus through the old scar. It was a sign that my old scar was weak. The decision I had made to have a repeat cesarean was likely the right one.

In recovery, they handed me my beautiful baby. It was the instant bond! I was so happy! She looked just like her sister. Recovery was so much easier. I was home in no time. Not being able to pick up my toddler was hard, but I was doing well. I cried, but only a little. I mourned the loss of my natural birth, but I was in love!

I have been to therapy. I have started support groups. I have talked with my doula, husband, friends late into the evening. I have had the sadness hit me out of nowhere, while at work, out for a walk, listening to the radio. IT WASN’T MY FAULT. I DID NOTHING WRONG. Sure, I could have been to a chiropractor, I could have been at a free standing birth center, I could have had a home birth. With a more skilled midwife, things could have been different the first time around. But I couldn’t have known all these things before I had my first child. And the way she was born affected how my second entered into the world. I could have had a VBAC – after all, my second was in a good position when they pulled her out. or I could have had a ruptured uterus. No one will ever know. Our duaghters’ births still sadden me because of what I had to give up and let go. It stings a little when I hear about natural births. I worry that my girls will be affected by the fact that they were born by C-section, that their health has been compromised even while they thrive.

But I cannot go back and change the past. I can only live now and try to be the best mom I can be. I can try to form a strong bond with them both. I can work to improve natural birth in this country. I can advocate for what should be every woman’s right. And sometimes, I can remind myself that maybe they both actually NEEDED to be born the way they were. That C-sections aren’t always bad. That sometimes they save lives and make for healthy babies.

Like my husband told me, four years ago when we decided to have kids, we decided we wanted children, not natural childbirth. It doesn’t take away the pain, but it is such a good reminder to me. I love him. I love my girls. I hated the way my children came into the world. But each day, I give myself the right to feel that way, while trying to love myself. That’s really all one can do.
Written By Phaedra Edited by Liza Janda

P.S. From Phaedra:

The challenge in contemplating what to do about the birth of my second child, in addition to my higher risk of rupture, was the fact that I really wanted to be present for the birth. I wanted it to be less traumatic. I knew there was a risk of emergency surgery if I tried for a VBAC and that it could entail being put under completely, having a tougher recovery, not having immediate bonding with baby. I think it’s something most VBAC mama’s contemplate: take the chance on a VBAC and emergency C or plan a C that has the elements that you want it to have.
For me, I talked with 3 different VBAC friendly doctors (the most VBAC friednly dr’s in the county) and no one was supportive of my TOL. Rupture rate quoted as high as 15%. So, the decision for me was maybe a little bit clearer.