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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    heather... January 18, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    I am going to have my second c-section in a short time. Having had a baby that was lucky to survive birth at ALL, I definitely bristle when people put down women who have c-sections. We all want the same outcome – healthy mom, healthy baby – does the method of delivery really matter? I HAVE to have a c-section this time, for my OWN health. Anyone who tells me my birth story isn’t as valid as theirs can bite me.

    (Your franken vulva story has always made me appreciate my c-section)
    .-= heather…´s last blog ..Homeward Bound =-.

    Her Bad Mother January 18, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    Thank you for this, heather. They can bite me, too ;)

    Crunchy January 18, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Well, I have done all three. The 36 hours of hell with epidurals, forceps, suction and torn from stem to stern, the 90 minutes keeping legs crossed in car no drugs blammo AND a c section due to breach babies and lazy fucking doctors. Lets also not forget induced labour for 17 hours to deliver a dead baby.

    Yeah..I have done em all.

    And yeah after all of those experiences…it is the babies that count. We don’t get medals for the mode of delivery. They don’t make us better than another mother. We are all different and we all have our own deeply personal experiences that no one can really understand because they are not us.

    So yeah..the babies come first and our battle scared vagina’s are there for us and us alone to mark our own experiences…not to compare to others.

    We can share our stories, we can sympathize, we can explain why we feel one way is better than an other…but really…each persons pregnancy and delivery is their own journey and the sooner we respect that the quicker we can all just stick to supporting and aiding in any nurturing of moms and babies that we might like to do.

    Her Bad Mother January 18, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    It’s just too easy to forget, for some reason, that it IS so personal, and that what one person can’t imagine ever doing is another person’s dream birth. And that for a mom who has lost a child, or miscarried, or can’t get pregnant at all – or, as we know from terrible things happening this week, is living somewhere where she can’t have a safe delivery at all – *any* birth is a dream birth.
    .-= Her Bad Mother´s last blog ..A Good Birth =-.

    Julie @ The Mom Slant January 18, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Good gravy, YES.

    Thank you for reminding us how incredibly lucky we are to have the freedom to debate this topic. And how incredibly lucky we are to have our healthy babies at home with us, however they may have arrived.
    .-= Julie @ The Mom Slant´s last blog ..Call me a lucky bitch =-.

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting January 18, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Thank you for saying this so eloquently Catherine. Like so many other areas of parenting, I don’t see any sense in diminishing what a mother feels or felt or criticizing a decision she felt she had to make or making her feel guilty for a decision that was directly or indirectly made for her that she later regrets.

    Stories are personal. I think we can accept and embrace them for that. But when stories of how great something turned out or how badly something turned out start getting used in place of evidence as a reason to do or not to do something, I start to bristle.
    .-= Annie @ PhD in Parenting´s last blog ..The Big Fight =-.

    Julie @ The Mom Slant January 18, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    And let me state again, without apologies, that I loved all three of my doctors and trusted them implicitly and think my three c-sections were the cat’s meow. I don’t regret a damn thing, and I think intervention is the mother-effing BOMB.
    .-= Julie @ The Mom Slant´s last blog ..Call me a lucky bitch =-.

    Her Bad Mother January 18, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    I’m an intervention girl, myself, although before having my first I would have said that I wanted to try to go as non-intervention as possible. I get both sides. But man, yeah – with Emilia, once the epidural kicked in, I could have kissed my doctors. And if my doctor had relented on the c-section with Jasper (and I still do respect for urging me to put that off as long as possible) I certainly would have kissed her.

    But that’s just me.
    .-= Her Bad Mother´s last blog ..A Good Birth =-.

    Isabel @AlphaMom January 18, 2010 at 1:36 pm


    Let’s not forget that a pregnant mom’s safety is necessary for the health of the baby. Maternal health seems to be a second class citizen; in doing so, a disservice is being done to that baby.

    Her Bad Mother January 18, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Amen. It’s too easy to forget – with birth, with breastfeeding, with PPD, with so many things – that maternal health shouldn’t be relegated to afterthought. Maternal health corresponds directly to infant health – we should never forget that.

    Mom101 January 18, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    And with that…I sigh.
    .-= Mom101´s last blog ..Lean on me. Or you. =-.

    Mandi Bone January 18, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    I was told my whole life that my heart could not handle pregnancy and labor. I was born with a congential heart defect. I was very lucky and the doctors changed thier mind. I got to be pregnant.I had wanted to do a drug free natural childbirth. I was devavsted when the doctors told me it was not safe for me because of my heart. Looking back it seems silly to cry over an epidual.I am also a mother who has adopted.Great post!

    red pen mama January 18, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Listening is good. Judging is not. Stories are to be owned and heard. Not picked at.

    Thanks, Catherine, again. For telling your stories and reminding us all that we should give others the room to tell theirs.

