I have always wondered in retrospect if there was anything we could have done to prevent the c-section I had when Daniel was born. At the time, we felt we'd done all we could, but time gives a thinking woman plenty of time to ... well ... think. I've spent many hours looking up what went wrong, querying other people about things like asynclitic head positions and stubborn cervical lips that refuse to dilate completely. At first, in the months after Daniel was born, I lay awake in bed tearfully regaling Steve with my feelings of anger and regret and doubts. I'm mostly over the anger and regret now, but the doubts are still there. Just this morning, the midwife asked me about the part of my cervix that wouldn't dilate to a full 10 centimeters: "Did they try smoothing it back while having you try to push?" "No," I said. "I was never aware that was an option." She quickly assured me that it doesn't always work, then changed the subject, but there it was — another piece of ammunition to make me think I might have had an unnecessary c-section. And with the national c-section rate at over 30 percent (compared to the 15 percent recommended by the World Health Organization), it's quite possible.
So now I'm preparing for what is commonly known as a VBAC (which stands for "vaginal birth after caesarian" and is pronounced VEE-back). And I'm understandably nervous. I want so much to be able to let go and put it all in God's hands and the hands of my caregivers, but I'm nervous about laboring with this bad hip, and I'm nervous that what happened last time might happen again. Any number of things: The cocked head and stubborn cervix. The added stress of a hospital environment and the things I'm required to do according to protocol. Today I asked the midwife if I could decline having an IV port put into my hand until it became absolutely necessary, and she said it's something they insist upon with all VBAC patients. "I can't decline it?" I asked. "You can decline it, but we can then decline to keep seeing you as a patient," she said. And this is from a midwife in the most VBAC-friendly clinic in the area, one I chose solely — despite the half-hour drive to get there — because I knew I had the best chance of successfully having this baby the way I want to.
Last night (which happened to be the day I hit 37 weeks — full-term, baby!), I went to a meeting of the local branch of the International Caesarean Awareness Network to see if I could find some support and more information about what's ahead. I felt like I didn't really fit in, though. I sat in a circle of about a dozen rather earthy mamas, all of whom were bound by nothing but a scar across their lower bellies and the accompanying story of anger and regret. In a way, it was comforting to hear other women talk so openly about their c-sections, and it was inspiring to hear stories of successful VBACS. But at one level, it felt really wierd — some of the women seemed so angry, like they had never managed let go of the bad energy surrounding their c-section births. (And I have to say, Daniel's birth itself was not a negative experience for me; it was actually joyful.) I mean, here's a group that meets monthly to dwell on this particular part of their identity as mothers. Maybe it feels empowering to them. Some of them certainly seem to have embraced the "joy of childbirth" rather fiercely, so good for them. But I wondered, don't any of them get sick of it and decide to move on? Regardless of my feelings about my c-section, it takes up relatively little space in my psyche compared to the energy I give to actually parenting Daniel these days. And I like it that way.
Some of them seemed really strident in their attitudes toward hospitals, and when I shared some of my feelings about my baby's upcoming birth, they were pushing me to places I didn't want to go. "Go in armed with your research," I was told. "Learn these words: I do not consent," said one woman. "Well," I said hesitantly, feeling like I was coming across as an idiot, "I don't want to be that difficult person. I don't want to be so adversarial that I put off the very people who are supposed to be helping me." Well, several of them rolled their eyes, and I could see them biting back the words they really wanted to say. But it's true. Even though I have strong desires for how I hope this birth will go, I'm not, at heart, an adversarial activist. And I especially don't want to be one on a day when I need to focus entirely on myself. I just want to know that I am in good hands (like Steve's and the doula's and the midwife's and God's) and to let go of my need to control things. Kind of like on my wedding day. I did a lot of planning and organizing ahead of time so that everything could fall into place on the day, allowing me to glide along in my altered state and not worry about anything. Not worry. And I don't want to worry on the day the Lemmondrop is born, either, even though I'm doing a lot of it now.
So I don't think I'll be going back to the ICAN meetings, even though I did find some comfort in some of the women's VBAC birth stories and appreciated the chance to ask some questions. I just don't think this is a place within myself where I want to dwell on such a regular basis. I do hope the Lemmondrop's birth goes smoothly, and if I end up with another c-section, I'm sure there will be some more tearful nights, and I'll have to deal with that. I keep reminding myself to let go, to put this in God's hands — something that doesn't always come easily to me. Ultimately, what's important to me is to be a good mother, and to be healthy. And whatever happens in three weeks (give or take), most of all, I just want to have a healthy baby.