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No Man is an Island

by Miranda on February 14, 2012

“In the Heaven of Indra, there is said to be a network of pearls, so arranged that if you look at one you see all the others reflected in it. In the same way each object in the world is not merely itself but involves every other object and in fact IS everything else.”
- Sir Charles Eliot, in his Japanese Buddhism

“All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his Letter from Birmingham Jail

I’m planning a VBAC for this pregnancy.

That’s really not a secret if you’ve been around here for any length of time. But what may be a secret to some is WHY I’m planning a VBAC.

In short, when Joshua entered the world I was treated like an object and not like a person.

Nearly three years later, I’m still not over that experience. I carry its memory with me every day.

That experience has become fuel for my current experience. It is one of my biggest fears of this pregnancy. It’s the reason why I changed providers with 11 weeks to go.

My experience with Joshua’s delivery has also become fuel for VBAC advocacy in general because VBAC is not the popular choice when it comes to second-time-around deliveries (or third, or fourth).

Some women go their entire pregnancies without a doctor ever mentioning VBAC to them. They carry shame and guilt from their first delivery experience. They hear the word “failure” and are told they should just be happy they have a healthy baby because a healthy baby (with no mention of a healthy mother) is all that matters. Their feelings regarding their first experience are invalidated.

They are mis- or uninformed and never know there’s another way.

In some places, VBAC isn’t a choice for women at all. In some places, VBACs are actually against the law. Medical professionals cannot offer them and hospitals cannot, or refuse to, allow them.

The reasons for this are many and not exactly relevant to this particular discussion (though I’m happy to discuss those reasons should anyone wish to have said discussion).

What is relevant, however, is the word “choice.”

Choice is a word bandied about in Feminist circles. Well, in all the circles, really. We talk about choice as if we all have one to make. As if all choices are equal.

I don’t believe they are.

When it comes to some things, sure, we have choices. I can choose to wash my hair in the morning or just use dry shampoo. I can choose whether I want burgers or spaghetti for dinner. I can choose which political candidate will receive my vote and then go and cast that vote.

Sometimes, however, I believe we only have a choice insofar as the choice we make does not cause someone else to be unable to make a different or opposite choice.

When the default choice of many care providers is an elective, repeat c-section, it becomes that much more difficult for those of us wishing to do the opposite to actually achieve that desired outcome.

And that’s the problem with “choice.”

“Ah, but Miranda,” you say, “What if the woman WANTS an elective, repeat c-section? What if that IS her CHOICE?”

Well, I can support that.

I can see the legitimacy of choosing when to have your new baby so that things can best be planned and timed to accommodate the schedules of everyone involved. (I won’t lie. I’ve thought about it.)

I can understand why some women who’ve been through nightmarish ordeals would want the control that can come with a c-section the second time around. I can see why, for medical reasons, women would opt to have a c-section instead of a VBAC.

I would never advocate forcing all women into a VBAC and I don’t truly think anyone else would either. Not in all cases whatsoever no matter what.

There are always circumstances where women should be given the choice of a repeat c-section over a trial of labor and VBAC.

BUT.

(Life Lesson: There is almost always a “but.”)

But the fact is that this particular choice is taken away from women at rates higher than that at which this choice is given.

Despite my own personal desire to VBAC this baby—my baby—I support a woman’s right to choose a repeat c-section.

I will get vocal about another woman’s right to choose a c-section provided she also raises her voice in support of my choice to avoid another one.

To me, it’s not enough for us just to say to another woman “I support you and your decision!” and then sit idly by while that woman fights her own battles. That’s lip-service.

If you support her decisions, then fight alongside her.

Lend her your strength—your voice—when she is weak so that when she is strong she can return the same to you.

Ultimately, this is about more than just c-sections versus VBACs. This is about all of our common fates and destinies.

I believe in the Heaven of Indra. I believe in the “inescapable network of mutuality.”

I believe that the choices we make reach further than we can know. That we are all connected. That we must make our choices with the knowledge that our choices affect those whom we have never met.

I believe that if we are to effect change in the world, if we are to exercise control over our individual situations, then we must look at our situations as the situations of all women and move forward from there.

I believe we are all in this together and that one woman’s fight is the fight of all women.

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
–John Donne

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 SugarPlumsMomma February 14, 2012 at 9:05 pm

I planned for a tradiional vaginal birth with my daughter 2years ago, but had an undiagnosed condition that would have killed her had the doctor not performed an emergency c-section. After that experience I chose to have an elective planned c-section with my son. That was the right decision for me but I can so easily understand the point of view that would want to have a more natural VBAC the second time. My OB practice was open to whatever my choice was but they actively educated me about VBAC and the reasons to consider it. We have spoken before on twitter an I know that you live near me, and chances are that you had and will have your new baby at the same hospital that I used. If for any reason you need a referral for an OB office that is not only open to VBAC but actively educates about it I would be happy to give you the information for the practice that I use.

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2 Miranda February 14, 2012 at 10:51 pm

I’m sorry that you had that experience with your daughter’s delivery, but I’m glad that the doctors were there to intervene. That’s why they’re there, you know? I’ve recently switched practices to a pro-VBAC sole practitioner and will be delivering at the hospital with the 3rd lowest c-section rates in all of metro Atlanta, and I know that I’ve made the right decision for this pregnancy.

