striking a balance

I wrote this some time ago and there never seemed to be an appropriate time to share. I found there is/was an unhealthy focus and emphasis on “natural” childbirth within the CS movement. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with “natural” but “natural” is not inherently safer, nor should people be judged by the choices they make about childbirth.

Several months after Kid2’s scheduled c-section a friend of the family had her second child as well, she’d had a c-section the first time, but, my MIL gushed, the friend had managed an “amazing demonstration” and had a “wonderful, natural childbirth experience” the second time. I’m tried to be happy for her, but the underlying message I walked away with was “if she managed it, why couldn’t you?” My SIL’s off hand remark “why did you schedule a c-section?!” and my mother’s total freak-out at my sister (I certainly wasn’t going to tell her!) when she heard the news summed it up. 

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When I was pregnant with Kid1 I read numerous CS articles about pregnancy and birth from a CS perspective. They dealt with how to deal with fear that arose from dealing with the medical community, and knowing the baby would be perfect as God had created it as God’s perfect idea. They were warm and fuzzy articles which all ended with a “smooth” birth, “perfect” child, and “wonderful spiritual experience.” In short, their experiences were the complete opposite of mine.

Although my faith in Christian Science had been badly shaken I worked with a CSP during my second pregnancy, while I am a “former” CS, I still feel CS holds some helpful truths (at the time of Kid2’s gestation I was still mostly on the fence about CS). I told her about the birth experience with Kid1. I was upfront about how I planned to “schedule” Kid2’s c-section. I did not feel the need to “demonstrate” over my fear and attempt a “natural” birth. I’d already worked hard to overcome my fear of a second pregnancy and the very real fear about the possible return of life-threatening third trimester complications.

How did I “work” to over come my fears? I talked extensively to the obgyn and the midwife she worked with who had worked with me in the hospital following the arrival of Kid1. I talked to Kid1’s pediatrician. I read peer-reviewed medical papers (most of which were beyond my comprehension), and a few books. I systematically addressed each fear, with logic, facts, and the occasional CS platitude.

I found that CS articles from people who had been stationed in Iraq were far more helpful than the fuzzy birth stories I’d encountered with my previous pregnancy. They dealt with pain, fear and flash backs – all things I was dealing with.

The flash backs were not part of the reality I was currently experiencing. The more I worked with my obgyn the more my fear subsided: we had a plan and a team in place to help deal with whatever came up. I felt more prepared. I had been through hell, and I wasn’t going back.

The days leading up to the arrival of Kid2 were rather surreal. We went out to dinner the night before and the waitress asked us when I was due to have the baby. Tomorrow around 9 am. The drive to the hospital and waiting in the pre-op room was no less surreal. I am willingly undergoing major abdominal surgery, in an hour or so I’ll have a baby.

Although the what-ifs bounced around in my mind I knew this time would be different. My obgyn had run every test she could think of, my blood pressure had remained steady, I had a team in place to help after Kid2’s arrival. It was going to be different.

I held it together until I had to walk into the operating room and lay on the table. One of the NICU nurses who had cared for Kid1 came in and introduced herself. Hi I’m L-, I’ll be taking care of your baby. I lost it and burst into tears. I knew exactly who she was, Kid1 spent two weeks with her. I can’t handle going through that again. The thought was too much for me to handle. Thankfully, my midwife was there and after a hug, she changed the subject and we chatted about how we’d gone out to dinner the night before.

The surgery went smoothly, Kid2 was fine, my recovery was quick, I had ample assistance and thanks to carefully regulated medication the pain was minimal.

The biggest difference for me was not that I was attempting to radically rely on Christian Science and shun western medicine as I had with Kid1 and the idealized home birth. Instead, I worked to find a balance between western medicine and my then level of Christian Science* understanding.

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*While I have since totally “left” CS (and generally rejected the Judeo-Christian construct of God) I still find myself occasionally reminding myself that a situation is “unreal” or “not part of me.” I also continue to be good friends with the CSP who worked with me during the pregnancy. While I have somewhat gotten over my previously crippling fear of Doctors, I still have to have a hugely irresolvable problem before I willingly visit one. Interestingly, I have no problem hauling the kids in for their well-baby/child exams and getting them vaccinated.