A Good Birth

January 18, 2010

When I was pregnant with Jasper, I asked my doctor for a c-section.

Can I have a c-section?, I asked.

No, she said.

I had been going through early labor for weeks. It was three weeks or so before my due date, but bio-physical ultrasounds were logging me at well over a week overdue based on Jasper’s size. Jasper, according to ultrasound measurements, probably weighed close to nine pounds. And I still had three weeks to go.

I was a little freaked out.

I’m serious, I told my doctor.

– We’re keeping a close eye on you. If he gets to an unmanageable size, we’ll talk about it. But you can do this. Emilia was big. You’ve done this.


– We’ll talk about it again next week.

The following week, I informed her – my tongue only lightly in cheek – that I would perform a c-section on myself, if I had to.

I’m sure that’s not necessary, she said.

A few days later, I asked again. The most recent ultrasound had put Jasper’s weight at about 9 and a half pounds. I was having painful contractions every night. My body, I told my doctor, wants this child OUT.

– And it will get him out. But if he doesn’t come this weekend, we’ll talk c-section next week.

Jasper arrived that weekend. Oh, boy, did he arrive. All nine and half plus pounds of him, and in a hurry, and through an exit that he made himself, with his head. It was the most terrifying experience of my life, and mine, I’ll have you know, is a life that has seen life-threatening house fires, horrific car accidents and being held hostage on a Greek island. None of that holds a terror-candle to precipitous labor with blast-exit effects.

My doctor asked me, later, whether I was glad that I’d let Jasper come out on his own.

No, I said. No way.

I was glad – thrilled, grateful, ecstatic – that Jasper was out and that he was healthy. But if I could have had the delivery go differently, I would have, no question. With Emilia, I’d been in active labor for nearly thirty hours, with an epidural that only worked on half my body and pain so bad that I hallucinated my twelve-year old self hovering in the room and laughing at me. I’d have swapped Jasper’s mode of delivery for that one in a flash, hallucinations and all.  I’d also have swapped it for a c-section. I didn’t ever say that out loud, though. I knew from experience that this is a sensitive subject. And end of the day, I was just glad that Jasper and I – after a delivery that, in an earlier time, would have, no question, killed us both – were fine. So I wasn’t interested in – and didn’t see the need for – debating the subject.

Still, whenever some well-meaning person has made a comment or a joke about wishing that they’d had a ninety-minute natural labor – instead of their own ten hour/twenty hour/thirty hour labor, or induced or vacuum-assisted or medicated labor,  or c-section, or whatever – I’ve bristled a little. Not unless you like being terrified out of your mind thinking that you and your baby are going to die and having that baby crown while you’re speeding down the highway and then blast his own way out tearing you so badly that the doctors can’t see through the gore to give you a local before they stitch you up and even then it’s so messy that one of them stitches his finger to your hoo-ha and they’ve only given you a Tylenol 3 and THERE’S SO MUCH BLOOD and OH MY GOD THE PAIN and you can’t walk for nearly six weeks and then you’re left with post-traumatic stress disorder and a frankenvulva, I think. Not unless you’re mother-effing crazy.

But I never say that. I’ve always just said no, you probably don’t, made a little joke about frankenvulvas, and left it at that.

Because, end of the day, it doesn’t matter. It’s a cliche, but it’s one that is firmly rooted in truth: what matters in any birth is the baby. Not you, not me, not the midwife or the attending physician or one’s partner or anyone else. The baby. If the baby comes out okay, then it’s good. Which is not to say that you or I or anyone else might not be disappointed or upset or sore or post-traumatically stressed – I was sore and stressed in the extreme – or that we shouldn’t strive to advocate for our own and others’ best births, whatever that looks like, only that how the baby arrives in this world and in our arms (hello, adoptive moms!) is far less important than that he or she does.

This, too: although it seems that birthin’ babies is an experience with which all mothers can identify in some common measure (stick two or mothers in a room together and odds are good that at some point they will compare birth stories), it simply isn’t, not least because not all mothers give birth. Not all mothers give birth – some adopt, some are in partnerships or marriages with the birth-mothers of their children, some foster, some surrogate – and not all mothers view or experience birth in the same way. Some regard giving birth at home and/or giving birth naturally, without medical intervention, as the best possible kind of birth; others want a full team of doctors at their side with an epidural drip that kicks in at the earliest possible moment. Some want soft lighting and soft music, others just want it OVER WITH LIKE NOW. Some would very much prefer if stork deliveries could be arranged. End of the day, the birth experience – indeed, the experience of getting your child into your arms by whatever means, birth or paperwork or Stork Express – is a profoudly and necessarily personal one, one that only we, each of us, as individuals (and, I suppose, couples, although that might be another topic entirely) can judge as good or bad or acceptable or whatever.