    .-= red pen mama´s last blog ..Brand New Hat =-.

    Jamie January 18, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    I had an unmedicated natural birth- I worked like hell to do it. I saw it as the best choice for ME. I was so incredibly lucky to be able to choose and that both of us were safe.

    But just because that’s what I chose doesn’t make it right for anyone else. I don’t value my sister-in-law’s C-section birth experience any less than mine. No matter how you do it, it’s going to be life changing- we can all get to the same place by different paths.

    And thanks for the shout out to adoptive moms! I was adopted and I think my mom would appreciate that. They are part of the club too.
    .-= Jamie´s last blog ..For Sale =-.

    Her Bad Mother January 18, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    I think that it’s especially important to remember, in discussions like these, that not all mothers give birth, and that for such mothers any discussion that puts mode of delivery as some kind of definitive maternal experience necessarily and hurtfully excludes them. Which is not to say that birth experiences aren’t important experiences, just that they’re not *most* important in considering the maternal experience.
    .-= Her Bad Mother´s last blog ..A Good Birth =-.

    Angie@The Crew January 18, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    After 4 births, one being a midterm loss of a precious baby boy, I have never gone into labor on my own. I have been induced each and everytime for various reasons. Although my stories vary all include the ability to have these induced safe births, one could have been life threatening for both of us and I realise that somewhere else I may have not been so lucky. My prayers and gifts are with those in the world that aren’t so lucky. Thank you for the reminder
    .-= Angie@The Crew´s last blog ..boys oh boy! =-.

    kgirl January 18, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Well, I went from an unmedicated homebirth with my first to an emergency c-section with my second. I’ll take an unmedicated homebirth anyday, and can’t understand why a woman would choose a c-section if a vaginal delivery was viable. But I don’t have to. I’ll worry about my own body, you worry about yours.

    I highly recommend reading Great Expectations, an anthology of birth stories by writer-types. Talk about unifying.
    .-= kgirl´s last blog ..Miami =-.

    Her Bad Mother January 18, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    I asked for a c-section because a) I was in ongoing pain from the weeks of early labor, and b) was well and truly – and, it turned out, rightly – scared of the birth experience that lay ahead of me with such a big baby. I guess it depends on how we define viable. I certainly wouldn’t choose a c-section if everything seemed to be proceeding normally and safely. But it wasn’t really going that way.

    But yeah, it’s different for everyone, and if someone *did* so choose, who am I to say that there’s something wrong with that? To each our own.

    Thanks for the book reco ;)
    .-= Her Bad Mother´s last blog ..A Good Birth =-.

    Crunchy January 18, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    I was the same with T. I was sooo done. The size didn’t worry me…infact sooo farking tired of 9 lbs being considered big. I am big and tall. My dh is big and tall…all our babes are in the 9 lbs range..it makes sense.

    But yeah..the amount of pre labour, the discomfort. When I heard she was breach..I really couldn’t decide how much of a fight I wanted then for a natural birth…
    .-= Crunchy´s last blog ..Lost Causes =-.

    Jana January 18, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Yes, oh yes. While I know that there are still births here in the U. S. and in Canada that do not end well, our odds for a healthy baby and a healthy mom are overwhelmingly positive, no matter what kind of delivery we experience. Thinking about mothers who do, indeed, have every reason to worry that their babies or they may not survive childbirth is heartbreaking, and it makes the arguments over medicated/unmedicated/home/hospital/etc. seem downright silly.
    .-= Jana´s last blog ..Target Candle Tins =-.

    LibraryGirl62 January 18, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    I had a 8 pound 11 oz baby, followed 15 months later by a 9 pound 11 oz baby. I do not give birth. I never dilate, even with drugs and the nurse cheerfully informed me as I was being wheeled in for my 1st C-Section that I would have been one of those dead-on-the-trail mothers if I was giving birth in a wagon train. A week after I had my oldest, I was watching a Phil Donahue (yes-she’s 17) and it was all about people blaming all their life problems on Cesarean births. People NEVER cease to amaze me! Healthy babies are our goal and thank God for each and every one-no matter how they get here!

    Her Bad Mother January 18, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    They told me the same thing – ‘dead on the trail’ – after Jasper’s birth. And not even just ‘on the trail’ – we’d not have survived without good medical attention *anywhere*. It’s sobering.
    .-= Her Bad Mother´s last blog ..A Good Birth =-.

    The New Girl January 18, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    I love the inclusiveness and the gentleness in this post.

    Love it.
    .-= The New Girl´s last blog ..Little Boy Blue. =-.

