Two years after my C-section, I barely see the scar. The skin on my abdomen is so altered by my twin pregnancy that a simple surgical line doesn't stand out. This is fitting, because of all the things I struggled with to have any kind of birth -- infertility, IVF, high-risk pregnancy -- the C-section was relatively easy. I've got some invisible scars, but the physical marks barely register.
C-sections are often hailed as unnecessary, agonizing and overused. On this topic, I can speak only for myself. That said, strange as it sounds, there were things I actually loved about my surgical birth:
1. It was the only uncomplicated part of my IVF twin pregnancy.
Compared to my fear of miscarriage in the first trimester, the intense nausea of the second and the wild discomfort of the third, the wide-awake surgery that is a C-section felt like liberation. It was a heroic hostage rescue in a war-torn country. Get in, get out. Be free.
2. It was scheduled.
When my doctor gave me an official date for my C-section -- it would be a few days after Christmas -- I felt a surge of ecstasy. My doctor thought I was going to give birth! Because infertility provoked so much uncertainty, and because twins were high-risk for me, the C-section news was almost more celebratory than the positive pregnancy test.
3. It relieved me of the intense pressure to be "natural."
Here in Berkeley, California, when I see a tiny newborn holstered in a Bjorn, I think to myself, she probably birthed that baby at home in her bed, and now she's stepping out for quinoa before stopping at a nearby bench to effortlessly breastfeed. With a scheduled C-section, my expectations for myself remained incredibly low. After birth, I rested at home, fed babies as I could, and accepted lots of help. I counted the doctor's dose of painkillers among my many blessings.
4. It was fitting as a maximum medical birth experience.
If I'd gotten accidentally knocked up in a recreational manner, maybe I would have had one of those surprise births at the mall bathroom, thinking I was having bad cramps after unexpected weight gain. However, at age 39, carrying IVF twins, I felt grateful to have the medical equivalent of a police escort through this last passage. My pregnancy finale matched the opening act.
5. I had always wanted one.
I know this is totally un-PC. I have read all the screeds against C-sections, how they are over-deployed, savage and anti-woman. I have read Ina May Gaskin. However, I never had an attachment to the vision of vaginal birth, nor could I conquer my various issues faster than my biological clock could tick. Even before a fibroid surgery made a C-section inevitable, and even before I had two breach/transverse babies and a dangerous liver condition, I sensed I wasn't slated for natural delivery. I'm lucky that I was able to have the birth I wanted -- which I wish for all women.
6. I didn't agonize over a birth plan.
I felt no expectation that I would have an empowering or ecstatic experience, and I was spared the striving to make it less painful, more spiritual or anything other than healthy for all involved. I didn't worry that a doula would be texting friends while I panted in labor, or that our home-birth tub would slosh onto the hardwood floor. All I had to do was not eat after midnight, and get to the hospital on time. The evening before, my husband Ken and I camped in a swanky hotel and gorged on chocolate-covered strawberries.
7. We played Hawaiian music.
Ken and I brought our own iPod into the operating room, so we had the same slack-key guitar tunes we had at our wedding. Our surgeons were startled that we'd be "going to the islands" during the C-section, which made me laugh. The oddness of our privately meaningful music against the backdrop of metal and machines made me feel deeply soothed -- I knew we would be OK.
8. It wasn't like the fearmongers said.
I understand that people like to make birth stories into tales of gore, but I hated how through my pregnancy, some seemed to revel in scaring me with accounts of C-section horror. Why use phrases like "gutted" and "singed" with a terrified and hormonal woman carrying twins? My friend Tina told me her C-section was "weird" and "uncomfortable," which I think sums it up. Plenty of things are weird and uncomfortable. Try traveling on an airplane. My surgical birth had bumpy moments, but it wasn't barbaric.
9. It lasted about an hour.
In the middle of my surgery, when it did get weird and uncomfortable, my doctor reminded me how close we were to concluding. "If you were giving birth naturally, you'd also be uncomfortable," he told me, but it would likely last much longer. His kind words of encouragement got me over the hump.
10. I still feel full birth-warrior mojo.
I feel every bit of birth-warrior mojo with a C-section. The year my sons turned 1, I had my dentist fill a cavity without anesthetic, because I didn't want to be fuzzy-headed in the afternoon. The C-section left me tougher and less afraid -- some of my issues resolved after all.
11. Surgery is amazing.
A woman's body is amazing. Birth is amazing. Technology is a gift. Doctors save lives every day. I believe surgery can be sacred.
12. My twins came out healthy and hollering.
In the end, I ride the wave of gratitude for a good birth outcome for all involved. When I heard the first of my twins cry, I felt a rush of bliss that's hard to describe. When I heard the second baby, I cried myself, then smiled as the doctors knocked me out. Here's the one thing I loved most about that C-section: the song of two healthy baby boys, the music that mattered most.