My Special Scar

ScarsI really wanted a natural birth, but I got a cesarean.  I did everything right, and I wanted it so badly.  And not just because it was healthier for the baby and me; I wanted to feel it.  I knew it would hurt, but it would hurt like running a marathon, the burn of hard work, the strain that means that yes, you are doing this, it’s hard, but you can do it, because you are powerful.  And all that hard work explodes into elation at the finish line, when you collapse, a bundle of adrenaline and hormones and victory, ecstatic that you made it, that it’s over, and ready to celebrate with your loved ones.

Instead of running a marathon, I got run over.  It’s not the easy way out, and it hurts too.  Getting back up can take more strength than  that marathon, but somehow, getting run over doesn’t make you feel strong.  It makes you feel broken, vulnerable, weak.  You are not these things, of course, but it feels that way because the pain is happening to you, rather than coming from within you.  It was supposed to be the most powerful day of my life, and my power was taken from me, as I lay on a cold operating table, immobile, numb, inactive.

My story and feelings are not unique.  A third of all births are by cesarean, and it’s safe to say that a good portion of those women wanted a natural birth.  What is unique is that the cesarean did not go as planned, and for some reason or another, my uterus was ripped apart worse than usual.  I have a “special scar.”  Mine is a tear down the side, but other women end up with classicals, inverted Ts, upright Ts, low verticals, and inverted Js.  Nearly all of us had the special privilege of getting told, minutes, hours, or days after we attempted to run that marathon, after we got run over, that our legs were getting amputated; we would never run again.

That’s what it feels like to hear a doctor say that you can never have another vaginal birth, never again labor, never carry a baby to full term.  And without the Special Scars organization, many of us would go on believing that that was true.  I was really educated and passionate about natural birth and VBAC before I had my baby, and I still took that doctor at his word, and balled my eyes out over the crushing loss.

But here’s the thing.  There are many women with these same scars who have had successful vaginal births after cesarean (VBACs)!  They found out that yes, VBAC after special scar has risks, but so does repeat cesarean!  No one but you can decide for yourself which risks are greater, and which risks you are willing to take.  We are still women with our own skin and bodies and our uteri belong to us, not to the doctor, not to the medical system, not to the government.

For those of us who decide that VBAC is the best option for us, it can be hard to find a provider.  So hard that many of us start looking a year in advance of our pregnancies.  But we usually find a supportive provider, even if we have to travel, or give birth out of hospital.  Even if we can’t, we discover that no one can actually force us to undergo surgery.  You can show up in labor, and argue and fight until you push your baby out, and it doesn’t sound fun, but it can be done.  I actually found a doctor who delivers in the same hospital who said that my scar should not prohibit a VBAC.

I wish that these doctors would realize the effect of their words.  No one can tell you that you will never have a vaginal birth, or that all your future babies will be by cesarean, or that you should not have any more children.  They can say it, but it’s wrong, deceitful, hurtful, and damaging beyond comprehension.  What they mean to say is that they recommend that you have cesareans with any future babies, or that they will not support you in having a VBAC.  Now, wouldn’t those words be kinder to hear?  And given how many people have defied their doctors’ cruel absolutes, wouldn’t those words be more honest?

Words have power, and women have power too.  No matter how our babies are born, our bodies are still our own.  We may get run over, but we stand up again and we heal.  And I’ll be running that marathon next time.

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karkle (2018 days ago)

What a beautifully written post, Kelli! Your story continues to inspire me. <3

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