    Her Bad Mother January 18, 2010 at 8:55 pm


    Jessi January 18, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    I never complain about my c-sections. I think they are the bomb. I never worried for one little second about my breech 10 lb. daughter or the 9 and a half lb. one that came after. Which, after losing my son at 30 weeks, was a relief. Despite my peace with my birthing situations, I have been amazed at how many other people weren’t at peace with it. How many people have told me that they pity me for “never having given birth.” How many people tried to shove that business of being born crap down my throat when I was pregnant with my youngest. How many people told me that my first c was unnecessary and my second was downright “criminal.” I had loss. And I had horror and fear and misery. I needed peace, I needed a team of surgical professionals, I needed drugs, I needed a hospital and a NICU (just in case) and wow this is long…

    I love you Catherine. You rock and you are totally right.
    .-= Jessi´s last blog ..Miscelaney, Ranting, Giveawaying and Awards =-.

    6512 and growing January 18, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    when my first child came home after his long hospital stay due to being born 3 1/2 months premature, I visited with a friend who had been training midwives in Afghanistan. I commented that a child born at 25 weeks, like my son, probably wouldn’t have received great care in Afghanistan. She replied “he would have died.”

    I consider myself lucky that I birthed my son vaginally without drugs, but mostlyt I am so grateful for the happy ending of my baby.
    .-= 6512 and growing´s last blog ..Common ground =-.

    Becky January 18, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Thank you thank you thank you for writing this. When telling my birth story about my 3 pound preemie (9 weeks early) being born I get a lot of “You’re so lucky! That baby probably just flew out. Did you even feel him?”. It makes me want to scream. First off, yes I felt him. It was still three pounds of a human being coming out of my vagina. Second, seriously I was lucky? That my child was on the verge of death on his first weeks of life? That I spent many months visiting my child in the hospital without even getting to hold him? We have very different views of lucky I guess. Sorry! I get very passionate about this. Once again thanks for bringing up this topic!

    Lisa January 18, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Since you get this a lot, I’d think by now you’d realize that people DON’T get it, they don’t get what it means to deliver a preemie. Don’t get mad or scream, don’t make them feel like an ass. Educate them. A simple, “Actually, he spent months in the hospital and I couldn’t even hold him. I’m lucky he is alive, but I’d trade any kind of labor to have carried him to term.”

    People just don’t understand unless they hear about it. Save some poor woman some future comments by letting them know how it is.

    Megan January 18, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    You know what? This is fabulous. I am so glad that you posted this. Now is there any way that you can get every mother everywhere to read this? Because they need to. They really do. And they need to shut up with their criticism and rude comments about who had a better birth, because births are all either good or bad. There is no in between, no grading scale, no right or wrong way to give birth. Every birth that produces a healthy, living baby is good, no matter how that baby got out!
    .-= Megan´s last blog ..Confessions =-.

    caramama January 18, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Another thank you for writing this. I really needed to read it, and probably will reread it a few times.

    You are absolutely right. I have run the gamut of emotions about my failed VBAC. I have been accepting and thankful; I have been disappointed and regretful. I can feel all those things at the same time, even.

    But mostly? I’m extremely happy that I have two beautiful, healthy children.
    .-= caramama´s last blog ..Question of the Week – Parenting Style =-.

    Brittany at Mommy Words January 20, 2010 at 3:16 am

    Caramama you make a good point that we so easily judge ourselves too! I so get that! Thanks!
    .-= Brittany at Mommy Words´s last blog ..Introducing Violet Grace! =-.

    Mouse January 18, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    One of my great-grandmothers had picture-perfect pregnancies that ended in stillbirth in all but one case–my grandfather. It seems likely her labor would stall out and the baby would go into distress. But they didn’t have all the monitoring capabilities 100 years ago.

    I seem to have inherited whatever it is that causes this and can’t imagine not birthing in a hospital. Every time I see/hear someone go on a rant about how delivery doesn’t need to be medicalized and we all just need to trust our bodies, I want to scream. My son probably would have died had I not been at a hospital, and I fully expect to have a similar experience this time.

    There’s definitely something about having one of those “unusual” experiences to make one back off of “the right way” to give birth.

    Cecily January 18, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    I woke up the day my daughter was born thinking I was having menstrual cramps. When I stood up, blood gushed down my legs like a horror movie. My placenta had abrupted, and was hanging on by 30%. We got to the hospital in 20 minutes, my daughter was born by emergency c-section ten minutes later. By some miracle, she managed to not suffer the most common side effects of abruption — cerebral palsey. Even though she was only 35.5 weeks along, she was fine, and never spent a minute in the NICU.

    Do I have trauma from that? Yes. Not from the c-section, but from coming so close to losing my daughter, after having already lost my sons two years early when I was six months pregnant.

    Toward the end of my pregnancy, I handing my doctor a piece of paper with our birth plan on it: it said, “Get baby out alive.” That was all I wanted. And by some miracle, I got it.

