Kathryn Vieira

When I was expecting my first child, I felt incredibly supported by our very “baby friendly” community. I attended prenatal yoga to help my body prepare for the endurance of labor, and I attended birthing classes at the hospital to give me good insight for what might be in store for me. My husband learned the hip squeezes and how to be my human jungle gym to help me in labor, and I was really looking forward to going through having as natural a birth as possible.

As birthing class made me well aware, unexpected interventions were needed. First, it was minimal pain management, and then something to help me rest. Before I knew it, I was getting an epidural. The contractions were disorganized, lasting for five minutes each, the baby’s heart rhythm became irregular and then a c-section was needed. I fought for a natural birth for as long as I could, but my baby’s health was at risk, so there was no question that I needed to give up. That’s how I felt, like I was “giving up.” After 42 weeks of pregnancy, and 37 hours of labor, and 9.5 cm dilation, I didn’t even get the chance to push. I was so close to my goal, and it had disappeared in a flash. I cried, feeling like I had failed, but knew it was time to accept going under the knife. I asked the team to wheel me down to the OR discretely, because I didn’t want to risk seeing other family members on our way. I needed to wrap my mind around what was about to happen. I felt like an actor, needing to take some time by myself before hitting the stage to get into character. I didn’t realize until after the fact, that I was embracing a form of meditation. I needed to breath. Running through my head was combination of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, saying, “ I’m a failure, I will never experience REAL childbirth.” and “This is is my first big move as a mom. I am consenting to be cut open, even though it’s the last thing I wanted, to bring my baby into the world.” When all was said and done after 37 hours of labor, my son, Charles, was safely delivered, and I feel blessed for that. During the surgery they discovered that he had been presenting with his head tucked ear to shoulder which is why he was not progressing and also the cord had been wrapped around his neck causing the irregular heart rate.

The c-section was harder to recover from than I could have imagined. I remember feeling like a turtle, stuck on my back, with my crying son on my chest, completely unable to engage my stomach muscles to turn or sit up. I had to throw something at my sleeping husband for him to come rescue me in the hospital bed. After going home, it was hard to stay off the stairs, no driving, no carrying anything heavier than the baby... I felt helpless, at the same time, my body was exhausted and I felt maxed out. Two years later, the area of my incision still felt sore whenever I would sneeze.

My son is now 2.5 years old, and I am 6 months pregnant with our second child. I was able to attend prenatal yoga last night for the second time in this pregnancy, and it was great! Time has given me a very different outlook on my c-section, and I am approaching this next birth from a completely different perspective. I had given serious thought to a trial of labor, or vaginal birth after c-section (VBAC), but have ultimately decided on a repeat c-section.

Here are a few of the factors that have played into my decision: Martha’s Vineyard Hospital does not offer VBACs. I don’t want to live off island with my nearly 3 year old, away from my home and husband for potentially 4 weeks. There are some major risks associated with VBACs, and vaginal births on their own. I feel I can be a better mom to my toddler in the weeks leading to this birth, by planning a c-section. There are more contributing factors, but these are the ones that really stand out to me. This being said, what I take from prenatal yoga is different this time, my husband’s role is different, and how family and friends can support my family afterwards is different. Starting with yoga, I am less concentrated on opening my pelvis and breathing through contractions, but I am focusing on the strength I will need after my surgery, both physically and mentally, to be a a mom, after being sliced across my middle. I will have to breathe as the anesthesiologist places the needle in my spine, and breathe again and again, as my body wakes up, and all while I am welcoming my new baby into a world that feels comfortable and loving. I will try to come into chivasana, as I am uncomfortably trying to find sleep, and I will try to remember to Ohm in impatience, and moments of gratitude. I am already dreading the night before this birth. Yes, I will be excited to meet my baby, but I’m also going to be anticipating the discomfort, the beginning of a hard journey all over again, and my last night being able to shower all of my love on one child. It’s hard knowing that one on one time with him is going to become scarce over the next few months, and that I’m always going to have to tell him to be careful with Mama’s body, and I won’t be able to pick him up, when he asks for a hug.

All of this being said, I don’t feel like there is much preparation for us mothers who are planning a c-section. Many of us are not first time moms, but some are, and I wish that there was more information for us. How can we prepare our bodies for surgery? How can we help our bodies to heal after surgery? How can I feel connected to my birth, when it’s out of my hands? How can my partner be a part of the birth? What can my family and friends do to help?