the c-section elephant in the room.

where my heart resides-1

Dearest blog readers,

I feel obligated to tell you that I have decided to have another c-section.

Say whaaaaaaaat?

It’s true. In case you’re relatively new to this blog, here’s the short version of my first birth:

I found out at 36 weeks pregnant that Everett was breech. I did everything in my human power to flip him around (picture me lying upside down on an ironing board with frozen fried rice on the top of my stomach and headphones in my underwear). Nothing worked. I even had a painful procedure done where a doctor stood over me and manually tried to turn the baby with her hands. That didn’t work either. So, my casual laid-back birth plan of maybe-I’ll-use-a-birthing-tub/maybe-I’ll-use-a-doula/maybe-I’ll-use drugs turned into C-SECTION OR BUST. I had no choice.

And Everett was born healthy as could be and we were all fine.

This past January when I found out I was pregnant, I knew that I had a decision to make: VBAC or repeat c-section. That decision haunted me almost immediately, but I was grateful to have the choice.

And here’s where I am going to be totally, perfectly, 100% honest with you. The truth is: I had no desire to do a VBAC.

And nobody was shocked by this more than me.

I remember during my c-section, I explicitly asked the doctor to check out my insides and make sure there was nothing wrong with me. I remember asking that same doctor during my postpartum checkup if I would be a good candidate for a VBAC and feeling a sense of relief when she said yes.

So, what changed?

I have no idea. Time and perspective, I suppose. Looking back, I actually had a wonderful c-section experience. There were a lot of pros. It’s nice to know exactly when your baby will be born. It’s nice to show up at the hospital showered with clean hair and shaved legs. It’s nice to get the baby out of you in 15 minutes while you feel no pain whatsoever, and it’s nice to enjoy your first moments with your baby protected by a blue sheet bubble.

(Also, real talk: it’s nice to keep your lady parts in tact and not pee every time you sneeze.)

When I think back to my c-section with Everett, I remember it as a magical, wonderful, life-changing experience. I do not feel like I missed out on anything because I didn’t go into labor or feel contractions or tear certain things that were not meant to be torn. It was not the birth I had planned on, but it was the birth that I had. And because of that, the bright operating room and sterile environment that once terrified me is now my comfort zone. Meanwhile, the thought of doing a VBAC completely terrifies me. It feels foreign, and strange, and anxiety-inducing. I have a million fears about doing a VBAC, most of which are related to Everett’s 95th percentile head size and the possibility of ending up in a c-section anyways. I don’t feel confident about it, I don’t feel connected to it, and most importantly: I feel no burning desire to do it. 

So that, friends, is where I have landed. I have done the research. I have talked to the doctors and midwives. I have read the stats and gone over the risk factors with both options. There are risk factors with both options. And ultimately, I have chosen the path I believe will be best for my baby and my body and my mind and my soul, and that is to have another scheduled c-section.

Our sweet baby boy will be born on Monday, October 27th. Barring no complications, we should be home in time for Halloween so Everett can go trick-or-treating while I stuff my face with well-earned candy bars.

Here’s to all of our birth stories, whether they involve water tubs or hospital beds or the backseats of cars (!) or operating tables. Let us all remember we are blessed to bring babies into this world, no matter how they get here.

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60 Responses to the c-section elephant in the room.

  1. Melissa says:

    I love this post a lot. (Also, relatively new reader and though I’ve been gradually reading all of the things because I’m casually in love with your blog/writing style/etc., I haven’t made it that far back yet, so I appreciate the background.)

