When I gave birth to my first son, Jack, by cesarean section eight years ago, I was more than a little unprepared. In the months leading up to my due date, I had put all of my energy into gearing up for a vaginal delivery. My husband and I religiously attended Bradley childbirth education classes, read the books and watched the videos, and bonded with our classmates.
Five days past my due date, I went into labor and was amazed at how quickly I progressed. By noon I was fully dilated and ready to push. But two hours later, my baby hadn't descended into the birth canal and I was told that I needed to weigh the risks if I wanted to continue. Exhausted, I consented to a c-section. As soon as we got a good look at our son, it was clear that his beautiful and very large head hadn't had a chance at a vaginal birth.
With baby number two, I opted for a scheduled cesarean and I knew I'd made the right decision. Yet the morning of the delivery I was still caught off guard. As I waited in my hospital gown, all the memories came rushing back: the cold starkness of the operating room, the odd sensation of the spinal anesthesia entering my body, the postoperative shakes and wrenching gas pains. But I forced myself into the OR and gave birth to eight-pound Sean. When I became pregnant with my third child, I resolved to be more in touch with this birth physically, mentally, and emotionally. Now that 29 percent of deliveries are via c-section, all pregnant women need to consider this possibility. Here's how you can prepare so that your birth experience leaves you feeling empowered -- not powerless.