How to accept an unwanted cesarean
February 13, 2010 8:31 AM   Subscribe

I am 36 weeks pregnant with my first child and have just found out that I will need to have a scheduled cesarean in 2 weeks time for medical reasons. I need help to accept this.

I am having a very difficult time accepting that this is the way my baby will be born as my preference all along has been for a drug-free natural birth with as little intervention as possible. I felt confident that I would be able to manage the labor with minimal interventions and was adamant that I didn’t want epidural pain relief.

I now feel cheated of the opportunity to experience the sensation of my water breaking, contractions, pushing and the baby emerging. These are the things that made me excited about the imminent delivery and now that I won’t get to experience them I am not at all looking forward to the delivery.

I realize that any delivery comes with a degree of uncertainty and didn’t have a rigid ‘birthplan’ in place, but rather several preferences that I had discussed with my partner as my ideal.

I have talked to both my Obstetrician and therapist about how I am feeling and both advise that I need to accept the situation, but as yet neither have given me any practical advice on how to achieve this. How can I shift my focus from what I am missing out on so that I can start looking forward to this significant day?

I will be seeing my therapist again soon but would like some advice or positive stories of how you might have dealt with this situation.

I realize that the health and safety of the baby and myself are the number one priority but it is my own feelings of disappointment that need immediate attention.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (64 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The ultimate prize (and the actual goal) is the same: a (hopefully healthy) baby.

I now feel cheated of the opportunity to experience the sensation of my water breaking, contractions, pushing and the baby emerging. These are the things that made me excited about the imminent delivery and now that I won’t get to experience them I am not at all looking forward to the delivery.

Get excited about meeting your kid face to face!
posted by availablelight at 8:36 AM on February 13, 2010

My mother went through a somewhat similar experience. She was told she needed an emergency c-section because I, ahem, shat myself in the womb and was inhaling it because I got all stressed out. I think she still feels a bit of loss looking back because when she woke from the anesthesia there was my father, sitting in a chair next to her, holding me. BUT ... she never regrets the decision because it meant that I was delivered safely and that I'm still alive. Having never been pregnant or given birth I cannot speak with personal experience, but I can only speculate that thinking about how much better this will end up for the baby could help. In the grand scheme of things, giving birth only lasts a (few) day(s), but your child lasts much much longer.
posted by kthxbi at 8:37 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think just by recognizing that every woman's birth experience is different and that there is no "ideal" birth other than one that ends in a healthy baby and a healthy mom, you'd be well on your way to acceptance.

My first child was born via emergency c-section and other than telling the occasional person that fact, there's nothing different in my mothering experience. I had a baby, he was healthy, he's now 13. It kind of does go that fast.

You also should realize that things could have been very different if you had been able to experience labor and delivery. You may not have been able to do it without medication, despite your confidence that you could. You'll learn this every day as a parent: things with kids rarely go as we plan! We have to be very flexible and manage situations as they present themselves. This is your first "test," as it were. Handle this well and you'll be well on your way to successful parenting.
posted by cooker girl at 8:39 AM on February 13, 2010 [7 favorites]

Also-- the person I know who had a last-minute c-section did so because her son was in distress after a prolonged attempt at labor. She views it as her first parenting decision(putting her child's comfort and safety first), and I hope you can frame this the same way.
posted by availablelight at 8:41 AM on February 13, 2010 [24 favorites]

In another time and place, with no diagnosis and no avoiding whatever calamity would result from just waiting it out, you'd likely miss a lot more.
posted by amtho at 8:42 AM on February 13, 2010 [5 favorites]

I had my son by c section after quite a bit of effort on my part to protest it. In the end, you have to just accept the fact, and move on with the knowledge that this is something being done to ensure the health of your child. You'll be called upon to develop this skill time and time again, so let the learning start now. Make an effort to put the disappointing thoughts out of your head by imagining how wonderful it's going to feel to hear your child say "Mama", to see your child read, and how sweet that little head is going to smell.
It's not the end of the world, and keeping your focus on the child and off of yourself will hopefully banish those feelings. Use the next several days to take care of yourself in other ways.
I have prayed for you.
posted by littleflowers at 8:44 AM on February 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

You will be a parent soon. Look forward to the day when you need to explain to your child that he/she can't have what he/she wants every time. Sometimes things just don't work out. Accept it.
posted by RussHy at 8:45 AM on February 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

My wife had both of our children by emergency C-section, one a frank breech, and one a footling. Both times she was uspet, as you are, that the birth wouldn't be normal or 'as planned'. I can only tell you two things:

1. When that baby cries, and they place him or her in your partner's arms, all those worries go away. It is powerful, powerful stuff. I am tearing up just remembering it.

2. This will be the first of many things that will not go according to plan with your kid(s). This is just the first, so you might as well get used to it.

No birth is normal, no birth is better than any other, and your babies' birth will always be perfect because you get that little bundle to come home with you.

You will feel better about this, I promise.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:45 AM on February 13, 2010 [9 favorites]

Of course it's disappointing that you won't be able to have what you had planned. I'll say a few things (and bear in mind that I'm not a parent, so I may be totally full of crap):

1) Everyone I know who has kids has told me that they wish they had spent more time while pregnant enjoying alone time with their partners instead of planning for and thinking about (whether happily or with dread) the birth. So if you can, try to spend as much of the next two weeks with your partner doing things that will be harder to do once there are three of you. Romantic dinners, lazy weekend morning sleeping in, watching a whole movie uninterrupted while cuddling on the couch. Make this your time.

2) The birth is important, of course, but it's a really short time when compared to the lifetime you get with your child afterwards. Just like in a marriage, the wedding is a special day, but the important part is the being married after the ceremony is over. Once your baby is born, you'll have the rest of your life to enjoy it. I'm certain that the love and joy you have with your new child will make the way the child came into the world seem much less important than it does now.

3) Babies and children are unpredictable. Really, really unpredictable. As in, it's likely that many of the plans you have in your life will be changed by the appearance of your child. Your work, social life, free time, sleep, and virtually every other aspect of your life will be different from what you're used to and what you'd planned. Just think of this as the first of many unexpected changes in your life that go along with having a child.

4) Your job from now on is to protect and take care of your child. That's what you're doing right now. In a sense, you get to be a mother early, because you're sacrificing your desires in order to protect your child even before it's born.

On preview, it appears that I'm repeating a lot of what other people have already said while I was typing this opus. So I'll just say this: even if you end up spending the next two weeks feeling crummy, it's only two weeks. After that, you'll have your baby, healthy and happy, and you'll always have that. Try not to beat yourself up for being sad now, but recognize that it's temporary.
posted by decathecting at 8:47 AM on February 13, 2010

"How can I shift my focus from what I am missing out on so that I can start looking forward to this significant day?"

By recognizing that your desire to experience these things is selfish and utterly and completely secondary to giving birth. I'm sure having a somehow more "pure" or "natural" fairytale birth experience would have been neat for you, and I'm sorry things aren't going as planned, but like any part of your pregnancy it's entirely a byproduct of the process of having a baby -- it's beside the point. Letting that selfishness go is going to be an important part of entering motherhood for you.

More to the point, it's very likely you're scheduled for cesarean for a damned good reason. That damned good reason is most likely related to the best outcome for your baby, which should be something to be proud of in and of itself.
posted by majick at 8:52 AM on February 13, 2010 [10 favorites]

Welcome to parenthood, where it isn't about you anymore.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 8:53 AM on February 13, 2010 [38 favorites]

On the one hand, wanting to have a natural, drug-free delivery is an empowering thing.