    Also, my best friend’s baby sister’s birthday is October 27th! It’s a good day.
    Melissa´s last blog post ..consuming versus creating

  2. sk bell says:

    Good for you Ashlee! I don’t think anyone can be faulted for choosing what they think is best for their family!
    sk bell´s last blog post ..Healthy Kid Food: Veggie Risotto

  3. Angeline says:

    Amen! Snaps for healthy babies, no matter how they entered the world, what they’re eating and what they’re wearing on their cute little hineys.
    Angeline´s last blog post ..What not to do on maternity leave

  4. Katie says:

    Amen. I can relate to this exactly. I had a wonderful, beautiful c-section experience last year (my daughter was also breech, and I also did ALL of the crazy things to try to turn her). And even though it didn’t include all of the blood, sweat and tears that many do, our birth story is so special and sacred to me. I honestly wouldn’t go back and change anything about it, and actually, writing it all out and being able to recall the smallest, most meaningful details helped me realize that and embrace it. It was a time that I was SO perfectly present in the moment, which is an all too rare thing, for me at least. If (hopefully when) we do have another, my gut feeling is that I’ll opt for another caesarean. Also—I don’t normally link in comments, but in the name of getting more positive c-sections experiences out there, our birth story is here:
    Katie´s last blog post it again

    • Ashlee says:

      I totally relate to the “being present” aspect of having a c-section….especially since mine was scheduled like yours. It’s weird but when your body is completely numb like that, it’s almost as if you have no choice but to mentally be ALL THERE, you know? Off to read your story, thanks for sharing it here!

  5. Emma says:

    I love this post! I know a ton of moms who had c-sections and loved them all! I think if you have a pretty good first c-section experience then you’ll definitely want to go that route again. I had a terrible experience and am terrified of the thought of having to do it again!
    Regardless, your closing words are SO true. We all need to be thankful for however our babies are born, as long as they come healthy and safe. Every birth is beautiful in its own way!

    • Ashlee says:

      Almost everyone I know who had a terrible c-section experience wanted to do a VBAC the second time around. I think had I been scarred from my first one (no pun intended), I would feel the same way!

  6. Melanie Dale says:

    I love this, friend. I ended up having a c-section and struggled with guilt and feelings of failure, like I didn’t live up to this image of an ideal woman or something. You’re gonna set a lot of moms free with this post. And freedom from guilt is goooooood. FIST BUMP.

  7. Elly says:

    High five for figuring out whats best for you! I can’t imagine that this kind of decision could ever be a flippant one, really. The idea of knowing the whens and whats to expect before it happens also must be pretty reassuring. Also, just quietly I love the idea of picking a birthday. That’s awesome! 🙂
    Elly´s last blog post ..Thailand – Songkran

  8. Brynna says:

    From someone who pushed out a 96th percentile head… GOOD CALL! 😉 But really, what a wonderful thing to know when you’ll meet your new son! So excited for you.

  9. Jen says:

    Given the size of the domes of Gadd men, I fully 100% support your decision – especially because I am twice your size and TRIED my hardest to get Jason out the “normal way” and failed miserably and ended up with the emergency C-section .. not fun at all. The planned C-section – the pleasure of choosing your baby’s birthday and the power to plan out details of the day of his birth, where Evy will be while you are in delivery, etc, etc, – is a thing of beauty … excellent choice!!!!!

  10. Thanks for this post. After an unplanned (and terrible) C-section with my first, I planned to do a VBAC with my second. However, he was changing between head down and breech every visit for the last month. I realized that if I went into labor, I’d have to rush to the hospital due to dangers and concerns about a breech VBAC, so I ultimately went with the scheduled C. It was the most beautiful birth experience ever. I have always cherished it, and I appreciate these affirming words. Best wishes in the birth of your new, wonderful babe!
    Sarah Quezada´s last blog post ..Carrying A Baby in Saudi Arabia

    • Ashlee says:

      Thanks, Sarah! Glad to hear all went well with your second c-section and that it was a beautiful birth experience for you. Hoping for the same with my second.

  11. Mariela says:

    I love this. I was agaisnt a c-section and wanted a vaginal delivery and within 10 minutes of walking into the hospital I was already in for an emergency c-section. Meanwhile all of my friends have had the easiest delieveries. I struggled with so many feelings of why me? but ultimately accepted my birth experience as my own; my baby girl had her own agenda that day. For my second baby, when the time comes, I will only focus on healthy baby, healthy mom.

