Birth & Fear

I have a vivid childhood memory of riding my bicycle down a neighborhood street while being chased by a pack of Doberman pinchers.  I can still distinctly picture the group of them at my heels and almost hear them barking loudly.  Sweating with fear, I remember pedaling so hard I thought my little feet might loose control and the pedals on my bike fall off, and I would die.  the dogs eventually gave up on their chase with an angry call from their owner to come back home.  My legs slowed eventually but my heart continued to beat wildly for some time afterwards...

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve overcome the fear of dogs that resulted from that high-speed chase.  However, I find that my still little feet are always ready to break out into speedy motion if need be, when I’m around unfamiliar animals.  Especially those with pointy black ears and sharp teeth.

But, I’m no Forrest Gump.  And while my supersonic-speed-pedaling might have kept those dogs from my ankles on that sunny afterschool bike ride years ago, running away from the things I fear at high speed, hasn't worked otherwise.

Now, here I am, a 30-something wife and mama and find myself battling fear and worry as my 2nd pregnancy progresses.  As I’ve had more talks with my OB about upcoming birth decisions, the pointy-eared monsters have come out into view.

Childbirth is an insane thing.  I know there are a million things that an expectant woman can fear or worry about if she lets herself.  It is mind-boggling that women across the globe birth babies all the time and have been for centuries past.  It's amazing to be connected as women in this way and amazing that this particular event that connects us can be so unpredictable, uncontrollable, wild, risky and utterly feminine to the core.  even with the help of education, medicine, skill and seemingly controlled practices that surround us today, it is still incomprehensibly out of human control.  It remains in the hands of an enormous God and that is where I am convinced it will always stay.

My first pregnancy ended up with a cesarean birth.  I won't write out my entire birth story for the sake of space, but am happy to share it in another way with anyone who is interested.  The fact that I had a cesarean birth should come as no surprise; not because of anything personal but rather because of the high percentage of cesarean births in our country these days.  But, for us, it was a surprise and it was the one thing I had feared most and prayed hard would not happen.  It did anyway.  About 20 hours after my water broke; I was being wheeled in for surgery.  and after what only felt like minutes later, Asher’s healthy cries and sweet, squishy, red face and full head of dark hapa hair, arrived.  more than that, all that we had been waiting for, for 9 long months was right before my face and lay across my chest for a few emotional moments.  Any feelings or lingering questions I had about what had transpired in my birth experience was swept up into our new life as a family of three and an imminent, exhausted joy.

In the months and years that followed, however, thoughts and questions about having had a C-section continued to pop up at various times and bother me.  While I didn't go through any lack of bonding or difficulty with nursing as I’ve heard can result from a cesarean birth, I did wonder often at why things happened they way they did.  And even beyond that, I wondered if there was something wrong with me and essentially, my very womanhood, in not being able to have a non-surgical birth.  No one ever said anything like that but the feelings were there and very real.  and since talking to more and more women who have gone through a cesarean, I know I am not alone in those feelings.

So, what's all the worry and fear for this time around?

Well, despite the initial recovery from my C-section and the lingering questions and doubts that needed to be processed through, I think one of the most difficult things about having had a C-section is how it affects future births.  today, the mantra of "once a C-section, always a C-section" is no longer intact.  Though some doctors still stick to it in their practice, it's become much more common that the expectant woman/family decides.  I’m thankful for this but the decision has not been easy for me.

I’ve had many conversations, read 4 books (and a million things online), talked with my husband, prayed a lot and talked with my OB about what to plan for while still knowing I am not in control just because I know what I want to happen.  Many women opt for what seems safest -for some that is another elective, scheduled C-section.  Others choose to try for the birth experience they didn't have previously and opt for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and the outcomes seem to be as varied as can be imagined.

I’ve been so afraid to make the wrong choice and not knowing or doing enough. and I keep thinking that if I can find and read just one more book and educate myself until my eyes fall out, then things might go well.  I’ve worried that I’m not enough of this phantom of an all-natural, strong woman who wants to and knows how to take control of her birth experience...and on the opposite side, that I’m way too skeptical of modern day medicine and every single person involved as if they are all weasels hiding in white coats who care only for convenience and money.  I’ve spent time sitting in fear over the risks and statistics I’ve read about either way -2nd cesarean or VBAC.

sigh.

There are a lot of pointy-eared, sleek, black dogs out and they are growling at me to run in fear.

But this is not the way I should walk in.  There is another way.

God wants me and beckons me to trust him in this, as he does in all things.  I hear him constantly reminding me to walk in his way of peace and not trust in how educated I can become, how strongly I feel about myself or this baby, my OB or opinionated friends.

My thinking and feelings -though valid, gifts from God and to be used wisely, are hopelessly flawed this side of heaven.  Yet in their flaw, God makes room for me to depend him and know that he is God and that he loves me/us.

He keeps reminding me, ever so gracefully that he is the one who created my body and little timothy, who is still growing within it.  He's letting matt and I make a decision and plan for this birth but he gives no guarantees beyond his sovereignty and love.  The outcome is ultimately in his hands along with everything else.

So, you pointy-eared dogs that tempt me to run in fear, I am choosing instead to stand with the strength of my God and trust him despite your teeth and threatening eyes.  Moment by moment, worry by worry, week by week until the day God has already planned, arrives.  And even beyond that, until you no longer exist.  VBAC or cesarean is not the point.  Trusting and knowing him in everything, is.

If any of you are still reading this novella-length blog post, can I ask you to pray for me and specifically for this upcoming birth?  As of today, we're planning for a VBAC with our hands open.  Pray we would trust Him ultimately, stick together like glue, have wisdom and rest in his peace that passes all understanding and all types of fear and worry that can bite at and chase after our spirits.  One thing I know for sure is that he loves us.  Oh, how he loves us...

"I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
this poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
the angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.

oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!"

-psalm 34:4-8
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