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Eight C-sections…Can You Do That?

When I became pregnant with our first child, we were SO excited.  I tried to do all the “right” things…eat well,  exercise and take good care of myself.  At one of my first exams my doctor mentioned in passing that I was “small” in the pelvic area..not side to side, but front to back.  I heard nothing more about it for the rest of the pregnancy.  When I was 10 days “overdue”, the doctor thought it would be a good idea to induce so the baby wouldn’t get too big.

I was relieved to at least be making some effort toward finally being able to see our baby girl.  I checked in at 9 pm and was given prostaglandin to ripen my cervix because my body  wasn’t ready for Pitocin.  I had some contractions off and on overnight and by morning was ready for Pitocin.  I continued to contract throughout the day, but dilation was not really happening.  By early afternoon, the doctor came in and checked me and gave me two options: continue with the induction or have a c-section.  By this time, I was exhausted and discouraged. I broke down sobbing and at that point we decided that a c-section would be the best option.  Of course, looking back, our decision would have been different.  I would have gone home, rested up and waited longer for baby to let me know she was ready. In fact,   I probably wouldn’t have let them induce me in the first place because the reality was that my dates were “off”.  I had longer cycles and when she was born they said she was really only about 3 days late.

When I got pg with our second child, I asked my doctor about the possibility of a VBAC. He said that we would see how big the baby got, but the fact that I was “small’ still hadn’t changed. Further along in the pregnancy, I asked him what he thought, “percentage-wise” was my chance of delivering vaginally. He said about 40%. After all I had been through with the first, I just didn’t see how I could do that again and then go home and take care of a toddler at home. Also, our “plan” was to have no more than three children at the most, so I didn’t concern myself with it too much. I just wanted our babies to arrive safely. So we planned another c-section and Jenna was born a whopping 6 lbs, but healthy and strong.

Our third baby was a healthy little boy and we pretty much thought we were done. However, when it came to actually doing anything about it (as in a vasectomy), I had some huge reservations and drug my feet on agreeing to stop growing our family. Slowly, the desires of my heart surfaced and I realized that deep down inside, I had always wanted a large family. As I prayed about this, I kept sharing my heart with my husband. As hard as I tried to not “push” him, sometimes I felt like I was failing. I have asked him several times since then if he felt like I had pushed him at all and he emphatically says “no, not at all”. However, he did spend a lot of time searching the scriptures and trying to find a biblical basis for deciding to “be done”.  He found none.  At one point, he looked at me and said, “I don’t see any reason  God has given that we should stop having kids. I think we should trust Him for the size of our family.”  I was ecstatic…and a bit scared.

When we became pregnant with our fourth child, I spoke with a midwife about the possibility of a VBAC.  She didn’t seem enthusiastic at all about me pursuing it.  And, quite frankly, it just wasn’t in my heart to do, even though I knew it was probably my last chance. Our second son was born healthy and strong with a head full of black hair.  He was the first one that we didn’t know the gender ahead of time and I really thought he was going to be girl, so I was thrilled Jake now had a little brother.

After that, the c-sections were a given and scheduled on our fifth and sixth children, both healthy boys.

After each birth, my doctor would give us a report on how my uterus looked and if he thought it would endure another pregnancy with a fairly low risk.  Each birth resulted in a good report. We were careful to pray and ask for wisdom and gave my body some time to heal.  Most of our kids are about 2 years (or less) apart, so there was about a year between birth and getting pregnant again.

While pregnant with our seventh, I started doing some reading and began to wonder if I had really needed all those surgeries. We had a midwife friend that we talked to quite a bit about how we were feeling. I made an appt with her to have her check to see if my body was in fact too “small” to birth vaginally. When she checked me, she told me that she wasn’t sure what the doctor had been talking about. She told me I could have had a 9 lb baby. That was really tough to hear. We did some serious praying and thinking as we learned more about how resilient the uterus can be and the way that a woman’s body was made to give birth. We asked her if she would be comfortable letting us try to birth this baby vaginally. She prayed a long time about it and finally agreed to help us. All of our prenatal experience was so very different than seeing a doctor. It was warm and friendly and felt like home. I loved that. In the mean time, our doctor got wind of what we were trying to do and he completely cut us off, sending us a letter stating that neither he nor anyone in his practice would (ever) have anything to do with us or the delivery of that baby. Basically, he needed to do this so that if anything went wrong, he would have no legal ramifications. I got that part of it, but it still felt like a betrayal as we had gotten know him quite well over the years and considered him a friend.