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3 pinkflipflops February 14, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Word.

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4 Miranda February 14, 2012 at 10:52 pm

To your mother. :)

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5 Mrsmikefireball February 15, 2012 at 12:39 am

Well said! Although I’ve also considered a repeat CS, the memories of the recovery and the thought that I now will have a toddler AND a newborn have prompted me to also change providers and hospitals this time around. In FL, only certain hospitals allow the choice. I am SO happy with my switch. I feel like with babe 1, my doctor had me pegged as a CS from the moment she unnecessarily induced. Now I have a doctor who tells me stories of how they fought for vbacs during her residency because they all just wanted practice and to deliver more babies. I (think I) have emotionally readied myself for the possibility we may end in another CS, but need to at least have the plan to try for VBAC this time around. I know both involve their own type of recovery, but to be able to STAND UP without excruciating pain 2 weeks after giving birth is so my goal.

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6 Miranda February 15, 2012 at 8:37 am

Florida is horrible in their treatment of mothers desiring a VBAC. There are far too few care providers and hospitals who will allow them. A friend of mine has two children, the first born vaginally and the second born via c-section due to breech presentation. She’s a perfect candidate for VBAC and right now cannot find a provider in her area who will allow one. They’re actually faced with the decision of not having more children because of this, which is really, really sad to me.

I’m incredibly happy you’ve found a VBAC friendly provider. That’s awesome! Best of luck to you!

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7 Isha February 15, 2012 at 11:40 am

I applaud every single word of this post.
I do not begrudge the option to schedule a c-section. But I do want support in the fact that I would never even consider it. And I want doctors to not make a c-section the default option.

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8 Miranda February 17, 2012 at 9:33 am

Love you, Isha. I, too, want repeat c-sections not to be the default when mothers have had a prior c-section. I want women to have the option, but I don’t want it to be the default.

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9 John February 15, 2012 at 2:48 pm

I don’t have much to add here . . . except: very well said.

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10 Miranda February 17, 2012 at 9:34 am

Thanks :)

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11 Elizabeth Flora Ross February 15, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Bravo! What a well written, well thought out post on an important topic. I love this, Miranda!

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12 Miranda February 17, 2012 at 9:34 am

Thank you, Elizabeth!

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13 Katie February 16, 2012 at 5:31 pm

preach it, yo.

You KNOW I really DO support your CHOICE. I want New Girl to come screaming out of your vag in the most healthy way possible.

Wait.

Oh, you know what I mean.

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14 Miranda February 17, 2012 at 9:35 am

And you know that I, too, support your choice! :)

As for my vag, I grow big babies. Please be gentle, New Girl. I’ll buy you a pony.

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15 katery February 18, 2012 at 12:31 pm

i like this post. after having a c-section with my first (after 22 hours of grueling labor) i always though if we have another i’d like to do a vbac, but unfortunately, it’s not really an option for me. the closest hospital that allows vbacs is over an hour away. i’d have to switch doctors and drive all that way for every appt i had during my pregnancy. if we do have another i’m not sure what i’d decide, i really like my current doctor and it would be a giant pain in the ass to drive that far for every appt but another c-section is so unappealing to me.

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16 Miranda February 18, 2012 at 3:53 pm

I debated and argued with myself until just a few weeks ago about whether I should switch providers or try to VBAC with the one I used for Joshua’s pregnancy because the closest doctor in the area who is known for VBAC is 45 minutes away from me. The hospital is that far away too as long as there is no traffic. Convenience is what kept me with my old provider for so long, and in the end, I decided convenience wasn’t worth the sacrifice of knowing I’d done all I could to VBAC this baby. I’d rather be inconvenienced now and know I did everything I could than end up with a repeat c-section and wonder forever.

One resource that was really helpful to me was my local ICAN chapter. See if there’s one in your area because those women are passionate about what they do.

You’ll make the choice you’re supposed to make when the time comes for you to make it and if you need or want to talk, I’m only an email away.

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17 katery February 18, 2012 at 3:56 pm

thanks so much for your response, i will definitely have to add you to my blogroll! good luck with the vbac!

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18 Miranda February 19, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Thanks for sticking around :)

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19 tracey February 19, 2012 at 9:11 am

Absolutely. I also support your choice to choose bottle or breast, cloth or disposable, organic or not, etc. That’s what is so fabulous about this generation: we have CHOICES.

I hope that you get your wish and that VBAC is possible. Either way, I hope that you have a better experience with this baby’s delivery.

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20 Miranda February 19, 2012 at 12:45 pm

We do have choices, and it’s excellent that we do, but, like I said in the post, we sometimes have to be careful in how we exercise those choices so that we aren’t being passive in our support of others. Make sense? We can say “Oh, I support you” but when it comes down to a woman being discriminated against because of a choice that she makes that is not the same choice we would’ve made, are we getting up-in-arms about it? Does it make us angry that another woman’s choices are being taken away from her? If not, we’re not helping.

I know I’ll have a better delivery this time around simply because of the provider I’m with, c-section or not. I’m actually excited about this delivery instead of dreading it.

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21 Pinay WAHM Blogger February 28, 2012 at 12:21 am

Very well expressed. :) I have a relative who has six children. She delivered her third child via C-Section and the rest were all normal deliveries. VBAC is always possible as long as there are no complications. I support your advocacy! :)

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