In Passionate Support of Caesarean Births

I have struggled with this topic. I have questioned whether I should write about it. I have doubted whether anyone would read it. I have worried about how it would be received. But every doubt and worry was overtaken by the thought that maybe, just maybe, this post might help someone who finds themselves in the position that I found myself in 7 years ago.

We have recently celebrated Homebirth Awareness Week in Australia. I have seen some beautiful posts from women sharing their births of their babies in the home. (Note I have not said “successful” home births because this infers that if the mother and baby are transferred into a higher level of medical care then the birth must subsequently be termed a “failed” or “unsuccessful” home birth. I will never, ever, describe ANY birth as a failure – I’ll come back to this shortly).

So wind back the clock 7 years… I was heavily pregnant with my first baby. I’d had a dream pregnancy and at my last OB appointment, I’d been told by my beautiful and trusted OB that he had every expectation of  a low complication birth for me. We even joked that I probably wouldn’t even need him. Two days after my due date, I felt the first twinges which I instinctively knew were the first signs of labour. I was so ready for this. I had my birth plan neatly written out, Daddy Smiles knew that he was to be at my beck and call and was a great help in calmly talking me through each contraction.

As we drove into hospital, the contractions were coming thick and fast but it was an indescribable pain…nothing like I had ever felt before. It was such a “good” pain if that makes any sense. Intellectually I could tell myself that this pain was taking me closer to meeting my baby, but physically it was out of this world. I tried the birth ball, the shower and even a warm bath while sucking on some gas. When I couldn’t find any way to recover from one contraction on top of the other, I asked for an epidural. It brought immediate relief, and gave me a chance to clear my mind and re-focus on the next stage … pushing. I felt every inch of my body bear down – and I pushed. And pushed. And pushed. I couldn’t stop pushing if I tried.

The midwife was saying, “I can see the head”, and so I pushed a little more! But I just knew something wasn’t right. It was like pushing up against a brick wall – it didn’t matter how hard I pushed, it didn’t matter how much I wanted to move that baby out, she just wasn’t moving. And yet my body kept pushing – refusing to give up.

Suddenly I realised that there were urgent whispered conversations between midwives, between people coming in and out of the room. My husband was looking from one worried face to another. I heard phone calls being made, and eventually someone said to me, “Your baby is stuck and we need to get her out … now”. In the middle of all of this, I was still pushing, still feeling the regular and powerful surges. I felt every single contraction, and each time I desperately tried to make it “the one” – the one contraction which would get her moving. The one push that would stop everyone freaking out, so I could say “See, I told you I could do this. I wanted her to slip out, and I would hold her in my arms, and scold her lovingly for making us all panic. But she wasn’t moving, no matter how hard I pushed.

I was prepped for a caesarean, and wheeled into the OR. The OB had a look and said we had to get the baby out – I was about to udergo an emergency c-section. As I burst into tears, he suggested that we first attempt to give the baby a hand with the use of forceps. By this stage, I would have done anything – anything – to avoid a c/s, so I said Yes. But it didn’t work. She didn’t even budge. “Failed forceps” was written on my notes. Failed.

I don’t accept failure. At anything. Every test, every exam, every challenge. I don’t fail. And yet there it was. Childbirth – apparently the “most natural” thing in the world for women. And I had failed.

The c/s happened and in just 10 short minutes, my baby was born. Pink and screaming her little lungs out. She was so LOUD. In my haze, I thought she was angry with me. I thought she was yelling at me – for not helping her, for making her wait, for not delivering her in the way that I should have. My first test as a Mummy– I HAD FAILED.

Fast forward to today. And as I sit back and remember those feelings – I feel that complete sense of disappointment and despair, and sorrow. I feel so sorry for that young Mum that I was all those years ago. I cry even more tears, even when I thought I had cried the last of those tears, there always seem to be more.

Those feelings are forever marked in my memory – indelibly etched into my heart and in my soul.

I spent years, literally years, looking at “what went wrong”. I researched my hospital notes, I spoke with multiple OBs, midwives, doulas, paediatricians. I researched the latest studies, had a full medical including x-rays, and sought advice online from other women. Slowly I began to find peace in what had happened, and I began to get a handle instead on “what went right”.

I realised that every time I told myself that I had failed, I was doing a huge disservice to the miracles that my body had already achieved. For 9 long months I had grown and nurtured a beautiful and healthy little baby. Every eyelash, every fingernail – I made those little pieces of perfection. And right when she needed me most, I never once let her down. I surrounded myself with the very best doctors – the best health care providers. I listened to my instincts – the ones that told me that something wasn’t happening the way it should have been. I gave her life. I did that for her. Because without that team of professionals, without the medical assistance that we take so for granted in this country, my baby would never have made it into my arms. And there is a good chance that I wouldn’t have survived the birth either.

I birthed that baby in the best way – indeed the only way, I knew how. I birthed her with love, and with absolute consideration for her health and well-being. As I nestled her on my breast, I gave her sustenance. After everything that my body had been through, after all the shock and emotional exhaustion and physical exertion, my body gave her the miracle of my breastmilk. I nourished her. As my arms wrapped around her, I kept her safe, and warm, and she was so very loved.

And because I had fantastic medical care, and because I am incredibly lucky and blessed, I went on to have another three children, all birthed beautifully via caesarean. Each birth just as incredible, just as inspiring, just as magnificent.

