Over the last few years, I keep using the term “normal, low-risk VBAC” and I’ve found others have begun to use it as well. After all, isn’t less than 1% of a risk really a LOW risk of it? Especially if the actual risk of death or severe complication is even lower?
Evidently, It’s all in the eye of the beholder.
When I did searches for ACOG and defining what “high risk” means, there really isn’t any true definition. It’s like there is an imaginary line wherein doctors get the heebie jeebies and they call any risk a “high” risk. So where is this cut-off and why is this word so prevalent in our society when it comes to medical care?
I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. We’ve read the story online about some mother that we know had a completely unnecessary cesarean. Just reading the story, as some doctor forced her body to open, stretching her cervix or inducing for dates and not indication, as the vbac “fails”, we cringe. We wonder how she didn’t see the signs. We can’t help but think about the story, we can’t help but be angry for her, hurt for her, sad for her. Why is this happening to her? How we do we stop it as a society if we can’t help one another be supported? How do we protect ourselves and our daughters, from this insanity?
These emotions flood us.
So what I’m about to say is important.
Not long-term, not forever. You don’t have to stop warning women, stop talking to them, not using your voice as much as you can.
But in this moment. With this mom.
This postpartum, just had a baby, mom.
She is not in that space. She is not processing the bigger picture.
She is in her own place, needing empathy, hope, and lots of loving on her and her baby.
She needs to recover from surgery, she needs to meet her newborn and learn to know them, she needs to take some time as she wraps her head around what has happened to her.
I did this not long ago. I had to stop, apologize and get out of the conversation because I had wronged the mother involved. She should NEVER have had to deal with my angry outburst towards her doctor at 3-4 days out.
What I should have done was this:
-Congratulate her on her baby
-Told her how cute her baby was
-Told her I wished her recovery and peace and healing
-Reminded her that when she was ready to process her experience or ask questions, whether it was in 2 weeks or 2 years, I am here for her to listen to her and help her walk that path.
-When she chooses to talk, ask questions and listen and help her come to her own answers, not provide them for her but holding her accountable to her own journey.
-To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven-
#cesareanawarenessmonth Day 18
“Once a Cesarean, Always a Cesarean” never rings more true than when referring to a child’s birth. Even though a mother may later go on to have a vaginal birth or future healthy pregnancies, there is no way to step back into our footsteps in the snow and change that day in surgery. Sometimes, coping lasts a lifetime but there are critical moments in recovery in the first year that moms have to weave through and often, they are alone and unsupported. Most of the time, those close to them don’t even realize the impact of their words or actions, thinking they are sharing the moments with the new mother. On baby’s first birthday, many well-intentioned friends and family fail to see what is in front of them: a mother in mourning being forced into celebration.
A mom may ask herself if she’s even normal, because she feels so despondent or unwilling to plan birthday parties. She may throw herself into planning the biggest celebration possible, hoping it will drown all the pain out. The reality is, she often sees this is as the first anniversary of trauma. While not all cesarean moms view it this way, it’s important to understand how a mom could wind up in this emotional dilemma of baby’s birth vs mother’s birth experience.
Research shows that women remember their birth experiences for the rest of their lives. These stories impact not just today but the rest of their lives. A mother goes into labor and gives birth, remembering much of it while wrapped in the heightened sensations of labor. She remembers specific smells, looks, people’s faces and attitudes and words. As she goes into labor or is induced, she is often afraid of the unknown or even the known if this is not her first labor. She walks into the hospital and deals with strangers she is forced to trust at the most vulnerable time of her life. In some cases, she doesn’t really like her care provider or her nurses. Then, as labor continues, something changes and she labors longer and harder and suddenly, a cesarean. This isn’t what she prepared for, this is surgery. She is drugged, she is strapped down, and she is often throwing up. Sometimes, she is not even conscious, depending on the circumstances. Unable to help herself, she watches the ceiling as her body is cut open and her baby is taken away. Often, the obstetricians and nurses discuss their day or other clients or even football games. This event that was hers and personal becomes distracted and impersonal. Her baby is born and she gets a glimpse before having the baby removed, wrapped, and only a face and then gone to the nursery. There is no physical contact to solidify this bond between mother and child. There is no orgasm of love and completion in each other’s arms that is so tactile and important for every being. She is left alone with the staff, cleaned up and moved to recovery.
