Before I became pregnant, I thought Cesarean sections were performed only in the event of a true emergency.
But when I began researching labor and birth, I found out that the rate of C-sections in the U.S. is more than double the World Health Organization’s recommendation.
As I began to learn more, I heard horror stories from women who were pressured to have C-sections to stay on the hospital's schedule. I also read about all the potential complications from the surgery and even came across information stating that a C-section could harm the chances of bonding with my baby. I was terrified.
Around this time, I was also taking note of research that backed up the benefits of vaginal birth — including that a baby coming through the birth canal receives the many benefits of the mother's microbiome that a C-section baby does not.
I wanted to avoid a C-section at all costs.
Preparing For a Natural Birth ... Or So I Thought
Years ago, Dr. Christiane Northrup’s book Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom transformed how I regarded my body as a woman, especially in terms of having a baby. Birth is intense, yes. But it’s also a natural process which, in most cases, our bodies were designed to do all on our own.
I thought there was just no way I'd need a C-section. After all, I took meticulous care of my health, I was in terrific shape, and despite some of the standard discomforts, I had a perfectly healthy pregnancy. I even stuck to my regular Iyengar yoga class until 36 weeks.
So I opted for a natural hospital birth, hired a doula and created a birth plan. I felt both excited and nervous. As a new mother-to-be, I didn’t know just what to expect, but I had armed myself with so much information that I was convinced I wouldn't need a C-section.
And then my due date came and went.
My doctor proposed inducing labor that week. Knowing my pregnancy was otherwise healthy, and that induction would increase the risk of C-section, I lobbied successfully for a second week.
Then two weeks past my due date came and went. I began losing amniotic fluid, enough to convince me that, at 42 weeks, it was indeed time to induce.
With the induction, an unmedicated birth was now off the table. But I was still ready to do whatever it took to avoid a C-section.
We began the induction on a Saturday night. About 46 hours later, I had undergone the full gamut of interventions: the epidural, the pitocin, and too many others to mention. By the time I was finally pushing, I had spiked a fever and IV antibiotics were also added to the mix.
At this point not only was I exhausted, but I also became overwhelmed with the sense that something was truly wrong. Surrounded by my husband, doula, nurses, medical residents, and all of the personnel who had worked alongside me over the past two days, I told the attending doctor who was coaching me along that this needed to stop.
I wanted a C-section. Immediately.
"You're so close," the doctor encouraged. "You're pushing! Just a couple more hours. You can do it!"
A couple hours? I didn't feel like I had that kind of time. No. Delivering my baby took on an urgency I had never known. I was no longer concerned about what kind of delivery I would have.
I went into the hospital prepared to resist a C-section at every turn, and now I was demanding one. The team dispersed and we began to prepare for what I had been so adamantly against. Strangely, it was the only next step that felt right.
The actual procedure was fairly quick; my husband sat beside me holding my hand. I just remember waiting for that moment when I'd hear her voice for the first time. I couldn’t wait to meet my baby.
What none of us knew at that point — except for perhaps me, subconsciously — was that my fever during labor had translated into spinal meningitis in my baby. Before I could even lay eyes on her, she was whisked away to the NICU, where she spent the first 21 days of her life to treat the infection.
I had gone into labor terrified of a C-section, and yet I emerged thankful for it. If I had continued to labor for those remaining hours, my daughter’s infection could have resulted in serious physical and developmental damage, or even death.
By no means was it an easy time with her in the hospital, but we were lucky. I was able to breastfeed and bond with our daughter around the clock until we took her home. She was discharged as a healthy baby, and is now a happy two year-old.
Plus, my recovery was smooth and without incident — nothing like those I’d read about. Just six weeks after her birth, humbled, bewildered, and grateful, I gingerly stepped back onto the mat in my regular yoga class.
Would I do it again?
I still stand with Dr. Northrup. Our bodies convey the ultimate wisdom. They know what to do in pregnancy and in labor and delivery.
In my case, my C-section may be noted in the statistics as unnecessary. But the message that I needed a C-section to deliver my daughter came from me — not from the medical personnel.
While not nearly as dramatic or exhausting, I felt the same about my second pregnancy. It was going to be a C-section.
And once again, six weeks after delivering my beautiful son, I returned to my yoga mat following another smooth recovery. I said hello to my friends and hugged my teacher.
Then I folded forward in gratitude, resting my forehead on the floor, ever thankful for my husband, my children, and the wisdom of my body. And of course, for the C-section.
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