  12. Sarah says:

    My mother in law is an obgyn, and I remember calling her constantly asking her about scary things that can happen during pregnancy. For the most part, she assured me how rare said complication actually was, but that was not the case when talking about VBACS. She seemed to feel very strongly that they were a bad idea and has personally seen a woman’s uterus BURST OPEN during an attempted THREE times! All three times the babies and mamas survived, thanks to her super speedy emergency c-section skills. I was lucky to have an old fashioned vaginal birth with my daughter, but there is no world where I would ever attempt the VBAC. Just say no, man!

    • Ashlee says:

      Oof, scary stuff. They told me my odds were 60-80% that I would be able to do it, but that number wasn’t high enough for me to risk it. I wasn’t worried about uterine rupture (super rare!) as much as I was worried that I would labor for a long time and then need an emergency c-section anyways. Plus, if I didn’t go into labor by 41 weeks, 4 days they would do a c-section regardless because they won’t induce you with a vbac. And then you go two extra weeks being uncomfortable for no reason! Lots of things to consider….it wasn’t an easy decision but I’m confident we made the right choice for us 😉

  13. Helen says:

    I have been reading your blog for more than four years now… and, as a midwifery student, my first reaction was NO WAY! SHE WHAT?!?! And as i read on, all the risks associated with repeat c-section for baby and mom kept coming up in my head and I keep hoping your decision was going to be a different one by the end of the blog post… and i’ll be honest, I felt offended when you mentioned you don’t feel like you are missing out “tear certain things that were not meant to be torn”…. i can’t say exactly why but it feels… annoying… because a woman’s body is so strong and amazing and resilient that it is able to heal even if “things that were not man to be torn” was torn. But finally, by the end of the post, I was so thankful that you shared this. Because really, the most important thing is that it is the experience you want, and I am excited that you get to go through that again… meeting your baby just the way you want to.

    • Ashlee says:

      Sorry to disappoint you 😉

      I have heard a lot of horror stories about tearing, hence the reference. I certainly meant no offense….of course we are strong and amazing and resilient! Look at me…..they sliced Everett straight out my body with sharp tools and here I am doing it all over again. I don’t think my body was “meant to be sliced open” any more or less than it was “meant to be torn”…..sometimes those things happen and sometimes they don’t (lucky mommas!), but at the end of the day – I simply meant to say that I don’t feel like I missed out on anything because I didn’t experience the typical pain/labor/contractions/tearing that a lot of other women do. Hopefully that makes sense?

      As an aside, I think it’s wonderful that you’re a midwifery student and I cannot say enough good things about the midwives who have seen me through my prenatal care both times around. I prefer midwives to doctors 100 times over, and while I am super thankful to have a capable doctor performing my c-section, I always choose to see a midwife when given the choice. You are doing important work and as a momma, I feel compelled to tell you so!

      • Kelly says:

        As someone who tore things that weren’t meant to be torn, that comment was completely accurate and not annoying at all. I am still dealing with the effects 8 months later and I don’t think I’m done. Many people have told me that I would’ve had a better recovery if I had a csection. Who knows? But the reality is I’m so glad you made the decision that was right for you and you don’t mind standing up and saying it! 🙂
        Kelly´s last blog post ..Pretend Summer and This Week’s Goals

        • Ashlee says:

          Ooooof. I am cringing. I have two friends who had horrific tearing stories and looooong recoveries like you. So sorry! I hope your next is better if you have another 😉

  14. molly says:

    Hi Ashlee! Not that my opinion means anything, but I think it’s so great that you’ve made the choice that feels so right for you, rather than being pressured by someone or something else! Trusting our gut as parents can sometimes be tough but is *always* best. I just read Everett’s birth story and it sounds perfect! After having three munchkins (two w/o meds and one w a HEAVENLY epidural), I’ve actually been thinking that a c-section would maybe kinda nice for my 4th in the spring 🙂 Anyway, congratulations and good job taking good care of yourself xo PS > I’m friends w Selena from Annie & Isabel, and I wore their Anita gown for my son’s birth 🙂 Their gowns are so beautiful, their company so amazing, and Selena and Anna are so lovely!

