When it comes to childbirth, the current trend is for women to deliver their babies as naturally as possible. Ideally, a "natural" birth means little to no pain medication, freedom from the tangle of IV lines and, possibly, also freedom from hospitals and doctors altogether. Some women are willing to go so far as to squat in a mountain stream to grunt their little kicker into the world.
But even for those of us who don't wish to give birth in a shallow pool of algae, our biggest fear when it comes to the supposedly natural event of childbirth is the dreaded C-section. When we draw up our birth plans, we are often unwilling to consider even the possibility of a C-section, in spite of the procedure being performed in approximately a third of all births in the U.S. and Canada.
In those "birth share" conversations I've had with other moms, the stories of C-sections are always met with a "man, what a bummer" face and the storyteller feels compelled to offer an explanation as to how her body failed, i.e. why the procedure was unavoidable. I myself am quick to point out that my second child was born via C-section because she was breach and yes of course we tried All Of The Things to try to get her to turn and I had every intention of having as natural a birth as possible, but my body failed me, what can I say?
My first baby was born the regular way, down the ol' baby chute, so I've experienced birth both ways. And you wanna know a secret?
I LIKED THE C-SECTION BETTER. WAYYYYYY BETTER. In fact, if I had it all to do over again, I'd choose a C-section for both deliveries.
There. I said it. God, that feels good.
I hated vaginal delivery. I cannot think of one thing I liked about it other than that I could say I did it. Hurrah. Everything else sucked. I was in labor for over 30 hours. The pain, duh. I did get an epidural, but only after 20 hours of labor, and it wore off before it was time to push. My husband was every pathetic movie cliché you've ever seen. The room was filled with med students gaping in bug-eyed wonder at the miracle that was my spreading labia. And then my vagina exploded. I wish as much as you do that I were speaking figuratively, but sadly, no. I really mean my vagina exploded.
Afterwards, the med students hung around to watch a new resident attempt to sew me back up. (Fascinating! So much blood!) He bumbled so terribly that I screamed at the doctor to make him stop. (Under normal circumstances I am excessively polite.) My doctor finished the stitching and was very cheerful about the whole thing: "When I'm done you'll be better than new!" Wink-wink at the husband. (What??)
That crazy doctor sewed me up way too tight. This translated to not being able to have sex with my husband for far longer than the prescribed six weeks, and when we finally did have sex, I cried through the whole thing. I think my husband and I were both traumatized.
Now that everyone's ready to throw up, here's how the C-section went:
I showed up to the hospital freshly showered, made-up and blow-dried. I know; who cares what you look like when we're talking about the miracle of childbirth? But I felt pretty, okay? It's worth mentioning.
I was shaking like a jackhammer from nerves (mainly because I was feeling so mortified about not giving birth the "right" way), but I can't compare a little anxiety with the ring of fire, or even a contraction that is a number "7" on that stupid pain chart with the emoticons. I'll take the anxiety any day.
One of my primary fears with the C-section (in addition to feeling like a failure as a woman) was that I wouldn't bond with this baby the way I had with my first. Bullsh*t. I fell in love the instant they yanked her out of my guts and showed me her sweet pink face. I did have to wait a little longer to have her all to myself, as they were cleaning her up and giving me time to recover, but when they brought her to me, I did the same thing I did with the first kid: I began the task of teaching her to rip my nipples off for the foreseeable future. She latched on just as well as my firstborn, and I loved her just as much.
Recovery had its difficult moments, but for me, it was easier than recovery from vaginal birth. I was up and walking in a few days, and my husband and I were able to have sex much quicker than the first time around, and without me whimpering like a maimed puppy. (Score! Literally!)
So, for those who hope to give birth in the future and are already feeling that ridiculous twinge of guilt/fear that they might become a member of that dreaded 33 percent of women whose bodies "fail" them; for those who are terrified of natural birth and secretly would rather a C-section (these ladies are judged the most harshly); and for the women who've already had a C-section and are harboring feelings of guilt and inadequacy because of their perceived failure; to those women, I say:
Screw natural childbirth!
Having a C-section does not make you a failure. Wanting a C-section does not make you a failure. I think most of us C-section ladies are hesitant to admit it -- because of the stigma -- but I bet there are tons of us who preferred our C-sections over traditional vaginal birth. Regardless of which path that baby takes out of your body, let's all agree on one thing: Shame should have no part in it.