I knew dozens of girls my age and younger who had given birth- with no mention on Facebook or Instagram of a c-section. New moms would check back into the group after delivery, and time after time they would report “Eventually, I had to be rushed to emergency C-section.” This only further cemented my fears. Other commenters warned ahead of time: “Watch ‘The Business Of Being Born.’ They want to make money off of you.”
Doctors pressure women into having C-sections, they said. C-sections are emergencies. C-sections are life threatening. C-sections are shameful.
I never spent much time thinking about delivery. I didn’t write a birth plan for the nurses. I didn’t take classes. I didn’t pack my bag until the last minute. “I’m not worried about it. Anything that happens is fine. I just don’t want to have a c-section.”
The last month of my pregnancy saw a warm spring thicken into a humid summer. I hoped every day that the doctors were wrong about my due date, and that my husband and I had conceived the month before they’d believed. Every passerby seemed to concur; “Any day now, right!?” I could only hope. My son was active, and often
Every passerby seemed to concur; “Any day now, right!?”
I could only hope. My son was active, and often breech. I was in a constant pain, bloated beyond recognition and existing beyond the scope of any militarized thermal heat detector. The words “I will miss being pregnant,” might have well as been gibberish.
I had read the argument against cervix checks, but I just had to know: was it almost over? The check at week 37 was not encouraging. Zero centimeters dilated, zero percent effaced. It was still early days. Week 38 proved a bit more hopeful: “You’re almost at a one.” Hey, progress is progress. Week 39, the roller coaster began. “You’re not dilated. Zero percent effaced. He’s way, way up there.” my OB, Dr. Caccam, said.
I was tired. I was ready. “When is the earliest you would be able to induce?” I asked. I expected it to be the following week, and so I was surprised when she replied, “Today.” I would do it, I told her, because I didn’t want his head to be too big if we waited until after his due date. (He had been measuring large the entire pregnancy)
“I just really don’t want to have a c-section.”
Scared and Alone
I was not able to get a room until the following night. All day Wednesday I was optimistic. We were going to get that baby out. That afternoon I drove myself to the hospital, and checked myself in. It was 5pm, and they had to start with ‘cervical ripening,’ something I’d never heard of until that moment.
I asked the mommy boards while I waited: “Has anyone had cervical ripening? Has anyone been induced?” Those same women that had scared me for months arrived at their keyboards, not wanting to end a tradition only days shy of the grand finale. “My friend had to be induced, and she ended up having a c-section,” one typed. Commenter after commenter echoed her. “Don’t let them give you a c-section,” they warned.
Lying awake, alone in the hospital room, hearing cars and trains pass by at 3am, I deleted the app from my phone. I could do this on my own.
A Long Journey Ahead
At 5am they checked my progress. The nurse reported, “Fifty percent effaced.” I asked her if that was a good sign, a sign that I would be able to avoid a c-section. “For some people cervical ripening doesn’t work at all,” she stated with no indication as to whether or not it was, in fact, a good thing, “You will be fine.”
They started the Pitocin at seven on Thursday morning. By eleven, I was feeling contractions. Nurse after nurse checked my dilation. “One.” “One.” “One.” “I think you’re about a two.” “Two.” “Two.” “Two. “Three.”
By this time, it was nearly 5pm again. I had asked for an epidural so I could sleep, but it didn’t take. The only thing numb was my right foot. I hadn’t eaten in twenty-four hours. I asked for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich no less than ten times an hour. “You can’t eat or drink, in case you have to have a c-section.”
Every new nurse that showed up, I asked the same question. My mother came to sit on the couch and wait with me. I asked her over and over as well. “Do you think I’ll have to have a c-section?” Some nurses were sure I’d be fine without one if I just had some more patience. “I’ve seen it take days,” a particularly exuberant blonde nurse smiled at me, “But that baby came out eventually!” Some nurses were less certain. “Maybe… not,” I was told with a dead stare at 12am. She checked my dilation. “Four.”
Stubborn or Stupid?
