My journey into motherhood began in 2013, when I got the news. I remember the morning vividly. At the time I was running about six miles, three to four mornings a week. Before my run, I went on the stick, set it aside and laced up my sneakers. When I got back from my run, I found a positive pregnancy test!
I was overwhelmed with feelings of happiness, excitement and fear. Fear of so many things. I was especially afraid of a vaginal birth. Today I want to share the Seven Ways That Fear Lead Me To Have an Elective C-section.
I now realize that I didn’t trust my body and attempt to labor on my own. Instead, I internalized the stories and opinions of others and allowed fear to dictate my decision. I was blessed with the ability to conceive and a healthy pregnancy. There was no medical reason for me to have a cesarean delivery.
“Cesarean delivery on maternal request (CDMR) is a caesarean section birth requested by the pregnant woman without a medical reason.” Wikipedia
The end result may have been the same anyway. I’ll never know for sure.
There are numerous medical issues that require a C-section. For the mommies that have medical conditions, placenta issues, babies in less than optimal positioning for labor, and so on – I’m grateful that cesareans are available.
I’ve recently learned that CDRMs (caesarean delivery on maternal requests) are not available in all parts of the country. I sympathize with women who don’t have the option, since I know first hand why someone would choose to have a cesarean.
I had the option to request a caesarean, even though there was not a medically necessary reason to do so. The choice was driven by fear. To the mommies that find yourself in a similar situation, I hope this post helps you to identify and overcome your own fears of childbirth. I hope that you don’t let fear get in the way of making an informed decision for your own childbirth (like I did).
I’m starting with ignorance because I want to call myself out from the beginning. Ignorance was the biggest driver of my fear of vaginal childbirth and is related to all of the other points throughout this post.
Pregnancy brought a new focus to my life. I picked up a few pregnancy books, read numerous articles online and subscribed to all of the pregnancy podcasts that I could find. I loved learning about what was happening inside my body, how my baby was growing and how to plan for motherhood.
What I didn’t spend enough time on was learning about vaginal childbirth. I know now that labor and delivery would be the peak of this mountain that I had been climbing for 40 weeks. Yet, I barely skimmed the chapters and episodes on labor and delivery. I was too afraid to educate myself on childbirth, and my resulting ignorance made me even more fearful.
- Portrayal of Birth in the Media
Throughout my life, the message that I received from TV and movies was that having a baby vaginally is painful and scary. The media portrayed labor and delivery as an emergency situation. Childbirth was always in the hospital, where the women in labor are panicked and in pain. Think Kirstie Alley’s creepy voice change when she’s in labor and asking for drugs in Look Who’s Talking. With my now four year old, we call that our monster voice.
Midwives and birth centers are rarely, if ever, reflected on TV. The first time I heard of a home birth was from Pamela Anderson, and even that seemed foreign to me. Embarrassingly, I didn’t know what a Midwife was until I was 33 years old and pregnant with my second (read more in my VBAC story here).
The media’s representation of labor and delivery is far from the whole truth. There are so many forms of labor and every birth is beautifully different. It sure would be nice to see a realistic portrayal of childbirth in a movie – hello Hollywood? I’m available 😉
During my second pregnancy I discovered and highly recommend a documentary called The Business of Being Born. It may be a bit much for some, but I found the information to be empowering.
- Family History
My mother had a horrifying childbirth story in the mid-70s. She had a long, difficult labor that resulted in third degree vaginal tearing. What the?!?! My girl parts are cringing just thinking about it.
Fast-forward to the early 80s, my mother’s OB/GYN scheduled a Cesarean for my birth, even though she had a healthy pregnancy. She went on to have three more children, for a total of five (four of which were scheduled cesareans).
My older sister had a long, difficult labor that resulted in an emergency cesarean in the 90s. I was 11 years old and was in the labor and delivery room with her. I remember that she was in a lot of pain before she got the epidural, there was plenty of screaming, and the phrase “best birth control” being thrown around. For the record, yes, it IS great birth control. Later, my sister had two more children, both scheduled C-sections, and all three healthy pregnancies.
