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Monday, July 11, 2011

No Easy Feat

I'm going to have a baby soon. Exactly six weeks from today, in fact. I know the date because I am having a scheduled C-section. After years of equal parts hope and stubbornness, fueled in no small part by a good dose of highly judgmental brainwashing ("Surgical deliveries are for the weak and fearful!" chanted our prenatal instructor), I have finally, finally come to peace with it. The details are not important for this little essay...just suffice it to say that it's not going to happen the natural way. I tried myself halfway to death once, and really valiantly a second time, and now I realize (in my heart as well as my head) that "it is what it is". Yes, I would prefer an alternate reality but this is the one I have and I'm through beating myself up and second-guessing and over-researching and questioning what certainly *must* be a misdiagnosis, because damn it, I am too strong/smart/tough to have this happen to me...

(And incidentally: Your commitment and confidence and education and OMG level of fear have no bearing on what is just physically Not Possible. A story in today's LA Times Online discusses the subject of the planned C-section and cuts right to the heart of the matter where judgment is concerned: "...the idea that if only you were permitted to try, you would succeed." This narrow-minded optimism can be deeply damaging to mothers who labor and cannot deliver. In many--perhaps most--cases, repeat C-sections have nothing at all to do with attitude. It's time we stopped pressuring ourselves to measure our worth as women and mothers based on our success or failure at a very difficult and full-of-uncontrollable-variables event.)

That said, I would really appreciate a little sympathy. Not "poor baby" coddling, mind you...but some acknowledgement that I am not "taking the easy way out". That I am not making an uninformed choice or being pushed into something unnatural by The Establishment. But mostly, I am tired of encountering the attitude from others that what I'm about to go through is no big deal.

You know what? It is a VERY big deal.

I've been through this surgery twice now (unplanned, following two vastly different trials of labor) and I am not going to sugarcoat it. It is horrific. Especially for someone who previously requested to be knocked out for minor outpatient procedures (I'm sorry, if I can *hear* what's going on, I can imagine all sorts of pain for myself and it freaks me right the hell out) go through something as violently invasive as major abdominal surgery while you are completely awake and aware is no fun.

Then comes the recovery period, which is by no stretch of the imagination "easy". Not only do you get the full host of typical postpartum unpleasantness, but oh yeah, um, let's refer back to *abdominal surgery*. You have a newborn to care for, sometimes a house full of other family members who need attention and maintenance, and you cannot take a full breath or more than a few shuffle-around-the-house steps without discomfort. Straining against staples (informed by experience, I've begged for flexible sutures and gotten the brush-off) to do simple abdominal-engaging activities like getting in and out of bed or a chair or OMG the potty results in the stabbing pain of, well, literally a handful of tiny little knives. Every cough, sneeze, or (TMI) bowel activity can leave one with the vivid sensation of potentially splitting that incision right open again.

And yet some people--including several who had a front-row seat to my previous birth and postpartum experiences and should have half a clue by now that it's NOT a minor outpatient procedure--have made recent flip comments which indicate some unrealistic assumptions about my recovery time and the speed with which I will be returning to Life As Usual, including social obligations, travel, etc.

Whatever happened to the tradition of a period of confinement? Today's society does not seem to allow for this. Hospital policies and insurance company pressures broom patients who are still dazed, sore, and often incapable of basic self-care. Societal expectations pressure new mothers to resume "normal" life as though nothing has happened. Get back to your full exercise program, get back to work, and for heaven's sake if you aren't fitting into your prepregnancy wardrobe within days, there is something drastically wrong with you, you selfish, lazy wimp.

I need time. Time to drowsily gaze at the baby, yes, but also time to take a deep breath (metaphorical, anyway) and to not fret about taxing my just-been-through-hell body by demanding that it feel, look, and behave as it did immediately before conception. Let's be honest, pregnancy alone is rough on the body...and then cap it off with delivery of any kind...damn it, new mothers deserve a little down-time. A little forgiveness for not being "themselves". And a whole lot more understanding that "bouncing back" doesn't happen on a timetable, and certainly not on someone else's timetable.

I will feel better when I feel better, and not a second before. And what's more, I will apologize to no one--most especially myself--for taking a little time-out to act like someone who's recovering from a pretty major ordeal. Because I will be.


  1. Having experienced both a csection and natural birth, I can wholeheartedly say that you are by no means taking "the easy way out".
    In fact, my section was 12 years ago and your post just made my stomach turn with the memory.

    Have your babymoon, rest and recuperate for as long as your body needs, and don't listen to anyone that pressures you to get back on your feet! That's the way it should be. Society (once again) has it very wrong.

  2. I can't believe that anyone who knows you, and was anywhere in the vicinity after your last 2 births could POSSIBLY judge. I have quite the high horse about natural (and home birth)- I was NO WHERE near you- and I get it, and think this time, a planned section is absolutely the right call.

    What blows my mind is that people actually just opt for a c-section because its "easier". Hell- I personally was glad that the whole epidural thing is NOT the norm over here- someone coming at my back with a giant needle? Pass! I didn't find labor THAT unbearable! Not that you get to avoid that damn needle...

  3. I ♥ my friends...

    Oh and RJ, I forgot all about the needle. Well, that level of awfulness is totally dependent on the person on the other end of it...much like any needle-related activity. I barely noticed it the first time, but whoever was handling it during my second delivery--let's just say, it's best for them if we never meet in a dark alley. >:)

    Honestly, the worst-WORST part is when they reassemble you and close the incision. It's not particularly gentle. Remember when Dorothy & friends were frantically shoving straw back into the Scarecrow after those flying monkeys got him? Yeah...kinda like that. *shudder*

    These are the birth stories (or at least the details) that you DON'T tell your kids. ;)

  4. I can imagine- though not well- how odd and "ew" that is. When I was 12, I had a small cyst on my back that they removed, local anesthesia- it didn't HURT- but the tugging and pulling sensation on my back was not very pleasant, and not something I have ever forgotten. (it beats having a colonoscopy without sedation, though.)