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As my due date draws nearer, I've been asked a question that has become increasingly uncomfortable for me to answer: "Why are you having a C-section?" The answer I've started to give is really quite simple, "Because that's what I want." But in a world where every choice we make as mothers and mothers-to-be comes under some scrutiny or a horrid meme, just saying that's what I want doesn't feel like enough. So even though I was hesitant to put this piece of writing out there, I'm going public about why I'm choosing an elective C-section.
This time last year my husband and I went in for our first ultrasound. We heard the heartbeat but it was not a healthy pregnancy and I miscarried. It was a devastating and prolonged experience followed by two D&Cs. We were lucky enough to get pregnant again on our first try this past fall—I am currently 35 weeks pregnant and so far, so good. Naturally, I've had considerable anxiety with this pregnancy and when I started to bleed at around 16 weeks—the level of panic and despair I felt was overwhelming. It turned out that I had a low-lying placenta and the doctor told me if it didn't move, then I would need a c-section. I was also instructed to take it easy and no sexy time with my husband.
Prior to the diagnosis for the bleeding, I had been doing my regular workouts but the whole pregnancy began to feel just too precarious so I stopped going to the gym. I was plunged back into the same anxiety I'd had throughout the first trimester, what if we lose him? At my anatomy scan a month later, the placenta had moved and the restrictions were lifted, but my fears lingered.
And even though it's not medically necessary, it's mentally necessary.
I began to think about labor and delivery and I just had this terrible feeling I would go into labor but end up having to get a C-section anyway. The thought of laboring for 36 hours and then having the C-section haunted me. I had heard several people's birth stories and that emergency C-section ending always sounded the worst. In addition, I have some risk factors that might necessitate an emergency Cesarean; I'm older and I'm overweight so I asked my doctor about a scheduled a C-section. I fully expected her to tell me that vaginal birth is best and to discourage me. She did not. She said, "I'm happy to schedule it. After everything you've been through, I think it's good choice for you. There is no control in labor, there is no planning, and with your anxiety I think it's a good option for you."
My husband and I decided together that we would schedule the C-section. I was not prepared for the reactions of other people. Medical professionals like my alternate doctor, the ultrasound tech, nurses, friends and family all questioned my choice and I began to feel uncomfortable telling people about our decision. I found myself lying in my newborn care class, saying, "I have to have a C-section." I was trying to make it sound medically necessary. And even though it's not medically necessary, it's mentally necessary. I'm choosing to have a C-section because I fear I will end up getting one anyway and frankly I'm glad that I don't have to possibly tear up my vagina squeezing a giant head out of it or risk complications later on, like anal incontinence.
Choosing to have a C-section comes with a stigma. It seems that a completely natural delivery is considered to be the gold standard of childbirth. Many people, doctors included, think a C-section should only happen as a last resort, because it's "not natural;" the general consensus is vaginal delivery is the best method unless medical emergency necessitates a C-section. However, there are pros and cons for both vaginal delivery and caesarean delivery and this should be discussed with your healthcare provider if you are considering an elective C-section. Childbirth can be a risky complicated business, regardless of how your baby enters the world.
At my most recent doctor's appointment we discussed my feelings of discomfort around people asking me why I'm having a C-section. We have the surgery scheduled one day before my due date and I'm worried about what will happen if I go into labor prior to that day. I asked, "If you're not available to do the surgery, what am I supposed to say?" She looked at me with her kind eyes and gave me an all-purpose response: " I don't want a vaginal delivery. I'm only having one child and I want a C-section." So that's it. That's my reason for having an elective C-section and I'm happy with my choice.