Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Duchess of Cambridge's Natural, Unmedicated, FANTASTIC Birth

It’s kind of amazing isn’t it?

The Duchess of Cambridge, a woman who could have any luxury in the world, planned to have a completely natural, unmedicated birth.  A painful birth. She wanted the age-old experience -- something that in the era of "too posh to push," a member of the élite could surely elect to forgo. 

And like a true princess, her wish came true.

I am happy for her. Really I am.  Don’t think I’m mocking her, ‘cause it ain’t so.

This duchess births like a boss

But every time I hear of a successful vaginal delivery, medicated or not, my soul dies a little.  And those women who nonchalantly exclaim, “I pushed a little and the baby shimmied right out!” make me want to go under a table, curl up in a fetal position and drool.

I don’t begrudge them their natural unmedicated births. I’m sure it was no slice of cake.

 I just really wish I’d had one too. 

Initially I feared the pain, but wanted as natural a birth as possible.  I went to prenatal yoga, took extra classes with a natural birthing expert, watched Ricki Lake’s The Business of Being Born, read up on the subject, and took Lamaze.  When a founding member of a leading Chicago dance company heard me mention the possibility of an epidural, she poo-pooed the idea.

“You are a dancer,” she reminded me.  “You can handle pain.”

She had planted a seed.  I’d be a trooper.  I would have a totally natural birth.

Eventually, all my girlfriends who were due around the same time I was went into labor.  Some had those “sneeze-out” deliveries.  Some had it a little harder. 

But no one had a C-section.  Including my Lamaze-class buddy who had cringed at the birth video, saying, “I want no part of that.  Just let them cut me.”
Soon my due date came and went.  My bun had not only been hard to get in to the oven  -- it didn't want to come out. 

I knew that induction and Pitocin often resulted in the dreaded "C", but the combination of a compromised uterine environment tainted with meconium and a hospital full of doctors and residents rushing to get their Thanksgiving on didn’t sound great either. 

A week post-due, I was admitted for induction.

Unfortunately, Pitocin wasn’t for me.  I got intense coupled contractions and my son went into to distress several times -- the first time causing a small medical battalion to rush into my room, flip me on my side, and administer a neutralizing agent.  I couldn’t handle more than 5 cc’s of Pit when the goal was 20.

After about 8 hours, I tired and asked for an epidural.  Friends of mine had said that they had one, fell asleep and woke up ready to push.

But I awoke disappointed.  I was still at only 5 cm. Just before midnight, after being at the hospital since 8 a.m. the doctor called it.  As compassionately as she could, she told us, “You can keep trying, if you want, but I really think it is time for a C-section.”

I cried. 

I had dreamed of my baby meeting the world to soft light and to music from my I-pod playlist.  I had planned to be on my birthing ball, and on all fours and pulling on ropes.  Instead, I was strapped prone to an operating table, my arms stretched sideways, in a starkly lit operating theater, the only sounds the muffled voices of the medical team and the imagined squishes of tugging and pulling inside my abdomen.

Instead of my baby being put on my chest immediately, he was whisked away to be APGARed and tested and cleaned.  I endured an agonizing 30 minutes of being stitched up and listening to his cries while longing to look into his eyes for the first time. 

And my daughter came into the world the very same way.  I tried for a V-BAC, but she was discovered to have been breech.  Too late to be turned.  (We won’t go into that.)

I am beyond grateful – ecstatic, really – that my kids turned out perfectly healthy, and that they are thriving.  Years ago, we might not have been so lucky.

Many friends comfort me by saying I didn’t miss much by not going into labor and by having c-sections.  And, I didn’t wind up with some kind of vasshole situation.  But still.

Every time someone tells their birth story, I shrink as though my story is less than. Even though the first part may have been unique, everyone knows how a c-section story ends.  When a group is sharing their vaginal deliveries, and you announce you had a c-section, an uncomfortable “oh” ripples through the bunch.

I wish we’d stop hailing vaginal deliveries as virtuous and the women, like the Duchess of Cambridge, who have these births as heroines. I may be speaking for myself, but a lot of us desperately wanted this experience but were denied it.  We feel cheated.  Disappointed.  Like our births didn’t measure up, and it’s a life event we will never know. 

It hurts enough.

All this is just one more equation for women to feel like failures for not being perfect.  We already have perfect bodies, perfect weddings and perfect big-girl houses to live up to. 

Let’s not make birth yet another fairy tale. 


  1. I am so on your side! Why should I feel guilty about saying I had a c-section? Many women don't realize what it is like to take care of a newborn after having your abdomen cut up. Great post!

  2. I've had four c-sections. The first was an emergency, (without anesthetic, I might add) the second was a choice, and the third and fourth were medical necessity. A fairy tale it was not, but it was emotional and physical and I don't feel, at all, like my birth stories don't measure up. Birth is birth and it's hard and it's messy and that "oh," when people hear I didn't deliver naturally, used to enrage me and now I just feel sorry for those people. What's wrong with them that they feel the need to judge something as basic as a birthing method? I'm simply grateful that I was able to become pregnant, carry to term, and deliver four healthy babies, by any method. Don't let 'em get to you.

