Last Tuesday evening I took a big step in preparing for Smudge’s birth by attending my first ICAN meeting. The International Cesarean Awareness Network, or ICAN, is a non-profit devoted to improving maternal-child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, providing support for cesarean recovery, and promoting Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC). You can find out more about them here.
ICAN offers support groups for women who have had difficult c-sections in the past. My friend Emily runs one where she lives and recommended that I go check out a meeting close to me. I was really hesitant for a while…I didn’t want to walk into a situation where 1) all the other women hated all doctors/hospitals or 2) I’d be given a hard time for not planning a drug-free VBAC.
I tried to tell myself for a long time that my c-section was necessary. It’s not true. The medical record actually marks it as elective. My orthopedist here casually mentioned the epidural isn’t even really near the dura sac, unless the doctor putting it in really messes it up, and that a caudal is an option that eliminates that concern. I feel as though the anesthesiology team simply didn’t want to assume any liability for having a high risk patient (they were scared of my dural ectasia) and in covering themselves put me in the position of having a surgery not recommended for women with my aortic size, which led to complications. I think that that alone I could move on from, but they kept me away from my baby for no reason. They refused to perform tests necessary for my health and refused to give me information about what was wrong with me. They mocked me.
I still have bad dreams, over 18 months later, about my time in the hospital with Menininho. As I’ve prepared for Smudge’s birth I realized that I am so stressed and frightened over a repeat of what happened before that I can’t fully embrace my preparation. I need to be able to let it go.
So, I very nervously attended my first ICAN meeting. It wasn’t at all what I had expected or feared! The women there each briefly introduced themselves and why they were coming, but there were no drawn out stories. This month’s speaker was a therapist who specializes in birth issues. A lot of the background info on therapy that she gave I already knew from my BA in psych, but some of what she said really resonated with me. She talked about how fear of having the baby taken away can delay labor, and how stress in general slows down the beginning and progression of labor. Like cats, who hide to birth, our bodies are designed to birth when we are most comfortable. I think what I am most afraid of is being separated from Smudge like I was for Menininho, and not knowing what is happening to him or having any control over it.
I’m really glad that I went to the meeting and I’d encourage any other women who have issues with their c-sections to check out one as well. I’m already looking forward to next month’s!