On the other hand, though -- you are about to be a mother. I'm assuming you didn't sign on for doing this solely for the experience of giving birth, right? It's not like you were just going to go through with a delivery and then that was the end of it, and someone else would take care of the kid, right? No -- you signed on to do this so you could have a child to raise, to take care of, to look after, and to protect. You wanted the role of a mother, not just a birth-giver, right?

Well, part of being a mother means doing what is best for your baby. You have the power and the responsibility to make sure that your child is as healthy as possible.

The C-section will ensure your child is as healthy as possible. Undergoing the C-section is your way of giving your child the absolute healthiest possible start in life.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:56 AM on February 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

It is true that the overwhelming trump is meeting your beautiful, amazing stranger, and that this will go a long way to heal. However, this in no way means that there isn't loss or grief associated with a C-section, and very few folks understand how to approach or accept that grief in the light of the joy of a new child. I think it's somewhat helpful to know this, to know that a part of this sadness is that it's rarely met with sensitive comfort.

You have a small advantage in that you know in advance that your birth will be a section. Use this time to create a C-section birth plan. Find out every protocol your institution has for the procedure and work with every one you can and would like to control. For example, if you ask and work with your OB and your procedure is expected to be without complications, you may be able to leave your arms unrestrained, hold and see your babe immediately at birth, and have someone help latch her on if you're breadtfeeding (YES even with surgical drugs on board, folks). Think about music you'd like playing, and make sure someone is taking lots of pictures (and sometimes if there are policies against pictures of sugical procedures, they will wave them if you ask if a tech or RN take them). This is all to say that you may need a C-section, but you don't need to give up a positive, strong birth experience.

You will need women to talk to who acknowledge and understand your loss--the organization ICAN is great for this (including therapist recs and forums). Please, please memail me--I'd be happy to share more with you that I don't feel comfortable sharing on a public forum.

Congratulations--I'll be thinking about you and that new one!
posted by rumposinc at 8:58 AM on February 13, 2010 [12 favorites]

Wow. A lot of harshness in here. There's no shame in fear of the unknown.

My wife and I went through this four months ago. The day before the delivery, our son was in the perfect position, ready to come out the next morning. Overnight, he spun around and we had to have an emergency c-section the next day. Our first two children? No problem. But this was something entirely different.

My wife was terrified and cried all the way into the delivery room. And I'm not going to lie to you: a c-section is pretty rough. I mean, she didn't feel any pain, but it was hard for me to see how...I don't want to say brutal, but there was a lot of pushing and pulling and stretching made my insides hurt for her.

But here's the thing: all of that went out the window immediately after our son came out. And I don't mean that it gradually subsided. Instantly. They were still slopping around in her belly and my wife was smiling and cooing and relieved. There are, of course, problems related to c-section births in the recovery period, but those thoughts should be secondary to focusing on a healthy and safe birth. Good luck. The reward makes even the hardest journey worth it.
posted by ColdChef at 9:05 AM on February 13, 2010 [19 favorites]

That's pretty much it, what ColdChef said. There is so much normal anxiety surrounding birth that sometimes it gets channeled into worrying about things like doing the birth a certain way. We wanted the same thing, but our first child started to come a month early, was breach, and in a split second it shifted to 'let's get the baby out safely.' And then everything leading up to the birth was erased by the sound of the baby's healthy cry.

For our second child we wanted to try vbac if he started to come naturally, but we set a date for c-section just in case. After a lot of debate we decided again, whatever it takes to get him out safely. The doctor can sit there and tell you that there is a 1 in a 1000 chance that there might be complications and that irrational part of you will say, I don't want the risk. So our son didn't come early and we finally got to the day, went in to the hospital, and had another c-section. When they pulled him out, they found uterine tissue that wasn't healed, that would have ruptured AND his cord was tied in a knot which would have been potentially life-threatening. We went with our gut, and got lucky.

My earlier comment was a little harsh, but pretty much every speedbump we've had in being parents has been about learning to sacrifice things for the children. And once you realize that the only thing that has change is yourself, there is much peace in acceptance.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 9:30 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow, I literally just went through this two weeks ago (except mine was an emergency c-section) and some of these responses have reduced me to tears. I completely sympathize with your feeling but don't want to share my experience and advice here; please memail me if you'd like.
posted by katie at 9:33 AM on February 13, 2010

I'm sorry. I understand; I've had 2 emergency c-sections instead of the natural births I always wanted. It's ok to grieve for a while. Yes, coming home with a healthy baby is the ultimate goal, but that doesn't negate your feelings. I found that talking to other friends who'd had unexpected c-sections helped, as did some of the "birth disappointment" threads on the forums.

My first was an emergency surgery after 60 hours of contractions & several hours of pushing. I was exhausted, spent a week in the hospital recovering, and barely remember the first month of my daughter's life. The second, we went to the hospital after about 2 hours of very sudden, close contractions, only to discover she'd turned breach. I checked myself out of the hospital 2 days later. It was *so* much easier to recover from the second one, when I wasn't so physically drained.
posted by belladonna at 9:38 AM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

I wish you'd given a little more information about what the issue is. You'll notice that most of the posters here who are talking about having to make the shift from natural birth to c-section did so due to the need for an emergency C, rather than a scheduled one.

Would it make you feel more at peace with the decision if you got a second opinion from another OB? One big step towards accepting the situation is to have a very complete understanding of why the situation is happening in the first place. I would strongly advise you to get a second opinion, if only to assure yourself that the is something that is not optional, that has to be done. Also, make sure you have a conversation with them about why its imperative that you have a scheduled C, rather than waiting until you go into labor. Having a super clear understanding of the risks involved will, I think, help you understand why this is a choice that your doctors are so strongly suggesting.

Also, recognize that you're going through a "cycle of change" moment, and that typically there are many emotional steps that you go through before you reach acceptance. There are so many models for this out there, but in almost every one you'll see shock (or a sense of loss) at the top, followed by some version of denial, then bargaining, then anger, then acceptance. Talk with your therapist about the cycle of change (sometimes called the cycle of grief) and where you are on that continuum. A good therapist will help you recognize what stage you are in and move you through that stage to the next.
posted by anastasiav at 9:47 AM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

By recognizing that your desire to experience these things is selfish and utterly and completely secondary to giving birth.

You know, I call epic screaming bullshit on that.

First of all, the desire to have children is selfish - nobody has a baby because they thing the world needs another human or because they know for sure the kid will be the next Mohandas Gandhi. So let's just the archetype of selfless parenting out the window. People have children because it fulfils a personal need. The whole thing is selfish. And that is fine - it's they way the world keeps ticking over.

Second of all, it is not all about the baby. While a healthy, happy baby is the outcome everybody wants, it's not the only outcome of value. Women are not just delivery mechanisms for cute little humans; birth is an experience that is just as much the mother's as it is the infants. It's her body. It's her work. It's her experience. Her outcome has value, too.

If you've ever read birth stories from women who had un-medicated vaginal births - you know, the dream birth - the aftermath for many, many of these women goes far beyond "and we got a healthy happy baby." Women often speak of feeling incredibly empowered, of gaining new respect and awe for for their own body's abilities, and even of regaining ownership of and belonging in their bodies if they've been a victim of sexual abuse or assault in the past.

It's a pretty big, primal experience and to know you will not even have the opportunity to try for a natural birth is devastating to a lot of women. Telling women that it's "all about the baby" diminishes their role and the value of their own experiences and really trivialises birth. It is not, in a word, helpful.

