I've had two C-sections and I have very strong opinions about the subject.
My first one was a nasty surprise -- I'd come home from the hospital the day before and been told (for the second time) that they were done stopping my preterm labor. I was at ten centimeters when I got to the hospital and my biggest concern, aside from the fact that my baby was still five weeks early, was whether hubby was going to make it back across town from dropping off the kids.
Then the labor and delivery nurse realized that the baby had flipped during the night and I was having a C-section.
While I was pregnant for the fourth time, I hoped for a VBAC. The obstetrician told me that they were a "fad" and that everything I'd been reading about them must have been in old magazines because they were hardly being done anymore. When preterm labor hit, the nurses at the hospital told me horror stories about women driving to every hospital in the area looking for one that would allow a VBAC and finally having cesarean sections because there was no other option available.
I wound up in preterm labor (again) and was transferred to a teaching hospital with a specialized NICU. The staff there, based on my medical records and first to easiest deliveries, was horrified that I'd be forced into a repeat C-section.
Long story short, we opted to deliver at the teaching hospital, the baby was born six weeks later, the cord prolapsed, and I had my second cesarean section. That scenario they warn you about in the birthing classes, that you could have emergency surgery? That's the one I found myself in. The last thing I remember hearing was "Do we have time to put her all the way under?" Panic does not describe it.
My babies were born safely. I believe that both of my surgeries were necessary... probably the first and definitely the second.
I was lied to. I was threatened by nurses at the hospital. I was overdosed on acetaminophen and then left with no pain medication for twenty-four hours while they waited for it to clear my system. (I didn't find out the details of that one until later -- all I knew at the time was that I was in a lot of pain and getting no help for it.) And I was treated like recovering from major abdominal surgery was no big deal. Someone somewhere along the way actually told me that it was easier than natural childbirth...
I'd pretty much put it behind me until I saw the amazing cesarean quilt that Renee at Sparrow Lane Quilts made. Seriously -- I've never seen anything like it and her story about her quilt made me realize how much my two surgeries got swept under the rug. There were a lot of other, more important, things going on at the time.
And then I got a chance to read an advance copy of Cut It Out: The C-Section Epidemic in America. Wow! I knew I'd been lied to, but until I read this book I didn't realize how much misinformation I'd been given. The C-section rate is going up and this book does a great job of explaining how and why it's happened.
That 1% risk of uterine rupture that I was willing to accept by trying for a VBAC? I thought it was a 1% risk of me dying. Turns out that the actual risk to our lives was much lower. But the insurance companies who influence hospital policy won't let one woman take a small, calculated, risk. They're dealing with hundreds of patients and lumping the risk for everyone into one decision.
What chills me most is the idea that parents will sue if something goes wrong with the baby and that they're willing to accept injury to the mother if the hospital did "everything that can be done" for their baby. Even if "everything that can be done" is more dangerous to them both.
I know that not everyone is going to want to read this book, but I hugely recommend it. It's fascinating and scary and I really think that the system needs to change.
And if you know someone who's had a C-section, give her some extra hugs. They really are harder.