Thursday, April 10, 2008

Why I don't deal in statistics

I watched the ABC story tonight about Randy Pausch, who is dying of terminal cancer. Something he said really spoke to me when I thought about Cesarean Awareness Month. He said not to tell people how to live their lives. “Tell them stories,” he said. They’ll figure out how your story applies to their lives.

Just tell me your story. Tell an OB your story. Tell another mother your story. Or a nurse. Or your blog readers. Or your colleagues. Tell your daughter.

Leave the statistics, for now, to the scientists. They’ll spin statistics any which way they want to anyway.

A cesarean is more than an unnecessary or a life-saving surgery. It’s more than a mother strapped to a table or seeing your baby over that screen for the first time. It’s more than life or death. It’s more than right or wrong. A cesarean is a story that begins a life, and whether we like it or not, a mother who makes a decision to have a cesarean is choosing what she believes to be the safest birth for her baby.

If we want to reach mothers and really impact positive change, we need to tell our stories. If I tell a mother that statistics show women are less likely to have more children after a cesarean, she’ll just tell me that she had five children and five c-sections and she’s “just fine.” So what you need to say instead is that you had a c-section and experienced secondary infertility, or that you labored with Pitocin, had a ruptured uterus and a hysterectomy and now you can’t have more children. Or simply say you had a cesarean and now you’re scared to do it again, so you don’t have any more children.

There are so many choices to make each time you begin the journey to motherhood. Many of the choices aren’t easy ones to make. I think one of our goals should be to help mothers make these choices out of love, instead of fear. A mother should not be scared into a cesarean by words such as, “your baby is too big”, “your uterus will explode,” or “your baby is overdue”. Our children, and their children, are counting on us to protect normal, healthy birth. Nothing in life is without risks. Even with a cesarean, there are risks. Sometimes a c-section is the only way (placenta previa, for example). Sometimes it is necessary but preventable (induction on due date, epidural, mom immobilized, baby’s heart rate crashes). Sometimes, it’s just plain unnecessary (unreliable 38 week ultrasound says baby is over 8lbs so a section is scheduled for 39 weeks, and baby is born weighing just 7lbs).

Should I need to see an OB for a future pregnancy, I would ask her to hear my stories. I would tell her that I had a c-section and it made me cry. I’d tell her that it hurt my feelings that she and her colleagues talked over my naked body like I wasn’t there. I would tell her that she was a good surgeon and my physical scar healed nicely, but that inside I still hurt. I would tell her that more than anything, what I want from my pregnancy and labor care provider is to be listened to, loved and treated with respect.

Don’t let your voice fade or your story be forgotten.

for more information about cesareans, cesarean awareness, or VBACs please visit ICAN


Aidan's mom said...

Do you think there are a decent percentage of women for whom their c section was their last pregnancy because of the complications surrounding why they had the c section? That was my experience, anyway. We might have had more kids had I not had a blood clotting disorder and HELLP syndrome. Our decision not to have any more children is more a function of the reasons for the section and not the section itself. Does that make sense?

I think if done the right way, a cesarean doesn't have to be emotionally painful. Even though mine was an emergency section, my peri still found time to comfort me, and ask if he could come around the drape and hold my hand as the anesthesiologist put me under.

He knew I was scared (especially since my DH couldn't be present for general anesthesia), he cared about me, and showed it through that gesture. I will never forget that kindness as long as I live.


Maybe empowering stories to promote faith instead of fear in unsectioned births along with the stories of the feelings of sectioned women would help also?

tie-dyed doula said...

vbacwarrior, my blogspot is just in case you are interested