What I wish is that we could talk about these differences – in all of their awkward glory – without falling at each other’s throats. Yes, I have – like some others – thought that getting a c-section would have been a lucky break. I’ve  joked about it. I’ve certainly joked and heard the jokes and cringed in response to the jokes about squeezing jumbo watermelons out of one’s nethers. But I’ve also listened with sympathy to stories about pelvises breaking during labor and complications after c-sections and heartbreak over needing to be induced or rushed away from home birthing nests to hospitals because intervention was needed, and I’ve commiserated countless times with other women who had their nethers shredded and are still – weeks, months, years later – a little bit traumatized by it.  I’ve listened to heartbreaking stories about failed adoptions and lost children and to heartwarming stories about children delivered safely to their mothers’ arms. These are personal experiences of the life-changing event that is welcoming a child into one’s life and one’s heart and none of us, none of us, can say whether another’s is anything other that what she professes it to be. And none of us should decry how another professes that experience or articulates her feelings around that experience.

And why should we? Some us need to cry, some of us need to rage, some of us need to laugh and laugh and laugh some more. These are rich experiences; these are the terrible and amazing and awesome and sometimes very darkly funny stories – stories that make us cringe and squeal and cry and rage and, yes, laugh – that make up the rich narrative fabric of motherhood.


Let’s not stop it unfurling. Let’s embrace – or, at least, be tolerant of – each others’ ways and means of sharing these stories, and recognize them for the intensely personal stories that they are. And then let’s all remember to be grateful, so grateful, that so many of these stories, whatever their dramas, have happy endings – BABIES – and that we live in an age and a culture where the happy ending is the norm, and where we have the luxury of discussing how to give birth and not whether or not we or our babies are or are not likely to survive birth.

Many aren’t so lucky.

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    Teresa January 19, 2010 at 8:14 am

    Another note: like with breastfeeding, the people who push natural birth have good intentions, if not tact.

    C-sections are major surgeries that damage the body (not just the tummy scar, but the underlying muscle tissue and the uterus), and they can cause complications in future pregnancies. The “too posh to push” movement makes light of a very serious decision.

    But in the early- to mid-1900′s there was a movement on the part of the medical community (at the time, still largely uneducated about women’s health) to hospitalize births: to make them safer, to speed them up, to make the experience itself as painless as possible. The methods that have been developed for the latter two create a greater need for c-section interventions in order to remain safe.

    Ideally, doctors educate expectant mothers without bias, and nurses are informed and supportive of whatever decision is made by the mother and her doctor. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and that is why there is a vocal minority pushing aggressively for natural birth.

    Many of the notable proponents are part of the radicalized Feminist movement, and I think that’s the issue that’s really being discussed with all of this: now that the radical movement has made its impact and women’s lib is turning into women’s equality, does Feminism need to be a polarizing term? Can you be a feminist even if you choose not to work? Not to have a natural birth? Not to breastfeed? Isn’t choice the ultimate form of female empowerment?

    The medical community as a whole does not embrace homebirths. It does not embrace homeopathic remedies. It is only because of radical campaigns that have become mainstream that Wellness is becoming a topic of discussion among Western doctors. It’s easy for activists to feel discouraged in their struggle to create options when women casually embrace medical interventions and glibly dismiss natural birth (hence the hostility toward elective c-sections).

    Regardless of our own choices, we need to create support for all safe options, so that they are available to women when they want/need them.

    Jenny January 19, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Thanks for yet another wonderful post. My best friend gave birth to her first child this weekend, and watching her go through the whole experience helped me so much. I always told myself that it didn’t matter as long as I had a healthy baby, but until this weekend, I didn’t believe it.
    .-= Jenny´s last blog ..Birfday Wrapup =-.

    Karen January 19, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Here is my thing: what happens to the baby matters. what happens to the mother matters – and you just don’t know how people are experiencing it, no matter how it sounds. We all say, the only thing that matters is a healthy baby, but in reality, we are allowed to have more than one thing matter to us, right? Isn’t real life more accurately represented by tons of priorities all shifting in and out of focus – sometimes one being given precedence and sometimes another? It all matters.

    In my work as a doula, my gig is that women should have safe, supported birth. I believe wholeheartedly that we should all have it – even though unforeseen things happen – that we don’t all get safety and support sucks. I also believe that all kinds of birth can be safe and supported not just “natural” or whatever people are calling vaginal birth these days.

