Frozen Smiles

I have been surfing the blog-space for a few weeks now and I find myself bombarded by tales of sadness, fear, heartache, hurt, angst, anger, and frusteration - these are the stories I am hearing from women with frozen smiles... women who, on the outside, you may barely notice their abdominal scar, but inside, the scars run much deeper.

Cesareans hurt.

I feel under qualified, I have not had one myself. But, enough friends, would-be clients, and family members have that I am accustomed to seeing the frozen smiles - seeming that all is well, but a haunted vacancy where there used to be light. Yes, the corners of their mouths turn up at the right times, but their hearts are broken, their bodies are put in risks way, and, forever, their birth choices are limited. They may not even be able to acknowledge this splintering, this robbed process, this destination with no journey... But I only pray I am there when they do.

They had a one in three chance of C-section just by choosing hospital birth in the United States.
But 1 to 3 is 100% if you happen to be the ones sectioned.
Its not like my daughter-in-law was only 33% sectioned.

"What does the Scar stop me from doing? Why does it bear any relevance in my life? Because I have this scar I cannot give birth in a birth center. Because I have this scar, many midwives are legally not allowed to attend my births. Because I have this scar, there is a very large number of hospitals around this country that will not “allow” me to give birth as I was created to. Because of this scar, there is a dwindling number of doctors who would attend my subsequent vaginal births. Because of this scar, I will be forced to drive long distances to find a willing care provider. Because of this scar, I have to hear comments from ignorant strangers and family members, “but aren’t you afraid your uterus will explode?!”"

I would like to share with you a quote from War of the Worlds (watched it on tv last night!)

A child is talking with her father about a painful splinter in her hand. The father insists it must be removed right away lest it become infected. The child says, "no, when it's ready my body will push it out".
- VBACwarrior

and here...

I’ve come to notice the shuffled hunched look most post birth cesarean mamas have. I sadly can almost tell from photo albums too… I see it with [my] biggest boys infancy photos. It makes me sad. I’ve been there.

and here...

They didn't tell me when they would start, I just remember both doctors chatting away as if I wasn't even there. It was as if I was a corpse, I might as well have been, and they were performing an autopsy on me, totally desensitized to the process. I was laying there paralyzed, scared, and about to give "birth" my son, and they acted like it was just another day at the office, chatting as if on a lunch break.

- Michelle DeMont

And so many more. One of the most thoughtful posts I have read in my wanderings is here. Read with caution, read with a stress ball in one hand and a kleenex in the other. She breaks the ACOG train of thought that it is JUST about the process... Again,
don't they understand that the journey, the process, is for the health of the baby (and mom), and happens to include the experience.

Interesting stats on cesareans and why I can't just 'leave it lie' when a woman says she is planning on a cesarean for an unnecessary reason (unnecessarian?):
  • 80% of women report incision pain
  • 31% had bowel problems
  • 17% reported incontinence issues
  • women who give birth by C are in 'significantly worse physical healthy
  • many women end up with permanent overhangs of skin, fat, and scar tissue
  • many women end up with permanently sensitive scar tissue that causes irritation for years afterward
  • 500mL of blood loss is considered a hemmorrhage, in the average C, the average blood loss is 1000mL
  • 19% of women report infection
  • 91% of women with primary Cs end up with repeat Cs... not for lack of WANT but lack of "ALLOW"
  • Placenta previa risk increases by 50% with subsequent pregnancies after Cs
  • Placenta accreta was reported as 1 in 533 births for subsequent pregnancies after Cs
  • Necrotizing Fasciitis occurs in about 1.8 per 1000 surgeries
  • MRSA is becoming more and more common in all hospital patients and more-so in C patients
  • A woman giving birth by cesarean is 4 TIMES more likely to die than a woman giving birth vaginally

And that is just a handful.

These are not small risks - not when you consider it might be your friend, your sister, your cousin, Daycare provider, child's teacher - YOU.

Why am I adamant that education is NECESSARY? It is LIFESAVING? Because, when giving this list to a group of women the other day, I omitted Cesarean in all of these facts... and women thought it was simply a paper on childbirth stats...

Women believe, by and large, that CHILDBIRTH itself is a risky event and that, in managing birth, we can decrease risk. In fact, the opposite is holding true - the more we manage, the less safe it becomes.

I don't care if you label me a trumpet, a granola-eating, moon-gazing, hippy who imposes her beliefs on others - I would rather you not like me than you not be around to not like me because I didn't give you true and accurate information so that you could make more TRUTHFUL, INFORMED, and EDUCATED choices about your health and that of your child.

ACOG, put that in your pipe and smoke it - I don't believe that you are so ignorant as to believe that women are choosing home birth simply for the 'process'... some of us simply cannot accept the 1 in 3 risk of being the next shuffling woman in Cosco with a frozen smile on her face, a stapled smile on her belly, and a haunted look in her eyes. Some of us simply cannot accept that we may be an unnecessary addition to Safe Motherhood Quilt Project.

My heart breaks, my fists clench, and I know why I am willing to cry over a woman who is too proud, to afraid, or too hurt to cry over herself. I will stand up against any lab coat who attempts, for no valid reason, to cut the women that have put their trust in me to protect them during their most vulnerable time. I am a doula, I love, I am an educator, I empower, I am a woman, I band together, I am a mother, I offer support. I am a woman.


kris said...

thank you.

Jenn said...

"put that in your pipe and smoke it".
lol your going oldschool on their *butts* and that my friend is why I love you!

CappuccinoLife said...

Yeah Nicole!


I read that quote on vbacwarriors blog, and while I haven't had a c-section, it explained all the reasons I am so dead set on avoiding it if at all possible. It is not something to be taken lightly and too many docs act as if proactively sectioning every woman would eliminate all birth complications and pain. Puhleeese!

It's not about some elusive orgasmic birth experience for me. It's because I know, factually, that c-sections put me and future babies at risk for serious complications and the only reason to agree to one is for a real, genuine life-and-death situation, nothing less.

labortrials said...

And anyone needing or wanting cesarean sensitivity training should take a look at "Cesarean Voices," a book published by ICAN (http://www.ican-online.org). I wasn't traumatized in 2004 by my cesarean, but that damned cesarean is front and center in my mind in 2008 since I have experienced multiple miscarriages in the past year and have been told to question my scar's integrity. What a nightmare.

~ Kimberly

hbacmama said...

Thank you for bringing light to this dark place... for all the women who insist that 'cesareans are so great' .. there are so many of us who are seething on the inside... the rage, the tears, the incredulity at people who tell us to 'just be thankful'.
We are thankful for our children! But we are also scarred, bullied and all too often denied what is inherently normal. Vaginal birth.


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