The Wyvern Opinion of the Mommy Wars: C-Section, Home Birth, and Everything In Between

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.

8 Comments »

  1. Amen, amen, AMEN!!! I\’ve had two c-sections as well. The first was an \”emergency\” and the second planned (the day of). I believe Corbin would not have survived a vaginal birth,even though I wasn\’t in labor and I will never know for sure, BUT I know I had the surgery for a reason and I will never be ashamed.

  2. You are much kinder about home births than I am. Hospitals exist to provide a safe and clean environment for your child to be born. Emergencies happen all the time during childbirth, things that can not be anticipated regardless of the amount of prenatal care an expectant mother receives. For example, a dear friend of mine (she happens to be a nurse practitioner and her husband a neurologist) was at the pushing stage of labor with her second child only to have the baby’s vitals start to plummet completely unexpectedly. The baby was grabbing his own umbilical cord and every time she pushed, he clamped down causing his own oxygen supply to be cut. She also had an emergency c-section right then and there to save her baby. He would most likely have suffered brain damage due to the decreased oxygen had the doctors not acted quickly.

    If she had been at home when this happened her baby would have died. And for what? So she could have some false sense of completion that she had given birth at home?

    Home births are selfish. They serve the mother only, not the baby. There are plenty of unfortunate stories out there that prove this. If you want a midwife, that is great. But use your midwife in a birthing center IN A HOSPITAL. Many hospitals offer lovely accommodations for expectant parents. And you can give birth there knowing if you need emergency treatment, you will get it…. not be dialing 911 when something goes horribly wrong.

  3. I’ll just put this out there. My experience is that I have gotten a lot of rolled eyes and bad attitudes for saying that A. I thought labor and delivery was the best, most rewarding part of pregnancy and I am grateful I was able to have a vaginal delivery – all 24 hours of it. And B. I exclusively breastfed my baby until she was 16 months old and loved every second of it. Whenever I say those things people who did not have those experiences assume that I am attacking them in some way or implying that I am a better parent. I’m not at all. But I have a right to share my pregnancy/baby experiences as well and that is mine. I don’t care if you had a c-section or vaginal birth but I feel very strongly that you should do whatever you can to enjoy the birth of your child because it is so precious. I know that is not always possible but when it is possible I think that should be your goal. C-section, vaginal, epidural, no epidural, do whatever you need to in order to have it be a time you can look back on with love and fondness. For me that was the goal and I accomplished it! I am proud of it. I would re-live it, pain and all every day of my life if I could. That doesn’t mean I think I am better than someone else, it is just how I feel. I do think a lot of times in our society we are programmed to think that if something is hard it isn’t worth doing and I do feel that carries over in to labor and delivery and parenting. There are many cases where a c-section is inevitable and necessary and breastfeeding is not possible. There are many cases where it is just easier or more convenient to have a c-section and grab a bottle. I found that although breastfeeding was one of the most difficult things to learn it was by far and away on of the most rewarding experiences I have had in parenthood. I don’t judge people who bottle feed (I bottle fed my oldest.) But I do think you owe it to yourself and your baby to not give up if it is something that is important to you. I never took any attitude from anyone for bottle feeding Lily. I have had TONS and TONS of attitude and unsolicited advice from breastfeeding Bella. It just seems to me that whenever you do something as a parent that another parent considers unnecessary they want to bring you down because they take that as an implied insult that they should have done whatever it is as well. But I don’t think that is always the case.

    • I think the larger issue is that our contemporary privileged society expects that if you had a c-section, the only appropriate responses to that are:

      1. I feel cheated out of the perfect experience to which I was entitled and some doctor conned me into this.
      2. I feel guilty that I gave into having a c-section, and I wasn’t woman enough to push that baby out.
      or
      3. If it was truly medically necessary, you better not talk about that because it pops the illusion bubble that all women are not only physically capable of a vaginal birth but have a God-given right to it.