As we went through the pregnancy, we learned so much about trusting God in new and bigger ways.  We  made wonderful friends in childbirth class (that are still dear friends almost 12 years later).  There were so many ways our faith grew during that time.  For us, this whole experience was more about the journey than birthing a certain way.  God had so much for us in all of it.

With my scheduled c-sections, our babies typically came 10 days to 2 weeks early. I went 2 1/2 weeks OVERDUE with this baby, so that put me about a month later than I would have delivered if we had scheduled her. I finally went into labor on my own. I had regular contractions every 10 minutes all night long.  I remember it as being very peaceful and a very special time between God, our baby and me.  I called my midwife in the morning. She was very glad to hear from me as she was getting concerned and had been up much of the night praying. She came to check me and by then, the contractions had tapered off. She checked to see if I was dilating. She said that she could feel a “dent”, but no opening. Apparently my cervix had scar tissue over top of it from all the surgeries and there was no way that baby was coming out vaginally.

We told my husband and asked him what we should do. His answer shocked me. He said we should call my old doctor to do the surgery. I SO did NOT want to do that! But as he explained, it made sense. That doctor knew my body better than anyone. He was a good surgeon and he would certainly do an excellent job as he would feel somewhat redeemed as well. I knew my husband was right. The goal was to get the baby here as safely and as soon as possible and that really was the best way.

We called him and he was very willing to do the c-section. He didn’t hassle me going in, but afterward gave me a big, long speech about my uterus, the risks, and drew pictures, etc.  I am pretty sure that was more about him than about me. As always, we prayed about what he said and asked God for wisdom.

Let me just say here, that looking back, I wonder what in the world I was thinking! I am more conscious now of the dangers that were involved in that decision, and yet I am convinced that is the plan God had for us. We were very prayerful about all of it. I wasn’t out just to prove something, we just wanted to follow God’s lead. Ultimately what we wanted is to honor God in all of our decisions including how we have our babies.

That baby arrived safely at only 7lb 3 oz! I am wondering how very tiny, possibly premature she would have been had she been born a month earlier.   However, she came to us healthy and strong and beautiful.  We finally had another girl after 4 boys in a row!

When we found out our eighth was coming, we had moved to a completely different part of the state. I didn’t know any doctors and had no idea where to start, so I prayed. I decided to go to the crisis pregnancy center to have our first ultrasound. I asked the volunteers there about local doctors and they all kept mentioning one doctor in particular. I had heard his name from some other moms as well and so that’s who I went to. Turns out he was Christian and an amazing surgeon. He listened to the things I didn’t like about our other experiences (mainly to do with pain meds) and we had the best birth ever with him. This was good because our baby was born with a heart defect and had to have open heart surgery at 3 days old. We didn’t know it until the day he was born. It was a crazy, difficult, amazing time (you can read Silas’ story here).

When this last doctor gave me the report on the state of my uterus, he told me he was completely comfortable with me having more babies because my uterus looked like I had had maybe 3 c-sections. I cannot explain that, except that God preserved me. I don’t know why, but for whatever reason, God had eight c-sections planned for me. But He didn’t have anymore babies for us. I had miscarriages at 41 and 44. Now I am 46 and enjoying moving into the season of being “nana”. I am thankful for our eight children and happy we had so many. God has been so faithful to give us wisdom along the way. Birthing babies and raising them for Him is a privilege (not to be confused with easy) and we can trust Him to lead us.  As much as I desired to give birth like women had for centuries, I am thankful that all of our babies arrived here safely.

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