I am genuinely glad that c-sections worked out so well for so many people speaking in this thread. I do not think that experience is, however, universal. I know plenty of women who continue to be filled with regret about a missed experience even as their healthy happy kids run around them. One can be delighted with the outcome and still mourn the process - that's entirely OK.

Anonymous, I think one thing you can do is go back to basics and ask yourself "If I had known before we conceived that this child would be born via c-section, would I have gone ahead and gotten pregnant?" Somehow, I think re-framing this as a choice you would still have made for yourself might be helpful.

Also, you might find it helpful in regaining some sense of control to make a c-section birth plan. You can talk to your OB and still cover many of the important parts, like who will cut the cord, making sure there is skin to skin contact (with you, or if you're under general, your partner), if you want specific music played, etc. It can still be an experience you design, even if it isn't the experience you dreamed of.

Good luck to you and your new family!
posted by DarlingBri at 9:58 AM on February 13, 2010 [73 favorites]

3) Babies and children are unpredictable. Really, really unpredictable. As in, it's likely that many of the plans you have in your life will be changed by the appearance of your child. Your work, social life, free time, sleep, and virtually every other aspect of your life will be different from what you're used to and what you'd planned. Just think of this as the first of many unexpected changes in your life that go along with having a child.

This is the single most important thing to know about children. Greet your baby without expectation and she will be a constant source of surprise and joy. This probably isn't even the first time the arrival of your child has caused you to change your plans and it will most definitely will not be the last. Take it as it comes and you will find the beauty in the experience. Trust me.

I deliver babies for a living. There is something so incredibly miraculous about those first moments of bonding when the baby comes out and is placed on the mother's chest. It was scary, disappointing, and confusing when my wife and I decided that C-section was going to be the safest decision for our child. But the unexpected miracle came the moment he was born, healthy as could be, and he was handed to *me* and he spent the first hour of his life in *my* arms, bonding to his dad who was the one overcome with tears while his wife looked on lovingly. Yes, we would have preferred that moment of bonding be with his mom and it wasn't what we planned but that's the memory we've chosen to take from our baby's birth and to us it seems no less joyful.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:18 AM on February 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

My sister had her first child via c-section and your concerns sound exactly like hers, she desperately wanted a natural, empowering birth. She'd been told that babies don't bond well after c-section and she spent a few months after her child was born suffering post-partum depression, and the depressive thoughts centered on "I'm not really a mother" "I didn't do it right" "This doesn't count," and other such ideas.

We all tried to support her and she got help and her son is now a beautiful, brilliant, loving teenager with whom she is very close. She thought the c-section caused the depression.
Nonetheless, he was a beautiful, connected baby, she breastfed and they bonded just fine.

Her second child was a VBAC, perfect birth etc. And *still* she had post partum depression! She's a lovely, brilliant, kind, etc. tween. She was colicky, if I remember correctly.

Third child also vaginal birth, also PPD for mom but very quick treatment so it wasn't too bad as I recall (my sis may have a different recollection). Now a truly wonderful little first grader, like her sibs.

My point is, the group I call the "motherhood militia" hypes particular types of parenting and birthing into THE ONE TRUE WAY and makes everyone unhappy and crazy.

Right now, I'm about to start IVF, so, for me, my concern is not the way the baby is born, but whether I can conceive one at all. I know it sometimes isn't helpful to consider your blessings, but I think this might be one case where it might be of use.
posted by Maias at 10:26 AM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

You learn to accept it by placing your health and your baby's health above the possible experience. You recognize that a planned surgical birth is far safer, and a better experience, than an emergency surgical birth, and emergency surgical birth is not at all uncommon. Your hoped-for birth experience is only a dream, only one possibility. Further, you recognize that birth is natural, but that in nature, birth is a major cause of damage and death to females. Women in many parts of the world have natural births, and have fistulas, placentia previa, uncontrolled bleeding, cord prolapse, pre-eclampsia, etc. Westernized birth is far too removed from nature, but much of it is a darn good thing.

I had an emergency surgical birth. Thank goodness, because in addition to having a head the size of a prize pumpkin, my son had the cord wrapped around his neck - 3 times.

Use your energy to prep for the surgery. My child and I both cherish the photos of him being lifted out of my belly. His Dad was there to hold him and get skin:skin contact(shirt off, to the amusement of the nurses) while I got stitched, and be with him while I crashed after many hours of labor, followed by surgery. Ask your doctor if you have to have a catheter; I had side effects for nearly a year.

Planned surgical birth greatly reduces the risk of infection, and you'll get back home faster.

I missed having the experience of natural delivery. But I brought home a healthy baby. Nursing was fantastic, and parenting is an amazing experience. You will have many more disappointments, and they'll be worse if you have pre-conceived notions of how things should turn out. Good luck to you and your family.
posted by theora55 at 10:27 AM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

One of the most dedicated and loving mothers I know, a dear friend of mine, delivered her now-five-year-old via C section. She's still dealing with bullshit from other women about how she was robbed of post natal bonding etc. etc.

I think the amount of sexism and judgment women face about the type of birth they have is tremendous. Remember that you'll be doing right by yourself and your child, no matter what other people tell you. There is no one right way to be a woman, or a mother.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:31 AM on February 13, 2010 [13 favorites]

A big fan of natural birth here, and I fully understand your disappointment, I'm so sorry. You sound as exited about the process of birth as I was, so perhaps it will help to think of it this way: Birthing is a process that your body&your baby does. You resign control (you're basically an assistant to your baby and your body) either way. No-one, no-one, has been able to control the birth, the key is to lay back and go along for whatever ride your birth has in store for you. Perhaps by adjusting to this way of thinking, it's easier to accept that your body(&baby) need that c-section, and this route will be the one to take. Control the aspects around this instead, scars, time, and healing time (prepare for need to adjust healing to another part of your body and read up on what you'll need to do here). Best of luck and congratulations soon-to-be mom.
posted by dabitch at 10:34 AM on February 13, 2010

Btw, in terms of bonding, the whole idea that it is something that only happens the moments after birth is wrong. Yes, some new parents have intense bonding experiences then-- but many don't and they still have children who are securely attached and loving and empathetic.

Bonding is a process that requires massive repetition-- all those little moments you have with the child during the first several years of life matter a great deal more than the first hours after birth. If you think about it, this makes sense: for a baby to learn about the world, the stuff that gets repeated thousands of times is going to matter more.

It's another expectation like simultaneous orgasm which is nice if it happens but does not mean "you're doing it wrong" or that you're going to be a terrible parent who ruined the child. Again, what matters is the daily repetition of caring for the child during the early years-- I say this having written two books with a leading child psychiatrist and expert on the neuroscience of early experience.
posted by Maias at 10:34 AM on February 13, 2010 [8 favorites]

Baby circumstances aside, acceptance is a difficult trick to come to. Logically you can think one thing is best, but still feel sad about it. Just keep reminding yourself the reasons you've got to go forward with the c-section. If you can go from being with it 10% to 20% its still going to make you feel better.

And just take time to enjoy being pregnant. Soon you're going to have a new person around keeping you busy, and this is a great time for you and your partner to spend time together enjoying and planning the future, after you come home from the hospital. I totally understand how hard it is to just accept something that you never wanted, and the unfortunate thing is that it just takes time. Give yourself permission to grieve the loss of the experience without forgetting that you still have something amazing to look forward to.