    I am so grateful for my c-section, horrible recovery and slow healing (I had a hole for six weeks after I could put my finger in!) and all. And I wish others could see that side of it, that gratitude. :)

    Her Bad Mother January 19, 2010 at 9:41 am

    .-= Her Bad Mother´s last blog ..A Good Birth =-.

    megan January 27, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    I have given birth 8 times. The first was the medicated, induced because my labor stalled, then I had 6 natural, in the hospital cildbirths. I was (and am, to a certain extent) the pusher of natural childbirth (the first medicated birth was HORRID!) and do do believe that we need to trust our bodies. But I also know when my body needs help. My 8th birth was an emergency c-section, and while I hated the idea of it, and how fast it had to happen (baby not moving, heart rate way down, no fluid and meconium aspiration), I rapidly made peace with what I always considered the dreaded c-section. I still hate that it had to happen, but I am SO, SO thankful that my baby is here and healthy, because they told me that he would not have been in another hour.
    I will always marvel at ladies who truely choose a c-section for convenience or avoidance of labor, as my recover from that was the worst thing I have ever been through, physically. But I am so grateful that the possibility of getting a baby out quickly and safely exhists.
    My sister has to have c-sections, she is one of those girls who would not have survived childbirth 100 years ago. She has three kids, and wants more… I admire her so much because her desire to mother is so strong, she is willing to endure what a c-section does to you in order to have more children. I really don’t know that I would go through it again, purposefully. Blessings to all of you, I have learned a thing or two here, today!
    .-= megan ´s last blog ..I’m Still Learning =-.

    Sarah January 18, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    You always say things so nicely. I completely agree. My own three were via c-section. I was so happy to have them survive until they were delivered especially my boys who subjected me to the pregnancies known as absolute hell #1 and #2. I don’t think that having a c-section was a disappointing experience in anyway. I don’t understand why people get so upset if their births don’t go according to plan. (Big shocking secret here – I have never made a birth plan) Isn’t the ultimate goal that your baby is born healthy? But that’s just my opinion. Giving birth is a scary, messy, painful experience no matter how you do it. We all deserve a medal!
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..Confused =-.

    Kaleigh January 18, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Someone once told me that even the worst wedding – the cake falls off the table, the minister gets the bride’s name wrong, the caterer’s food tastes awful, the groom faints, the best man makes a stupid toast, etc. – means nothing compared the marriage that follows it. I had two rotten births (I almost died in the first, and the second was a homebirth transport ending in a c-section), but I’m so lucky. I have wonderful kids who make me proud every day. They were healthy babies, and now they’re half-grown. The birth day? Doesn’t matter a whit compared to today.
    .-= Kaleigh´s last blog ..Day One revisited =-.

    Her Bad Mother January 19, 2010 at 9:42 am

    That’s a perfect analogy. Perfect.
    .-= Her Bad Mother´s last blog ..A Good Birth =-.

    ame i. January 18, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    I didn’t chose to have a c-section with my first daughter (and don’t judge anyone who voluntarily chooses a c)but I would have gone through the experience 100 times b/c she is alive. The epidural failed during surgery, but I would go through that agony another 100 times.
    My 2nd daughter was a VBAC. I didn’t realize I had enough surface area down yonder ;) for that many stitches.
    For any woman who chooses to go c-section, unassisted home birth, vag. birth without an epidural, epidural, squatting out in a forrest somewhere, I say: “Good for them and good for me.”
    The important thing is the mother and child(ren) surviving the birth & living a happy, healthy life is all that matters.

    Duchess January 18, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    I wish I could just copy and paste Heather’s response, I am weeks away from my second c-section in 15 months, and I take flack almost daily from women I know who think less of my birth story because I was a scheduled C-section the first time (and am not a candidate for a VBAC) but in the back of my head I think thank god my birth plan (live healthy mother, live healthy baby)worked because not so far away in the distant past I would not have survived child birth and my child would not have either.

    Al_Pal January 18, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Great post. I’m so glad we live in a place and time where and when so many babies are able to survive and thrive.

    jodifur January 18, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    When I was pregnant and the dr. asked me for my birth plan I said, my birth plan is for you to keep the baby and I alive. And I ended up with an epidural and a vaginal birth after an incredibly difficult pregnancy. And it was just fine, because in the end there was a baby.

    And I say the same thing about weddings. Something always goes wrong, but at the end of the day if you are married, it is just fine.
    .-= jodifur´s last blog ..Forever in Blue Jeans =-.

    Lawyer Mama January 18, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Jasper’s birth does sound scary as hell, HBM. About as scary as my first c-section, which happened about 20 minutes after I walked onto the hospital L&D ward.

    All of us go into motherhood with all these preconceived ideas of what it will be and what will happen. And it can be hard to let go of that picture perfect ideal. Sometimes I think that a lot of judgment comes from that.

