C-Section Regret

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I've been asked IRL and via email if I have regrets that our labor experience wasnt what we wanted or planned. The short of it is... NO. The long of it... Well, we all know I can talk... :)

I think that preterm labor teaches you one huge thing: nothing is as important as getting the baby (or babies) here safely, be that by following your birth plan or not. With Nicholas and Sophia, I was really hung up on the "plan". We spent quite a few hours going over what we wanted, didnt want, etc, and I put together a nice little form thanks to an online software. Like all the books said, I carried it with me and planned on making several copies to give to L&D, etc. I'd even asked Dr B if he would look over it and sign off on it, which he agreed to do, after explaining that we should be prepared for emergencies where the plan wouldnt safely be able to be adhered to. But I was still loss-dumb so I couldnt even imagine that possibility. I mean, yesssss, I'd probably go into PTL (which I thought would be that beautiful 36 week mark) but otherwise, my pregnancy had been perfect, "textbook" was the word that often was thrown around, so what was to worry about!

And then I delivered Nicholas and birthplan be damned. Now, in retrospect, his labor was perfect, beautiful, natural, and at home. He gave me the birthplan we had thought of prior to knowing we were carrying twins and decided we wouldnt attempt a home birth. When I talk to him, I still thank him for such an experience. With Sophia, the last thing on my mind was a "plan"; I just wanted to carry her to that line-in-the-sand of 24w. That was my only "birth plan".

When we got pregnant with Alexander, I wasnt even thinking of a plan. We kept it simple: natural birth. That was it. No drugs and vaginal. Who cares about music and dim lights when you are just trying desperately to save your baby? I decided I could deal with the people and the hospital nonsense if it meant that we could save Alexander's little life. When I went into the hospital at 16w3d, I mentally dropped the plan in the wastebasket; I'd never even bothered to write one down let alone print one out. From that day on, the plan was simply "get another day".

We decided from the start with Bobby and Maya's pregnancy that we still wanted a natural birth, but we made no mention of a plan. The only plan was to try and stay pregnant, no matter the cost. Cerclage- no problem. Bedrest- no problem. Hospital Bedrest- no problem. Constant Monitoring- no problem. After losing our children, what was inconvenience? As the pregnancy wore on in the hospital, the nurses and I joked that the Universe "owed" us a natural birth after the hand we'd been dealt. When Maya turned from transverse to vertex, we cheered and told her to stay that way for the 36 week vaginal birth that was touted as our big goal. (Not a plan, mind you, a goal... See how the verbiage changes...)

When the doctors explained that a c-section would be THE way to go prior to 28w and their suggestion prior to 32w for the safety of the babies, again, we said 'no problem' because, in light of risks, there is no greater one than the health of the babies. At the time, the reasons why they wanted the c-section washed over me. I didnt want a cesarean. I didnt want a drugged out birth. I wanted to be able to hold my infants on my chest after a lovely quasi-full term delivery and nurse them. But more than that, I needed to know that everything possible had been done to keep Bobby and Maya safe, and that became the plan. Birth them safely, no matter what.

When I went into labor at 27w5d and our nurse gently explained that it couldnt be stopped and that we were delivering that Thursday evening, I knew that there wasnt going to be a vaginal birth. Knowing how much we wanted that, I appreciate that Dr M agreed to try if I dilated to 10 right away, judging that the babies would be small enough that *possibly* they wouldnt get hurt in labor if I was completely open. But I also knew that she, like we, werent willing to take any chances (she told me later that she knew Dr B would "kill her" if she let anything happen to the babies or us). She had told me when she came in that she believed 100% that a c-section would be the safest option to get the babies here quickly and as healthy as possible. And I trusted her. I knew that Dr B would say the same thing. And, at some point, you know that these people who have been with you every step of the way, who have mourned your losses and celebrated your triumphs and milestones, want nothing more than to give your babies the best chance possible. I knew that the second I heard that Dr M was in the parking garage, when the on-call doctor told me that he wouldnt do the section because she had driven back to the hospital. Any doctor who will cancel an event with their own child to come back for mine has more than just a paycheck in mind.