Sometimes people find meditation/relaxation exercises helpful to get their minds off something upsetting. Try looking for "breathing retraining scripts" or "relaxation breathing" on google or youTube and they can usually walk you through it.
posted by gilsonal at 10:37 AM on February 13, 2010

The most important thing I can tell you is to grieve. Birth is not just about the baby; birth is the process that makes you a mother, and it is OK and appropriate to have attachments to the way that will go. (Actually, the MOST important thing I can tell you is to get a second opinion, because while there absolutely are good, solid medical reasons to need a scheduled C-section, those reasons are fewer than some OBs present them to be. Ask what would happen if you refused the section, for example, and ask if it would be dangerous to have a "trial of labor" as opposed to a straight-up scheduled surgery. There's evidence that the ToL can improve all kinds of outcomes for mama and baby both, if it's safe.)

But then, alongside the grieving, try to focus on the fact that every birth is different. Every one. Surgical birth is different than vaginal birth. Hospital birth is different from birth center birth is different from home birth. Precipitous birth is different from a birth following extended labor. And while you can control certain aspects of how your birth goes, many of them are wrested from your hands instantly under even the most natural and groovalicious of conditions. Babies are born in all kinds of ways, and all of them are births. This is not the last time your child will throw a spanner into your expectations of how parenting will go, I promise you that. (I had all KINDS of ideas as to what sort of mom I was going to be, while I was pregnant. Three years later? the vast majority of that stuff has gone right out the window.)

Above all, though, do whatever you need to do to be comfortable with the idea that a section is the best, most appropriate option for you and your baby. Pepper your OB with questions; if your OB doesn't want to answer them, find another one who does. This is your body, your baby, your birth, and you deserve to understand this decision in all its myriad details before you make it. and YOU are the one who makes the decision -- not the OB; the doctor works for you, not the other way around.
posted by KathrynT at 10:55 AM on February 13, 2010 [7 favorites]

I would favorite DarlingBri's comment 1,000x over if I could! I really don't get where the urge some people have to shut down women's own feelings about this major life event comes from.

I am trained as a doula, and the amazing woman who trained me has four kids, and had a different birth experience with each of them, including a cesarean she didn't want but now feels good about, and three VBACs (it may well be possible for you to have the experience you're hoping for with your second child). Her attitude (and mine) is very much "birth isn't a medical situation... unless it is". This isn't about doing what's best for your child at your expense, and the people who take that attitude (and that you should suck it up because it's what being a mom is about) are harmful. This is about a situation where you and your baby are still a unit, essentially one organism, and you face a medical crisis where you need to be in charge and make the choices. You might try thinking about how you'd tell your child the story of his or her arrival, the changes of pregnancy, the news you'd have to do things differently from how you planned, what it was like when you met them for the first time... Your grief is totally understandable, but you can reframe this for yourself.

I totally agree with DarlingBri too that you need to think about how you want the cesarean to go. Having one doesn't shut down all choices, this is not an either/or situation, many aspects of a natural birth plan are actually about what happens immediately afterward (eye drops, skin-to-skin contact, continually being with one parent or the other...). Please consider also still hiring a midwife or doula to help you express what you want, and give you and your partner an extra hand. Lots of doulas say the women they work with are especially glad to have them at a cesarean, because their partner can take the baby for the weighing etc, and the doula can stay with the mother in the OR (a cesarean takes much longer after the baby is out, and having someone stay by you for the long process can be really comforting). A good midwife or doula has also seen a lot of births go a lot of different ways, and can help you think about and plan for your experiences in a way that helps you feel good, and debrief them afterward if that's helpful. One of the things we often do is a visit a couple of weeks after the birth to support breast feeding and see how everyone is doing.

This is still your birth, and your child's birth. Don't give up the physical control of planning the important aspects beyond the moment of birth itself, and don't give up the emotional control of feeling like you knew your options, made smart choices, and are a great mother already.
posted by crabintheocean at 10:56 AM on February 13, 2010 [12 favorites]

Try shifting your emotions to gratitude. You have a tremendous amount to be grateful for in this situation. You'll be delivering your child near full term. You've had prenatal care to protect your child. Whatever your medical condition, the doctors are able to anticipate and prepare. You are able to make choices and seek second opinions to help ensure the safety of you and your child.

It's sort of like a wedding. You might have had all these specific fantasies about The Event, because it's supposed to by Your Day. In the end, it's the day you share with a partner. You make lots of compromises that seemed epic at the time, but now seem sort of trivial. A year latter, you don't really care that you couldn't serve the 14 tier wedding cake. You just care about how strong your marriage is. On your child's first birthday, you're going to be grateful for a healthy family. The C-section will be a disappointment that you view in an appropriate perspective. Get a head start on feeling that gratitude now.
posted by 26.2 at 11:15 AM on February 13, 2010

Imagine you were giving advice to a dear friend going through your situation. What would you say to her? You would treat her disappointment with kindness, but if this were happening to another person, you would know that she was doing the right thing. You wouldn't think of her as being less of a woman or less of a mother.

Give yourself the same courtesy.

Is it possible that you're having some anxiety that's causing you to fixate on this? Distracting yourself right now so you can give yourself a break and not have to think about it all the time is good advice.

Birth is not just about the baby; birth is the process that makes you a mother

Wow. So all those people who've adopted kids, they're just, like, long-term babysitters?

posted by purpleclover at 11:17 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Birth is not just about the baby; birth is the process that makes you a mother

Wow. So all those people who've adopted kids, they're just, like, long-term babysitters?

Oh for heck's sake, of course not. Perhaps I should have said *a* process. But just because people can become parents by other methods doesn't mean that birth is a trifling bagatelle. It's important..

posted by KathrynT at 11:23 AM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

I went through this. Little Llama was breech, I went through two versions (where the try to move the baby into position). It was agonizing and I wish I hadn't done it. The second time her heart rate dropped, and the c-section took on a much more urgent tone. She turned out to be over eight pounds; that baby wasn't moving anywhere.

At any rate, I was very bitter. The versions and the c-section had me pumped so full of saline and drugs that I wound up not breastfeeding (coupled with some ergonomic problems). I felt like a big failure and the nurses treated me like I was insane, going so far as to take Mr. Llama aside for a private chat about my stability.

Recovery was hard, but it didn't take forever. It was hard physically because I was a dumbass and didn't take my pain pills, because I'd really committed to "getting something right" and I'm stubborn and held out hope for breastfeeding longer than I should have.

So: it's almost two years out. Both of those things, which kind of destroyed me at the time, the not breastfeeding and the c-section, turned out great. Mr. Llama is an equal parent, he got in early on feeding and doing all the things I couldn't because I was recovering. I'm sorry I didn't have the experience, but honestly, not that sorry (and I really wanted it -- natural childbirth, the whole thing) but then again, my sister-in-law hasn't laughed without peeing a little since she had her first, so -- you know, six of one.

Feel free to Mefi me if you'd like to talk. I really felt like it was the end of the world, and frankly, Mr. Llama didn't totally get it. But you get all these ideas in your head about how it's going to be, and if you're like me, terrified of losing control and other people calling the shots, and: gah!

But really, it turned out just fine. No regrets, and I promise: I was devastated at the time.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:30 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, if your partner is going to be in the OR make sure he (or she) remembers to steal the OR scrubs they give him.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:32 AM on February 13, 2010

This is something that is near and dear to my heart. I had a very much unwanted c-section. Nearly 14 months out, and I am still angry about it. My situation was different than yours in that it wasn't planned ahead of time, but you know what? It doesn't matter. C-sections suck. Even the good c-sections suck. Four days in the hospital with a newborn while hopped up on painkillers suck. It does.

