Pregnancy & Birth

Cut, Stapled, and Mended: a book review

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This post is part of a blog series, 31 Days of Preparing for VBAC: my story of purposeful pregnancy, beautiful trial of labor after cesarean, and the healing repeat cesarean birth of my second child. To view all of the posts in this series, check out the landing page. To receive all posts in the series by email, subscribe here.

Cut, Stapled, and Mended: When One Woman Reclaimed Her Body and Gave Birth on Her Own Terms After Cesarean by Roanna Rosewood was the only book I read while I was pregnant.

Roanna is a HBA2C mom who wrote her story in a memoir format. This book covers not only her three pregnancies but also story from her life, her views of motherhood and femininity, and so much more.

Roanna had a primary cesarean after a homebirth transfer for failure to progress and fetal distress, another cesarean after a attempted HBAC transfer (again for failure to progress and fetal distress with additional complications of uterine adhesions from the first cesarean and meconium exposure to the baby), and finally a home vaginal birth.

I have very mixed feelings about the book, which I will share as succinctly as possible.


What I didn’t like about it:

1. IMO, Roanna has a very unhealthy obsession with VBAC:

As her doctor continued to recommend cesarean for her third pregnancy because of the risks, this is what she writes:

Rationally, my mind understands. It believes her, even. But my heart does not. When I close my eyes, I hear it beat: “VBAC, VBAC, VBAC…” My soul craves natural birth the way a lover’s very being calls to her mate. (Page 118)

um…. what the what?

2. In the chapter she aptly entitles “Snake Oil,” Roanna talks about how she seeks out alternative treatments in preparation for her first VBAC attempt and physical healing from pain in her scar. She goes far beyond chiropractic and physical therapy and ends up going through a lot of fringe modalities, including acupuncture, herbal remedies, flower remedies, elimination diets, kinesiology, craniosacral therapy, homeopathy, magnet/meridian therapy, rapid eye movement therapy, re-birthing, energy healing, hypnosis, and seeing a “medical intuitive” and an “intuitive psychotherapist.” (She revisits a lot of these practitioners during her second VBAC attempt.)

Almost two years since the cesarean…I begin daydreaming of having another baby.

I have gone to every type of practitioner in Ashland. I have been poked, prodded, magneted, and sat upon. I have drunk icky things and denied myself all manner of delicious ones. I have exercised and planned and pushed myself. Has it worked? I have no idea. (Page 62)

Um…craziness. And so much money spent. I just sort of shook my head while reading it.

3. On multiple occasions, Roanna lies to her medical care providers (she even entitles another chapter “The Lie,” in which she describes how she chooses to work with a home birth midwife behind the back of her OB) and acts against medical advice.

Laura still wants to “wait and see” before committing to a home delivery. Dr Vikson, unaware that I am also working with Laura, is preparing me for a cesarean delivery. Though this plan has been clear from the beginning, its conflict disturbs me. (Page 132)

Roanna, it disturbs you for good reason…

She considers fessing up to her OB (page 133), but it doesn’t appear that she ever does once her home birth midwife gives her the go-ahead for a home birth.

4. Roanna thrice makes the choice to birth at home, twice after difficult cesarean deliveries with a lot of complications. While I know and respect many home birthing women and have learned a lot from them, the statistics and stories I have read have convinced me personally that birthing at home, especially after a cesarean birth, is not the safest choice. I do not recommend HBAC to my readers.

5. While I’m glad Roanna finally had a VBAC, I honestly don’t know that I would have made the same choice. I wish that she had more seriously at least considered elective repeat cesarean for her third birth.

I haven’t seen her [Dr. Vikson] since twelve days after the [second] cesarean, now more than a year ago, when she wrote in her report “though the patient seriously desires a VBAC, I advise against it.”

Though I like Dr. Vikson very much, given our history – my insistence on birthing vaginally, followed by an excessively long surgery during which she had to slice through a nest of adhesions and sew up a hole where my womb started to rip open – I am nervous about the appointment. I imagine she thinks I’m one of those anti-medicine, home birth quacks. Which I am. (Page 91)

(At least she is honest.)

She equates choosing a scheduled cesarean with weakness and fear, regardless of the risks, which I feel is a dangerous over-simplification:

But no matter how I try to focus on the baby, fear, lapping relentlessly at the corners of my mind, taunts me: This baby is going to grow and become big and you are going to have to get it out. Scheduling a cesarean would tame this stupid voice in my head. But how can I allow myself to be tied down and cut open without a fight?

If I can just ignore the fear, I can be brave and strong. Pulling on my armor, I brace myself to pulverize any sign of self-weakness. I will act in spite of fear. (Page 94)


What I liked about it:

1. The way Roanna describes her first cesarean and recovery was both hard to read but incredibly therapeutic for me. She captures the emotions of an unexpected cesarean so well. Her heartrending words transported me back to the green OR walls of our Army hospital and my first cesarean. I think this helped me as I processed those feelings.