  3. First time visitor here at the recommendation of Kelley from The Break Room. :) It's ridiculous, isn't it? The birthing comparisons? But that's our country for you. EVERYTHING is a competition. You have two beautiful kids to show for an incredibly trying birthing story. Keep your head up high,'ve earned it.

  4. I had two c-sections and I totally, completely identify with what you're saying. I get it. But we have two happy, healthy children and I just keep reminding myself of that.

    PS - I also have the gross separated tummy muscle from my c/sections. Ew.

  5. Amen!!! You are telling my story almost exactly. The one thing that plagues me, and I feel guilty even about that because all of my kids are hale and happy, is that I never got to have a "real" delivery. I had planned on a V-BAC after I had my first, but no doctor would sanction a twin V-BAC. After two C-sections, having my third delivery the vaginal way was never going to happen.

    I don't know why we allow ourselves to feel cheated. Is it competition, a strange vanity, a badge of honor, or all three?

  6. Initially I did feel that way. I had no control over how my body responded to my pregnancy (which wasn't supposed to happen, since I'd been in menopause two months before I got pregnant due to chemo I'd gone through two years before). I was, shamefully, very horrified by my body. I got huge. And not at all glowing. And puffy. And mean. Like Jabba the Hut. Anyhoo, I went through the awful induction and like you, failed to progress. Like you, I was disappointed my body didn't do what it was supposed to do (ie, magically go through labor like the above mentioned princess). It took a long time for me to get over it. But then I realized (after I realized I totally missed the horrible PPD I was suffering) that there are no awards or medals for pushing out a baby through our vaginas. A baby is a baby, and he was healthy and beautiful and smart.

    I got pregnant again, and miscarried. I got pregnant again, and bled through my entire first trimester. I was terrified to cut my losses and be happy with the one I was given. But that pregnancy smoothed out (sort of) and the time came to choose to schedule another cesarean or go vbac. Mother shmucker, I planned my cesarean, figuring I wouldn't progress through labor like the last time. Plus, I knew what to expect, and I still had control over my pee. I was elated to have it all planned out. My water broke, and being the nice moron I am, opted to sit around and not bump the other mothers who were in line that day. My labor progressed. It was traumatic. His heart rate decelerated multiple times. I finally got to push, and did so for 2.5 hours. He got stuck, his heart rate kept going down. My ob got the OR ready "just in case" and asked me if she could use forceps for one last try. I agreed, not wanting the ramifications of an oxygen deprived baby. The forceps worked, and he was finally out (by they way, my epidural had worn off by then, and I felt EV. RY. THING.)

    The bottom line is, my vaginal birth was way harder for me, because of the circumstances. It was traumatic, terrifying, and far more painful. Plus, I had a hemorrhoid bigger than my butt. Seriously. I couldn't sit without my donut for 6 full weeks.

    I have two healthy boys ages 6 and 3, and for the most part I'm healthy. I don't understand the stigma we women give each other for having choices or experiences that differ from each other. Are the kids alive? Are they healthy? Are they loved? That should be what matters. I'm sorry you feel you were robbed. But please stop beating yourself up about it. And don't let the other bitches get you down. You rocked major abdominal surgery AND cared for newborns.

  7. I have four healthy boys, all c-sections. First was probably not necessary and all of my other ob's have rather rolled their eyes about the reasoning my first doctor had. My blood pressure went up at 39 weeks, because I was retaining a lot of water in the heat of July, but no preeclampsia (had the same thing happen with #4 and they were willing to let me go for a while as long as everything else was fine). First time mom that I was, when the doctor pushed the c-section we went with what he said. 2nd was a repeat, hoping for a VBAC, but had to happen on a timetable (hubby was at Basic training and my mom came up for 5 days around my due date to help with #1, so had to have the baby while she was there). I had some serious pre-labor but no dilation. 3rd was a repeat. 4th I was planning to try a VBAC again and I went through a whole bunch of natural birthing classes, etc and at the end, again, I let my ob's talk me out of it as I was 3 days past my due date (partially again, due to time constraints on when family could visit to help with the other kids). The only one I was seriously not happy about was the first, when they gave me Benadryl afterward for the itchies from the spinal and I was so dopey I couldn't hold the baby or nurse him for a long while. I had a more painful recovery this last time because I also had my tubes tied (they had to take everything out, tie my tubes, then stuff it all back in, so I was more tender for longer). Never had any trouble bonding with the babies, or serious depression over the births. Overall, I had very quick recoveries and was home 2-3 days after each one. Still, though, there's a tiny regret there in the back of my mind that I'll never get to have a "real" birth, that my body failed me in some uncontrollable way. It's not something I think about often, mostly just when others are telling their stories. Might help if I got to help out with another person's delivery and have my ideal-birth bubble burst, but not sure I'll get the chance. I think it will matter less and less as my boys get older.


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