    After that first scary experience, anything that gets the job done works for me.
    .-= Lawyer Mama´s last blog ..Pot, Meet Kettle – I Mean Harry Reid =-.

    Her Bad Mother January 19, 2010 at 9:43 am

    It is hard to let go of those preconceived ideas. They’re such a comfort, after all.
    .-= Her Bad Mother´s last blog ..A Good Birth =-.

    Catherine January 18, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Hear friggin hear! oh yes. A natural, drug-free birth was incredibly, weirdly important to me when I was pregnant — *before* I had the baby. *After* I had the baby (by C-section), I didn’t care at all. If I were so lucky as to have a second baby, I will have the same birth plan as a previous commenter: “Get the baby out alive.” Nothing else matters. I put birthing strategies down to “shit that matters a great deal before you have any perspective.” To me, that is. Before I was a mom, I didn’t really know what would matter. Now, having spent the afternoon playing crocodiles with my lovable, goofy 5-year-old, I know that he could have been pulled out by pulleys attached to a wagon train, and I wouldn’t care. As long as he was all right, and I was all right, to hold him close as long as I can.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Independence, inter-dependence =-.

    all things BD January 18, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    “shit that matters a great deal before you have any perspective.”

    Genius. Someone needs to write a book/start a blog with that very topic.
    .-= all things BD´s last blog ..16/365 No Pics Today =-.

    Issa January 18, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    My birth plan with all of mine included yes on the c-section option if needed. Basically, I just wanted to make sure I got to take home a baby in the end. No c-sections…although I’ve had the 2 hour labor, no meds, almost delivered in the hallway baby and yeah, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Scared the ever loving shit out of me.

    Without c-sections, I wouldn’t be alive. My mom and I would have died. Nothing else matters in my head except that. Without the invention of c-sections, I would not be alive. The end.
    .-= Issa´s last blog ..Monday random: things I don’t understand =-.

    RookieMom Whitney January 18, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    You said it.
    .-= RookieMom Whitney´s last blog ..Join a museum with a friend =-.

    coffeewithjulie January 18, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    I’ve been following this storyline. Your post is such a well-articulated expression of what I WISH I could have articulated!

    I was in a similar situation to you, but with a very different doctor — he was the one who advised that I have a c-section due to my son’s size. I was so scared to have the surgery (had a vaginal for 1st baby), but in the end all I focused on was the healthy baby at the end. I did get the healthy baby and I am so thankful to have had this luxury.

    Tara January 18, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    Kudos, Catherine for adding to the “rich narrative of motherhood” with your birth story and for insisting that there’s room for everyone. For every woman who gives birth, there is indeed room for her unique experience and story. Best wishes to Jasper and to you and your family.

    Another Suburban Mom January 18, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    I hate to judge, but I hope you SUED the pants off of the doctor for your trauma, mental distress and the frankenvulva.

    2nd of all, I hate the way women can get mean towards each other about pregnancy, delivery and nursing.

    Its feels like to some people that if you don’t hugely suffer it does not count.

    I had two reasonably sized kids at different times (7.6 & 8.2) naturally. That was not my choice, by the time I got to the “Hey, its drug time” it was too late. Believe me, if they could have unleashed the whole damn medicine cabinet into my woo woo, I would have been a happy camper.

    I also hate when people act like the C-section people don’t suffer. Dude, they are cutting into your abdomen for christ’s sake. You don’t realize how much you use those muscles until someone slices into one.

    Also, I hope that all of the ladies know that when you become a mommy, no matter how, you are entitled to a little present. Nothing huge, maybe a nice pair of earrings of something a little sparkly to celebrate.
    .-= Another Suburban Mom´s last blog ..And the Winner Is…. =-.

    Lisa January 18, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Sue the doctor? She wasn’t drunk or impaired. She followed sound medical guidelines and she used her best judgment which is all we can ask from our care providers. There are no guarantees. C-sections can have their own complications.

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting January 19, 2010 at 12:41 am

    Sue the doctor? Really? Now I understand why healthcare is so expensive in the United States. All that extra insurance doctors need to carry so that their legal expenses will be covered if they get sued over something like that. I don’t want to diminish what Catherine went through, but if the doctor was acting in good faith based on the best medical evidence available, suing really isn’t the best approach.
    .-= Annie @ PhD in Parenting´s last blog ..The Big Fight =-.

    Another Suburban Mom January 19, 2010 at 7:52 am

    Based on Catherine’s description the doctor did not listen to the patient and seemed to completely ignore her concerns and belittle her opinion.

    This not listening caused her to have an experience that nearly killed her, deformed her woo-woo and left her traumatized.
    .-= Another Suburban Mom´s last blog ..Redecorating and Randomness =-.

