05 Jan I chose to elect
Yes – I chose to have major surgery. I elected to have a c-section. Perhaps you are reading this and assume that I am too ‘posh to push’ or maybe even paid for it. Or you think that there is something medically wrong with me. Well the answer is no to all of the above.
“Frankly – I was terrified of natural childbirth.”
A smidgen of my decision to elect was swayed by medical advice but if I’m honest with myself – my choice was predominantly influenced by my first labour. Ella was born through emergency c-section. Her arrival into the world was fraught with panic buttons, fetal distress, and un-mentionable pain, wrapped up with 7 days on the postnatal ward. She is fine now but my mental state was bruised. I had not been prepared for any of it and felt totally out of control!!
“Birth is like a journey from planet womb to planet earth.” NCT teacher 2013
I approached my first pregnancy with a happy ignorance. Of cause I signed up to my local NCT parenting class, but I did not read a thing. My birth plan was simple – give birth naturally, in a pool preferably and take the drugs if it got too much. NCT was useful in terms of networking with parents, and understanding the basics of child birth (remember I knew nothing). However my particular class spent little to no time on C-sections, drug choices, and medical intervention (ventuse, forceps).
I went into labour with Ella 2 weeks early. At round 11pm I had the bloody show. By 9am the next morning the contractions were coming thick and fast (5 every 10 minutes). I was mooing (not screaming) and was almost ‘Zen’ like in a hot bath with my husband feeding me grapes. However there was something that I said to the midwife on the phone about no fetal movement that prompted her to call me in. “You will most likely be sent home,’ she assured “You are doing great!” It was a beautiful bank holiday morning and I practically skipped into hospital. However 10 minutes into the assessment (I was only 1cm – not even in established labour) the heart monitor line went flat and the alarm was pulled. TONS of people ran into the room. I was placed in the recovery position, my husband pushed aside, and the sprint to get me into theatre started. Any hope of a water birth situation was dashed and the most important thing was to get Ella out. On that occasion she was stabilized, but 2 days later, after 4 more alarm bells, Ella was delivered by emergency c-section and poorly. I was also exhausted, lost loads of blood and terrified about her health.
VBAC Versus C-section
2 years later and I fell pregnant with my second baby – Joseph. Despite the horrors of my previous labour the rational side of me knew that many MANY births do not go entirely to plan. I was fit and healthy and medically could have a vaginal birth after my c-section (VBAC). However this time around I was frankly terrified that I would have to go through an emergency scenario again. I was also determined to do my due diligence this time around and explore all birthing options (even an aromatheraphy course!) Regarding electing for surgery – I must say it was harder than it should be to navigate through the midwife admin to get to a consultant. My advice to you would be to start the conversation early. The consultant I worked with met with me every other week in the lead up to my due date, assessing my percentage chance of a successful VBAC (60%) and the pros and cons of surgery. It was the closest I could be to having complete control.
“I elected to have surgery on my due date”
I decided to elect for a c-section on my due date. It took me that long to decide! As it happens – I had a few minor complications (Joseph nearly arrived at 32 weeks) so my chances of surgery increased. So.. on his due date I made the decision (encouraged by the consultant). I was booked in 4 days later and Joseph was born during a 45 minute c-section. We played music, chatted and I felt in control. It does take some of the magic out of labour but it was a compromise I was willing to ultimately take.
In hindsight – I made the right choice for me. Joseph was under stress when he was born and the surgeon said it was most likely I would have had to have had intervention anyway. I also don’t feel cheated of the experience of natural labour (I felt enough contractions with Ella!)
I don’t want you to think that I am an advocate for C-sections. I would have loved to have given birth naturally as it is healthier for baby and I have struggled with the recovery. After both surgeries it was a long old road back to being pain free and mobile. Not to mention the health risks during surgery. I am writing this to remind parents that they do have a choice and to highlight the facts of electing to have surgery. Provided by our wonderful healthcare system – for free – women can choose to have a c-section even if there is no medical reason to have one. Yes – people have judged me and I do feel a weird guilt but I remind myself that it is such a personal choice and no one should ever be pressured into doing something they do not want to do.
Overall – if you are not coping with the idea of giving birth naturally then ask for help straight away. Do not feel pressured by friends, family, midwifes etc. The most important thing (highlighted beautifully in Iona and Bonnie’s posts) is that sometimes childbirth does not go exactly to plan but you have options and the most important thing is that you and your baby are safe.
Information on C-sections: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Caesarean-section/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Information on emergency C-sections and VBAC’s: https://www.nct.org.uk/birth/what-happens-during-elective-or-emergency-caesarean-section
Mucus plug/bloody show: http://www.babycenter.com/400_bloody-show_2650684_711.bc