A four might have well as been a nine to me, because I was sure that I was well on my way. According to every online resource at my fingertips, delivery was a breeze after four. My mother was not convinced by my theory. She desperately texted every woman she knew: “Shouldn’t Emma just go ahead and get a c-section?” I was almost angry with her. She was just like the doctors I had been warned about. It was taking awhile, so she wanted me to give up and have a c-section.
They began to check once an hour. “Four.” “Four.” “Four.” “Four.” At 5am on Friday morning, Dr. Caccam came into my delivery room and sat down on the couch with my mother. They stared at me in unison. “You’re here to tell me that I need to have a c-section, aren’t you?” I asked her, ready to turn her away. “No, I’m here to tell you that we will have to start you on antibiotics because your water broke 18 hours ago and the baby will soon be at risk for infection.”
I froze up a little. Was I being stubborn? Obnoxious? I had support from a few nurses, a few random strangers online, and my ever-growing fear that festered constantly in the back of my head. I could keep waiting. “Do you think I should have a c-section?” I asked her this time. “I know you are afraid, but the only “bad” delivery is one where the baby or the mother don’t leave the hospital. I don’t say that to scare you, but to explain to you that a c-section is not bad.”
She could tell I was not yet convinced. “Why are you afraid?” My mom asked for the thousandth time. “I don’t know, I just am,” my permanent answer. “It’s up to you.” Dr. Caccam said, moving towards the doorway. “I can start the antibiotics.” I knew what they were all waiting for. I knew what would happen next. I had known for months. “I’ll do it.” They waited for me to say it. “I’ll have a c-section.”
Time To Face My Fear
My fear jumped into action. Instantly the air was sucked from my lungs. It snaked up to my throat and burst. I was a blubbering mess. I couldn’t think of anything other than what was next. My mind collapsed in on itself and left the fear to reign.
Fifty-five minutes later my son took his first breath. I would venture to say thirty-five minutes of that time was spent waiting for me to calm down. They had wheeled my bed into the operating room. They had given me a spinal. They had put loose bars down over my arms, and a blue sheet in front of my face.
I laid with my eyes closed, listening to the roughly fifteen voices that filled the room, a few of which were of the band Maroon 5. I’m not sure what I missed while I was trying to pretend I was asleep. I so badly wanted to avoid having my panic attack being the first thing my son heard as he entered the world. I would stay calm and let it happen.
I heard them say he was, “Sunny side up!” And when they showed him to me, I saw his head of black hair. “I’m glad he has hair,” I tried to say, though I’m not sure if I did, “I knew he would.” I couldn’t hold him, because my arms were shaking too bad.
“That’s normal,” said my anesthesiologist, who was easily the most comforting medical figure in the room, and who had never left my side. “I know,” I told her, “I’ve read a lot about c-sections.”
“We got him out just in time.”
My mother reported hearing the nurses say he was big, too big to deliver. “His head would have gotten stuck.” one said while she looked him over. “If not, those shoulders would have. Would have had a dislocated shoulder,” another nurse commented. Not two minutes later did he pass his meconium. “Good thing he didn’t do that in the womb,” the first nurse started again, “We got him out just in time.”
Everything they say about C-sections is true, in a way. I didn’t get to hold my baby for hours, because I had fought the c-section for so long that afterward I was tired and delirious. I was induced and ended up having a C-section, not because of the induction itself, but because my baby wouldn’t have come out any other way.
I was encouraged to have a c-section, because they doctors know that it is safe, and that they have more control over a cesarean delivery. Many women reported having a c-section because it is common, because it is necessary, not because it is some sort of epidemic.
Having a c-section was scary, because I was already so scared. Looking back on the experience, I shouldn’t have wasted my energy growing the fear.
About the Writer
Emma is a stay at home mother and wife, born and raised in Florida. She has always had a passion for sharing her stories and experiences with others. In her twenty-three years she has learned to enjoy reading, thrifting, and learning. She has yet to learn how to whistle, or parallel park.
Love birth stories? Here’s another: Arilyn’s Birth Story: From a Planned Home Birth to A ‘Scheduled’ C-Section