One of the strangest things that happened while I was hospitalized after Teddy’s death was a visit from the obstetrician who performed my c-section. On the one hand, it was nice (I would say compassionate, but I didn’t pick up on a lot of compassion from him, which may be unfair. Not everyone has a good bedside manner and my state of mind wasn’t precisely sunny) of him to visit. On the other hand, upon finding out that we’d made the decision to let Teddy go rather than to put him on ECMO, he said this: “If we’d have know that, we probably wouldn’t have done the c-section.”
You know that tiger that lives inside you? The snarling, growling, hungry beast who wants to rend anyone limb from limb when they imply that your child’s life wasn’t worthy, wasn’t important? If I hadn’t been exhausted, on painkillers, and recovering from abdominal surgery, that tiger (barely awake) may have done serious harm to this doctor. Here he sat, at my bedside, implying that since my son died anyway, the c-section that was performed because he was showing signs of distress from labor was to be regretted. I had no response for him, then, but I couldn’t wait until he got the hell out of my hospital room.
What I wished, later, that I could have told him was this: It was important to me, so desperately important, that I did everything I could to give my son a good chance. No one knows how a baby with CDH will do once she or he is born until she or he is born. That c-section is one of the things that lets me sleep at night, that lets me say we tried everything and (mostly) believe it. It was the right thing to do.
I tell myself this, too, because I am now at the point where I can actually think about giving birth to Dot. I don’t count on it. I’m too afraid and she’s still so tiny and vulnerable that attempting to plan for her birth seems overly eager, to say the least. But I do think about it, partly because my doctor has already started talking about options.
Sally, of Tuesday’s Hope, wrote a good and thought-provoking post on birth options, The Means to an End. Reading her post and thinking of our different situations started my brain churning in interesting ways. On the one hand, the main and most important goal of any birth is a living, healthy baby and a living, healthy mother. But there’s more to it than that, even when the more isn’t nearly as important as the main goal.
Because of my c-section with Teddy I have two options, a door on the left and one on the right. On the left, a repeat c-section, on the right, a VBAC (sounds like an American football position, doesn’t it? Quarterback, halfback, fullback, VBAC?). They are perfectly good options, and one seems as likely as the other to get me to my goal of a safe and healthy Dot. But I find myself wishing for the option that no longer exists, for a plain old vaginal birth without the added (super fun!) risk of uterine rupture. The words “uterine rupture” make me want to curl up, put my fingers in my ears, and sing “la la la la la la la” until reality goes away, even though the risks are small. And I think I finally know what that blasted OB meant, over a year ago in that hospital room. I think what he really meant was that he was sorry I’d be facing decisions like this some day, that my options would be limited. I still would have preferred a very simple, “I’m so sorry about your son,” but I can almost forgive him, now. Now, that I’m looking at my choices and worrying about them and sighing over the one that isn’t there any more.
My doctor is leaning towards a c-section, thoughtfully, and at least partly because she’s concerned for my state of mind. After my first long, anxiety-ridden labor that ended as it did, well, I’m concerned for my state of mind, too. And recovering from a c-section is absolute cake compared to all of the other recovering I had to do in the months after Teddy died. It’s not that bad, or that scary. I could do it. But I have the option of a VBAC, too (amazing considering the size of my local hospital) and I wonder if it might be healing, somehow, to go through labor and delivery, one where there’s no induction or induction meds, where I might not spike a fever, where there might not be meconium in the amniotic fluid, where my baby wouldn’t be already compromised by a condition I have no control over. I know there are no guarantees, but I have to be honest about the fact that part of me really wants a second chance to do this. To do this right.
That’s the problem, of course. There’s no wrong way for me to give birth to this baby so long as it results in both of us coming through in good health. I know this. I’m not even certain as to why I think a VBAC might be healing – am I out for catharsis? redemption? a second chance? Am I looking for these things in the wrong places?
I don’t know what I will do. If I can, I’ll pick a door and be glad for the luxury of choice. In the meantime, I’m thinking away like mad and hoping the information I need finds me. I’m grateful to Sally, who wrote the post that caused these thoughts to surface, and to Kate, who just recently wrote out many truths I needed to hear, and to others who keep discussions about this going.