I never imagined myself birthing naturally. I used to fantasize that the anesthesiologist would greet me at the doors of the hospital with a needle and a shot of gin. I loved the idea of an epidural, of not having to feel pain and getting the chance to birth without screaming four-letter obscenities to strangers and family members.
And that was my plan.
But two weeks before my first baby was born, my OB/GYN told me that there was a very high chance I would need a C-section due to scar tissue formed from a pre-cancerous cryo procedure I had done in my early twenties.
It was time for a new plan.
That was okay, I didn’t mind. A C-section it would be.
But that plan didn’t sit well with many of my friends. Many moms who had birthed vaginally said things to me like, “Oh they don’t know the techniques that midwives know” or “They’re only doing that to bill insurance for more money.”
I tried not to let their opinions influence me, but that’s impossible when you are already terrified about birthing and becoming a mother. You look to more experienced mothers for advice. You instantly trust that they know more than you do.
So I questioned my OB/GYN. I told her that I didn’t want a C-section, that I wanted to try a vaginal birth. She was extremely hesitant, explaining the dangers and asking me questions. But I kept at it.
I kept hearing the voices of all the mothers who told me what I should do. And the doubt in my ability to know what was right for me grew and grew.
But when I went into labor, they were wrong. So wrong, that not only could my child have died, but me as well.
After 12 hours of laboring every two to five minutes, seven of those hours without an epidural because I wasn’t dilated enough, my doctor finally walked in the door, a look on her face I had never seen before.
“You aren’t dilating past three centimeters,” she said. “Your baby’s heart rate is dropping, as well as yours. If we don’t get this baby out, you both are in serious danger.”
She didn’t have to say more. I knew what happened if a person’s heart rate dropped. I knew the brain damage, the lack of oxygen, all the consequences that could happen. I knew because she told them to me in her office two weeks before. I just believed others over her. Over myself.
I nodded and told her I was ready for the C-section.
It wasn’t about anyone else in that moment. What mothers would say about why or what judgments I would receive. It was about saving my child and my own life. That choice was the easiest one I had ever made.
Thirty minutes later, I held my daughter in my arms. My tired, exhausted, drained arms. And I realized something.
As a parent I would be pushed and pulled by all kinds of people. And it was up to me, in all my confusion and uncertainty, to do what I felt was right. To believe in my ability to make a decision, even if it wasn’t the right one for someone I cared about and valued.
When it came time to birth my second child, there was no question. I walked into the hospital, ready and sure of what was waiting for me (though I still hoped someone would give me a shot of gin). I didn’t ask anyone what I should do, didn’t poll other mothers about VBACs and natural birthing. I signed the papers for my C-section and soon after held my son.
I held him knowing that I had made the right choice for me.