“First Kiss” by Amy Haderer
Like any woman pregnant for the first time, I was full of hope and daydreams.
I knew exactly how I wanted my son to come into the world. On his own time, my water would break. My husband and I would rush to pack up the car and speed up the road to the hospital. While there, we would watch a couple of movies. We would listen to slow classical music. The labor would get more intense. I would get into more pain and James would come into the world with me cursing until that magical moment when we heard his first cry.
The last thing I thought was that I’d be a statistic. About 32 weeks into the pregnancy, I learned that James was going to be induced shortly before he was due. Disappointing, but it only eliminated the first part of my dream birth experience. We went to the hospital at our appointed time and they gave me a sample of the inducing drug.
After 4 hours of being hooked to every machine imaginable, my doctor came in with the news: I was going to have a c-section. That threw out the rest of my dreams. No labor, classical music or pushing until that magical cry. My son was going to be surgically removed from me in an operating room.
I now know first hand how you can mourn just as hard for something you never had than for something you had and lost. My post-partum months were filled with grief and feelings of failure. I could not do something as simple and natural as giving birth correctly. What kind of woman was I?
I have learned that the reason behind my c-section was the most common reason given for unnecessary ones.The World Health Organization recommends that c-section rates should be no more than 15%. In the United States, the rate is over 30%. There is a popular myth that women choose c-sections because they are “too posh to push.” While that does happen, it is very rare. Most unnecessary c-sections are like mine, a scared, confused first-time mother wanting to do what is best for her child or forced into a c-section by a cascade of interventions.
I have since analyzed my doctor’s decision, my reaction, and the overall birth culture in the United States. The conclusion I’ve made is that we do not like uncertainty. We want to control life and death. The doctor wanted a risk-free birth. As Pope John Paul II said in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), “This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic, and political currents which encourage an idea of a society excessively concerned with efficiency.” (12) On the other hand, I wanted a natural birth with the pride of bringing life into the world. This is a sign of the narcissism epidemic.
What both my doctor and I failed to note is that birth isn’t just about my ego, or the doctor, or even the baby. There is a fourth party in the room. God is the Lord of life and death (1 Samuel 2:6, Deuteronomy 32:39, Wisdom 16:13). God should be given ultimate control over how we come into the world and how we leave. Life is not ours to control (Jeremiah 10:23).
The explosion of c-sections in the United States is just another symptom of our desire to control the uncontrollable. We don’t want to take risks. My doctor and I were both wrong in our desire to control. In birth and death, God should be given control.
I share this story with you because this month is C-Section Awareness Month. An organization I help with, , is working particularly hard this month to inform pregnant women about C-sections. C-sections can be a life-saving tool if used appropriately. If you are pregnant, I recommend three things:
- Learn all you can about childbirth. You have the right to make informed healthcare decisions for yourself and your baby.
- Make a birth plan. Share that birth plan with everyone involved in the labor and delivery. Make sure you bring a copy of it with you to the hospital. Most of all, make sure there is someone in the room with you who will be vocal and will be calm and collected enough to fight for that plan if necessary.
- But, in the end of the day, it is ultimately out of our control. Once we have learned and planned all we can, the baby will be born the way that God wants the baby to be born. Pray for the prudence and wisdom to do what is best for yourself and the child. As a particularly famous prayer says:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can
And wisdom to know the difference – Reinhold Niebahr