At this point, her husband or partner goes with the baby. They share joy, “Look at his hair! His fingers, his toes!” They call family and tell of joy in the new little person. His size, his weight, his features. They take cell phone pictures and post on Facebook or blogs. They are building a vision of love.
A year later, they share this vision. They talk over and over about the day he was born or the first moments they saw her. They are overwhelmed by the joy of that moment and they relish in it. “I was the first person to hold her!” a grandmother remembers. As they share these moments, the mother remembers, “Everyone held her but me. And when I finally got to hold her, it hurt so badly, I could barely move. “ They pass around pictures of baby’s first few moments, none of which include the mom except one, with an upside down baby’s face, wrapped tightly in a blanket, next to her head while she feebly smiles. She thinks to herself that even in that moment, she didn’t get to hold her baby or touch, skin to skin and feel the baby newness.
This is the reality of the first birthday. These flashbacks and moments where only the mother , and she alone, remembers and recovers her own experience. So how can someone help a mother in this situation? How can you, help yourself? Here are some tips on recovering at that first birthday:
The new mother needs you to hear her side of the story.
If you are the new mom, talk about the birth. Find someone you can share this with and just talk. Many women turn to online support at this time just to be able to get it out and share with other moms who get it.
It’s not only ok but normal to wonder things like, “Is this baby really mine?” or “I don’t feel like her mom, I didn’t give birth.” Many moms have asked themselves these questions. Accept for yourself that your child and you have moved past that day, even if you were not unaffected by it. The feelings surrounding the birth do not have to stop you from loving your child, bonding with them and helping you both to grow.
You have every right to feel however you want to feel. You do NOT have to dwell on feeling grateful that your child is alive or that your birth occurred the way it did. You have the right to feel questioning of the outcome and ungrateful for the way things happened.
Talk, paint, feel, write letters to the providers about your care. Write out your birth story in the way you wanted it to occur. Cry if you need to. Have a day for yourself, treating yourself well and celebrating your motherhood while allowing yourself the freedom to see the day as a multitude of different occasions that happened to different people at the same time.
You can ignore a child’s first birthday. The subtle way to do this is simple: Move the date. Make the party on a day that has nothing to do with the actual birth. Celebrate a half-birthday instead. You can still use a 1 candle at 1.5! You can have a small thing at home with just a cake and you and baby, celebrating together and being special in a way you were denied the first time.
All in all, treat this as if it were YOUR day. This is not simply a birthday, deserving of a Blue’s Clues cake smooshed by a happy baby. It is also the anniversary of a transition in your life that you deserve to memorialize in whatever way best suits your personal needs.
Would you like to share your story or ideas for surviving the first birthday?
#cesareanawarenessmonth Day 17
I wait every night for the inspiration to hit. Or I pick up conversations during the day to expound upon. Every one of these Cesarean Awareness Month posts so far has been based on a real woman’s story during the day or something I saw or read. Real.
Tonight, there is a mother out there, giving birth. I saw her picture, arms wrapped around her partner, in love, in trust, in support. Not in an operating room, not in surgery, not in recovery. In the arms of those who love her, pouring out that beautiful moment of eternity between one contraction and the next and staring into the eyes of her star-eyed newborn who blinks against the first dawn.
She is eternal in that moment, one with everything that Creates in this moment, the knowledge of coming back from the edge in her eyes.
That connection fires the one of motherhood, fires the one of protectiveness, of instinct, of bonding. Strength and overwhelming chemical cocktails run through your body and your brain.
She is amazing.
And even if it was hard-fought, long days into long nights. Against the grain. She is a warrior.