      I think it’s great when women get the experience they wanted, but when we as a society set the arrogant expectation that everyone will get that experience, and that if we don’t get it we need to take a guilt trip for not following script, that is a huge problem. I think it’s far more common for women to feel silenced about talking about their c-sections than to feel like they can’t comment on their traditional birth. I know that more than once I’ve been told outright not to say anything about my birth or Liam’s struggles because it might be upsetting to someone else, and I’ve been told by people that it was too difficult to hear. It’s like Liam’s and Moira’s births were nullified in their authenticity because the details weren’t encouraging even if the ultimate outcome was. I can’t imagine anyone saying that in the reverse about a traditional/less dramatic birth experience.

      I think it’s awesome that you got to breastfeed for so long and that you were able to have the experience you wanted to have. But those are fortunate circumstances that not everyone is as lucky to experience. I think that as a larger society we need to recognize that good fortune has a huge part to play in the ultimate experience so that those who are less fortunate don’t feel like they failed. The parenting playing field is not an even place and often it is the human body or economic circumstances that limit opportunity and success. I also think it’s awesome when any baby is born no matter what the circumstances are, and I don’t think that any mother should feel shamed by the circumstances, good or bad.

  4. Well I agree that no one should take away from anyone else’s birth experience, whatever it is. That is kind of my point. I know you are mostly referring to the rude and outspoken bloggers and personalities who give all of womankind a bad name. But I have had many people get a snippy attitude with me when I’m talking about my experiences and that is equally rude. As we talk to other moms we need to be sure that the insult is intended and not just perceived. I know that before I got pregnant I was guilty of that very thing. When other moms would talk about how wonderful pregnancy is and what a bond they had with their child from pregnancy/breastfeeding I would get very offended because I thought they were implying that because my daughter was adopted I was less of a mom. Or that our experience wasn’t as special as theirs. That wasn’t the case at all though. They were just sharing their own motherhood experience and I was internalizing it because of my own feelings of fear and inadequacy. No one was trying to imply that I was less of a mom for adopting and bottle feeding my daughter at all and it was so wrong of me to try and diminish their experience even if it was just in my own head. I try to be more aware now that there is no right or wrong way to parent or have a baby. And I make a conscious effort to remember that everyone is entitled to express their joy and to be proud of the mom they are and of how they came to be a mom. Motherhood is a tough job and there is no one size fits all. We all have to make adjustments and do the best we can and then be proud of it! I know I won’t quit bragging about my accomplishments as a mom, including breastfeeding. It was hard work, darn it and I should be proud! 🙂

  5. Birth is very personal, each women deserves the space to process her birth how ever she feels fit, but she doesn’t have the right to off load her processing on other people. Women hating women is alive and well and its very sad, I think that sometimes we (mothers of complex and amazing kids) cope the brunt of this.

    I believe with all my heart in the ideals, I believe in a womens right to birth where ever she wants but with that right comes a responsibility to accept the outcomes. So we should be educated, knowledgable and prepared for non ideal outcomes.

    Sadly what I think gets lost in this debate is that we clump all women into groups, CS mum’s have taken the easy road, Homebirthers are risk takers, etc. BOTH are so far from the truth its laughable but we get sucked into this debate because of this stupid stereo typing, and then comes that Mummy wars……its insanity.

    I have never heard a mother who has had a CS say “ohhh lets put our baby at risk to day and have a CS” and I have never heard a mother Homebirthing saying “ohhh I am hoping my baby will die today so I can feel good about homebirthing!”

    The reality is we all want babies here safe and well, it gets twisted because we have a crazy system that is not based on informed educated choices most of the time, its based on bank balances and insurance claims(yes there are great OB’s and Midwives), and in the middle is the mothers who just want their babies to survive!…..we deal with the pain of judgement from peers and the pain of having a sick baby…….

  6. Thank you for writing this , Amanda. I agree so much with your comments. It can be very isolating at times when one’s experiences don’t jive with the accepted norm. I’m recovering from my second c-section right now and find that I stupidly feel shame and a need to justify my decision, when the truth is it’s nobody’s business. Ditto with many other aspects of parenthood.

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