    The other bit – and obviously three paragraphs into commenting, I need my own blog post – is that we all heal differently, because our make up is different. Some women are completely traumatized by something that others of us would not have bat an eyelash at! Fairly often, I find myself coaching women to feel okay they got the epidural instead of feeling like a failure. Other women would have raised their hand for the epidural and never looked back and reproached themselves. We have to stop warring on each other. It’s okay you would have preferred a c-section & would have done anything to possibly prevent the type of traumatic birth you did have. And it’s okay that someone else had surgical birth and thinks she’d do anything not to go through that again. It’s really okay both ways.

    Everything is complicated. It’s life. We have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
    .-= Karen´s last blog ..But Jesus is in Your Heart!!! and Other Words of Comfort =-.

    Her Bad Mother January 19, 2010 at 10:38 am

    I think that you’re totally right – many things matter (although I don’t think that I said that the baby is the *only* thing that matters – just that end (baby) mattered *more* than the means (delivery) – which I think it does).

    And, yes, how we heal – physically and emotionally – matters, because our own health is so important (for ourselves and for the baby). But that’s part of what makes these experiences so personal – we all heal differently, we all experience differently.

    ‘We have to get comfortable being uncomfortable’ is exactly the right thing to say here. Birth and babies are awesome, wonderful UNCOMFORTABLE experiences – and our differences in those can exascerbate the discomfort. But the discomfort is what keeps it rich and interesting.

    Or something ;)
    .-= Her Bad Mother´s last blog ..A Good Birth =-.

    Darcey January 19, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Hey Catherine – I rarely comment here, but this post really resonated with me. I’m not a mother (at least not at this point in my life), but my own mother nearly died having my younger sister, about 20 years ago.

    My sister was born “sunny-side up” after 26 hours of labor after inducing, a mostly healthy child (slightly jaundiced with a bit of a cone-head where she’d been resting against my mother’s pelvis), and absolutely beautiful. When they went to birth the placenta, however, it had breached the uterine wall, and my mom started to bleed out. They rushed her into an emergency hysterectomy, and after several hours of surgery and nearly 40 pints of blood (yes, she was bleeding out faster than they could replace it), she emerged, worse for the wear. Since then, she has always felt a little less than a woman – missing an essential part of her anatomy that brings her the feminine “power”. (Also consider this was 1990, before there was a lot of AIDS screening for blood donors, so she dealt with that fear for a LONG time.)

    Anywho… as I was 10 at the time, and have grown up knowing that childbirth is an awesome (and scary) and amazing thing. No matter how the child is born. As long as baby and mama are both healthy, that’s all that matters.
    .-= Darcey´s last blog ..Insert Foot =-.

    Her Bad Mother January 19, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Experiences like these are exactly why we need to remember how lucky we are to live in a society/culture where mothers’ and babies’ lives do get saved – and that so many women still live in conditions where this is not the norm.

    Thanks for sharing your/your mom’s story :)

    Corina January 19, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have often felt like I was looked down upon by others for having two c-sections and the fact that it was my choice to have the second one.

    Here are the facts. My first baby was 9lbs. 8 oz. I went through 15 hrs of labor with pitocin MAXED out only to make it to 3 cm and need to have her by cesarean. I was EXHAUSTED, my recovery long and hard. The PPD was HORRIBLE, close to being one of the extreme cases. While I know that my history predetermined the PPD, I am convinced had things gone smoother and I wasn’t so exhausted, recovery so slow.

    I wanted to try for VBAC with my second, but at 33 weeks when he already measured at 7 lbs 10 oz, I quickly changed my mind. I could NOT see myself doing that again. Trying, failing, and ending up just as exhausted, just as depressed. I never wanted that again. I was going to have kids now that needed me, and less of a support system than I had with my first. I chose what my KIDS needed me to choose. I chose the c-section. And while I still had PPD, it was MUCH less severe than with my first and my recovery was much quicker.

    Things are not always black and white. Mothers are mothers regardless of method of birth. The choices we make, the love we give makes us mothers. My choice was to give myself for my kids regardless of how I birthed them. You are right. It is time to stop the judgments and simply let women be who they are and share their stories.
    .-= Corina´s last blog ..Holding their Hand….. =-.