She is not “A VBAC”, she is being born into being a mother and what she is doing is normal. The goal is not the overcoming of risk but the righting of her universe on the keel of that journey.
No matter how your cesarean happened….you deserve the right to try.
You deserve the right to believe.
Your body. Your baby. Your birth.
#cesareanawarenessmonth Day 16
There is a difference.
A world of difference.
Between choosing a cesarean at need. In knowing that your baby needs to be born now, in this moment.
And being told you have no choice.
That it’s not your choice.
That it’s not your decision.
That you will give birth alone, give birth without the support and care you wanted,
The type of support and care you need, desperately, to bring a baby into this world.
There is a world of difference in the ice cold OR gripping you when the tears flowing down your face are ones of lack of options.
And the ones that say “thank god, they are here, and safe”.
There is a world of difference in a mother who wonders if she could have done something differently and a mother whose confidence is in that this baby needed this now.
There is a world of difference in being a strong, compassionate woman who looks down, daily, at her belly and thinks “I would do anything for you”
And that same woman being led down a hall, to a wheelchair, to be taken back, unwillingly and against every fiber of her being, knowing there is no reason, lying down on a cold table, looking up at the ceiling and thinking “I would do anything for you”.
#cesareanawarenessmonth Day 15
We all know that sex is an amazing thing.
It can be beautiful and powerful, exciting and enjoyable. We also know it can be something to do to make a partner feel satisfied or to fulfill a need even when we know that really isn’t where we are *at right at the moment.
We also know that sex can be a nightmare. An act of power and coercion. Used against us to further another person’s goals, whatever they may be. When a person we know and trust uses us in that way, we are left wondering how we wound up here. Date rape, coercion, force. How did we wind up here and why did it happen this way. We are left, not broken, but fractured and trying to put the pieces together.
Birth is an amazing thing. It uplifts. We give, we strive, we are overwhelmed in the moment, we feel powerful, excited, and finally, overjoyed. Sometimes, we know certain things have to happen in order to bring our babies here safely and we know that need and weigh it against our own and make the choices that we need to make, for the good of that one we love. We even know that respectful care can happen under these circumstances.
We also know that birth can be a nightmare, out of control, a trauma, with others forcing us to unneeded procedures, telling us we are killing our babies if we continue, or that we will harm them, that we are stupid for trying homebirth, that we are broken and unable to give birth, that our babies being born through our bodies will result in brain damage and death. When a person we trusted uses their power in that way, telling us an induction is our only choice, that we can’t VBA2C, selling us a cesarean that will be “gentle” rather than giving us relationship, trust and good care, when we are forced to accept a coerced cesarean, it twists us inside. We wonder how we wound up here when we were desiring of a normal birth, we are fractured into the mother who wants to celebrate her love and look into her little ones eyes and the mother in pain who only wonders why she wasn’t stronger, more capable, why her doctor or midwife were so incapable of giving good care without the unnecessary procedures.
We are not broken but fractured and trying to put the pieces together.
This isn’t all cesareans and not all providers but with a virtually 40% cesarean rate, we need to stop buying acceptance and giving in because our providers have the capability to use power over us. We would never tell our daughters to accept date rape, we should stop giving them the example of birth rape. No means no, not convince me by making it nicer.
#cesareanawarenessmonth Day 14
So what causes one woman to come forward, to educate herself, to change?
What quality makes her look for a provider that won’t do cesareans, looks for natural birth, looks for drug-free, look for VBAC?
What is that undefined quality that makes one person want more and another ask no questions.
There is so much more to the equation than race, education, monetary status.
I know women who have chosen unassisted, midwives, CNMs, obstetricians, elective cesareans, VBAC, or fought like hell to not be induced, have epidurals or pitocin and other women who welcomed them. I know women who are ignorant, educated, black, Latino, Hispanic, white, rich, poor, WIC, food stamps, teenagers, twenty year olds, thirties, IVF and surrogate and the good old fashioned way, just true diversity of it all the types of women that are “studied” and I don’t presume to speak for any of them or make assumptions on what made them create their reality.
