I was born in 1982 by Cesarean Section. I don't have any memory of actually being told this, and I feel I've known it since as far back as I can remember. It never seemed to matter much. My parents maintain that both my mother and I would have died without the surgery. My suspicion is that this is not true, or if it is, the situation that necessitated the surgery was caused by the same doctors that then "saved" us. But these assumptions are the product of what I now know to be true of obstetrics in general. I know very little about my own birth, except what is stated above. Everything else I have gleaned in little, and sometimes contradictory, bits. My mother went into labor with me, and went to the hospital, as was expected. She labored for somewhere between 12 and 24 hours, most likely on her back, stuck in bed, unable to eat or drink. This was, and still is, typical hospital procedure. I have no idea if she had pain medication. I've always wondered, but have never asked. She doesn't seem to like to talk about it. I can't really blame her. Once it was decided to have the cesarean, she was put under general anesthesia because the doctors were afraid a regional anesthetic would impede her breathing. (My mom is 4'11" tall) Other than the fact that the cesarean was performed, I know nothing about what happened afterwards.
As the oldest child, I was my mom's primary cesarean. My next younger sister and my brother were both born by semi-scheduled cesareans. That is, my mom waited for labor to start, but then she went in to the hospital knowing she would have a cesarean. With my sister, she was under general. With my brother, she had a regional anesthetic, probably a spinal. She did have trouble because she couldn't feel that she was breathing, but she never actually stopped breathing.
When I was eight years old, my youngest sister was born. My mom had to work hard and fight for it, but she eventually found someone to help her achieve her dream of a vaginal birth after cesarean, or VBAC. She was in early labor for almost three days before her water broke and labor really started progressing. Once she was admitted to the hospital, I don't know what happened, how she labored, if there were pain medications used, or how long she pushed, but I do know she did have her VBAC!
My mom's struggle for the birth she wanted has stayed with me and profoundly affected my view of birth. I grew up in a household where cesareans were not "just another way to give birth" and VBAC was a common word. Vaginal birth was clearly preferable.
As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a mom. I don't think the idea of not having children even occurred to me as an option. The first time I remember wondering how I was going to wait to have a baby, I was twelve. At times, my heart would ache to hold the babies I would have one day.
I would come home from school each day and watch "A Baby Story." I loved watching babies be born! My favorite births were the home births. They were so calm and peaceful, the way it seemed to me that birth should be. I hated the medicalization of hospital birth, the monitors and needles and especially the surgeries. I often turned those off. It hurt my heart to watch them.
I frequently thought about becoming a midwife. I never mentioned it to anyone that I recall. My family was and is very involved in the medical community. My father was working construction at the time, but he kept a current nursing licence. Much of my extended family worked medical careers. As I got older, my dad went back to nursing, and my mom became first an Emergency Medical Technician, then an Emergency Room Nurse. Being a midwife seemed counter to what my family believed.
I was a normal teenager. I wasn't a birth-obsessed outcast or anything. I had lots of friends and was involved in many different activities. But birth was always an undercurrent to my life. Something that was always on the back burner. I was crazy-proud of my mom's VBA3C (vaginal birth after 3 cesareans) and I loved to tell people about it. I still do.
I consider myself an intelligent person, but even smart people do stupid things. I got pregnant at 17. I was shocked, and scared, but a little excited too. I ended up having an early miscarriage. It was gutwrenchingly awful, but part of me was glad that I wouldn't be having a baby that young. I was not ready. We (the father, now my husband, and I) named the baby Catherine Marie, even though it was way too early to know the sex. We call her Katie, and still speak of her. I never told my parents.
This history plays a huge part in the birth stories of my own two children, my reaction to their births and the entire course of my life.