Now that it’s been decided…I am empty, wrung dry. Continuing contrations mock me. I want it over. I want the pain to go away. (Page 42)
They are cutting flesh. The machines make slurping and whirring noises. There is pulling, yanking hard, and pressure in the chest of the body that I used to be inside of. It can’t breathe. The pulling, they are pulling the insides of the body out, cutting and yanking. (Page 43)
He is big and beautiful and he is my son. In a blink, he is gone. They take him ten feet to my right. He is screaming with all of his might. I strain to see him but cannot. He is surrounded by uniformed ones.

Why don’t they give him to me? What is wrong? Every instinct in my body demands that I get up and go to him. I can’t. I’m tied down. My womb is sitting outside of my body. (Page 43)

He is everything I wanted. He is perfect – me, not so much. I didn’t know how important my belly is to every movement. The electric hospital bed is the only way I can lift my body into a sitting position. When I cough or sneeze, it feels like the incision is ripping open. Laughter would have the same affect, but I don’t feel like laughing. (Page 45)
Arriving home, I remember the naive girl who had walked out of this house just a few short days earlier, the one who considered herself superior to hospitals and pain medications – a stark contrast to the person I have been reduced to, a woman who cannot birth at all. Not at home. Not in the hospital. Not with Pitocin. I didn’t birth my son. They cut him from me, handing him to me like a gift. (Page 46)
…when I am alone with myself, tears flow. It’s the cesarean. Flashes of it do not stop coming. Why can’t I let it go? Why do I cry when the end result is exactly what I wanted: a beautiful healthy boy of my own?

What I expected to be easy instead left my body broken. (Page 48)

2. Her obsession with VBAC, as unhealthy as it was, was relatable at times. I felt it with her, but also saw how far it took her. I think this helped me to honestly recognize my own obsessive thoughts and tendencies and keep my own preparation in check.

Logically, I conclude that because a cesarean broke me, a “real birth” will fix me.

I harness all of the anger, tears, and shame into one sole purpose: VBAC. No longer naive, I will be ready for the next birth. (Page 57)

3. During her third pregnancy, (second VBAC attempt), she comes to a point of honesty about her unhealthy VBAC obsession and acceptance of the possibility of cesarean through Birthing From Within’s suggested art therapy:

I see, this time by my own colored pencils, that the most important thing is that my children are happy, healthy, and connected. Though I have always said that a healthy baby is the most important outcome, in truth I have been so obsessed with the VBAC that I haven’t valued much else. Tears in my eyes, I talk to the baby in the picture, the baby in my womb. If we have to go through a cesarean, it will be okay. Birth is not everything. We have an entire lifetime to share. (Page 113)


And finally, as she nears the end of her third pregnancy she says this:

I move into the last two months of my pregnancy. I am at peace. I know I have done everything I can. If I end up with another cesarean, I will accept it, knowing that I held back nothing. (Page 132)

4. As she describes her HBAC labor, she is brutally honest about the pain. I found this refreshing after hearing so many natural birth stories that seem to be beautiful, peaceful, painless even. Hers was anything but.

There is nothing flowerlike about this. It’s not soft or gentle or sweet smelling. This is a stretching torture machine complete with a wrecking ball ramming into my bones, forcing apart sockets that have been firmly in place for my entire existence. It’s rearranging my innards with complete disregard. My pelvis is breaking open. I am an obstacle. My body is irrelevant. I could not have imagined this violence, this betrayal from nature. Birth is happening through me, in spite of me, and with complete disregard for my being. (Page 146)

Before her HBAC, Roanna had been watching a surfer on the ocean dive under the waves. She says, “the wave-surge connection clicks in my mind.”


For some reason, this quote stuck with me. I actually scrolled through my phone looking for it while I was going through a really hard part of my unmedicated labor when I started losing control. I remembered how violent her description of natural labor was and it brought me comfort.

5. Roanna is very honest, after achieving her VBAC that vaginal birth, isn’t all that fabulous and can be traumatic as well.

I have exactly what I wished for and dreamed of, the greatest and most fought-for accomplishment of my life. But I find myself traumatized by it. I had no idea it would be so violent. When I had the cesareans, I was a victim. They did it to me. I had lived in an “if only” dream for four years. I was sure that if they hadn’t cut me open, I would have opened like a flower. I would have stayed calm and controlled through the whole thing. I would have been perfect.

The reality of birth was nothing like I had imagined. I was not a strong warrior; I did not gently breathe my baby into the world. It was not pretty. It was not like the videos. I screamed. I lunged. I whined. I glared and swore.

It must be some sort of cosmic joke that by achieving my greatest dream, by discovering the magnificence of birth, I’m confronted by my own irrelevance. Humbled, I know I have accomplished nothing. What happened, happened through me, in spite of me, and with complete disregard for my existence. (Page 151)



I wouldn’t use the word “recommend” when telling people to read this book in preparation for VBAC. It was an interesting read, and I’m glad I read it. I feel like it helped me deal with some things as far as the emotional aspect of recovering from difficult cesarean and preparing for VBAC.

But, there’s enough of the book that could be dangerous if swallowed hook line and sinker that I would say that it needs to be read with extreme caution.

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