And so I feel so very sad when I read about women who talk of their “failed” births, when women refer to non-vaginal births in disparaging terms (eg, using the term “surgically removed” , or refusing to acknowledge that a caesarean birth is actually a “birth”), and even the location of the birth being an issue (home birth being “better” than hospital birth). It’s petty, and for those of us who never really had a choice, it can be deeply upsetting.

 

Every mother on this planet should be in absolute awe of the miracle of childbirth. It doesn’t matter how long you labour, what pain relief you choose, whether you are on your back, on your hands and knees, standing on your head, in a shower, submerged in water, or lying in a field of roses – the fact remains that the birth of your baby is one of life’s miracles. No-one has any right to tell you how you “should have” birthed – because, well, it is what it is. No more, no less. Every single baby has their own birth story and we are simply lucky enough to be part of that story.

I am forever thankful, knowing what I know now about my body, that I could even have given birth to one baby, let alone four.

One day…. hopefully sooner rather than later, we mothers will stop being so hard on each other. We’ll stop talking about the “perfect” birth, and we’ll just celebrate “birth”.  We’ll stop comparing ourselves to others, and we’ll be grateful for what we’ve been given.

Motherhood is so much more than the way we birth our babies.  Let’s celebrate motherhood – all of it, in all it’s glory, no matter how we begin the journey.

Comments

  1. Your story just gave me a boost. For my first son I had one number one requirement in my birth plan: safety! For me and the baby. That’s all I told them when they took me in. My first labour was pretty painless and I didn’t even need any pain relief. When it came to pushing the midwife wouldn’t believe me when I said he wasn’t coming out “don’t be silly, everyone says that, keep pushing!” A few more big pushes and I yelled, “no! He is not budging!” After a while they finally started listening, having a look, “Oh, actually he is quite big, we will need to cut you” I was fine with that, but they didn’t cut enough and I got a 4th degree tear when my 4.5kg son spurted out. I lost a lot of blood, had to have emergency surgery AND of course an epidural – ironic after not needing one during labour. I missed out on the first two hours with my son, and my husband was sitting there with him not really understanding what or how this could happen. Although I was on a lot of medication afterwards, and was quite depressed about it developing like that, the doctors have said I have been extremely lucky that I have no long term complications. However they have all recommended planned C-sections for future births. So when baby number two was on the go that was what they recommended and what I went for. What a great experience a planned c-section can be. We found it so relaxing for the whole family, knowing when he would arrive, I felt fully in control, we were joking with each and the surgical staff and I was fully rested and ready to look after my big boy number two, and I recovered much quicker. I am now 6 months pregnant with baby number three, and again the doctors say they wouldn’t even consider delivering my baby without a C-section and I am perfectly happy with that. However, one thing rings so true in your article: the immediate and constant judgement of other mothers when I say I am having a C-section. They immediately assume that I am doing it out of some vain choice ‘too posh to push’ and look down on me. I am so sick of it. I constantly have to explain myself. The last couple of times I have been so fed up with explaining that I just say it’s a choice between a c-section or wearing a nappy for the rest of my life ;) not to mention endangering the life of myself and my child. I think it’s great if you can have a ‘natural birth’ as they put it, but I still feel my second time around was just as special and certainly a more positive experience. Every pregnancy, birth and baby is different, let’s just start accepting that. The death rate for babies women giving birth in developing countries is still very high, we should be incredibly grateful we have access to modern medicine.
    Thanks for your article, it was great to read as well as all the comments from women who have had similar experiences.

    • Thank you so much Mia for sharing your story. I know I feel so very grateful, looking back now, for everything that I went through. I am grateful for healthy children more than anything. Congratulations on your babies, and all the best for another beautiful birth xx

  2. Thanks for this post. It was beautiful. I have had 4 daughters by c-section and I praise God for the skill of my surgeon and the medical professionals who helped bring them into the world in the safest way.

    A few women did (unintentionally) bully me a little bit about my choice not to try VBAC and it did make me feel a bit inferior for a while until a wiser, older lady reminded me that no one hands out trophies for best delivery and I had nothing to prove.

    x

  3. Hi Natalie
    Thanks for your wise words.
    When pregnant with our first child I read all the books and hoped for an easy birth at home in the bath. That all went pear shaped because our baby was in breach position and the membranes ruptured five weeks before the due date. I was admitted and four days later finally started contractions. I felt as though I was holding the baby in because there was no dilation so having endured strong contractions overnight, I was given a c/section. In the end though, I was just so glad that I and my tiny daughter had survived thanks to the very intervention I had so scorned. I went on to breast feed very successfully and had two more babies, both by c/section – the second another “emergency” and the third booked in. Thankfully I had only mild feelings of “failure” and was able to concentrate on enjoying my new baby each time and adhering to attatchment parenting which mitigated any sense I had that their births were not natural. Gratitude for our survival and the babies’ robust thriving remains to this day. My eldest has just got her learner’s license!
    Anyway, it is a worthwhile conversation. The birth is just the beginning of a long journey and a live mum and live baby is a success.

    • Hi Rosy, Thank you so much for sharing your story. I love your comment about attachment parenting. I think this is something that really helped me with my 4th baby. Whatever bonding I felt like I had missed out on with a natural birth, I found was healed through a greater awareness of her being close to me as much as possible. All the best with your daughter’s new driving skills – I have a few years to prepare now for that!!

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