    momtrolfreak January 19, 2010 at 10:52 am

    thank you for this. I thought the mominatrix’s comments were funny, even though I had a (rather horrific, anesthesia-free) c-section. As scary and painful and unplanned and did I mention scary and I-thought-I-was-going-to-die-and-so-did-my-husband, and I felt every single cut of the scalpel and felt them scraping me out and felt them putting everything back in and only THEN did someone figure out that to get me to stop screaming and begging to pass out that maybe they should put me all the way under because HELLO YOU DUMBASSES THE ANESTHESIA IS NOT WORKING, even after all that, I would still take that over anything else because THAT is how I got my son, and I would not do anything differently, because he is perfect and he was healthy and fine and HUGE (hence the c-section–we have big babies in my family, he was 9lbs 12ounces, and I am not a big lady), even after all that, I would still take that INSTEAD OF the natural birth my friend had that resulted in 6 inches of stiches and years of “issues” “down there.” If naything, I compare myself to other women and diminish my own experience, because I was totally going to TRY to have a natural birth (or at least, a vaginal birth) and it all went to hell in a handbasket, but if you’re going to have 4 inches of scar tissue and pain somewhere on your body and you have a choice between abdomen and lady parts, I’m not choosing lady parts. All mothers are amazing. All mothers are wonderful. Mothers are mothers and are the most important people on the planet because they love unconditionally, they sacrifice without blinking an eye, they are “home” to every human being on this planet. That is true no matter what kind of birth they had, or if they had no birth at all. All of that is just detail. It’s about the baby. If I want a vanilla milkshake (my favorite food), I don’t really care if I make it myself at home, walk into a restaurant and have table service, or go to the drive thru: in the end, I’m still drinking a vanilla milkshake, and it is delicious and cold and has a cherry on top and some whipped cream and sometimes–the best times–a tiny cookie on the straw, and that’s all that matters.

    Her Bad Mother January 19, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Oh, my god, your STORY.

    I barely made it through amniocentesis, and was terrified at the idea of c-section (until I began to feel that it might be a saving thing). UNANESTHETIZED c-section? makes my unanesthetized vulva reconstruction look like a walk in the park.

    (Also, cookies? on straws? WANT)

    Kami January 20, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Momtrolfreak, I have been wondering what the details were on your birth story since you first mentioned it to me in passing at some point awhile ago. Jeez Louise, Dude. I can’t even imagine. I think about that book The Good Earth alot. She gave birth in the middle of a rice paddy. While harvesting. She just squatted and had a baby. You would have died in that scenario. I would have died in that scenario. I guess traumatic births/c-sections/severe tearing etc don’t help at all with global population control but do allow those of us who encounter complications in the birth process to live to see our children grow up.

    Jo January 19, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Here’s the thing; you KNEW you needed a c-section. And in my opinion you should’ve HAD that c-section simply because you KNEW you needed it. You were obviously right.

    In my opinion, that’s what’s missing in American healthcare…listening to the mother. We’re built to know what’s best for not only our babies but OURSELVES and I think in most situations our desires should be granted.
    .-= Jo´s last blog ..Are you gonna eat that? =-.

    Nikita (@RantingRaving) January 19, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Thank you so much for this, your timing couldn’t have been better…

    I’m over 39wks pregnant and a month ago they estimated my “little” baby boy to be 8 pounds so now we’re waiting to hear if this baby will be born when he’s ready or if we’ll be doing induction or c-section. I really needed your post this week.

    Again, thank you.

    As an addition to the list of birth experiences people tend to unintentionally belittle or forget about; miscarriage. It can range from cramping and spotting to full on labour but no one ever seems to talk about it and people often forget that these women are moms too. Moms who lost their babies. Moms who had likely already been dreaming of the futures their baby would have. I miscarried my 14 week old baby after 8 hrs of labour, half of which involved contractions 2min apart or less. Trauma? check. Loss? check. Therapy? check.

    We need to be sensitive to all experiences, to ask questions, to be careful that our comments aren’t judgmental. We may never understand what another woman went through or why she made certain choices but we can at least listen and support her.
    .-= Nikita (@RantingRaving)´s last blog ..Birthdays =-.

    Crunchy January 20, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    8 pounds isn’t big! Mine were all over 9! and two were pushed out the ‘right’ way…won’t talk about all THOSE stitches!

    And yeah…when I lost my son at 26 weeks….nobody clued in that I had to DELIVER him. Induced with HARD labour. Even the stupid nurses kept forgetting.

    Sensitivity is the key. Being in other peoples shoes is the key. Getting that we are all different is the key.

    Sierra Black January 19, 2010 at 2:45 pm


    I had two large babies, with ‘natural’ births. The first the second didn’t even rough me up enough to need a band-aid, so I don’t exactly feel your pain.

    But. BUT. I totally get how hard these things are to talk about, and how much social pressure there is on women to have – or want – a certain kind of birth experience. My thoughts on this are running way too long for a comment, so I’m going to post about it over on ChildWild.
    .-= Sierra Black´s last blog ..Civil Rights Through the Eyes of a Five-Year-Old =-.