Cesareans were very normal in our household. I internalized my family’s labor and delivery experiences, which made me feel like it would be my destiny as well, since it must be genetic, right? My hips were shaped like my mother’s so I probably couldn’t pass a baby through, right? Wrong. I’d later learn that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
- Childbirth Classes
Insert ignorant first time pregnant girl here. I didn’t take a single childbirth or labor and delivery class. I toured the hospital, so, at least I knew where the cafeteria was located. I took a class that coincides with the book The Happiest Baby on the Block, so my swaddle and baby soothing game was on point.
When it came to scheduling a childbirth class, I panicked. I was too freaked out by the images in my mind of Lamaze breathing and the reality of a watermelon coming out of my body to educate myself. Acknowledging what I feared would make them too real. Again, rookie mistake.
- Doctor’s Orders
Ok, maybe it wasn’t her ORDERS, rather, highly suggested. Towards the end of my pregnancy (around 38-39 weeks), I was finally able to see one of the most recognized OB/GYNs in Tampa – I’ll call her Dr. Queen. She hadn’t been accepting new patients for years, so I was stoked to finally meet her. Dr. Queen was a member of a practice that had several OB/GYNs and rotated doctors with each prenatal visit. This way, patients become familiar with all of the doctors in the practice, as any one of them could be on call when you go into labor.
Dr. Queen took a few measurements, felt around my belly and said, “The baby is looking like he will be between 8 and 10 pounds. At this point our conversation needs to change and we should begin discussing a C-section.”
My mind was racing with panic and familiarity. Oh my god! Dr. Queen thinks I need a C-section if my baby is big?! I was 9lb., 8oz., and big babies run in my family. C-section it is! I allowed the fear to set in and I scheduled the cesarean immediately. I mean, I trusted anything that Dr. Queen said. Not smart, Mama.
This article provides interesting statistics on big babies, doctor’s suggestions and caesareans.
Would you believe that I left my OB/GYN during my second pregnancy for even making note of my baby’s estimated large size? Read more about my VBAC story here.
- Vaginal Tearing
The story of my mother’s first childbirth (with my older sister) and her third-degree vaginal tear kept me up at night. It sounded like the most painful thing in the world and it scared the hell out of me.
What little I knew about an episiotomy and its long-term affects on my perineum was equally as scary.
The thought of a thin scar on my lower belly from a cesarean seemed much more reasonable. It was familiar, similar to the scars that my mother and sister had from their own surgeries.
Did I ignore that a C-section was major abdominal surgery, with its own inherent risks? Not to mention, recovery from a C-section is no walk in the park. This article summarizes cesarean risks.
- Negative Birth Stories
People love to tell you the gory details of their birth stories. Stories of long labors, painful contractions, epidural needles, medical interventions, vaginal tears, and other scary complications. Their stories always ended with a cliche line such as, “but it was all worth it.” I do find this cliche (among others) to be true. Yet, I felt like every graphic story added to the fear that was already in my head. It was my first pregnancy and I hadn’t yet learned how to mentally process these negative, albeit factual, details.
When I was pregnant with my second, I found strategies for dealing with negative birth stories that worked for me. To read more about my VBAC story, click here. For more information on how I prepared for a vaginal delivery, click here.
My water broke a few days before the scheduled C-section. When I reached the hospital, another OB from the practice was on call (NOT Dr. Queen). Knowing that I had a healthy pregnancy, she asked if I wanted to try laboring. I was panicked and had already given in to my fears, including the advice from Dr. Queen, and said no.
I had an elective C-section, my son was 8lb. 15oz., and at the time, it felt like the right choice for ME and MY body. I thanked God that my baby was healthy and that I was healthy and recovering.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized the role that fear played in my choice to have an elective cesarean. I was fearful, uninformed and my C-section may have been unnecessary.
Positive Vibes Only
The purpose of this post is not to offend, shame, hurt or criticize any Mommy’s birth choice. I respect that everyone’s situation is different and I respect every birth choice. Your body is your body.
Discussing my journey into Motherhood online feels so raw and vulnerable (thanks to Mommy shamers); but if my story resonates with even one Mama, then I know it’s worth it. So please, positive vibes only! 🙂 I know we are all doing our best as Mommies for our families.
I would love to hear your story. Are you pregnant? Have you had, or are you considering a C-section? How are you handling your fears of childbirth? Please share and pin, I’d love to chat and support each other along our journeys.