    Her Bad Mother January 19, 2010 at 9:48 am

    I wasn’t angry with her for not doing the c-section – I respect that she wanted to hold a line against doing one unless/until it became absolutely medically necessary.

    The hospital’s policy (Women’s College in Toronto) is to consider c-sections after the baby hits a certain measurement – we were, just before the weekend Jasper was born, *right* at that measurement, so it was a toss-up. She wanted to protect me from having a c-section I might regret; I had a strong intuition that the birth was going to be a hard one. That my intuition didn’t win out over her ethical sense is not grounds for suing, I don’t think, and I still respect her for wanting the least-invasive experience possible for me. And in any case, I wasn’t upset with her. All’s well that ends well.
    .-= Her Bad Mother´s last blog ..A Good Birth =-.

    Kim @ Beautiful Wreck January 18, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Excellent post, much better than my tongue in cheek one about having a tight vagina, which essentially ended with the same point. A baby in the end.

    I was someone who judged other women for having cesarean sections. That was never going to be me. I was not going to do XY and Z that would land me in an OR. I wasn’t going to let some doctor coerce me or trick me into getting a csection. No not me!

    I’ve had four cesarean sections. All the planning and preparation for a natural vaginal Bradley styled birth went completely out of the window when I had an emergency c-section with my first child. My very necessary cesarean section that gave me a very healthy baby in the end due to a uterine anomaly. No babies were ever going to come out of my vagina. Period. I was humbled and grateful. As we all should be when that little person is here.

    SaltwaterMom January 18, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    I attended a prenatal class last Thursday and was happily absorbing all the info (ie: did you know a newborn’s stomach is the size of a chick pea? By 4 days it is the size of a cherry!) until the public health nurse quip:

    “But hopefully everybody here will have no problems and nobody will have to have a c-section.”

    It happened so fast I wasn’t sure I heard her correctly until my partner and I were talking about it on the way home. It makes me SO ANGRY when people dismiss C-sections as ‘second-class’ or ‘easy’ births, or worse. I’ve got 12 weeks to my due date, and all I want out of it is a healthy Baby, come hell or high water.

    Lisa January 18, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    See, you are reading into it. She didn’t call it “easy” or “second-class.” A c-section means something went wrong. Why would you HOPE for a c-section? While there is nothing wrong if you have to have one, it would be crazy to hope that you have a medical condition that requires it.

    Amy January 18, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    I think she meant to say she hopes no one has to undergo major abdominal surgery because of a medical emergency. Lisa is right–c-sections are for when there is a medical reason your baby can’t get out the way your body is made to. Everything about your body is specifically designed to make a baby and get it out on its own. That doesn’t mean things always work perfectly, though, and that’s why we have an emergency procedure available to us.

    Beth January 19, 2010 at 1:41 am

    Ahh, that happened at our pre-natal class, too. One where we were more than 90% sure that I was going to be having a c-section because my body was not cooperating.

    I honestly thought my husband was going to deck the woman. Fortunately, it was an old building and I started having an asthma attack, so he just took me home.
    .-= Beth´s last blog ..Katie is Cleared for Landing =-.

    Jennie January 18, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Thank you so much for this thoughtful post. I really appreciate it. I spent a lot of time mourning the “lost birth experience” as I had two c-sections with my sons. Your perspective helps me appreciate what I gained, instead of what I thought I lost. – Jennie

    Cait January 18, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    I gave my child up for adoption when I was 16. I have never tried to hide that or been ashamed of the choice I made. I have however had people try to negate my experience because of that choice. I appreciate that you include adoptive mothers in your sentiment because I know the woman who is now the mother to my son is a remarkable woman and amazing mother who is no less a mother because she didn’t birth him, and I am no less a mother because I didn’t raise him.

    Her Bad Mother January 19, 2010 at 9:49 am

    You ARE no less a mother, and SHE is no less a mother, and we are all lucky – children are lucky – that there ARE mothers like you both out there.
    .-= Her Bad Mother´s last blog ..A Good Birth =-.

    Assertagirl January 18, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    You know, after 2 hours of pushing, when the doctor suggested I may need a c-section, I was exhausted enough to say, “Just get him OUT,” and would have been quite happy to be wheeled down the hall to the OR. I didn’t care how he got here, I just wanted him safe in our arms.

    So interesting now, reading posts like these now that I have a birth experience of my own under my belt.
    .-= Assertagirl´s last blog ..A big day for Nate (and for me). =-.

    Her Bad Mother January 19, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Changes everything, doesn’t it ;)

    Tanis Miller, RNM January 18, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    This whole debate was silly and pointless and quite frankly, a waste of energy.

    Regardless of whether your nethers are shredded, your stomach is sliced, the story is yours. The BIRTH is YOURS.

    It shouldn`t make a lick of difference whether or not someone had a different story because they didn`t have YOUR story.