    Tiffanie January 19, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    I loved reading this! I was in labor for 19 hours & ended up in a c-section with my son. Planned on a natural delivery with my daughter but since my husband was deployed I wasn’t sure how well that would go over…I ended up with a planned c-section because I was so stressed about everything & my emotions were insane! Although it may have not been what I ever thought a “perfect delivery” could be…it was perfect for us! My husband was able to be on the phone with me the entire surgery & we heard her first cries together. If I would have had a natural delivery there was no way I would have talked to him, nor would he have been able to hear her first cries…he was on a convoy & since I had a set time & date he was able to call 15 minutes before & stay on the phone with me…it was absolutely unforgettable!!!
    .-= Tiffanie´s last blog ..Before & After =-.

    Cristin January 19, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    Beautiful. Well said.
    And oh my goodness, I cannot imagine the horror!
    .-= Cristin´s last blog ..The Armpit Vagine =-.

    Cristin January 19, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    That’s really cute how my latest blog entry is listed. I have never seen that. Haha.

    heaterm January 19, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Once again, beautifully put! As a fairly new parent, I am also learning that this can be true too about parenting choices. Whether its breastfeeding or co-sleeping, or spanking…every parent has to make daily choices that no one else sees, knows about, or really understands. We have shared experiences as parents, but for God’s sake, its not as if there is a manual for this stuff! I’m learning to be less judgemental of other parents as well, for their choices are their choice, not mine.

    Brittany at Mommy Words January 20, 2010 at 1:05 am

    Oh man I just spent 20 minutes tyoing out a very well thought put comment while breastfeeding Violet, who was born today, and then she moved and I shut the page by accident. I will have to re-learn breastfeeding and typing eh?

    Anyway, I was able to avoid a c-section today because they were able to flip her this morning (she has been frank breech the whole pregnancy) but man I got jusgement from everywhere. I had to agree to be prepared for the c-section and so I had an epidural when I got to the hospital and I did all this today, at 38 weeks.

    I had low fluid and this is the plan my OB thought was best for the baby’s health and mine. I delivered my first 2 babies VERY quickly and painfully and she was worried that I would go into breech labor on my own.

    So, people judged my decision to get an epidural. Some judged my acceptance of an early delivery and said I should not allow my OB to induce labor. Some said I should have just gone ahead with the c-section and that would be the best for the baby. Everyone had an opinion.

    My husband was again incredulous at the open judgement that moms heap on each other and it helped so much for him to say – who cares…you are a great mom who cares about your babies health and you made your choices with the help of your OB. They can back off. I kissed him. He is right – but more than back off – we should try to listen and support and get along.

    Healthy babies are really important – how they get here is much less so.

    Great post Catherine. I now must collapse in exhaustion from a very painful and quick labor once the epidural wore off (I let it go off after she successfully flipped). The plan worked oh judgy ones – healthy baby. Healthy mommy!

    You win, btw, for labor drama. Not that it i a contest but Holy moly! I hurt (more) just thinking about it and I’m so glad for the big pack of ice they gave me for my yaya and the 800 mg Ibuprofren. I can’t even imagine what you went through!
    .-= Brittany at Mommy Words´s last blog ..Introducing Violet Grace! =-.

    Tacomamama January 20, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Wow, congratulations on your healthy baby girl! Sounds like you listened to your gut and your health care provider, and that was the right thing for you to do. Now, go get some rest!

    Missy January 20, 2010 at 3:58 am

    I love your blog and have read it for a very long time. I don’t post much. I use to blog but had to give it up due to my husband’s job and privacy issues.

    I try to never judge moms’ birth decisions, mainly because I know things can go very differently from what we plan or want. With my first I planned a beautiful unmedicated home birth with a team of women warriors (and the hubby). What I got was 10 hours of back labor (without meds) and then placental abruption and a C-section without an epidural. Yes, you read that right. They just tie your arms down and cut you open.

    So, yeah, a C-section – piece of cake! LOL!

    Sending xo from California to one of my all-time favorite writers.

    Lady M January 20, 2010 at 4:44 am

    So wonderfully written, Catherine. I got the BABY out of the experience, and that’s what matters.
    .-= Lady M´s last blog ..No Lack of Movie Tie-Ins =-.

    pam January 20, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Been there, done that, sistah.

    Baby #1 was 10 pounds. Putting humpty dumpty back together was like trying to stitch up hamburger. I know for frankenvulva.

    Baby #2 was 9.5 pounds. Episiotomy to the south, random tear to the east, of all things.

    Wouldn’t trade it for the world.

    Colleen January 20, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Ah! What a very eloquently written post.