What I will say, though, is that you have some time so you can make your c-section the best it can possibly be, and that can go a long way in your acceptance of it. You can make it about you. Come up with a new birth plan, talk to your doctor, hire a doula if you haven't already (there is still some time), and make it the best damn c-section you can. You and your baby deserve the best birth possible, and if a c-section is indicated, you can make it a good one. Don't have your hands strapped down. Provided the medical reasons do not entail the baby needing to go to the NICU or anything like that, have your partner and baby stay with you while you're being sutured. Breastfeed while you're on the table. I'm serious. Women have done this by their partners holding the baby above the breast with the baby's feet by the head, and it can really help with that initial bonding.

Birth is not just about the baby. It's about the mother, and your feelings are very valid. You can hate the birth and still love your child. I would again encourage you to really think out what you originally wanted for your birth and how you can make as much of that still happen as possible.

I'm again surprised that in 30+ comments no one has mentioned ICAN. It is an invaluable resource and full of women who have been there. There are lots of useful pamphlets here.

You also don't say what the medical reasons are for scheduling a c-section. I would like to think that your OB does have your best interests at heart, but many OBs do not. I would encourage you to research your particular condition, talk to other women who have had it --- even talk to a homebirth midwife, possibly (not saying you have to have a homebirth, but they have a very different understanding of "medically necessary c-section" than OBs) about what they think. There are many reasons women are told they need c-sections, and many of them are just not true, so I do caution you in just taking your OB's word for it. Do the research yourself, and to get a better idea of your OB's stats, ask for his or her opinion on VBAC. That can tell you a lot about the way he or she practices medicine, and it can also tell you if he or she is just knife happy. I'm not saying that this is the case with your OB. I'm not. But with so many, that is the case. And a c-section really should be a last resort intervention.

I wish you the best. I do. And feel free to pm me any time. I've been there. I'm still there. You're not alone.
posted by zizzle at 11:36 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Four days in the hospital with a newborn while hopped up on painkillers suck. It does.

One more random data point-- we packed up and got out early. Two nights and on the third morning I put my clothes on and walked past the nurses station to check email in lobby computer. They had a nurse stop by and check on me a couple of days later.

Recommend that very highly.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:44 AM on February 13, 2010

Let yourself grieve. It's what you had hoped for and planned on, and it wont' happen the way you wanted. You may take a while to get past the grief, and that's fine. But try to tuck it away, for your baby's sake.

I had an emergency c-section after a horrible "natural" birthing experience that went wrong. My first baby was huge, the midwife disappeared, and I spent hours pushing alone (well, with an inexperienced husband, which is basically... alone). It was unearthly painful... out-of-body painful. I was literally blinded by the pain. And at one point something clicked inside. I knew I was not going to be able to push the baby out. I calmly thought "I'm going to die, this is why women used to die." The anesthesiologist was the nicest person to me during the whole experience. I'll never forget her.

One thing I really grieved was that I had "everything but" -- all the pain but none of the relief that you see on TV shows or hear about. Another awful memory was that my midwife just disappeared for 2 HOURS. In other words, just because you've taken a more natural approach doesn't mean that other people can't drop their end of things.

My subsequent 2 babies were by scheduled C-section. Frankly, there's a small part of me that wishes I could have had that birthing experience I wanted, but there's nothing like that ecstatic joy you have when you hear the baby cry for the first time and touch his or her little face. You will have that.

Giving up (perceived) control is one of those life lessons we all learn at some point. Grieve the loss of your dream, but recognize that on this side of birth it IS a dream -- anything could happen in the hospital. What can help: seeing that it's a blessing that in this day and country we have options other than dying in childbirth or delivering via a rough forceps birth or episiotomy. Oh, and recovery can run the gamut from easy and fast to rough, and whichever one you have is just what you have. (I had 2 easy recoveries and the last was a beast.)

Lastly: do NOT let anyone look down on you for having the c-section. Ever. You'll meet plenty of moms who set up that little hill to die on, whether it be natural birth, breast vs bottle, or another dichotomy of mothering. This was a good lesson for me that such exclusivism can just be a vile way to put one's self in the "us" vs "them" camp.

No worries, girl. You can do this.

posted by mdiskin at 11:52 AM on February 13, 2010 [7 favorites]

Re-reading my comment and some of the subsequent ones here, let me clarify my position: I am in no way suggesting that your worries are silly or that your experience will be just like ours. I understand that to suggest that you'll be peachy keen as soon as you see your child is not necessarily what will happen. I'm only relating our personal experience. I tried to temper my comments to be as birth-positive as possible and in doing so, I'm afraid that I may have come off as a "Don't worry your pretty little head" kind of guy. Which I'm not.
posted by ColdChef at 11:52 AM on February 13, 2010

A Terrible Llama: "Four days in the hospital with a newborn while hopped up on painkillers suck. It does.

One more random data point-- we packed up and got out early. Two nights and on the third morning I put my clothes on and walked past the nurses station to check email in lobby computer. They had a nurse stop by and check on me a couple of days later.

Recommend that very highly.

Be careful. If you leave AMA (against medical advice) your insurance may not pay for your hospitalization.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:16 PM on February 13, 2010

I've done an emergency C section, a V-bac with # 2 and a scheduled C with #3 and in my case the scheduled C was the easiest on me physically as I wasn't wiped out by laboring for 24+ hours first.

Yes, it's scary. I cried when the doctor told me that I needed to be induced with my first. But C-sections are not as bad as they used to be, and I think my recovery was just as quick from the surgical procedures as the more "natural" birth.

And while I disagree with "Welcome to parenthood, it's not about you anymore" there is more than a grain of truth in WinnipegDragon's 2., This will be the first of many things that will not go according to plan with your kid(s). There will be things that don't go according to plan that will be better and worse than you expect, more for the better I think.

It's frightening and unexpected, but you can do it! Godd luck and congratulations!
posted by readery at 12:17 PM on February 13, 2010

HeyHUey, no advice really, but just wanted to say that it's ok to be sad. This "the only thing important is a healthy baby, so stop whining and be grateful" response just pisses me off. It's dismissive of your feelings and patronizing. You are allowed to be sad; that doesn't mean you're selfish, for gods sakes, or that you'll love your baby any less.

You can still be an active participant on your birth, as others have said. Make a birth plan, research your options, get a second opinion, do what you need to do to move towards peace. Good luck!
posted by purenitrous at 12:17 PM on February 13, 2010

Mod note: few comments removed - let's keep it to advice for the OP and not who or who is not full of crap, thanks
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:19 PM on February 13, 2010

From the perspective of the child, I never thought anything of it. Until I read Macbeth. Now I think it's awesome.

That is to say that your struggles here are your own; your child will be fine either way.
posted by SemiSophos at 12:20 PM on February 13, 2010

While I understand the comment deletion and accept my out of lineness fully, the essay on being grateful I posted is still of merit to the OP's situation. I hope relinking it is okay.
posted by zizzle at 12:27 PM on February 13, 2010

I went through a similar situation eight months ago. I was all set for a (fairly) natural birth (with meds if necessary but we were going to see how it went.) Then at THIRTY-EIGHT WEEKS, the little twerp, he turned un-birth-ably breach. (I'd say unbearably but that's a little too punny.)

I was upset for two reasons: First, I felt really, really cheated that my husband and I had done the classes, prepped for the vaginal birth, were all set to go, and now that wasn't going to happen. Even though my attitude was very much, "A healthy baby is the key outcome here," I was emotionally and psychologically prepared for ONE grueling process, and suddenly discovered it was about to be a different one.

Second, I was DEAD TERRIFIED of surgery. I'm terrified of NEEDLES. Cutting me in half WHILE STILL AWAKE (because they won't knock you out of it's scheduled) struck me as the worst possible torture modern medicine could perform!

