I gave birth to two healthy baby boys, and I never felt a single contraction. No, I'm not a '50s-style mom who was happily knocked out for her delivery and awoke to find a burrito-wrapped baby in my arms. I'm a double C-section mom, and I'm not ashamed to say that both surgeries were scheduled in advance.
I write this as I sit here looking at a photo of my two happy boys goofing around on the beach. At 8 and 5 years old, I'm well past the stage of sharing birth stories on a regular basis. But when you meet new parents, that's often where the conversation turns. They usually share their story first and then ask you to share yours. This is how the conversation usually goes once I say I had a C-section.
"How long were you in labor before they took you in?"
"I wasn't. I never felt a contraction. My baby was breech, and the doctor said this was the safest option."
"You didn't even try?"
"No, it wasn't a question of trying. It had more to do with the doctor trying to keep both the baby and me safe."
"You must have been disappointed."
(Muffled words) "Uh, yeah. Sure."
The truth is, no, I wasn't, and I'm still not disappointed. Not for one second.
At 39-and-a-half weeks pregnant, I went in for my weekly checkup. I had felt a lot of movement earlier in the week, but a phone call to the doctor assured me that it was normal. When I walked in the door, the first thing the doctor said was that I still hadn't "dropped." I was still carrying this baby up by my boobs. He began the exam and told me I wasn't effaced, and there wasn't even a hint that this baby was coming any time soon. He went on to do a sonogram and determined that all of that crazy movement I had felt was the baby actually flipping. My first-born-to-be was no longer head-down facing backward. He was butt-down, facing forward with his legs in a V position, known as a Frank breech position. Given that I was past the 37th week of pregnancy and that the baby was measuring large, my doctor wanted to do a C-section before I went into labor and became an emergency. I immediately burst into tears - not because I wouldn't experience the birth plan I had in my head (I really didn't have one), but because I wasn't prepared to have a baby that day. I figured if I had gone into labor, I'd at least have a few hours to mentally prepare. At this rate, I would have a baby in my arms within the hour.
My doc was nice enough to give me a 20-hour reprieve and arranged for me to meet him at the hospital early the next morning. A few hours later, I was on the operating table, and a few minutes after that, my husband and I saw our baby for the first time. Within seconds I was holding him, and within the hour I was attempting to nurse my son. He was healthy, I was healthy, and the whole process was easy. No, I never felt a contraction, and no, I don't have a pushing and crowning story, but I do have a birth story, and I'm proud to tell it.
A few years later, when I was halfway through my second pregnancy, my doctor and I began discussing VBACs, and as my due date drew near, we decided it wasn't the safest option for me. So this time I scheduled my surgery ahead of time, made plans for my older son, and walked to the hospital (we only lived two blocks away) with my C-section plan in mind.
But for some reason, even though a third of all US babies are born via surgery these days, there's still a stigma attached to it. Some women's C-sections are emergencies, occurring after hours (sometimes days) of labor. Some are planned well in advance, and some, like my first, just happen. Yes, we are a litigious country, and the high C-section rate is often blamed on doctors who are afraid of malpractice suits. But for whatever the reason, can't we agree that if you have a healthy baby in your arms, you didn't do anything wrong and you don't have anything to apologize for? I shouldn't have to wear a scarlet letter - and neither should my kids - for giving birth to a healthy child. Because when our kids are on the playground together, can you look at them and distinguish how each was born?