In my early teens, I learned about natural childbirth from a close family friend who had a homebirth. I thought her story was awesome. She was actually the one who allowed me to witness my first vaginal birth, unmedicated at the hospital. Even at the ripe age of 16, I thought that this is how I was going to birth my babies.
Fast forward to 23, and I get pregnant while living in Japan. I was uber excited and spent all my free time at work (where I was paid to sit in the teacher’s lounge and look American and pretty) browsing Japanese birth centers, waterbirths, and midwives. I found one that looked pretty and we went to our first visit. They did a trans-vaginal ultrasound, baby was there. They told me to come back the next week, then the next, then the next, each time giving me the trans-vaginal ultrasound. I had to sit in this recliner-like chair that would rise up and spread my legs into the air then he’d push a button and the bottom would fall out. So my rear and legs were spread for the world to see.
At 11 weeks, I go in and ANOTHER ULTRASOUND. It’s a moment I will never forget. Get in the chair, legs and rear go up, bottom falls out. The doctor starts the ultrasound. 2.5 seconds in I hear him say “The baby is dead.” In Japanese. My husband translated. My heart sank. I scheduled a D&C for the next day. Learning my baby had passed was a walk in the park compared to the procedure. Apparently the Japanese do not believe in painkillers, and I had to get the “D” part of the procedure with no medication straight into my very closed cervix. Then upstairs to the “C” part. The Japanese still use a paralytic as a way to do these types of surgeries. I was paralyzed and my eyes were closed, but I was still very much awake. It was not fun.
Two months later, I became pregnant with my first son, Ness. We decided to get the heck out of Japan. At 8 weeks pregnant, we came home! From day 1, I planned a natural birth. I met with the natural birth group, I made a lot of friends who I still talk to today, went to Birth Help’s meetings, and read about 35 books on birth and all things pregnancy. I kept up with my pregnancy every week: size of a grape, olive, potato, pumpkin (why do they make it food??). I was going to have the perfect birth to make up for my horrible birth.
From my first ultrasound, I was told that my placenta was low. I’m usually a worrier about these things, but I went home to research and found out that 95% of placentas move up and make way for birth. At the time, I didn’t know that Placenta Previa can be caused by uterine damage (or a D&C). At 35 weeks, I went to my last ultrasound. I saw that I now had complete Placenta Previa and that a vaginal birth was now officially off the table. If I were to explain how I felt, it would be complete devastation. I should have considered from the beginning that in every pregnancy there is a chance of having a c-section. That may have lessened the blow. I cried the whole way home.
I made my c-section appointment line up with my husband’s work schedule (which meant he was born too early; 39 weeks). I then started trying to get excited about my baby instead of my birth. Easier said than done. It was SO HARD to listen to people say “Did you get a second opinion?” “Mine moved late. You should check again.” “Doctors don’t know. Maybe the placenta isn’t over your cervix anymore.” I wanted to yell, “I SAW THE ULTRASOUND. THE PLACENTA IS BLOCKING MY CERVIX. AS IF THIS IS NOT HARD ENOUGH ALREADY!” I just nodded and tried to block it out. I knew a c-section was how I would get my baby into my arms, and I needed to be at peace with that decision. I also needed time to mourn the loss of my dream birth, and a planned section makes that possible. So, for that I was thankful.
I got my bags perfectly packed and headed to the hospital. The feeling I felt waiting for my cesarean was a feeling I never got to feel with my VBACs. It was a giddy, “I want to laugh and smile because I’m more excited than I can put into words” breathless feeling. The nurses were friendly, upbeat. We joked, had fun, took pictures. Family started pouring in.
They took me back to the operating room and gave me my spinal (OUCH!), I laid down, and they started prepping me. I remember them pinching me and saying, “Can you feel this?”. I kept telling them, “Don’t cut me, I can still feel it!!!” Eventually, I must have stopped feeling it because they started cutting. I can’t say I enjoyed the feeling. I felt sort of like I couldn’t breathe. And it was so warm and the smells were not pleasant. But, more than anything, I felt lots of excitement. The surgery was very quick. They had to sort of jump on my belly to get him out. I was jerked all around. But soon, he was out! He was born “floppy” so he went straight to the warmer (which I couldn’t see). The first words from my “this is my child” mouth were, “Does he have hair? Is he cute?” The answers were yes and yes. After a few short minutes they brought him to me and he stayed from then on.
When we left, we were greeted by about 30 family members and friends. That was too many people, in case you were wondering. Ness was passed around and I didn’t spend those first few moments with him. I felt oddly disconnected to him, but I should have pushed past that and spent time with only him. How I handled him after birth affected me for awhile. I think that a planned c-section naturally made me feel unattached to the baby (especially him being my first). If I have one bit of advice for someone who is having a planned c-section, it would be that you need to spend skin to skin time with your new baby, even if it feels weird.
Overall, my c-section set the stage for my two VBACs. When my second son was born vaginally, I can’t explain the joy I felt. I had SO much appreciation for my VBAC because of my c-section. Not so much for the birth itself, but for the way I felt about the baby after he was born.
Melissa was born in Baton Rouge but moved to the country in her young childhood, the real country/middle of nowhere. She went to Louisiana College where she met her now husband of 8 years. They lived in Japan for two years teaching English and now are back in the states raising her house of boys (one grown boy three littles). All of which she is attempting to homeschool “Montessori Style”. She enjoys sewing in her free time and runs a small sewing business: Quibby-Made. She is also into all things natural especially anything to do with beeswax. Melissa and her family are Christians and attend Grace Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. Melissa is also the organizer of MOPs of Baton Rouge at the Vineyard and attends various moms groups and bible studies around town.