  15. Paula says:

    Dear Ashlee,

    I found out at 32 weeks that my baby was frank breach. When the doctor told me this information and my options I remember thinking to myself “Omg I am not going to have the birth experience I want. I am a failure and I have done something to make my baby not be head down”. Looking back I just shake my head at these irrational thoughts and the hysterical crying that followed when I arrived home from my doctor’s appointment. When my husband got home he found me sobbing uncontrollably and thought that the baby had perhaps died with how I was behaving until I told him what I had found out. We googled everything about breached babies and after a week of doing inversions on my stairs with my husband supporting me and putting frozen bags of peas on my tummy to see if the baby would move away from the cold (I would not recommend this nor do I think this technique works lol) I found out the following week that the baby had moved head down. Now that I look back I am glad the baby moved and I got my vaginal delivery despite being in labour for 48 hours and pushing for 2 hours (after I said to my husband “that only felt like I pushed for 30 minutes right?” to which he replied that it was 2 hours from start to finish). I was practically delirious at the end of my labour and even now I cannot remember certain things about my labour and my husband has to fill me in. I still can barely remember holding my daughter for the first time as I was exhausted from not sleeping at all for 2 days straight. On the plus side I found my recovery to be pretty good (I had no tearing that I have heard horror stories about) despite being sleep deprived but aren’t we all with newborns.

    I completely respect your decision to do a c-section and think that as mothers we all have to make the best choice for ourselves and for our babies. No matter how they come into the world what matters at the end of the day is that there is a healthy baby and mother.

    • Ashlee says:

      Oh girl. I did ALL OF THAT. And then some. I can laugh about it now but at the time it was not funny and we were so…..desperate. All a good lesson in letting go of control, right?

      Thanks for reading 😉

  16. Laura says:

    I chose a c-section for my second son, as well, and a lot of people questioned it. I had a c-section the first time because my son was breech. I hadn’t even experienced labor or contractions at all. I had no desire, and somewhere in my gut, I felt like people viewed it as an “easy way out” that I was choosing another c-section. I agree with you, it’s so great to have the choice!

  17. October 27 is magical – my son’s birthday. 🙂 Good choice on so many fronts.

  18. sarah says:

    Ashlee, did I write this post?!?! I am just 15 weeks pregnant but my oldest will be three when baby arrives in March. I’d wanted a natural birth (did Hypnobabies) but because she was breech (and I had low fluid), I ended up with a c-section. And it was great. Recovery was easy, and I didn’t feel disappointed at all. I wasn’t expecting to feel the way I did when my doctor told me at my first prenatal appointment (for #2) that a vbac was definitely in the cards and I had a decision to make. I almost wanted them to tell me to just do a repeat c-section. There are so many pros & cons to each way. My biggest hesitation right now is that my oldest is still a super cuddler (and likes her “uppies”) and is still in the crib, and I’m worried about the post-surgery restriction of “don’t lift anything heavy” for 6 weeks. I can’t wait to hear about your experience, and I wish you & your family all the best! You totally hit the nail on the head: the only thing that matters is that it is YOUR decision, and the health of your baby (and you- both physical and mental). You’re a rockstar, mama!

    • Ashlee says:

      I will keep you posted on the recovery! We just moved Ev to a big boy bed so I won’t *have* to lift him very much…..but that is definitely my biggest worry and concern the second time around. I’ll let you know how it goes… 😉

  19. Do you, girl, & don’t feel bad about it. Good luck on October 27th & leading up to it! <3
    Kate @´s last blog post ..On Cultivating a Personal Style & Trying to Become a Jazzy Old Woman

  20. Saskia says:

    I agree. It all comes down to your first scheduled c-section experience. I do not know one person, personally, who had a scheduled c-section, but only emergency ones. Not one of them liked the experience and would never do it again, but that is only because they went through hours and hours of pain and shocking doctor’s statements such as: “We need to get this baby out right now”.

