pondering the c-section

jen rocksAfter nine months of complication-free pregnancy, Mom and I had become fairly smug and complacent. We were thrown for a loop, then, when after our final ultrasound our doctor (the incomperable Dr. White) called and told us that she recommended a c-section. Apparently, babies over 4500 grams (Grip was estimated at 4800) are at increased risk (roughly 10%) of shoulder dystocia, whereby the infant’s shoulder becomes lodged behind the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery. It can be an extremely serious complication; trying to dislodge the infant can lead to nerve damage, broken collar or arm bones, even death.

Mom and I had always envisioned a natural birth with minimal medications and interventions. For her, it was mostly a practical thing: she didn’t want to induce, or slow her labor down with an epidural, or increase the likelihood of labor ending in c-section. I shared those concerns, but also felt, probably more than her, a certain degree of emotional attachment to a certain image or idea–it’s hard to know what to call it exactly.

Childbirth is a natural process. It can be difficult, and painful, and a real trial for both partners (more for the child-bearer, obviously), but I guess in my mind that’s not a bad thing. Passing through an intense experience like that can bring parents closer together and increase their receptivity to bonding with their child. I don’t like the idea, so dominant in our consumer culture, that everything should be as easy and painless as possible, that any discomfort or struggle is an imposition to be alleviated with products, pills, surgeries, and entertainments. I don’t read much Alan Watts any more, but I’ve always remembered this: “Because consciousness _must_ involve both pleasure and pain, to strive for pleasure to the exclusion of pain is, in effect, to strive for the loss of consciousness.”

I also felt, in my gut, that Mom is a perfect baby-making creature. Our pregnancy, like our entire lives together, had been smooth and easy. Everything just _felt_ right. I had faith in her strength, in our teamwork, and in our baby. My “heart” (intuition? whatever.) was pushing me strongly towards natural delivery.

No doubt you’re thinking: “yeah, it’s easy to indulge your romantic ideas about pain and intuition when it’s someone else’s welfare you’re risking!” And yeah, you have a point.

But Mom cares what I think, and what I feel, and we like to be on the same page for big decisions. We talked about it alot, and went back and talked some more with the doctor about it. Dr. White is a godsend. She told us some more about shoulder dystocia, and about the other risks of vaginal birth with a baby this big. (The phrase “bowel incontinence” was used, to Jen’s lasting dismay.) We talked about our reservations, and she listened and took them seriously–she acknowledged that statistics are rather cold and remote from our individual circumstances. We talked about the risks of c-section, which are no greater than a normal vaginal delivery, these days, and even less when it is planned.

In the end, Mom and I both ended up at the same place: the goal is a healthy baby. The baby doesn’t care how it gets out. Vaginal delivery puts the baby at risk; c-section puts Mom at risk. It made my stomach knot to think about it, but we both agreed that the latter is the responsible choice.

And of course, now that Grip is here, and healthy, all of these ponderous, difficult concerns have vanished like smoke, and we’re in love with the little guy, and each other, and life is good.