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 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.