    I am happy for you to have this choice. 🙂 May your next birth be as delightful as your last.
    You will be in my thoughts and prayers that day.

  21. Misti says:

    3.5 weeks ago I had my first c-section, and it wasn’t my first choice. I was prepared for a Bradley birth and because my baby was measuring large, also in the >90 percentile, my midwife was afraid of shoulder dystocia. So, I was induced. After 8 hours on pitocin without an epidural I ended up with an epidural and had the worst experience in my life with that, only to six hour later end up in the OR with a c-section. My c-section experience was pretty much crap—I didn’t get those wonderful photos of a baby posed near my head—I could barely keep myself awake and from throwing up I was so nauseous and out of it from the spinal block. That said, I’m ok with how things went–mostly–this side of the c-section, at least in terms of recovery. I’m kind of like you, the lady bits are in tact and other than being annoyed that I can’t go full throttle into working out yet, I feel ok. I don’t know at this point if I’d choose a VBAC for a second baby or not—not sure on that second baby yet!—but I really appreciate this post.
    Misti´s last blog post ..Forest at Three Weeks

    • Ashlee says:

      Sorry your c-section experience was crap. That blows. I will say….my sister-in-law had a horrendous first c-section (emergency) and a great second c-section (scheduled). I really think the scheduled-ness makes a world of difference. Wishing you the best with whatever you choose, if you end up having another and need to make that choice!

  22. Maria says:

    So excited for you! I was NOT going to have a C-Section, but after 38 hours of labor (29 epidural free) it had to be done. I remember first seeing my son’s face & my husband took a great photo and I am so happy and tearful when I think about it. Many things went wrong for me at the hospital, but the main thing went right-my beautiful healthy son. When I am blessed enough to have baby #2, he or she will arrive the same way. I’m not willing to go through all that & risk my baby’s health (my son was stuck, literally) again. Prayers & luck your way!

  23. Leigh says:

    I have never commented before but I just want to say kudos for knowing your limits and making the decision that’s right for you. I too had a breech first baby and a scheduled c-section. That was the easiest thing ever. Recovery was quick and almost pain free. I had to choose between VBAC and c-section with my second baby. I chose c-section. We scheduled his birth and then I went into labor 3 weeks early because of pre-eclampsia. I ended up with an emergency c-section because my blood pressure was crazy high. I was happy to know I had made the right choice even though it didn’t happen when it was scheduled.

    • Ashlee says:

      Whoa! Thanks for sharing this story. I keep hearing of people who go into labor before their scheduled c-sections. I guess I should pre-register for the hospital and start packing a bag just in case, huh? 😉

  24. Deanna Littrell says:

    I appreciate your honesty, Ashlee!
    It’s so refreshing to be reminded that not every woman is the same. My first birth was a c-section, I hated it, and so with the next I just HAD to do a VBAC. It went beautifully! But it’s great knowing mommas go with their instinct and do what’s best for them!
    LOVE this blog, and ‘Coffee + Crumbs’ too! The reality of motherhood is incredibly rewarding and tough. I’m so glad you’re bringing light to it.

    • Ashlee says:

      So happy to hear your VBAC went smoothly….that is awesome, and I’m glad you got the birth experience you wanted! Thanks for reading, here and C+C 😉

  25. Pingback: What I’m Into: September 20 | Pilgrim Sandals

  26. Caprice says:

    You made my day when I saw that you picked October 27th!! That is my son’s Axel’s Bday and he will be 2 this year. And I hope that your baby is just like him… so easy and full of happiness! (and a GREAT Napper too!) My son was born during Hurricane Storm Sandy and was born 1.5 hours later from any sort of contraction. We barely made it to the Hospital and it all was so nerve wrecking. My first was over 12 hours of labor so I had no idea he would be born that quickly. He was also on the bigger side (weighed 8lbs 11oz) with a HUGE head. I did have complications afterwards because of that that took me a full 1.5 years to recover from. Due to how fast he was born, he also broke his collarbone. I think if I had the choice, a C-section would have been less painful for both of us. I will send my positive prayers and vibes your way!!! Happy Birth day to come!

