“You can’t be serious,” the doctor insisted as he stared at me, gesticulating wildly. He made me feel stupid, ashamed, and embarrassed all at the same time.
I was speechless. I’d been led to believe that this OB/GYN would be sympathetic to my plight, the answer to my prayers. I couldn’t have been more wrong. He then proceeded to tell me in graphic detail why attempting a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean) was such a terrible idea.
But I was young and determined. A year before, I’d undergone an emergency C-section with Adrienne. I remember being in the hospital birthing class, where we watched a short film touting the miracle of birth. When it came to the part about Caesareans, I remember turning to Bill, my husband, and whispering, “Just watch, that’ll be me.”
Months later, we ended up in the ER after midnight. When my doctor told us that the baby was breech, there was no discussion of a vaginal birth. I was summarily whisked off to the operating room. Shortly thereafter, as I groggily sang Christmas carols while under the effects of an epidural, our daughter was born.
I hated everything about the C-section. I hated the red, ugly, jagged scar. I couldn’t walk without wincing. I detested having to lounge like a beached whale on the living room sofa, unable to navigate the stairs to our second floor bedroom.
We wanted more kids, but another C-section? Hell no! The thought of anyone slicing into my abdomen again, in that same exact spot, filled me with fear and dread.
Flash forward – I’m pregnant again. We were overjoyed. But my joy quickly turned to despair when, at my first prenatal visit, after I had informed my doctor that I wanted to try for a vaginal birth, his response was less than enthusiastic.
“We’ll see,” he said diffidently, as if he were ruminating on what tie to wear. When I subsequently got a bill detailing his cost for a “repeat C-section” I knew I had to make a change.
I went to the library and bookstore. I researched as if I was studying for the exam of my life. Theoretically, a VBAC was possible. Yes, there were risks, the biggest one being that my uterus could rupture during labor and delivery – but the odds of that happening were miniscule. I was ready, willing, and able to take the risk. I could also accept that if circumstances warranted another C-section in order to deliver a healthy baby, of course I’d do it.
Bill was extremely supportive, but no one else in my family was. My mother thought I was being unreasonable. Ethel Kennedy had, what, 11 C-sections? Even my new mommy friends didn’t seem to share my enthusiasm; they scheduled repeat C’s like appointments to the beauty salon.
Finally, tucked inside one of the many books I read, was the name of a doctor who appeared to be open to attending a VBAC. I was optimistic, believing I’d found a kind, sympathetic physician.
Unfortunately, this doctor grilled me like a rib eye. From the tone of his voice, it was clear that he took my request as a personal affront. Why would I want to needlessly put my unborn child and myself in danger? Was it vanity? He refused to even consider the possibility of a VBAC.
On the drive home, I was demoralized and depressed, on the verge of giving up – until I learned of a female OB/GYN in a major medical teaching hospital two hours from my house. She couldn’t squeeze me in for weeks but I’d exhausted all the possibilities in my area. She was my last hope.
It was a beautiful spring morning. Bill took Adrienne to a nearby park.
The doctor glanced at my chart, then smiled. I was the perfect candidate for a VBAC. In fact, she saw no medical reason why I couldn’t have delivered Adrienne vaginally.
I wasn’t a monster after all. Wave after wave of sweet relief flooded over me.
Later that fall, Heather came into the world the good old-fashioned way. As it turned out, my wonderful doctor didn’t get to the hospital in time. I was so out of it, I thought I’d given birth to a boy. The nurses thought I was crazy. I didn’t care. I couldn’t wait to go home and show Adrienne her new baby sister.
A few hours later, that’s exactly what I did. I went into the house on my own two feet. I could walk up the stairs.