Of course, having had a c-section and hoping for a VBAC, I've heard of ICAN.
Mainly, I had seen their website and knew they wanted to lower the cesarean rate in America. All well and good, yes, but honestly it felt irrelevant to me. (It seemed very detached from my existence.)
I had vaguely noticed that sometimes you could go to a meeting they had somewhere. But I didn't think it would have much to do with me. And I kinda thought they would somehow be spending the whole time telling me all the ways I could have avoided my c-section with endless stats, which in my situation may be too generalized.
Sunday we finally got to meet my doula face to face. (With moving and such, we had only emailed or talked on the phone.) She told me that there was an ICAN meeting happening in a nearby town on Tuesday night. She thought it would be great for me. Part of me was really intrigued. Part of me still didn't want much to do with it. I was kinda just waiting to see how I felt on Tuesday, to see if I'd go.
Incidentally, Tuesday morning I had an appointment with a doctor to get a referral, for insurance, to a Chiropractor. Since Blake is a Post Doc (which is a weird in-between land for an occupation -- a step up from student, and kind of a professor in training) our health insurance is still done very much like the student health insurance. SO for anything that's not my pregnancy or pediatrics we need to go to the student health center. So to get a referral I needed to go in a see a doctor there, who I don't know, to hopefully say "sure pregnant lady go to the Chiropractor." (Which seems dumb, since its for pregnancy -- which shouldn't need a referral according to how I understand it.) (Ahh insurance!)
I go in.
I feel dumb.
There are all these students -- basketball players, and trendy young things --- and me, and my belly. I feel like I shouldn't be there.
I get ushered into the exam room to wait for the doctor. There are signs everywhere for STDs -- its seriously breaking my pregnant heart. There are bowls of fee condoms everywhere. I'm starting to simultaneously get sick to my stomach (thinking of sending my babies off to college) and getting enraged that I, a full grown married women expecting my second child, was being asked to sit around in this environment --- when I am used to being (regardless of the state I have lived in) in environments FOR pregnant women, that feel supportive and appropriate.
The doctor comes in, after giving me a long time to stare at those STD posters (long enough that I started to want to hose myself down with rubbing alcohol after sitting in this room.) He begins asking me all these health history questions, which involve "prior surgeries" (its still surreal to me that I am a person who has had a surgery, I just had a baby.) After mentioning a c-section this doctor proceeded to give me a lengthy stern talking to about statistics, and how since I had a c-section I am statistically more likely to need c-sections in general.
(I will say in his defense, you could tell he was speaking from a kind place in his heart, with concern for my well being.) But that aside, he was grossly misinformed on his information. He is not an OBGYN. And he is not up to date on these statistics he is stating. (Why do I know? Because I spend basically ALL my time updating myself. Why doctors so often assume women who want VBACs just close their eyes and plug their ears to the facts is beyond me. Everyone I have ever met who wanted a VBAC is more educated than anyone who ever went through a straightforward birth.) From what I can tell from the set up of this office, this doctor spends all his time treating colds and flus and STDs of college students. I don't know when the last time he's seen a pregnant women. I clearly had more working knowledge of baby birthing medical jargon, as he had me stop and explain some of the words I used in regards to my daughter's birth. He even asked me if I'd heard the word "VBAC" like it was a brand new idea! Ha!
After his long lecture to me, which was very unnecessary. He then proceeded to tell me he didn't think my insurance would cover the chiropractor because he's never heard of "pregnant women having their pelvic outlet enlarged with a chiropractor." At this point I am getting mad. I talking loudly now, "I never said I want to see a chiropractor to make my pelvis bigger." I told him I was recommended to one for proper alignment, good baby positioning, and general pregnancy pains. He continued to ignore me and I continued to talk over him.
I left VERY VERY VERY irritated, since it seems it was a waste of trip, insurance wise, so basically it was just an emotional beat down I needed to endure for "fun".
I emailed my doula to vent and she reassured me kindly and really encouraged me to go to the ICAN meeting that night after all that nonsense.
At that point I was like, yeah I'm gonna go.
I left late, and then got lost.
But I made it.
There was about 12 ladies there.
And while I did feel a bit lost at points, because I missed the beginning.
I feel like it was life changing.
It would almost be pointless to try and recount the specifics of what happened, because it wasn't the specifics that mattered.
It was hearing my words come out of other women's mouths. Hearing my thoughts stated out loud in other women's voices.
Hearing them out loud.
Hearing them in the air.
Hearing them at all.
Seeing my eyes in their eyes.
Seeing the same tears fall on their cheeks when they shared.
Finally knowing its normal.
Finally, at least being able to remove the part of me that feels bad for feeling bad.
I didn't know how important it was to be around someone who's been there. I never really understood why people needed support groups. But now I do. A major part of healing, is knowing its ok to need to heal. And I wasn't able to fully accept that idea, until I heard someone else say they had to work through the same exact emotion, the same exact struggle, the same exact obstacle. It gave me permission. It took away the internal fight I've been fighting to be better than this.
The meeting wasn't an endless tear fest. There was pain yes, but there was so much hope in the room too. Hope because some had moved on to an outstanding next birth and shared their story. Hope in the hearts of newly pregnant women that were expecting good things this time. And a spirit of hope, even from those who've only had c-sections, I think just because we all instantly felt at home in each other's presence.
I wish I could type out the change in my heart that happened from being there. But its bigger than words. Its deep wordless knowing.
I am so grateful to have experienced it.
I think I've just witnessed God's grace in turning all things for good. That terrible meeting with that doctor Tuesday morning could have been Satan's tool to leave me wallowing in utter depression, but God used it to nudge me to a place where my heart could rest. He used it to shepherd me towards green pastors to restore my soul, to make me lie down by still waters.
Attending this meeting (At 28 weeks pregnant) turned out to be a pivotal point in my second pregnancy. Before attending I was literally crying for a couple hours at a time at least once a week, trying to make it through another pregnancy after my first ended in a c-section. Soon after having experienced the relief I felt from hearing how other women felt the same way I did, I was able to make it through weeks and weeks without any tears at all. (Right now I'm 35 weeks pregnant, and feeling really optimistic and stable regardless of outcome.) I had no idea the amount of healing something like this would bring.
*If you have had a c-section ICAN really is a great resource for you. I encourage you to seek it out in your own time.