Continuing with the theme of Wyvern Mothers, I’m sharing my opinion of the Mommy Wars. Like our ancestors, the Dragon Mothers, Wyvern Mothers don’t have time for Mommy Wars because we’re battling on another front. Rather than fight our peers about the trending and temporary issues of modern motherhood, we’re fighting for our children’s survival.
Today’s post is the second in a series on this Wyvern’s Opinion of the Mommy Wars and how my other (literally life or death) battle experiences have formed my opinions. This is my truth.
Too Many C-Sections, or Just Enough?
Recently, an internet friend had a successful home birth. She really wanted to have a home birth, and it worked out perfectly for her and she got everything she wanted out of the experience. I couldn’t be happier for her and her healthy little bundle of joy. I’ve got nothing against home birth. I celebrate with those who want it and succeed in it, but it just isn’t for me for so many reasons.
For the Wyvern mother, home birth seems kind of like winning a beauty pageant or an Olympic medal when you’re forty years old, saggy, and entirely out of shape. Home birth is rarely for the Wyvern and only for the Wyvern whose severely ill child’s birth defect or illness is guaranteed to not repeat in the next child. In my world, sometimes severe heart defects do repeat in multiple children. For this Wyvern, a home birth would be like playing Russian Roulette with a new baby’s life and even riskier for my own. Fortunately, I’m done making babies, but with all this “business of birthing,” drama, sometimes I feel entirely left out and silenced about my birth experiences. I wrote about this isolation on my Get Born guest blog entry, but I didn’t share my actual experiences.
My biggest issue with the mommy wars right now is this great shaming of women who have had c-sections or even epidurals. It seems like the anti-caesarian/anti-medicine battle cry drowns out the reality that many of us or our children would be dead today without our c-sections. I planned to use a midwife for my first delivery and had hoped to not have an epidural or pitocin. I had my plans, my expectations, my ideas of what my first baby’s birth would be like. Then I had an ultrasound that changed my life forever. Liam’s heart defects were so severe, I had to deliver in a hospital that could attend to his very critical state, or terminate my pregnancy well past 23 weeks. . .
Though I labored for fourteen hours with Liam in one of the finest labor and delivery units in the state of Colorado, his fragile heart crashed after two meconium leaks. The doctor on call told me, “You can push this baby out, but he won’t be alive when he gets here.” Those words seemed harsh, and I didn’t need any additional convincing that my c-section was necessary. Liam was crowning when I was given the clipboard to consent to my surgery, he was born five minutes later through a rather violent hole cut through my center. I was glad to have had the epidural or I wouldn’t have been conscious to meet my son when he was born. Liam is alive because of my first c-section.
Thirteen months later, after seriously considering VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section), I decided that the risk was too high that I’d end up having the same failed attempt at delivery with my second child. I was wise to trust my instincts. In the urgency of Liam’s critical condition and subsequent airlift and multiple heart surgeries, I did not have consistent follow up care for myself. During my second c-section, I was told that if I ever had a third child, I would need a scheduled c-section at 37 weeks as my uterine wall would have ruptured had I tried VBAC. I could have bled to death internally before my labor progressed enough for me to go to the hospital. Moira and I are both alive because of my second c-section.
Having recovered from two c-sections and a full labor and near delivery, I will say a scheduled c-section is a million times easier than an emergency one. I don’t dispute that there are some hospitals and some doctors who are doing too many elective c-sections. I do, however, question this bold assumption that all women’s bodies will just naturally push out a living baby without incident if we just keep the evil doctors away. That assumption did not apply to me, and it doesn’t apply to millions of women whose lives and whose children’s lives have been saved by c-sections for the past hundred years. No, the abuse of surgery for convenience is not ideal, but we don’t live in an ideal world. By focusing on the “ideal birth experience” to the exclusion of all other truths, we diminish and ignore the beauty of birth that doesn’t fit into the predefined mold. Once again, this Wyvern’s tagline is “Writing About Real Life.” Reality is my schtick, and my reality is often bloody and sometimes terrifying . . . like it or not, it’s how I roll.
My take on the whole, “you better be just like me,” posturing in the Mommy Wars is that such an attitude is as naive as it is dangerous. Believing that any woman’s body cannot falter does not make it so. Dismissing my story because it seems so exceptional also diminishes my truth, and this Wyvern won’t have that.
I’m not the only Wyvern or even the only woman who has a difficult birth story. By difficult I mean literally the difference between life and death, not merely the inability to check off every detail in a birth plan. I mean serious shit went down, not some disappointment about unmet expectations where the result is a healthy little baby and a mom who goes home to take care of it. I may be on the extreme end of the c-section spectrum, but it’s not right to set up every childbearing woman with a sense of entitlement so profound that any deviation from what they want to provide what they need becomes an affront to their very being, or that yielding to the emergent reality causes a new mother unfounded guilt. To quoth the Stones, “You can’t always get what you want.”
Shit happens, you deal with it, and an epidural or even a c-section is not the end of the world. A dead baby, well that’s much closer to the end of the world. As the Wyvern mother by her very nature often travels in the company of the bereft mother, we celebrate our successful, yet scary birth stories as the triumphs that they are. I’m proud of my birth stories and of my strength and grace under pressure. I will not be shamed into hiding or alllow my thruth to be labeled a gratuitous horror story with no purpose but to scare women who will only have ideal births. I have two amazing children who began their very lives at the moment when our stories unfolding together with their births. That is beautiful, and the Wyvern mom deserves to celebrate and share beauty wherever she finds it.