Pregnancy and childbirth have never appealed to me. I know for some women it’s a magical, spiritual experience, yada, yada, yada. Not me. If I could've grown my son in an incubator in a lab or had my husband carry him, I would have — in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, that technology isn’t yet available (yet!), so I grew him in my own uterus, the old-fashioned way. But I still didn’t want to give birth the old-fashioned way. Why go through all the pain of labor? I wondered. Why deal with all the sweating and screaming and pushing? Can’t I just have a baby-ectomy? Turns out, I could. When I asked my OB-GYN if he would perform an elective c-section, he explained to me that while it can be riskier – it's major surgery, after all — ultimately the choice was mine. “If you were my daughter, I’d tell you to go with a vaginal delivery,” he said, “but I’ll do whatever you like.” I called my insurance company to make sure that they would cover a c-section that wasn’t medically necessary, and was shocked and pleased when the representative told me:
It’s your body; you can do whatever you want.
We worked with the doctor and the hospital to schedule my son’s birth. The doctor even agreed to work on his day off so that my son would be born on a specific date that was special to my husband and me. During my pregnancy, we attended birth classes at the hospital because my doctor insisted. The classes were largely useless to us; there was a lot of talk about breathing and pillows, and the only mention of c-sections was a 20-minute instructional video called “Just in Case,” which made c-sections seem like every mother’s worst nightmare.
Everything was looking great until my son (who’s still impatient to this day, at age 6) decided to come early. When I showed up at the hospital in labor, the staff were very reluctant to deliver him via c-section because he was so early — 22 days early, to be exact. Thirty-seven weeks gestation is the official threshold between a premature birth and just plain old early, and my boy missed it by one day. Because of this, they made me wait four hours (with no drugs) before they finally conceded that yes, he was actually coming out. Then they tried to talk me into delivering vaginally. Believe me, if dirty looks and a few choice swears could kill, everyone in the maternity ward that night would be dead.
Once they realized there was no talking me out of it, they prepared the operating room for surgery. Unfortunately, my doctor wasn’t on call that day, so I ended up getting some random doctor who worked at the hospital. They inserted a catheter in my labor and delivery room (which was the worst part of the whole procedure), dressed me in a hospital gown, and covered my hair. Then wheeled me into the O.R. In there, I met the anesthesiologist, who was there to give me a spinal block. A spinal block is a shot in your spine that makes you completely numb from the boobs down. It’s more powerful than an epidural, and anecdotally, more painful. I didn’t like the anesthesiologist. He was rude and impatient, calling me “Jennifer” despite the fact that I told him my name was Jenn. Also, he put a giant needle in my spine, and that didn’t feel very nice.
Next, I was laid out on the operating table, and they hung up a sheet just below my shoulders so I couldn’t see what was going on. My husband was given O.R. scrubs and brought to a chair beside my head. He was also not allowed to peek, nor did he want to. My arms were strapped down so I couldn’t accidentally knock anything over, which was a little unnerving, but it’s not like I needed to move them. As the operating team worked, I could tell my body was being pushed and pulled around because my shoulders were moving from side to side, but I couldn’t feel anything lower than my chest. I chatted and joked with my husband (which freaked him out a little), and about 10 minutes after they started, my son was born. One team checked him out and cleaned him off while another removed my placenta and put everything else back together. A nurse brought the baby over to me so I could meet him and kiss him, and then whisked him away for a more thorough exam while I was being sewn up. Thanks to our prior planning, we were expecting this, and my husband went with the baby.
I spent three days in the hospital, and the recovery wasn’t too bad. Once the anesthesia wore off, the catheter was removed, and I was allowed to stand up and walk to the bathroom to pee like a normal person. The incision was painful, sure, but no more painful than my vagina probably would have been, had the baby come out of there instead. I was on Percocet initially, and after a couple of weeks, Ibuprofen was enough to handle the discomfort. I did have to be careful not to strain too hard in the bathroom, but that’s not something you’re supposed to do anyway, really. And when I coughed or sneezed for the first month, I found it helpful to hold a throw pillow against my stomach; otherwise the involuntary clenching of my abdominal muscles was painful.
Six weeks later, when I went to check in with my OB-GYN, he told me everything looked fine, and I could resume “normal activities,” which — duh! — meant driving and sex. My incision felt a little numb, and he told me it’s normal for the scar to have little or no feeling for up to a year. The feeling eventually came back, and now it’s just a faint white line, about four inches long. “So,” he asked me at the end of the appointment, “any regrets? Do you wish you’d done it differently now?” I shook my head. “Not for a second.”
In the end, I had more labor than I ever wanted or planned for, but still less than I would’ve if I’d chosen to give birth vaginally. I got to lie back and chat with my husband while the professionals did all the work, and in no time at all I had a happy, healthy baby (with a perfectly round head). An hour later, I was even calm and comfortable enough to fix my hair and makeup so that I’d look nice for that first family photo (call me vain all you want, but that photo is still hanging up in my house; I might as well look half decent). If I was planning to have another baby, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. And if I sound crazy to you, that’s cool. You do what you want with your uterus, and I’ll do what I want with mine.
If you’re considering an elective c-section, do yourself a favor: do not ask the internet what they think. Trust yourself. I’m lucky to have a supportive group of friends who chose a variety of different methods for their births, and didn’t trash each other for having different opinions. In fact, a very good friend of mine planned to give birth in a birthing center with midwives. She thinks I’m crazy, and I think she’s crazy, but ultimately, we know it doesn’t matter how someone else chooses to give birth. Just because you’d never do it yourself doesn’t mean it’s not the perfect choice for someone else.