As the nurse who had admitted us and had been with the babies from the start of their hospital journey followed me from antepartum and held me during the spinal/epi told me that she wouldnt leave, I knew that we had yet another person who cared just as much for these babies as they could. That they werent just "another section delivery" but that they were Bobby and Maya. Whenever a question came up, she rattled off my medical history, what the babies had done that day and weeks before, what drugs I'd taken and when. I didnt feel like a clipboard or a patient; I felt like a friend who had a friend who cared so deeply for them that they knew the ins and outs of their life. Because she did. For those 50 days, she had taken in everything about me and the twins.

The plan was simple: birth safely. And while abdominal surgery wasnt what I'd hoped for, and while I loved my Bradley classes & books, and while I will always, always, ALWAYS advocate for natural pregnancies and births, the primary plan has to be safety for the baby/babies. It just has to be. Everything else is just a preference.

When I've been asked if I regret the cesarean, I can honestly say no. How could I? My babies are doing wonderfully. Was the c-section partially responsible? We will never know. Would a vaginal birth have given us the same outcome? Maybe. If they were doing poorly, would I blame the c-section? I'd like to think not, but I dont know. But I know that I cant waste the precious energy I have lamenting a birth experience that gave me two beautiful, safe, healthy babies. Not when I know so painfully what the other side could have been.

I feel fortunate that I was able to experience 5 very unique deliveries for 5 special babies. Nicholas gave us our natural home birth; Sophia gave us hard labor; Alexander gave us peaceful breech labor; Bobby was born with his bag intact via cesarean; Maya was born into this world when her breech legs kicked out of her water bag right as the cesarean started (and before her brother was removed). These are memories that I have of each of the children and I am glad they are all different so that it is something they have just for themselves.

If we are ever graced with another pregnancy, I hope to attempt a VBAC, but it will just be my preference and what we prepare for mentally and physically. But our primary goal will still be a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery, no matter the method. I think that thought is what saved me from the regret of not having the birth that I wanted and allowed me to see that the only thing I really wanted was safety for Bobby and Maya, a safety I couldnt give their siblings. The cerclage brought us a lot of safety and we choose to see the cesarean as an extension of that.

20 comments:

Leah said...

Life is all about perspective, and you have more perspective than most people I've "met." I suppose if a woman never struggled with keeping a pregnancy, she made be angry that a birth plan didn't go as planned. But all that you've been through, I guess all you can really hope for is two healthy babies. I'm so happy your babies are doing well. :-D

Donna said...

I agree with you 100%!!!

Right now - no matter what - a safe and healthy baby is all that I care about.

Jessica said...

Michele, you are so positive and your right....you go into it with a birth plan, but if something goes wrong I imagine motherly instinct kicks in and you gotta do what you gotta do to save your babies even if its not what you planned. You did the right thing. :)

sonja said...

This is such an honest post. I have someone at my work who got pregnant 2 months after trying and then was really judgmental about people doing anything other than all-natural-everything-no-matter-what during the whole pregnancy and even right up to the delivery. Then delivery came and they had to use drugs and be induced. He made up all these excuses for how it was the doctor's fault (I suspect because he was embarrassed for judging everyone else) but I am sure they did it for the safety of his wife and baby. It's instinctive. Pregnancy and delivery are so dependent on the situation. It would be great if everyone could have the perfect delivery, but you are right, what is most important is the safety of your babies. I am so glad you got to experience birth in many different ways, but I am also glad that you can feel no regret for making your decision to have a c-section. You are a mother and you will always choose what you feel is right for your babies' health and well-being.

AKD said...

Such a smart plan - the health of your babies is tantamount, and it's so awesome that you just put that first. Like you said, it's great to try and do "the plan" - but that's not always what God intended.

Missing Kasey said...

