I <3 Vaginas.

Vagina... let's talk about it.

I sat on the couch with my roommate, checking my email and reading a local blog, Life + Kids, which is where I go when I start feeling stir crazy and overwhelmed by toddler energy. Terri is a saint, working hard to post events and information for kiddos and parents alike... I wanted to find some fun spring events for the tiny bean, but I actually found something that interested me much more. Next Saturday a group of citizens will be meeting to discuss VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) particularly the local hospital's policy against it. Its an event that I'm sure will draw quite a crowd, and I'm anxious to see what comes of it. I said "wow, this is interesting" and when she asked what I immediately responded "I assure you it will not interest you a bit" ...somehow a vagina's rights become so much more interesting to those who have pushed children out of them.

I have no experience with cesarean. I'm speaking for my vagina, not for my belly. My daughter came wailing into this world directly from said vagina, which I might say was pretty much exactly how I intended it. With the rising trend of elective cesarean also rises a new level of birth awareness, moms hoping to do things the natural way, the water way, the orgasmic way, hell... just their way. Don't get me wrong here, I'm not knocking anyone for having a baby however they see fit. I can see great benefits to an elective cesarean, it just wasn't for me. I can't be on time for a coffee date, I'd assuredly be late for the birth of my own child.

I went into labor the way that I think many young mothers do, a belly full of baby and a head full of big ideas... my doctor was very patient and put up with lots of talk about natural birth, questions about various methods and cesarean rates, endless talk about Pitocin and painkillers, and in the end he said what I wanted to hear... "its up to you how you want to do this" ...perfect. Sortof.

You see, my pregnancy was basically perfect. I exercised, I slept, I ate, I didn't have even one sip of wine... I had no worries going into the big day. I had taken the classes, practiced my breathing, and things were progressing exactly as they should... My hips spread, the baby dropped, I was good and fat, hormonal, always hungry, and my vagina... oh lord, it wasn't pretty. I knew this was all going as planned. I was shocked, however, when I arrived at the hospital. I was the only pregnant woman I saw in the completely full maternity ward all day long. I walked the halls, peeked at babies, listened as other women laboring in their rooms, made small talk with the nurses... but no other patients all day, everyone was laboring privately, it was surprising to say the least. I don't think I expected to hee-hoo-hee-hee-hoo in a circle of equally swollen soon-to-be mamas, but I sure never expected to be the only pregnant belly I saw in the maternity ward.

I noticed quickly that the nurses were making more frequent stops in my room and started to worry that something was wrong... they weren't really doing anything, just chatting with me. I chatted back, curious and excited, they all asked how long I planned to go naturally and I responded to every one "as long as I can, I just want to experience every bit of this." When the nurses from my OBGYN's office from across the hospital campus came to visit me all together in a group, I knew something was up. They informed me I was the only one in the ward doing things naturally and that they were all rooting for me. The pressure was officially on.

I didn't have miss Marti Pearl naturally, that is, painkiller-less... Pitocin-riddled, stalled at 7cm for over half a day, and exhausted after 15 hours of intense contractions I asked for an epidural, which numbed exactly half of my body. On the right side I coudln't have told you if I had a foot at all, on the left... I would've gladly noticed my foot if it weren't for my darn uterus. I watched, in a giant mirror, as my daughter was born, and it was incredibly beautiful. Scarily foreign vagina and all... it was amazing. I experienced labor in the fullest sense that I possibly could, and I am thrilled with the outcome. I'm lucky.

Would I do it differently if I had it all to do over again? Probably. I'd insist on waiting on the Pitocin, I'd walk longer, relax more, laugh harder, I might even find a big tub... I wouldn't feel so rushed, I'd ask my doctor to work on my schedule instead of his, I'd eat some grapes when I wanted them... You see, there's so many things we consider in hindsight, especially when it comes to the most important event of our lives.

