As you read in my last post, Evelyn was a breech baby born via C section, and I mentioned that there were some consequences that Nick and I are now having to face.
After a C section, one of the questions is of course how long to let your body heal before conceiving again. There’s a lot of different opinions ranging from the extremely conservative to the very lax, but the medical expertise I encountered that seems to lean more lax says that it’s safest for a woman to wait to conceive another child until at least 9 months after a C section, ideally a year, if she wants to attempt a VBAC. VBACs are the best choice for families who hope to leave their options open when it comes to how many kids they have.
Nick and I knew we needed to get serious about delaying a pregnancy. As much as we love our daughter and wanted to add to our family, we want to do so in the safest way possible for all involved. We met with an NFP instructor every 6 weeks after Evelyn was born and felt confident with the method we were using, even though it was frustrating at times (my full thoughts on NFP here). Our instructor was confident in our observations as well, so we were comfortable with our ability to postpone a pregnancy.
When Evelyn was 8 months old, I started feeling nauseous every morning for a week. I realized that the only reason for this to make sense was if I was pregnant. So I took a test.
It was positive.
I panicked and cried. I cried for weeks. I still cry from time to time. I was told that babies are only ever happy occasions, but the timing of this new baby presented very serious consequences that were anything but happy. I was angry. So angry. If we had known I was fertile, this would be a totally different post.
Why the tears? Why the anger? We eventually found out that by the time I had symptoms, I had been pregnant for a month, 2 months sooner than the recommended timeline for a VBAC. This child will most likely be born via C section, and as of now it is a definite unless an assessment by a high risk doctor in a few weeks determines that a VBAC is safe to attempt. My doctors have told me, and it seems to be the broad medical consensus, that once a woman has had two, she can only give birth via C section after that and should not have more than four. Before you shout rebuttals, yes, I know there are exceptions to this rule depending on the doctor and the case, but these are the exceptions – dependent on the doctor and the case. Finding a doctor who you trust and feel comfortable with is difficult enough as it is, much less finding one who is all of that, is comfortable with high risk situations and is covered by insurance. Even then, a C section or VBAC will still be determined case by case, and it’s not my first inclination to shop around for a doctor until I find one who will let me do what I want if what I want is not safe.
This meant several things for our future. It meant that Nick and I could possibly never exceed 4 children while using only NFP (which had us totally reassured, let me tell ya). It meant that I would likely have to repeat the same agonizing experience of feeling detached from bringing my children into the world. It meant each birth would be made more complicated as the risk of scar tissue increases with each surgery posing a risk to both me and my baby. It meant incredibly painful recoveries for me, where I would have to hand over the care of my older children to someone else for up to 6 weeks after surgery. It certainly wasn’t the future I thought would ever be in the cards for me.
We were told to be – and are – open to life. That babies are only ever gifts and blessings. That NFP would allow us to plan a family. We believed. My husband and I were faithful. And this was our reward. It shook our faith in God completely. It just made no sense.
Are we sad to be having another baby? No! We’ve always wanted more than two if we are able, and the running joke around here is that Nick is the last Frase male of child-bearing years so the future of the name is riding on us. We want as many as God wants us to have, and to bring them into the world in the safest way possible.
Which is exactly why the circumstances of this conception and birth have forced us to grapple with a lot of painful spiritual questions. Because of the circumstances, we know without a shadow of a doubt that this baby was given to us at this precise time at the will of God. While that should have been a source of comfort, it instead was the source of our crisis of faith. How can it be the will of a loving God to force us into such a predicament as this when we were just trying to be faithful? To force us into a situation where we may have to limit our family size through means that we’ve discovered are not fool proof? To deprive my children of their mother for 6 weeks after each birth? I do recognize that we weren’t entirely forced (wink wink), but again, if we had known I was fertile, I wouldn’t be pregnant.
The only prayer I could muster at the time was “Jesus, I don’t trust you. You’ve betrayed me. I trusted you, and You’ve abandoned me.” Even at the time I said it, I knew that that second part at least wasn’t true, so I just gave God the silent treatment. He wouldn’t get any part of me. Not even my anger. Listening to homilies where God’s love and the goodness of His will were the focal points always had me fighting tears. “I want to believe it, but I know the truth about You”, I’d think to myself.
At the same time, I felt so incredibly selfish. Here I am trying as hard as I can not to get pregnant, and getting angry about being so, when I know so many women who have miscarried, are struggling to conceive or know that they’ll never have their own child at all. Infertility is a silent epidemic that affects at least one woman you know whether you’re aware of it or not. I asked God why He’d allow this to happen to me when here were all these women I knew who would be leaping for joy to have what I have while I’m throwing a tantrum. His will seemed so unfair. I can’t imagine what the cross of infertility is like, and I thank God that it has not been mine to bear.
But this is a cross too. The biggest one I’ve yet been asked to carry.
Now that we are in the midst of the Easter season, I’m making a conscious effort to move beyond the pain to find the joy, to the deeper understanding of how these two are paradoxically inseparable in the spiritual life. I’m trying to find comfort in not knowing for certain what the future holds, not knowing what God may yet have in store for us. It would indeed be unconscionable to accept that this pain and confusion are allowed by a loving Heavenly Father were it not for what happened on Easter morning.
Since my only prayer was “Jesus I don’t trust you”, I decided to read St. Faustina’s Diary for Lent. For those who know her, I hope that made you laugh. For those who don’t, she is known as the apostle of Divine Mercy, most famous for the image of Divine Mercy that Christ had her commission and the simple but powerful prayer, “Jesus, I trust in you.” She died in Poland a year before the Nazis invaded her country. (More on her and Divine Mercy here.) I was struck to read of her own struggles through dry spiritual times when her heart was hardened, and I related to the pain she described she felt. Jesus told her that what pleased Him most in those times was for a soul to persevere and remain faithful, to persist in prayer and reliance on Him even when feeling detached, abandoned and dry. If she, a mystic, experienced this and still became a great saint, there had to be hope for me.
“Fine, Jesus,” I silently snarked. “I’ll say but I still don’t mean it yet: I trust you.” He can work with anything no matter how small, right?
I will admit that I still struggle to ask God to help us. It still hurts at times. I still don’t fully trust, even though I’m trying to say I do more often. I’m still trying to accept that God’s plan is best even when it seems hurtful and senseless, that there will be good to come of this (more than just our baby of course). That all this pain and confusion will lead to a deeper understanding of love, and therefore God Himself, the very purpose for which we are made. I don’t know what the future holds or how this will all play out.
But I do know some things. I know we love this new baby. I know we want this new baby. I know we’ll never look back and wish we didn’t have this baby. I can’t wait to see him become part of our family and our lives, to watch Evelyn become the awesome sister I know she will be, and to see how Nick and I will be as parents to a son. And deep down I know most importantly of all that at some point, this test we have been given will produce a stronger, more vibrant faith for us, unshakeable and realistic, sensitive to the pain of others and totally trusting in God’s unwavering love.
For those who have had C Sections and want to attempt a VBAC, get connected with ICAN to get helpful information about doctors who are open to it, and to connect with other women who have had similar experiences.