It seems like anytime you try to plan things go south. I am with you on your thoughts and take things day by day and as they come. I am glad that each of your children have left you good memories of them being born.

Holly said...

You're so right. All that really matters is that they get here safely.

sarah said...

Lovely post Michele.

Just Breathe said...

There is no doubt that healthy babies are the only concern. I think that in their fragile form that the c-section was best for Bobby and Maya.

I had an emergency section with my son and I had an asthma attack too.
I had to be in ICU for 24 hours. He was facing up, they had to do it. My daughter was a planned c-section, I was given no other choice. They were both full term.
I really wanted to experience a vaginal delivery. I wanted to be at home and say "honey it's time"!
But no regrets for having healthy children. I focused on the fact that I didn't have to be cut down there!!!

gwinne said...

Really interesting to read, as I completely understand where you are coming from and yet had such a radically different experience myself. I'm still angry about my c-section and probably will be until the day I die. Of course, the most important thing was LG was born healthy. But here's the thing...she wasn't in any immanent danger, and either was I. My doctor simply decided my labor--which was induced early, at her suggestion (women with APA have incresed risk of stillbirth after 38 weeks)--had gone on too long (at about 21 hrs). I'm glad that my c-section wasn't an emergency...but I feel like my birth experience was stolen from me.

Heather said...

Wow, you really explain this so beautifully. The babies are all that matter. I have learned from my experience not to be set on any particular plan, because we'll ultimately have to accept whatever comes our way.

Barefoot said...

Thanks for your perspective on this. I've been trying as I prepare for chilbirth to focus on the product more than the process, because obviously a healthy baby is the most important thing!

Lachlan's Mum said...

This is a really interesting post, thank you for sharing it. When Lachlan was born, I'd started thinking about a birth plan but hadn't finalized anything. My biggest fear was having too much intervention that would lead to an episiotomy or even worse, a c-section. I had no idea how much worse things could actually go. After reading all the books on natural childbirth, I ended up having a c-section under general anesthesia. I definitely feel robbed or having any sort of birth experience, since I wasn't even there and was unconscious. However, without the section, my son would have died. Then he died anyway. I don't regret having the cesarean, otherwise I never would have met my son while he was alive, but I do wish that things had been different and that he hadn't needed to have one. Going forward, I feel like a VBAC would be healing for me, but I'm just so scared of losing another baby that I don't know if I can trust my body anymore. I just want an alive, healthy baby, however they come out. I guess I'll see how I feel once I actually do get pregnant again!

Sarah said...

This is a beautiful post. I agree with you 100% and am SO glad you are at peace with your birth.

I'm also a natural birth advocate, but yes, health of the baby(ies) and then mom, is the #1 concern always.

Simbelmynë said...

Healthy babies are key. I know after my c-sec, I had regrets, but it was all overridden by the healthy, beautiful girl who might not have been OK if we'd chosen differently.

one-hit_wonder said...

You do have a beautiful perspective on things, and this post brounght tears to my eyes (especially this line: "From that day on, the plan was simply 'get another day'.")

one-hit_wonder said...

I can't e-mail you via your link because I don't have Outlook Express. Maybe I'll set up an e-mail account and post it here for you to e-mail me?

Also, I can't possibly have you pay for the shipping! I'm sure it'll cost a pretty penny to ship a box to Canada. At the VERY least, I'd like to make a donation to our children's hospital in your name!

Paula said...

You have a great perspective.

I had planned on a vaginal birth although had no intention of going natural. In the end I ended up with an emergency c-section but since I had a line in for the epi I was able to be awake which was awesome.

NancinaT said...

I loved reading your post as well as the comments above. I too fell in the trap of having the perfect birth plan and having it go south. I was sooo against an episiotomy--who knew I'd end up with a c-section instead?

But in the end I got a healthy baby, and really, that should have been my whole birth plan all along.

MoDLin said...

This is a really important post. The way you write and your attitude are so clear. Thanks so much for bringing into focus what's most important - a healthy baby.