So, here's what ended up happening: My husband didn't get to support me through labor and delivery, but he DID get to support me through the thing I was literally the most scared of in the world (C-section) that I had hanging over my head for a whole week. We both felt a bit cheated that we didn't get to go all "hee hee hee hoo hoo" and time contractions and stuff, but he was there and supporting me through the entire process -- just not the process we planned. The hospital took great care of me getting prepped for surgery; the surgeon was a little late which gave me a chance to get antsy, but I coped better than I thought. They took me in to surgery, my husband came up near my head, and by the time I realized they had started, they were delivering the baby, who came out PERFECT, great APGAR scores, healthy, etc. They cleaned him up at a bassinette where I could see him, his dad got to trim the cord, and then his dad brought him over to meet me and I spent a few minutes with him. (I was so scared for the surgery I didn't want to muck around with breastfeeding right away or anything; I knew I wouldn't be able to cope.) He and my husband went off to the nursery with the camera and did all the weighing and measuring and washing and stuff and took tons of pictures. I got lots of GOOOOOOD drugs then, which made me lose track of time, though I was awake the whole time. It seemed like no time at all (though it was around 45 minutes) until I was in recovery, and then after 45 minutes again (which also seemed very quick) I went to my room and they brought me my baby, who latched on right away and nursed like a champ. He was born at 3:30 and I was nursing at 5 p.m.

The hospital was bright and sunny (the prep and recovery rooms both were very sunny and calming and pleasant, and my room was very nice). I was able to walk, gingerly, on day two, and was able to climb the stairs when I went home on day four. I felt like I got to 80% really quickly, though it took me to around 6 weeks to get to 90% and 12 weeks to get back to more or less normal.

It was my worst fear ever, and it turned out to be a great experience. (And I feel empowered by the fact that I did the scariest possible thing for me, and came out of it FINE, without having lost it once.)

My only two complaints with the process were that riding home in the car was uncomfortable (some of that was the post-baby jelly belly bouncing around, some of it was the incision), and that the painkillers made it hard to focus my eyes on close things, so I didn't get to read ANY of my trashy novels that I'd been saving for the hospital! I had to read them when I got home.

Please, memail me; at eight months I feel like I'm still processing it a little (it's weird when I think about having another baby and what that process will be like), but I really went through the same thing, had SUCH mixed feelings, was SO upset before it, and ended up having a truly wonderful experience.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:41 PM on February 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

All I can add at this point is that in two weeks and two days' time, you'll have forgotten pretty much all of this. As others have said - all is well that ends well, and the goal here is for things to end well for everyone concerned, and especially for you and the tot. In the meanwhile, keep on keepin' on: eat well, rest and prepare mentally and spiritually for the healing process. You may find solace in this - even with the best-documented birthing plans, things happen and much of it is still out of our hands. Know that you're in good hands, that they do this for a living and it will all be over very soon.

(Congratulations, by the way!)
posted by jquinby at 12:43 PM on February 13, 2010

I recently heard this interview on Fresh Air. Something the author, Randi Hutter Epstein, talks about is tracking childbirth trends from the late 19th century, when society/prevailing medical authorities imposed a moral judgment (pain relief was considered inappropriate because it was God's will that a woman should suffer in childbirth) through the mid-20th century, when total sedation became the norm. She makes a point that whatever was being arbitrarily imposed on women, strong women felt empowered to oppose: when they weren't being allowed pain medication, they demanded it until pain relief became a socially acceptable norm; when they were told they needed total sedation, they demanded the right to be present, conscious participants in their birth experiences. The take-away was not "women arbitrarily oppose what they're told" but that there has been a power struggle in the process of women gaining or regaining autonomy in their birth experiences.

I wonder if it might help for you to think about all of the possible ways in which strong, empowered women have asserted themselves in their birth experiences. Having a drug-free birth is certainly one way: your disappointment is understandable and valid and important. But I think that there's something very destructive about modern characterizations of natural, drug-free childbirth as the ideal way to give birth because they imply that anything else is "less than" rather than "different."
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:45 PM on February 13, 2010 [7 favorites]

By recognizing that your desire to experience these things is selfish and utterly and completely secondary to giving birth.

Wow, I'm surprised by the complete lack of empathy in this comment. Not what I expect from you, Majick.

Both of my children were born by C-section. My first was frank breech for nine months and we knew it was coming. I was still scared to death, but had an epidural, was awake during the procedure, and my husband was there by my side, as an advocate for me and for the baby, the whole time.

I was psyched with my second son because he started out right way up and everything. When he flipped to breech (dammit!) in the fifth month, it still looked like we could do it vaginally. So, flash forward, my water breaks, I wake up the husband, pack some things up and off we go. Contractions start getting serious, I wake up my husband (he was sleeping in a chair by the hospital bed) and suggest he get the nurse. They come in and say I'm 8 centimeters already. Great! I'm ready to go. I feel strong, know I can do this. Let's get this birth going!

Uh-oh. Doctor says, "We need to perform an emergency C-section." I protest that no way I want to go there, I can handle this, it's all good. My husband looks me in the eye and says, "The doctor thinks the cord is around his neck." "Okay," I say, "DO IT."

So let's say that instead of knowing now you will have a scheduled C-section, you go in blind, and you end up in the same situation I was then. Of COURSE you'd do what you need to do for a healthy baby! The decision isn't being taken from you, it's just been pushed forward.

The only difference is that now you have time to know what is coming and prepare for it a little better.

Consider some positives that come from a scheduled C: You may have the option, as I did with my first, to be awake during the procedure and have the Dad there with you, unlike in an emergency C where sometimes they kick the Dad out of the room. You may actually know your honest-to-goodness due date--how many women get that opportunity? You will be stronger and better able to care for your baby than if you went through labor and THEN had to have the C-section. Your baby will be born with the small bonus of a head that hasn't been "shaped" by birth--not that you will care, though, as the *main* benefit of all this is, your baby will be healthy!

And, yes, you will also be on the way to learning that, with kids? Life is unpredictable.

Note: You may still have your water break before you go in. With my second child, I had gone to the doctor, told him I thought the baby was low and I was going to give birth soon, and he thought it would be two weeks or more, but it was two DAYS later when my water broke.
posted by misha at 1:04 PM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

anonymous: "I am having a very difficult time accepting that this is the way my baby will be born as my preference all along has been for a drug-free natural birth with as little intervention as possible. I felt confident that I would be able to manage the labor with minimal interventions and was adamant that I didn’t want epidural pain relief."

I am not a doctor. Talk to your therapist about framing. Your attachment to one idea of birthing is a product of a recent cultural shift in the expectations of birthing among certain segments of Western populations. In some countries, c-section rates trend as high as 80-90%. In others, they trend around 10-15%. The US currently trends 35%. The same wide divergence between cultures is true for operative deliveries involving forceps or vacuum (which are often an alternative to c-section for many cases, and involve different risks and benefits for mother and baby). Given that the modes of birth are so culturally and financially contingent, and in the end sometimes dependent on even minute-to-minute estimations of mother and fetus biometrics and clinical judgement, it is simply not productive for a person to hold that giving birth one "way" over another could demean or negate personal estimations of self and character.

So anyway, framing is what is constraining your idea of "birth" as one priviledged mode over another. Framing changes, and you can change. A century ago, radical suffragettes were campaigning *against* the prevailing medical practices and demanding complete, insensate sedation and amnesia during birth . Stemming possibly from Judeo/Christianist/Islamic background, many conservative practitioners believed that "in pain shall ye bring them forth" and for a while resisted these demands. A new generation basically accepted that for those willing to pay, a completely amnestic birth was possible and this became routine practice until the late 1950s, when the establishment of new cultural capital meant that "natural" birth became priviledged. The adoption of the epidural/spinal during the 1970s is basically a compromise between these two poles of framing, and also a product of the professionalism of the discipline of anesthesia.