What I want to know is what makes that SHIFT because that SHIFT needs to happen.
We need to change gears and we need to realize that our health and the health of our babies depends on that research, information, education, adaptation, understanding.
What shifted for you?
#cesareanawarenessmonth Day 13
We often think that there is a right and wrong, a low risk and a high one. We mistakenly leave the humanity and individualism out of the birthing process and judge those women who are willing to take on risks we would not, do things differently than we would. The Cesarean Prevention Movement was not born out of risk assessment but out of women, banding together to support one another. Choosing homebirths when no hospital would take them, travelling across country to help one another when needed, driving hours to find the right care provider, sacrifice and support. Those women that sat around a table, who answered letters, who wrote books, they were real women with normal lives who felt that other women needed every ounce of support they could get to help fight the injustice of forced repeat cesareans. So, what are you doing to help other women and are you doing it as support and service, or are you holding back those petty emotional judgments that some women are too at risk, too fat, too thin, too old, too young, that you know too much about their condition to be able to support them? Do you believe in them that they deserve the essential human right to their own health care, to try for a vaginal birth and make up their own minds about which risks are appropriate to them? I believe in you. Women are strong capable and amaze me daily, they cannot be summed up by a risk category in their efforts to bring forth the amazing. #cesareanawarenessmonth Day 12
A Comment From Facebook:
My grandmother had a VBAC in the early 60′s. She was never the kind of woman to have someone tell her what she could and couldn’t do with her own body. I see so much of her in my mother and sisters. I wonder if that determination is nurture or nature. Either way I am thankful to have that same attitude.
I know a midwife who had a surgical birth with her first, over 30 years ago. As she told me how Nancy Wainer sent her hand written info on VBAC her eyes just sparkled. Decades later and you could see she was still thankful for that support. Birth Day Midwifery Care has touched thousands of women by just sharing information with that one woman.
I had a lot of things on my mind to talk about for today’s CAM.
Really, it all walked out the door when a friend lost her husband.
So today, I want you to realize that when you look back on your life, did you birth in love?
Did the moment of birth, that stunningly amazing MOMENT make you go “wow” and stare into the eyes of your beloved and know your strength, your amazingness, your joy.
THAT is the message of the day.
And for all the mothers who will never do that, I understand and feel for your loss.
For all the mothers who stand a chance at doing that, fight for it tooth and nail and know that it is the most powerful moment in creation, the division of a dyad into two separate and whole new beings.
That kind of love is agony and will sustain you through everything because in that moment, it IS everything.
Give birth in love. No matter how you do it. Let go and feel the miracle.
#cesareanawarenessmonth Day 10
Cesareans affect real women.
Women who have cesareans, even planned ones, have higher rates of postpartum depression.
Women who have cesareans after laboring often have experiences of PTSD symptoms.
Mothers go home with babies they have irrational fears about, wondering deep down if they are really their babies.
They have higher rates of infertility, and higher rates of choosing to never have another child voluntarily reducing their fertility.
They go home and turn off the lights so their partners won’t see their bellies when they make love.
They carry “shelves” of fat over their scars that pilates can’t get rid of, depending on their surgeon’s care and skill of technique.
They are talked about like inanimate objects while on the OR table so their baby’s first moments are about football games and who is going where to do what and they carry that for life.
They have flashbacks from the drugs they are given during the birth.
They are told not to pick up anything more than a few pounds but must cope with toddlers at home and newborn babies they can’t lift.
If it’s bad enough, they get infections and then are blamed for being too fat, doing too much, not taking care of themselves.
Six weeks later, they go back to their surgeon and that surgeon will never see them again to discuss this birth, to discuss this event, to help them recover or to understand the reality of what has just occurred for her and her baby.
None of that is real to them because it is not what they do.
Liability fears should never trump real lives and the true impact of cesarean is not on whether or not a provider will get sued but whether or not a mother is made or whether her basic sense of being a mother is destroyed.
#cesareanawarenessmonth Day 10