Living naturally, most of the time.

5 Things I wished I’d know before my c-section (and VBAC)

Today is the last day of Cesarean Awareness Month, something I would not have expected would apply to me when I first got pregnant a little more than 10 years ago. But it does. After my 2006 c-section, I went on to have a homebirth with my second child, thanks in no small part to the support of the very group I assumed I would never attend: the local International Cesarean Awareness Network chapter, ICAN of Nova. I wish more people checked out ICAN early in their pregnancies and thought through all the things that can influence birth. My c-section in March 2006 was not a traumatic, emergency or unnecessary surgery; I truly believe that his short cord would have prevented him from being born safely vaginally. And I didn’t have a repeat c-section; I had a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC or HBAC,  homebirth in the water that took only 4.5 hours. But there still are a lot of things I wish I’d known, which I’ll share below. But first, a quick background snapshot: My son was breech and would not turn despite plenty of chiropractic care, exercises, visualization, acupuncture & moxibustion and finally an attempted external cephalic version. I was transferred out of the care of the birth center and to the only doctor in Northern Virginia who delivered breech babies without hesitation. At 40 weeks, 4 days, my blood pressure was 140/100, and the doctor said I would need to be admitted. I requested for a trial of labor in hopes of a vaginal delivery, but the baby did not descend after several hours on Pitocin. When I asked to see my placenta after the surgery, I noticed the short cord and eventually talked about it with the doctor. He said that 8″ was about a third the normal length and that, yes, it would have been nearly impossible for the baby to be born safely. This made sense to me and helped me feel a little better. I knew my placenta was high. There just wasn’t enough slack. When I chatted with Ina May Gaskin at a wellness event years later, even she said, “Eight inches!” She agreed that it sounded like I needed a surgical delivery. I felt something akin to being absolved. Even though I think the ultimate outcome was as good as we could have expected under the circumstances, I still wish the circumstances were different and that my son could have had a normal birth. Here are the things I wish...

What’s to like about a c-section?

Welcome to the June 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Embracing Your Birth Experience This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about at least one part of their birth experience that they can hold up and cherish. *** Don’t get me wrong; the homebirth I had with my second child was by far the birth experience I would want to repeat if given the choice. I would never have signed up for the c-section I had in 2006, when my breech son failed to drop because, we later found out, he had a short cord, only 8 inches long. But even though it wasn’t what I wanted, I am grateful for several aspects of the experience. Compared to some other moms whose stories I’ve heard at meetings of my local chapter of the International Cesarean Awareness Network, my family was treated with respect, and my birth experience was not as traumatic as it could have been in different hands. My OB — who always said my “next one would be natural” — allowed my craniosacral therapist into the room to videotape. Although I didn’t watch the actual surgery part until a year later, I was immediately grateful to have footage of our first moments together. When you are so disconnected from what is happening, the physical imprint of memory is not there. What was there was a big sheet between me and my baby! So having footage of his first moments, blinking directly into the eyes of my doctor. The video allowed me later to see him when he was taken to the side of the room where my eyes could not follow. One memory I didn’t need captured on tape but I still loved watching later was when my son was first brought over to my face. He wrapped one hand around one of my fingers and the other around my husband’s, and we sang to him, “You Are My Sunshine.” It was so clear that he knew us, knew our voices, knew the song. More joyful tears have never been shed. When he turned one year old, I watched more of the footage of my husband following him to the nursery. I was so moved to watch my husband standing over him to shield him from lights and talking to him. Those were lost minutes to me, when the doctors stitched me up while talking about March Madness...

Healing the c-section scar

I knew when I went in for my c-section in 2006 that the effects would be lasting, but I only recently realized to what extent. I tend to hold on to emotion through my body, and since the need for a surgical delivery was profoundly disappointing to me, I expected that it would take my body and heart a while to get over the method of my son’s entry into the world. Last spring, before I conceived, my doctor’s muscle-testing and her colleague’s computer scan of my energy meridians showed my body sort of “divided” at the midline. After that, I began using a laser after acupuncture treatments at their office to help the scar heal. Before bed, I would massage sesame oil into my scar at night to help it loosen. I also felt called to use the essential oil SARA from Young Living Oils, a blend that markets itself as being for sexual trauma.  After I got pregnant on the first try, I essentially gave up thinking about my scar and turned my energy toward worrying about whether or not I could manage to have a successful natural birth. Now I’m 12 weeks postpartum after a homebirth VBAC, or HBAC. So you’d think I’d have gotten over the c-section, but apparently not! I noticed that my first attempts to jog around eight weeks after my daughter’s birth — just a mile and a half or two! and slowly! — had me later feeling like my pelvis was aching. This was not the case with my son. With him, I didn’t try any exercise — or much of anything else — until ten weeks and then went out for four miles and felt great. I figured the discomfort was product of the different method of birth and also the fact that, instead of staying home, napping, and healing like I did in 2006, this time I’m running around with a preschooler, volunteering for his school, running a mom’s group, and trying to have something like a freelance writing and editing career. Not much time for rest, and so many things I want to do! I mentioned all this to Dr. Jennifer Mercier, who was selling her new book Women’s Optimal Pelvic Health with Mercier Therapy just behind our Holistic Moms table at the Freedom for Family Wellness Summit last weekend. She offered to work on me. It hadn’t occurred to me that any of my discomfort was related to my c-section scar. I thought it had to do...

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