The issue that the trauma of passage through the birth canal for non-macrosomic babies results in a reduced probability of transient tachypnea of the newborn and other pulmonary dysfunctions when compared with an increased probability with c-section is basically insignificant given the availability and resuscitation expertise of pediatricians and neonatologists.
posted by meehawl at 1:10 PM on February 13, 2010 [8 favorites]

I was a hastily scheduled C-section. My mom was a full-colour hippie who wanted the whole natural experience. She was initially "bummed" about the change of method.

When I was born, however, she discovered that there was a benefit: I looked like a greeting card baby (apparently; allegedly). She focused on that above her experience loss and turned that into the happy part of the experience.

And with the scar and healing and such, she joined a different kind of birth-story club, one with their own brave tales and badges of courage. That's her story, now.
posted by batmonkey at 1:57 PM on February 13, 2010

You're sad and disappointed -- you were looking forward to a natural birth and have strong feelings about it. You of course assumed that things would go your way, because that's what happens for the great majority of women. There's no way you can give it up without feeling a loss.

With acceptance, you can stil feel sad and cheated. Acceptance feels like you're doing the right thing for the right reasons. You remind yourself of as many plusses as you can -- and when you feel sad or angry, let that feeling come to the surface. Don't try to talk yourself out of the bad feelings. If you completely immerse yourself in the sadness for a few minutes at a time, it could help you. Alone, in a private place, let yourself cry, punch a pillow, and whatever goes with releasing the emotions.
posted by wryly at 2:38 PM on February 13, 2010

You get to meet your kid two weeks early! That would be à plus for me, but then I shake christmas presents (but never babies).
posted by Iteki at 2:55 PM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

My daughter is twenty now, and she was born via planned cesarean. For eight months, I read books, took Lamaze classes with my husband, and prepared myself for the day I'd become a mother. I felt ready for the experience that my friends and family had talked about, and then suddenly all of that was yanked away from me. I was scared and felt isolated by the change in plans. Major surgery was not exactly what I'd signed up for.

But every birth is different from the next. I have one friend who had to deal with some insecurities and fears about being induced, and another who was disappointed in herself for "ruining" her planned natural birth with an epidural. We put so much pressure on ourselves to achieve each potential facet of an event that we sometimes diminish the experience we receive instead of embracing it as something uniquely our own. Maybe try to shift your focus by refusing to allow yourself to be disappointed in your experience of childbirth before the day even arrives. If you allow yourself to dwell on what might have been, you may not be leaving yourself open to all of the beauty of what will be.

The birth of your child is not just about the baby. It's about you, and about your partner, too. Your feelings are normal and valid. But you can absolutely have a beautiful childbirth experience with a c-section. I'm here to assure you that it's possible, because I've been there.

The only other thing I can offer is that I never gave birth again and can honestly say that I no longer have feelings of regret for having missed out on a process that others describe as painful and uncertain. When people talk about childbirth now, I have stories to offer that are different from theirs, but no less interesting or moving.

I wish you all the best.
posted by contrariwise at 3:30 PM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have delivered four children of my own, witnessed the birth of one of my sister's children, and five of my grandchildren. To be honest, of all of those, the two born by C-section really only differed in that it was calmer really and more in control. Still the excitment of the first cry, the doctor putting the baby on your chest, both of you in tears, it will all still be just as sweet. I know you are disappointed but there is still lots to look forward to in the days to come.
posted by tamitang at 4:10 PM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am a bit pedantic about language sometimes--so this may not seem important enough to be helpful to you--but I've noticed that when people talk about giving birth either vaginally or via c-section, they still always talk about giving birth. In fact, I looked up the definition of birth in a couple of dictionaries, and not a single one mentioned vaginas. The most common definition was: "the emergence of a baby, or other young, from the body of its mother." So, if part of the trouble for you in accepting the cesarean is the idea that you'll be cheated out of giving birth, well, it might be helpful to remember that the defining characteristic of birth is that the baby comes out of you, and not the particular way in which that happens.

Also, I think it's easy, or at least easier, to forget in our fairly technologically-advanced, fairly sanitary society that there's a lot about Mother Nature that we still can't control. Storms and floods and mountains rising and falling; for the most part, we still only have a tenuous sort of control even over what grows where--it's a slightly silly example, but a year or two ago, a radish sprouted up through the sidewalk in downtown Tokyo--and I am neither a doctor nor a mother, but bringing a child into the world seems to fall into that elemental realm to me.

And I think all of the procedures and apparatuses have grown up around childbirth because the fact that a mother can grow a baby inside her is still so awe-inspiring and incredible, and because we still only sort of understand how it works and can only sort of control it. You've got this amazing force in you--I mean, holy shit! you just grew an entirely new person inside of you!-- And I don't know if it helps--I don't even know if it makes any sense--but I sort of think of a c-section as an attempt to harness all of that badass babymama force and channel it like a river down a particular path. There's no shame in being a river.
posted by colfax at 4:20 PM on February 13, 2010 [6 favorites]

One thing that is often done in therapy is to challenge the questionable beliefs that contribute to an unhelpful way of looking at a situation. So one thing that might help to reconcile you to the idea of a scheduled c-section is to challenge your belief that you "would be able to manage the labor with minimal interventions."

That's one possibility, surely. But you can't know that, even assuming your confidence in your own body's ability to do this is well-placed: it's not just your body, but the baby's, that has to withstand labor -- and babies are much likelier to get into trouble during labor than mothers. Another possibility is that you could have had many long hours or days of labor, and still needed the c-section in the end, but as emergency surgery.

For many women in that situation -- enduring days of labor, followed by major surgery -- their recovery is much longer, and sometimes their ability to breastfeed is compromised.

For me, giving birth (vaginally, pretty much straightforward, no interventions except a walking epidural, which I always wanted) has been fine both times, but it was breastfeeding that felt incredibly and unexpectedly meaningful -- like love was flowing out of me and into the baby, every damn time. We're expecting our third in June, and if this is the last one, it's the breastfeeding, not the birthing, that I'll mourn.

If your scheduled -- as opposed to emergency -- c-section saves breastfeeding for you, that's a trade-off well worth taking, I think.
posted by palliser at 5:01 PM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

The other thing I would mention is that, as unhelpful as it may be to think of birth as only about the baby, it's also unhelpful to rank births like this: "un-medicated vaginal births - you know, the dream birth."

The dream birth? It wasn't my dream; my dream was for pain relief that left me with strength and sensation. The tendency to de-legitimize women's personal desires is found on every side of these questions.
posted by palliser at 5:25 PM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had a semi-emergency C-section for the birth of my only child, who will be 17 in two weeks.
It was scary, but I'm really glad I didn't know in advance. Basically instead of waiting to give birth you're waiting to have abdominal surgery.

(we had to have the C-section because labor was taking too long and I wasn't dilating and after many many hours the baby inhaled meconium (feces) and then they had to get him out of there)

I never had those romantic notions of a "natural" childbirth. I think I'm kind of coldhearted in that way, in that I figure in X number of years having babies through vaginas will seem very, very primitive. We all happen to live in the times we happen to live in. A long time ago, having a "natural" birth meant a significant life-and-death risk to both mother and baby. A long time from now (whatever a long time is) nobody's going to have babies "naturally" anymore (except maybe in compounds of indigenous "natives" a la Brave New World).