    I actually get to come at this from the other side– I SHOULD have been born via C-Section. I was 11.4 pounds. The Doctors at the time (28 years ago) had my mom push and try to do things naturally… then, as my head poked out, they realized I was turning blue. They thought it was because of the nuchal cord (cord around my neck), so they cut it… whoops, it wasn’t that. Turns out I had aspirated the muconium in the birth canal and collapsed my lung. SO, my shoulders were so big at this point that I was stuck. Not breathing, and no umbilical cord to give me oxygen. It then shifted into crazy-mode and they had to literally rip me out of my mother’s birth canal. They basically destroyed her nether-regions, and they ripped the brachial nerve plexus in my right shoulder. They were able to re-inflate my lung, but I had several bouts of pneumonia as a child. And, luckily, infants have the ability to regrow some nerves, so I got back a lot of my range of motion- but not all. There are quite a few things I am not able to do, mostly gym-related. If the doctors had given my mother a C-section, I might have a viable right shoulder, and she may not have had to have had multiple reconstructive surgeries.

    Large babies run in the family. My mom was tested multiple times for gestational diabetes, all negative. She was 11.2 pounds, and natural and fine, thank goodness. Her mother, my grandmother, was 11.6 pounds- natural, and fine- BUT the 9th child so perhaps the others did some stretching for her ;-)

    I am a medcial professional and understand all risks of natural, aided, and c-section births. I WILL be finding a physician who will give me a c-section when I do get pregnant- because I don’t want to go through all that my mom did worrying that she hurt me! I rarely tell people my plan, because people think it’s “wrong” to schedule… but I believe it’s right for me, and hey, do what’s right for you!

    Zak January 20, 2010 at 2:39 pm


    Andrea from Big Blue Momma January 20, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    I had two c-sections, one was unplanned and the other was kinda sorta planned. With my son, I begged to be induced. I couldn’t breathe, had headaches, swelling to the gills, so my OB took pity on me. I ended up with a two day induction and a kid that was turned sideways and wouldn’t cooperate when turned with the forceps. As I was pushing my BP started to skyrocket (like 180/120 and higher). Rushed in for a c-section with a nurse that made sure I didn’t feel a thing. I can barely remember seeing him being held over the curtain. The next morning, I was diagnosed with HELLP Syndrome and put on strict bed rest with padded rails. I couldn’t be left alone. Someone had to be in the room with me at all times. I had so many meds pumped in me to fix all the things going wrong in body that breastfeeding wasn’t even an option. I was in the hospital for a week.

    None of that experience factored in my mind when we decided to have baby #2. My second pregnancy made my first seem like a cakewalk. I had a planned c-section, but ended up having the baby 3 weeks earlier due to more issues. This c-section was different, but still memorable none the less.

    The important thing is that they are both here, no matter how they came in the world.

    Kristen January 20, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    I think you illustrate very well how *deeply* profound and personal a woman’s birth experiences are, and even how jokes about various birth experiences can be (unintentionally) insensitive. As a doula, I’ve attended two precipitous births, and each woman experienced her birth radically differently: one was elated that her birth went by so quickly and without any complications, while the other was utterly traumatized by the speed of her labor, *even though* there were no complications for either her or her baby. One would have loved a joke about “the ease of a fast labor,” and the other would have been deeply hurt by it (and actually expressed to me that she *had* been hurt by those jokes and didn’t know how to express herself to those presumably well-meaning people).

    I’ve also been with moms who have felt violated by their cesarean sections and those who were quite pleased with their c-section experience(s). Some might bristle at a joke about their “tighter vaginas” or their “easy birth” and others might give up a “high five” for the joke(s).

    Birth is intimate and personal and can be the most empowering or the most traumatic experience of a woman’s life, but it is *her* experience to judge and process and celebrate and mourn. I think you point this out wisely here.

    At the end of the day, I hope that all birth advocates ultimately push for these: for healthy moms and healthy babies, for care providers who give transparent and caring advice to the women they see, for care providerse who practice evidence-based medicine, and for women *and* care providers who trust a person’s intuition.

    Miriam January 22, 2010 at 5:04 am

    Thank you for this comment. I found my first birth highly traumatic, and that was compounded by the way other people seemed to find it trivial.

    monstergirlee January 20, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    There are so many thoughtful comments, its such a treat to read them, everyone is so civil. I like that.

    I had my own ideas about how the births of my kids would be, and for the most part they went fine. Both 8 lb 15 oz kids (Hubby says my uterus must only cooks them to that size) came out healthy but tore me greatly and required an hour of stitching. Ah such is life. But in the end – I have 2 healthy kids, and thats all that matters. I would not judge someone for advocating to have their births go the way they want.
    I have a medical condition that up until I went into labor, I could have ended up with a c-section, we were prepared for that too.
    All I wanted was a healthy Baby. End of story.

