There was no question about it for me. Of course I’d go for normal delivery; I didn’t even give it a moment’s thought. My eldest sister had her first child when she was 38 through normal delivery, surely I could do it too?My second sister was tricked into c-sec by her gyne, so there was no way I’d trust these doctors. I was going to quit my job and shift base to my parents’ place for the duration of my pregnancy so I decided I would do my own research and listen to whatever my doctor said with a pinch of salt. I found a good gyne almost immediately after coming to Cal. I told her right at the beginning that I wanted to go for natural. The minute I said it, she discouraged me. You have rheumatoid arthritis, she said, you may not be able to push properly and I will not use forceps. Forceps? Just the thought of using those to pull out my baby freaked the life out of me. However, her discouragement made me even more determined to go for natural. I, who hated exercise of any form, started doing yoga. Lara Dutta’s prenatal yoga workout is brilliant by the way. The exercise routine was great for me. There were some bits that I couldn’t do because of my arthritis, but even for that there was solution in the workout. Then my husband’s cousin shared an absolute brilliant 4 and a half hour video on childbirth and related breathing and pushing exercises with me. For the last four months of my pregnancy, I practised everything as suggested in the video to the T. I wish I could share that too here but I don’t have the online version of it. I had read up that rheumatoid arthritis actually benefits from the pregnancy hormones and if that were to be the case, why would it affect me at child birth? I took my medicines (I was only allowed HCQS and my calcium medicine through my pregnancy) diligently. My gyne asked me to get my heart checked (apparently RA affects your heart) and everything came out normal. I was excited and happy, all prepared for normal delivery.
Then came week 36. Apart from the normal increased discomfort, I could see that my arthritis was slowly making a come back. My fingers started to swell and these weren’t due to my pregnancy. I also had to go for my routine 3rd trimester ultrasound. Everything was going my way up til this point. I found out that my baby had IUGR and my glucose level was lower than normal. I read up somewhere that women with RA tend to have IUGR babies. Low glucose level also affects baby’s growth. Though my doc assured me that there was nothing to worry (3rd trimester IUGR isn’t that scary because most of the actual development has already happened), she said that we should have the baby by my 38th week, as she would thrive better outside the womb. My 38th week ended the day before Durga Puja. Calcutta is notorious for its C-sec babies.The hospital where my baby was born, told me that 95% babies delivered there are through c-sec. My friends in Cal would ask me why I wanted to go for normal delivery, which I found really strange. I mean shouldn’t the question be the other way round? I therefore became even more stubborn, and I wanted to fight this. I didn’t want to have a c-sec just because. I got another test done, had series of conversations with people and could not figure out what to do. By the end of the 37th week, the pain in my pelvic region grew manifold, and I didn’t know whether it was related to arthritis or pregnancy. For the first time I started to doubt my decision. Two things were forcing me to change my thought process: IUGR babies grow better when they are out of the womb and what if I couldn’t push properly because of this pain? My insistence on a normal delivery couldn’t possibly come in the way of my baby’s health. Whatever little info there was on RA and child birth, everywhere they recommended a c-sec. I spoke to my husband and we decided to not risk it and go for a c-sec.
This decision affected me greatly. At some level, I started to see myself as a failure. What if I was just chickening out? What if the pain did not come in my way of delivery? By opting for a c-sec was I compromising on my child’s development? All the medical reasons to not have c-sec started to haunt me. Even though my husband kept reassuring me, telling me that at the end of the day it did not matter how our baby came to the world, it had no effect on me. The older generation’s reaction didn’t help either. Though no one said anything, I could hear it in their silence. Till the last day before I got admitted, I kept doubting my decision.I wasn’t in a happy place at all and instead of looking at the bigger picture (the baby is going to be out of your womb and in your hands tomorrow!!) I just spent the whole time blaming myself. I had nightmares the night before my operation that my baby’s lungs didn’t pop because of c-sec. That night was very uncomfortable, I started getting irregular contractions.
Next morning, my baby was super active inside and my discomfort increased. Thankfully, my thoughts by then had transferred to praying to god for a safe operation and a healthy baby, with all its fingers and toes in place. I gave birth on 6th October to a tiny little baby girl. Though she weighed only 2.3 kgs, she was thankfully, otherwise a healthy baby. The amniotic fluid was stained with meconium, which meant that she had her first bowel movement inside my womb. I then realised that I was meant to have a c-sec anyway;if not a planned one, an emergency one.
And honestly, when I had her in my arms, I just realised how silly I was being, worrying about these things. Having a c-sec didn’t make me any less of a mother, nor does my child remember how she came into the world so worrying is a wasted emotion in this case.