    The only thing that is important is having that baby to love and cherish after giving birth.

    Some mothers aren`t so lucky.

    And some babies aren`t so lucky to have mothers to love after they are born and their momma dies.

    We are ALL lucky bitches if we don`t fall into either category.
    .-= Tanis Miller, RNM´s last blog ..First Base =-.

    Adventures In Babywearing January 18, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    I’ve had four very different birth experiences and they were all good. With each one I tweaked my wishes for the next time, because isn’t that what we always do with most things in life? Hindsight and such?And so in the end, at my last birth I did get what was in my
    opinion a dream home birth. Everything went as it should. But we prepared in case it didn’t. You just can’t predict those things. (Highlighted at the bottom of my very natural birth plan was my declaration that I have the right to change my mind at any time. Because until you get there, in the thick of it, plans can get thrown out the window.)

    My births are personal to me, so there really isn’t any comparing with another Mom- she’s not me.
    Carter was supposed to be “about a 7 pounder” & came early at 9lbs 12oz. I was fine, didn’t need a stitch, but he broke his collar bone.
    Of course we could tell these stories until the end of time!

    I’m glad when the audience for any story we have to tell is open and willing to hear, without little jabs at their heart, condemnation of their own story, or judgment, or ridicule of the story teller.


    .-= Adventures In Babywearing´s last blog ..Everything that happens is from now on. =-.

    Heather B. January 18, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    Odd reading this immediately after watching The Business of Being Born (uh, it was on Netflix and I was all eh, whatever). Anyway, this is another one of those women vs. women things that I will never understand. I ask this anytime something that inevitably pits women against each other comes up but why would the way you choose to give birth matter to me? Of course we should all be informed and interested if we so choose to have children but that’s where, I believe, it should end. When you made that ‘frankenvulva’ comment the other day, I smirked but then many took it so seriously. Why? Is it just in a woman’s nature to be competitive? Is birth akin to a sporting event? Really, why does it matter?

    And full disclosure: I have this awareness in birth only because my mother was on the New York State Board of Midwifery. But still, I find it annoying and a bit ignorant for one woman to judge another woman for the way she gives birth. Something that is and should be an intensely personal experience.

    So, ok then! The end.

    Mr Lady January 18, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    I have three kids. How I managed to get those three kids is A) no one’s business and B) irrelevant to the discussion. I’m just as screwed as the next mom. :)

    Fab post, C
    .-= Mr Lady´s last blog ..The War of the Roses =-.

    Miss Grace January 19, 2010 at 12:46 am

    I have precipitous labor. But I thought of it as blessedly quick, with a baby less than an hour after my arrival at the hospital, despite the no midwife in site (yes, at the time scary, and I have some strange made-in-the-moment stretch marks). Although, I never thought our lives were in danger, and it wasn’t particularly horrifying. I just wanted ANYONE to believe me when I said I was having my baby NOW (what I got was a lot of eye rolling and ‘first time moms always think that’ that ended up with me having my child in the bathroom down the hall with only his father in the room, so yes, as I said, at the time scary).
    Anyhow, yes. Everyone’s experience is different, and now I don’t quite remember where I was going with this. Le sigh.
    .-= Miss Grace´s last blog ..Save to Draft =-.

    Her Bad Mother January 19, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Another example of how seemingly similar experiences can be so different – I had an intuition of trouble, and sure enough: cord around baby’s neck, hemorraeghing, badness all around. We would have been in trouble at home.

    But if everything had been safe, if there’d been no trouble with baby, if I hadn’t torn so badly… it would have been very different. We can never know.

    Le sigh indeed.
    .-= Her Bad Mother´s last blog ..A Good Birth =-.

    Miss Grace January 19, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Yes that’s the point I think. Even if on paper experiences seem similar, they can be so different for the people involved. I felt like the hospital was torturing me for my speedy birth (health baby and mother not discharged for 5 days because they had to ‘monitor’ us-we hadn’t been monitored during actual birth after all), and left with the decision made that I was having my next baby at home on purpose, because at least it’s be more likely that I had a midwife there.
    Obviously, your experience was very different, although I imagine that would be hard to determine by our medical charts.

    Have I mentioned that I love this post? Because I do. You have such a clear way of writing about things.
    .-= Miss Grace´s last blog .. =-.

    Miss Grace January 19, 2010 at 10:57 am

    ‘health’ should read ‘healthy’
    .-= Miss Grace´s last blog .. =-.

    Beth January 19, 2010 at 1:47 am

    What a great post and what wonderful responses! I’m so glad you’re getting such great support for the post.

    I’ve had two c-sections. Both necessary. The second of which had complications that nearly killed me. I just have a bum arm and no feeling below my belly button to the hip bone, and a scar that has guaranteed my bikini days are behind me. And your experience has made me eternally grateful for those things.
    .-= Beth´s last blog ..Katie is Cleared for Landing =-.

