When I paid my monthly visit to the gynecologist this week, I did something out of character and compiled a list of questions for her. For some reason, even though I won’t have to face labor down for another four months, questions one, four and five all had to do with tearing.
That’s right, I’m talking about the dreaded episiotomy. Can you tell my first delivery left me a little scarred (literally)?
My first time around, I purposely kept myself ignorant about most things that would or could take place in the delivery room. My attitude was: hey, everyone’s birth story is different, so why get worked up about scenarios that may not actually transpire? Granted, there is some wisdom in keeping yourself half in the dark, if I may toot my own horn. I blocked out so much information that I was able to enter the hospital feeling relatively calm and cool. I hadn’t taken Lamaze classes–I refused to spend money on them–but successfully utilized the breathing techniques I’d acquired from years of yoga. And things were just fine and dandy for the first 18 hours.
And then, push-time came. I knew I might poop on the bed. I didn’t care. I realized it would hurt, but pain is temporary – that’s what I kept telling myself, at least.
But why on earth did my doctor have a pair of really sharp looking scissors by his side? My pubic hair surely didn’t require that much of a trim, so…it could only be…
Yep. An episiotomy. If you’re blissfully unaware of what this is, brace yourself: it’s a procedure in which your doctor makes a surgical incision on the perineum if he or she suspects you may tear too badly while delivering your baby. As I discovered this week, some docs won’t perform an episiotomy unless they honestly feel natural tearing will be severe. But guess what I also learned? Other doctors prefer to cut you open so that they have an easier time stitching you up and won’t have to fiddle around with a jagged, natural cut.
This isn’t exactly a good enough reason to perform an episiotomy, if you ask me.
Every woman is different, of course. But I, personally, had a difficult time healing from the 11 stitches I needed after my episiotomy. My scar tissue throbbed for a few months after birth and sex with my husband was impossible for a lot longer than I would have liked. I even visited my doctor two or three times after my six-week postpartum check-up because I was convinced there was something wrong with me. Had he stitched me up too tight? But no, each time I was reassured that I was healing normally.
It was a frustrating experience, but I can only blame myself for not asking questions, for not voicing an opinion about whether I’d prefer to tear naturally or be cut by the doctor. I’m still on the fence about which method is preferable and, according to my doctor, it’s difficult to say which is better. But I will be thinking a lot more about my options this time around. It’s sometimes easy to forget, but we have more power over certain aspects of our labor and delivery than we think.