    Thank you for this post, and for the insightful replies.

    Kelly January 20, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    I am late to this, but I have been thinking about this post for two days. First I was going to comment about my own unmedicated C-Section and how I am terrified of needing another if I have another child. (The epidural failed, might be something to do with my metabolism, or lack therof, of certain anesthetics and opiates…)And how my daughter was a-ok but I was readmitted to the hospital five days later with water in my lungs and around my heart. As I lay in the hospital bed listening to my heart’s irregular beating for the longest 12 hours of my life, I–atheist me–PRAYED for G*d, G*dess, ANYONE please don’t let my baby’s Mama die.

    But, after reading the comments above, I think that one of the hardest things, at least for me, is forgiving myself for being so traumatized by the pain and subsequent suffering I endured. After all, it’s the vaginal birth that supposed to be painful, and we strong women don’t get *traumatized* by that, do we? But I guess one woman’s trauma is another woman’s empowerment. I am thrilled to have a happy, healthy, 2 1/2 year old girl, and I would relive the trauma of her birth to ensure her life and health, but I still wish it hadn’t gone the way it did. And I very much wish I was okay with it now, but I am not.

    Thank you for a wonderful post.

    megan January 28, 2010 at 12:47 am

    I honestly cannot imagine an unmedicated c-section could be anyting but PURE TRAUMA. YOU have every reason in the world to have been traumatized, as do the other ladies on here who have made similar comments. I am very grateful for the amazing anethetist I had with my very rapid emeergency c-section. I felt ‘stuff’, but no pain. Blessings to you, I pray that the trauma fades with time.
    .-= megan´s last blog ..I’m Still Learning =-.

    natalie January 20, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    I love the fact that you’ve replied to so many on this post. I too had a BAD bad BAD birth experience….(think 4 days of labor, then emergency forcep delivery and three teams of nurse/doctors who MISSED a three inch labial tear afterwards, which naturally, got infected, I was in vag. pain for almost 4 months) and YES it DID ultimately cause some real psychological trauma for me during that 1st year…and also caused me to re-think everything having to do with my own expectations about becoming a mother. I find that the more I talk/write about it, the more I let this go and the more whole I feel about the process and my disappointment.

    In the end, although it took me awhile and some professional help, I have learned to let it go and have learned to consider it as the means to an end….a beautiful end. That end is named Felix and he is a healthy, spunky and hilariously blond 22-month old boy. And while his birth and its aftermath were horrific…I would do it all again in a heartbeat if it was the only way to get from there to here.

    Thank you again, for this post.

    Amelia Sprout January 20, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    I wish everyone could read this. I got judged by my family for my induction and medication, brought on by life threatening complications, even though it saved my life.
    Most often I joke about it because that is how I deal with major things. If I can’t laugh about it, I would be more concerned. Instead I joke about it because then I don’t have to think about how high my blood pressure was, or how she got stuck with the cord around her neck, and how she was HUGE, even though she was early.

    michellew_ (Mommy Confessions) January 20, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    My second child was born vaginally. She was 10 lbs 10.5 oz. Somehow, despite bedrest for 29 weeks, and oh, approximately 25 ultrasounds, they did not pick up on on her enormous size. During my pushing, the doctor actually said, “my God Michelle, this is a huge baby.” To which I replied, “thanks doc, that information would have been very useful to me YESTERDAY!”

    Still, after pushing out a nearly 11 lb baby, having 40 stitches in my crotch, and not being able to sit right for about 2 months, I cried for a week when they told me that my third was breech, and that I would need a c section.

    After trying every ridiculous online “remedy” for correcting the breech baby in utero, he turned on his own at about 37 weeks. He was born full term at 8 lbs 12 oz. It was a walk in the park after my previous experience.

    I am still petrified of c sections to this day.

    Dina Williams January 20, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    I had 2 very comfortable and uncomplicated (in comparison to Momtrolfreak’s) C-sections. I tried really hard to have a natural birth the first time around and it didn’t work out. At first I was disappointed, but I knew the most important thing was to have a healthy baby — and my son was and is healthy. The thought of torn lady parts and years of pain, or of a C-section without anesthesia, totally freaks me out! My heart goes out to you both! And I will never again complain about my failed induction and 2 days of 3-minute contractions, I promise!

    momtrolfreak January 20, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Dude, I just got a lot of attention on twitter from you mentioning me, wow. I have like 40 new followers. I’ve always said that you shouldn;t get uppity about HOW you give birth as long as the baby’s ok, because “no one stands at your crotch and hands you a trophy.” But the positive “press” I’ve gotten from you tweeting about my unanesthetized c-section comes pretty close to a trophy. Now that I’ve got all these new followers I’d better be interesting or funny or something. Shit.

