About me: I'm 42 and added another gherkin to our pickle party of a family. My husband Chuck, our 9-year-old Junior, our 6-year-old Everett, our toddler and I live in a town in Connecticut I affectionately call Mulletville Lite (aka my childhood hometown). My friends call me Nutjob, and they're right. In my husband's spare time he dresses up as a Viking and chases ghosts (and I'm the nutjob?). When I'm not busy working as a graphic designer, I lie in a ball in the corner.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
I've decided to have my baby in an igloo with three fish as midwives. Oh, and a leprechaun as an anesthesiologist. Are you happy now?
I can’t remember if I blogged about my labor and delivery with Junior. Oh right, I did. I shared how, after 6,000 hours of Pitocin, 547 epidurals and indescribable pain, Chuck told me to picture my happy place and I dreamed about being flattened by a Mulletville transit bus.
That’s how my labor went.
Now here we are again. Another pregnancy; this time, the vexing question: How will this child enter the world? Had my first labor not ended with an emergency C-section—which saved my life and Junior’s—I wouldn’t be sitting here trying to decide what the hell to do. I’m one of the few whose doctors will support a VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean), but—but—she also scheduled a C-section just in case.
Cue Jeopardy music. Pan in on Mrs. Mullet biting her lips, nails and Chuck trying to decide which option is best.
I realize in writing this post and approaching it in an I’m-not-sure-what-to-do manner I’m putting myself out there for possible judgment and criticism, but I want to go there because the topic fascinates me. Women have strong (sometimes frighteningly so) opinions about how babies should be labored. There are some, like Blossom star Mayim Bialik , who heartily judge women who’ve experienced medically-aided, non homebirths.
Others have such a low opinion of how delivery is handled by hospitals they’ve coined terms like “birth rape.” According to an article on Salon.com, “The term is being used to describe cases where a woman feels that her rights are violated by doctors, nurses or midwives.” Writer and activist Amity Reed feels that "Fingers, hands, suction cups, forceps, needles and scissors ... are the tools of birth rape and they are wielded with as much force and as little consent as if a stranger grabbed a passer-by off the street and tied her up before having his way with her.”
Wow, birth rape.
The prejudice is even appearing in cutesy parenting magazines. A woman I'll call "Sphincter" recently responded to an article about a homebirth with "How sad that micromanaged hospital births are now the norm."
Get the feeling that unless you deliver your kid at home while the neighbors rub nectar on your cooch and everyone hums Kumbaya, you’re pond scum? Kind of feels like that. Hospital births seem to have become the enemy. I concede that the medical system is imperfect (C-section rates in the United States are at an all-time high), but what system is perfect? And is the answer to a few horrific deliveries by overzealous, unsympathetic doctors really a showdown between mothers?
I continue to hope not. The idea of a natural delivery is so built up and so acutely affixed to our idea of womanhood and motherhood it cuts at the soul when the delivery experience fails miserably; no one needs judgy shit from other moms on top of that.
But there it is: the "how sad" bullshit. The pity and shame.
Which brings me back to my dilemma. After I had Junior, I heard myself tell people I’d had a C-section “because I had to/we would have died.” The urgency absolved me; I found comfort in that. Even worse, I added, “And I have a beautiful baby boy!” as if Junior were a consolation prize. As if the labor journey mattered more than the end result.
I promised myself I wouldn’t care this time, but every time I ask Chuck what we should do, I hear a nagging voice. This time, if I choose a C-section, I’ll have a dirty little secret. My surgery will have been by choice. I will have chosen to fail at labor. Even though a VBAC might mean laboring again for 24+ hours and never dilating. Or possibly losing kid #2 because of the stress of a 24+ labor that doesn’t go anywhere. Or taking a month to heal from another emergency C-section because of all the trauma my body endured leading up to it.
Is being able to fly the “My kid was 100% naturally vagged!” banner really worth it? A big part of me thinks not. Just like being able to fly the “My kid was 100% breastfed!” banner was overrated. At some point the banners come down and your kid is either healthy and happy or you’ve royally fucked up—regardless of which body cavity he came from and how you fed him.