We happen to live in a time where natural childbirth is (1) usually very safe, and (2) idealized. The downside is that lots of mothers feel ENTITLED to a natural childbirth -- much as we feel entitled to central heating, romantic love, and fresh produce even in the winter.

I understand that you're bummed out and I don't want to minimize that. However, I can tell you that two weeks after your C-section when you've pretty much recovered, you're not going to give a damn which way your baby was born (unless you insist upon dwelling on this) because you will be too excited and tired and thrilled to have a baby to take care of.

And now I have to call my son because he said he'd be home by now and I don't know exactly which friend's house he went to, probably to take illicit drugs. So, you see, it's better to start worrying now to get used to it as soon as possible, because it's going to go on for a long, long time!
posted by DMelanogaster at 6:15 PM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

You also had no guarantee that you would have gotten the birth that you wanted without the C-Section. We want to control so much of the process, when in reality, the process controls us. Just go with the flow.
posted by Leezie at 7:50 PM on February 13, 2010

Baby anachronism was born fast enough that she had no head moulding - she looked like a c-section baby. I'm still kinda sad about some aspects of the birth and that's okay. People like to tell you it's all about THE BABY AND ONLY THE BABY and that if you even think for one second about your feelings you're selfish or stupid or don't really care about the baby at all or have been suckered by natural birth hippies. Bullshit. This is the most important day in my fucking life, I can't have a say in it? I can't be sad that something has gone wrong enough that I need major fucking surgery?

As a note, baby anachronism is 8 months and I don't "insist on dwelling on it" but yeah, I would have like some things to be different about the labour. The way she was brought into the world is linked with my relationship to her. It's inextricable - I may not dwell or think about it a lot, but it is part of our relationship - it doesn't define it, but our shared history includes it. I imagine that is true for every single parent-child relationship. Her birth story is important to both of us. That doesn't make me less excited, tired or thrilled.

Right now, I'd be looking at what you can control in the c-section - can you set music? Request that your child be laid upon you immediately. Read up on what you can (Amalah's blog has a bunch of stuff about her c-sections). Talk to your ob. about your choices. Talk to ICAN. Breathe. Grieve for your imagined birth. It's okay.
posted by geek anachronism at 8:01 PM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I spent so much effort focused on the birth. I ended up with 4 doctors and 2 nurses for me and a pediatric team. My daughter was in distress, so she ended up in NICU for almost 9 days.

Guess what? Once I met her, the birth part didn't matter to me at all. The birth part is such a small part of her and of our life together.

It's like a wedding versus a marriage. You can plan. You can organize. You can dream about it for years. But it has no bearing on your long term happiness with your kid.

And 10 years into it, I've had plenty of things that are nothing like I planned. Having kids means that the days of having complete control are over -- from sleep schedules, to leaving full shopping carts to nip tantrums in the bud to finding Pop Tart wrappers in the trash.

I suspect that once you meet your kid, or at least get to the falling in love with the kid part (which actually took me a few weeks), you'll feel that way too.

So, smile. Be amused at trying to control a chaotic natural process. And welcome to the completely unplannable world of being a mom. There's nothing more zen than learning to roll with the punches.
posted by Gucky at 8:52 PM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had two C sections for medical reasons (for three kids, twins and a single, so I've never had a vag birth). When you hear your baby cry, it will hit you and hit you hard. And then you will be knee deep in parenting and it so won't matter any more. Good luck!
posted by Bueller at 4:38 AM on February 14, 2010

Mrs. Maniabug here. We went through EXACTLY the same thing. After a blissfully healthy and uneventful pregnancy, reading Ina May Gaskin, watching 'The Business of Being Born," and so on, we were looking forward to an empowering and transformational (if difficult) natural birth. We even timed our move out of NYC so that we could have our baby in Vermont in a practice that was very friendly to natural birth. At 36 weeks we discovered that our baby was breech and would have to be delivered by c-Section. We were both shocked, angry and disappointed (and tried everything, including very weird and uncomfortable accupuncture to get the baby to turn).

THis is what I would say to you: don't listen to the people who are telling you not to feel the way you feel about this situation (that is, disappointment, shock, etc.). You feel the way you feel; emotions are emotions and you can't push them around. Of course you feel upset -- this is far from the ideal birth experience. I'm still angry about having had to have a c-section; I refer it as the 'fucking c-section' to this day.

But, ultimately, as the time goes on and I fall deeper and deeper in love with the amazing creature that is our daughter, it DOES matter less and less how she was born. It just happens, not right away, but bit by bit. We have our own memories of the day she was born -- I remember the doctor shouting out 'it's a girl!!' And my husband saying 'and she has lots of dark hair!' and me in my drugged uncomfortable state making jokes about how we were relieved because we still didn't have any boy names picked out and thank heavens, and that her name is Charlotte Louise, and being surprised at how amazingly tiny she was when they showed her to me. I think my first words were 'That's the tiniest person I've ever seen.'

No, I didn't want to have skin-to-skin right away -- I was in the middle of major abdominal surgery, and the operating room was freezing, and I just wanted them to get me out of there. But don't let people psych you out about bonding and breast-feeding, etc. As soon as they got me warmed up and stabilized, she was brought in and we commenced the very awkward experience that is breast-feeding a tiny floppy newborn. And we figured it out just like all moms do, and my milk came in by the time we left the hospital, and she gained weight and we struggled with sore nipples (as many moms do!) but have had a wonderful and rewarding breastfeeding experience. So don't let anyone tell you that that will be damaged by a c-section.

The upshot? Having a c-section sucks, and you are totally justified in feeling disappointed. Don't feel guilty about that. Once you fall in love with your baby, it WILL stop mattering so much. You will ultimately be glad that you were able to have him/her safely and that you, too, are, well, alive. Just imagine if you couldn't have that. What an awful thought. People don't die in childbirth much anymore, so it is hard to imagine. But there it is.

Don't beat yourself up about feeling disappointed, but let it be what it is. I hope you enjoy becoming a mother as much as I have. Good luck and congratulations!

Oh, and my husband says: be sure to ask if they do double-suturing in your practice -- it does greatly increase your chance of success with a VBAC if you plan to have another pregnancy.
posted by maniabug at 8:00 AM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

As a point of clarification, double suturing v.s single suturing has no known affects on VBAC chances. Studies do not bear out any difference in uterine rupture statistics. In fact, in the UK and probably other areas of Europe, single layer suturing is the preferred method. I suspect this is the case in the Netherlands as well based on what I've read of the labor and post-natal care provided there, and it has a much higher successful VBAC rate than the US.

HOWEVER, the preferred METHOD of suturing in the US is double layer, and even famed midwife Ina May Gaskin won't take a VBAC case with single suturing. That said, it is suspected that double layer suturing increases risk of other conditions such as endometriosis in women who did not have it prior to the c-section.

Results: A significant difference on uterine rupture seen between the two groups p<0> This study was published in 2003.

What does play a role is the material used to suture the uterine scar. The skin incision they can use pretty much anything. But vicryl is thought to be best on the uterus itself.

posted by zizzle at 6:43 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

My wife underwent an emergency C-section 5 weeks before our due date (breech). Our birth plan evaporated in a matter of minutes. After the delivery, our midwife stayed with my wife and I accompanied my son to the NICU. The nurse told me that it would be 30 minutes before I could be with him (tests and observations and such). I found a waiting area and sobbed at the loss of our ideal birth and the suddenness of it all, but the relief of an uncomplicated birth more than made up for it.
posted by Twicketface at 10:16 AM on February 15, 2010

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