I had a caesarean birth. It’s not really something that should be controversial but in some ways it is. It’s a birth experience that I am proud of (as all mothers deserve to be however they give birth) but it was not planned. In fact, I made a very conscientious effort to avoid exactly the birth experience that I ended up having.
I think that it’s fair to say that the majority of pregnant women do not plan a caesarean birth. Much of the preparation for childbirth involves teaching women methods to cope with natural birth and to a certain extent, to avoid interventions. This is with good reason as the outcomes are generally better for both mother and baby when vaginal birth goes according to plan.
The problem is, as I found, that often birth doesn’t go according to plan.
In my case, I had what is commonly known as the full cascade of interventions. Induction followed by gas and air, followed by morphine, followed by an epidural and finally ending in an emergency c-section. As my husband and midwife will attest, I did everything I could have but the birth of my son was not progressing, the pain was completely unbearable and this is the way it happened.
I had anticipated and prepared for an entirely different birth experience. My body has always done what it was told. My pre-pregnancy cycles were like clockwork. I conceived straight away and so I assumed that the rest of this experience would go naturally as I wanted it to as well. I registered for a birth centre program as soon as I’d received a positive test result (4 days before my period was due), read books on pain management and hoped for a water birth with no intervention. However, mother nature doesn’t care what you expect or plan for. She has her own plans.
I’ve read many stories where people grieve over not being able to give birth naturally as though its a failing on their part. I’ve said earlier in this blog that I grieved over my birth experience. This wasn’t because I felt like I failed but rather, because I was scared and somewhat in shock after it all. I was in labour for 6 hours before I had my epidural and another 6 after so I have experience with and without drugs as well as the experience of the caesarean itself and I can testify that all were harrowing in their own way. I won’t detail my story in this post but suffice to say I’m not looking forward to doing it again.
For me probably the most striking thing about having had a caesarean and not a vaginal birth, is the idea that I’m a mother who may never know what childbirth feels like. Although the doctors said that I may well be able to have a vaginal birth down the track, there is still a strong chance that the next one (if there is a next one) might also be a c-section. I’m ok with this but it surprises me. I always assumed that I would give birth to my children the ‘usual’ way and so the idea that I will have children but might not know that experience is very disorienting.
The other significant factor is the recovery. Who knows what my experience of early parenthood would have been otherwise? Perhaps it would have been the same, perhaps different – but I’ll never know. You only become a mother for the first time once. My main regret is that I didn’t allow people to take care of me when I should have. I spent the weeks after I gave birth trying (and failing) to carry on as normal with my visiting mum there as ‘backup’. What I should have done is just concede that I was recovering from major surgery and allowed her to take over the house (which she did brilliantly anyway).
The Husband was doing a great job taking care of Baby B and bringing him to me for feeds and I found this insufferable. I thought that I needed to be able to take care of B on my own as the Husband was going back to work so again I pushed against the help that was offered when I should have just relaxed and given myself the time to combine recovery and coming to terms with my new role as B’s mum.
Perhaps that’s why some people say the second one is easier. Hopefully next time I’ll know that eventually I’ll learn how to cope but in the mean time to allow those who love me and care for me to do just that.
Caesareans hold a certain stigma – Phrases like “Too posh to push” spring to mind and perhaps this perpetuates the belief that somehow women who have them aren’t as tough. To that I say, I grew a (giant) baby in my own body and then had it cut out of my stomach while I was awake. There’s nothing weak in that. In fact, it’s pretty hardcore and definitely something that I can be proud of.