    Stephanie January 20, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Wow, I am humbled by the horrific birth experiences described here, and absolutely in awe of the strength of women and what we all endure through childbirth (NOONE has said it didn’t hurt).

    I have a funny circumstance in that I just assumed I would end up with a c-section as everyone in my family has had them (we tend to run small in the pelvis area). After getting to delivery with only gas to help with the pain, I pushed for 2.5 hours to no avail. I begged for the epidural at that point or for them to just cut me open and take her out. I got the epidural and a 15-minute warning that I could push for that long but she would be coming out the front way after that. Well, another 2 hours of pushing (4.5 hours in total) and she came out with the assistance of a vacuum extraction. However, she was blue and grey and dead looking, not breathing, cord wrapped twice, no sound. I watched them take her floppy, lifeless body to the table and work on her. 20 minutes later, she was breathing but no blood sugar to speak of.

    Eventually all was righted but in that 20 minutes as I laid there watching, I calmly put together a message to friends and family in my head, describing how our child was stillborn. My husband and sister were bawling, but I had this strange calm. When they finally described what was happening, I was much relieved to know she would make it and she’s been a trooper ever since.

    After all that, I wouldn’t give a rip (excuse the pun) how she came out. It so doesn’t matter. I have my sweet little girl now, when I thought I wouldn’t, but still have a hard time believing she came out vaginally and without any tearing whatsoever. I have to remind myself I didn’t have a c-section. Maybe I made up for the pain of recovery with the exhausting and painful 4.5 hours of delivery. Ugh. Here’s to hoping this one will have an easier route out.

    MommyNamedApril January 20, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    i love this post. i’ve had three pretty awful deliveries… but the result was beautiful healthy children and that’s all i can ask for. that’s all any of us can ask for.

    jerseygirl89 January 28, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Best post I’ve ever read about childbirth.

    Mimi February 3, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Love this post. Love the comments (well most of them). And happy to find it via via some link.

    I’m in my 2nd pregnancy, first one was an emergency c-section not nearly as scary as some of the others described so and yeah I was disappointed since I wanted to have the pain and brag about surviving it bla bla. And even apologetic. But in the end, it was the baby that mattered and hell with the rest.

    #2 is likely to be a cesarian, only because it’s probably my last pregnancy and frankly, I’m not the waterbirth, at home natural, no drugs, surrounded by family romantic type. But the only reason I doubt having an elective C is because of the fear that the baby is not ready to come out yet and may spend some time in NICU.

    Still, I’m thankful that I have this choice and am not on the street delivering. How horrifying in Haiti and my heart goes out to those women and children.

    Cara February 5, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    This is a horrifying story. Just horrifying because all of these women are trying to birth in such incredible FEAR. There is so very much work being done to support such moms and I am torn apart in horror knowing that these women did not get any such support.
    By all means, healthy baby, healthy mommy is absolutely the goal – the only goal. If you believed, as I do, that 95% of the babies born in this world do so without incident and that womens’ bodies are created to physically, spiritually and emotionally create and birth life (should a women choose to birth) AND that medical intervention is potentially harmful to our children, you would see natural birth in a different light.
    The true problem is that our culture terrifies women (and men) with a contagiousness that makes medical intervention necessary. But ladies, doctors are not taught how to birth babies, they are taught how to handle emergencies. They are bound by hospital policies and their legal departments.
    The author has heard countless horror stories but I know of many, many homebirth midwives who have assisted in tens of thousands of births without incident! Many more women in the world are birthing without fear and therefore without pain or complications than ever before.
    I beg of you all to trust your bodies to do what mother nature intended (whether or not you choose to use drugs, etc.)and to trust your BABIES to know what to do when the time comes! Use guided imagery, use hypnosis, use whatever you have to to get into a state of relaxation to allow your body to do what it knows how to do! Get the epidural, get the demerol (or whatever sensation-relieving drugs they have), but embrace your innate gift – your powerful, magical gift of birth!!!!!!!

    Joyce February 8, 2010 at 3:38 am

    I found your blog through a story on AOL about mom bullies. I chose to read this post because of its title and I wanted to see how you would describe a “good birth”. Having been involved in many family members & friends births (from home water births to c-sections), I have always said that the only thing that matters is that everyone is healthy afterwards. Even the best laid plans for the “perfect” birth can go awry and every woman should have the right to make the choices that are best for her and her baby! Thank you for writing such a compassionate, open-minded article on this touchy subject!

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