  27. Thanks so much for this post. I, too, am scheduled for my 2nd c/s on the 27th! And while the first c-section wasn’t what I’d preferred going in, it resulted in a healthy baby and healthy momma (after 28 hours of labor and failure to progress), and the main memory I’m left with from it is hearing that wonderful first cry. My doctors were open to and supportive of a VBAC but they cautioned that I was somewhat likely to run into the same issues the second time around. Not a decision I’m making lightly, but like you, it’s what’s right for us. I’ll be thinking of you as we both get closer to 10/27!
    Michele @ A Storybook Life´s last blog post ..Right Now (The Nesting Edition)

  28. Can’t wait to hear about your experience even more now (after hearing you did end up doing a VBAC)! What a surprise!
    kelsey williams´s last blog post ..conversations with Rooney / 05

  29. Tamara says:

    I was very devastated with a C-section with my firstborn. I dread the possibilities and decisions that come with getting pregnant again. I still want to get pregnant and possibly keep getting pregnant. I was a pro-all-things-natural birth type and now I feel as if I’m lost in ‘I have no idea where I stand’ land.

    You are refreshing in your honesty. Thanks for sharing!

  30. Kate says:

    I’ve always been intrigued when woman say they felt like they missed out by not having a vaginal birth as if somehow a c-section diminishes the experience. As someone who’s been trying for 9 years to have a child any which way, it’s so hard not to get defensive when I hear friends talk about their disappointment at not having the experience they wanted. But what you didn’t miss out on was having the child, having the family… I beg you all to remember that. Infertility is a bitch, and when you’re facing the end of the road and a possibility of a future without children, the process by which your child arrived into the world becomes somewhat insignificant – please note I’m in no way trying to say it’s not important and that you shouldn’t have a preference… I haven’t had the pleasure of having this conundrum before so this is coming from a place of sadness at not being able to even join in this discussion with experience in hand – but just know that as a woman who can’t have her own child (or apparently anyone elses after a recent failed adoption – thanks Russia!) any which way sounds like a great option to me! I wish you all the very best which ever way your birth ends up. And happy you won’t miss out on a baby!

  31. Julie S. says:

    Right on! The important part is to have a healthy baby and the birth you are comfortable with. There’s no reason for all the mom shaming going on out there about any decisions you make – you decide what is best. I don’t think I’d want to attempt a VBAC either.
    Julie S.´s last blog post ..Gestational Diabetes and the managed carb diet. Pricking your finger is no fun.

  32. Brett says:

    Oh man ….. man, oh man.

  33. Miriam says:

    Whats happening? Is everything ok with you and the baby?

  34. Stephanie says:

    O lady! Change a few details and I could have written this. Mine was my first but he came early (my nails were not painted either ;)), my only birth plan was an epidural (that didn’t happen), and it happened soooo fast. As someone who is a planner I was not prepared for how out of control it all would feel. I was totally laughing at the lies comment and I cried at the splitting in two comment because it is sooo accurate and true and really isn’t that the truth? Our body is splitting from two beings in one body to two beings separated! I am not going to lie, it is thirteen months later and I still have a little bit of birth trauma but talking about it and hearing other stories like yours makes me realize I am not alone. On the positive side it definitely prepared me for the the fact that motherhood is a crazy uncontrollable chaotic mess but it is sooo worth it for the end result. I remember when I was in labor and thought I was only a few cm (I was actually 9) I said anyone who give birth without an epidural is a rockstar (little did I know that would include me in a few hours) and now that includes you too!!!
    Stephanie´s last blog post ..Newborn Essentials

  35. Stephanie says:

    And I just realized I posted that to the wrong post 🙂
    Stephanie´s last blog post ..Newborn Essentials

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