    Melissa January 19, 2010 at 2:30 am

    I remember being fascinated by your birth story with Jasper because it was so similar, yet so different from my experience giving birth to my son. Like you, I had a precipitate labor and delivered a 9+ pound baby. Unlike you, I didn’t make it to the hospital in time, so I gave birth at home with no birth attendant except my husband. I thought it was interesting that we took such different things from our similar experiences. What you found traumatic, I found thrilling and empowering.

    It’s easy for me to say it was empowering because nothing bad happened to me or my baby. But the reason I gave birth to him at home is that I was terrified of going to the hospital. I don’t begrudge anyone giving birth the way they want to, but I do resent that most U.S. hospitals are set up for only one kind of birth. I wanted medical attendants nearby in case of emergency, but otherwise I wanted to be left alone to labor and give birth in a way I was most comfortable with, and that’s just not possible in a hospital.

    Her Bad Mother January 19, 2010 at 9:57 am

    I found mine traumatic because there *was* trauma involved – it wasn’t just the speed at which everything was happening, it was the intution that things were going to go badly, which they did: the cord was around jasper’s neck, and there was massive bleeding, such that if I’d not received immediate medical attention, the loss of blood would have been life-threatening.

    but as I said above – it *could* have been different. My doctor was banking on me being able to do the birth without damage. So hard to know how these things will go. We only know what we know after the fact, and even then…
    .-= Her Bad Mother´s last blog ..A Good Birth =-.

    Melissa January 19, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Just wanted to clarify that I didn’t mean to imply that you were overreacting. There was definitely trauma involved, although for some reason I had glossed over the scarier details and just remembered the speed. (And the Frankenvulva, because I had my own issues in that area with my first birth.)

    apprenticemom January 19, 2010 at 2:31 am

    You are right that what matters is that the baby and you are OK at the end of it. I had two unmedicated hospital births, the first involved three and a half hours of PUSHING. No, I am not joking. And no, they would not give me a C-section, which of course after 2 hours I was asking for. Anyway.

    Number 2? During the ultrasound the tech comments, “hmmm, the baby has a large head” Great. Just what we all want to hear. Fast forward to 5 days before my due date when I didn’t think I was in labour, but went to the hospital because I was feeling a bit off…had the baby, oh about an hour later, after 11 minutes of pushing. You just never know how things will go even if you have been there before.

    Teresa January 19, 2010 at 7:10 am

    Medical personnel who impose their own agenda over the patient’s (in any situation) are a disservice to the medical community.

    I wanted an unmedicated midwife-attended home birth. I got a hospital birth that resulted in IV’s, pitocin, an epidural, and eventual c-section. Then it resulted in watching my healthy, happy baby being carried out of the operating room while I detoxed from the all the meds.

    It was everything I wanted to avoid. It was horribly traumatic, considering that I had done my homework with the hospital, made my preferences known to my doctor, and then just got stuck with an impatient nurse who wanted to make sure my son was born before her shift ended for nobody’s benefit but her own. She got to see a beautiful, healthy baby boy. I went nuts, and it took over a year for me to finally pull out of the postpartem depression.

    Her Bad Mother January 19, 2010 at 9:59 am

    That’s another issue that we ignore at our peril – how certain birth experiences *can* contribute to PPD (in my case, PTSD was a contributing factor in the intensity of my PPD.)
    .-= Her Bad Mother´s last blog ..A Good Birth =-.

    Daffodil Campbell January 19, 2010 at 8:00 am

    I am still in the process of “getting over” my birth experience. It was not what I wanted, and I felt powerless and angry for a long time. It took away some of my joy at giving birth to a beautiful baby. However, he thrived, survived surgery, and is now a wonderful 9 year old. But still…..and yet. I felt like I had missed out on an empowering rite of passage. My entire conception, pregnancy and delivery were manufactured by drugs and doctors and scalpels. I had always hoped that when I had a second child, I would have a “good birth” of some sort. Instead, I had a hysterectomy.

    I have been able to appreciate someone else’s “good birth” – meaning, a birth that ended up being something the mother can look upon with a mixture of relief, pride and joy. I felt none of that – it was buried in resentment and regret. I am almost to the point, all these years later, that I can let it go for good, and move on.

    And so, the healing continues…..
    .-= Daffodil Campbell´s last blog ..World Traveler Part 4:In which we arrive relatively unscathed =-.

    Her Bad Mother January 19, 2010 at 10:00 am

    I can understand how that would be hard on the heart. It’s such a powerful experience, however it goes – and as I’ve said, so deeply personal – our feelings around it necessarily reach deep.
    .-= Her Bad Mother´s last blog ..A Good Birth =-.

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