I have a very dear friend who had her daughter by cesarean after a particularly difficult labor, her daughter is now 5 and her voice still cracks a little when she talks about it. She regrets not being able to experience the labor she planned and hoped for. My heart broke as she admitted she felt like less of a woman for not being able to naturally birth her child... I just can't imagine it. We place so much importance on how we labor because dammit, it is important. We all want to have control, that's why we buy the books, take the classes, fret and prepare.

Prohibiting vaginal birth after cesarean is outdated and unnecessary. With 60 - 80 percent of women who attempt a VBAC delivering vaginally it astounds me that hospitals like Washington Regional still have anti-VBAC policies. I have to side with my old pal Michelle Duggar (seriously girl, you still haven't given me a ring-a-ding and I'm still up for that beauty salon visit!) on this one... "We are thankful our hospital allows trying a VBAC as long as they have an anesthesiologist on hand in case there is an emergency," Duggar has had 15? 16? VBACs at this point, and is a big supporter of women giving it a shot. She's VERY lucky to have a fantastic doctor that will allow it, and I hope her story will help bring awareness to this issue.

Its about time we got with the times here in Arkansas. According to the Birth Network of Northwest Arkansas:

One in three women in America give birth by undergoing major abdominal surgery.

In Northwest Arkansas, vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) is banned in most hospitals.

In our area, few women have access to professional nurse-midwifery care in a hospital and there are no freestanding birth centers.

Events like this give me hope that we'll be able to start having babies however we see fit. Check out all of the cesarean awareness events here, and here's another that I'm thrilled about: "The Vagina Monologues" comes to Fayetteville! not much labor involved, but vagina is vagina, right?


April 7, 2009 at 7:07 AM Leslie said...

Hear, hear. Found your blog via Melissa & Hayden and am loving it. This is such an encouraging post. I was lucky to have the labor I "hoped" for, but I have a few friends who weren't and who might not get to, thanks to the no-VBAC policies.
I didn't know that Mrs. Duggar is a supporter, too! What a shoutout.

April 7, 2009 at 8:52 AM Rachael M. said...

Girl - you know I am passionate about birth choices! I'm sad that there are states, including my home state of Alabama, who do not allow freestanding birth centers or CPMs to practice. I wish so much that more women would be allowed to see birth as a natural process of life, for most women it needn't be more of a medical procedure than cutting teeth or digesting your food!

OBs and cesareans and pitocin are wonderful things...if you need them. But I think of them like airbags in your car. You don't drive around with your airbags inflated "just in case" you have an accident. But you're damn glad they're there if you need them!

I'm sharing this post with my Bradley instructor!


April 7, 2009 at 9:22 AM KuryKidsMommy said...

Thank you for your encouraging point of view! (I am Rachael's said Bradley instructor) On the plus side of the VBAC debate, apparently the ACOG and AMA came out with the recommendation that after one successsful VBAC, the mother is considered low-risk, which may open up a totally new world in regard to future birth center and homebirths for those mamas!

April 7, 2009 at 6:41 PM girl said...

thanks for your insight... i loved to read this post!

here, here for vaginas!!!

the pressure to have an epidural and lie flat on your back until it takes so long you need a cesarean is a crime! (and so is the fact that most hospitals get 40-60% of their overall income from childbirthing... with LOTS of intervention!)

April 8, 2009 at 11:08 AM Anonymous said...

I haven't had the opportunity to a child yet- however, I look forward to being able to have that experience one day. I'm lucky to have a friend who's been there and can help me understand all the "in's and out's" when my time comes.

Great post. Very informative.


April 8, 2009 at 12:02 PM Chelsea said...

Thanks for this great post Heather! I was in the same boat as your friend, had an unnecessary c-section and felt less of a woman because of it and when I found out about a year ago that a VBAC was out of the question for me, because of the ban, I felt even worse. I am hoping that it is reversed, not just for me, but for any other woman, no matter what her experience before! :)