When I got pregnant with my first baby I knew I was scared of childbirth. Not just because of the pain but also having to face the unknown and being unable to control things.
So I took the required antenatal class and read everything I could find. I began to feel empowered and positive about the upcoming birth. There was no doubt that I could cope with labour and have the amazing birthing experience that I’d read about. I would be able to manage the pain through breathing and baby would simply glide out….
Then I went into labour and it all went to shit.
The midwife at 36 weeks had told me that my baby was back to back. But she didn’t really explain what this meant. The midwife at the antenatal class had explained that our bodies are designed to give birth and so it would all be fine. Unless the baby was back to back. And again, it wasn’t really explained what this meant for me.
What it meant essentially was that the standard labour norms went out the window. I needed pain relief a lot sooner than most women so went in ‘too early’. This was after 36 hours of contractions. I’d also been on my feet and awake the whole time as it was too painful to lie down. But because I didn’t tick the nice box that said, yes, I was in established labour the hospital were unwilling to even let me through the door.
Most of my labour passed in a haze. All I really remember from it is being treated like shit by the midwives because they didn’t want me there. I was made to feel like I was hysterical and imagining the pain. That I was being really unreasonable wanting to be there and just an all round inconvenience that they wanted to leave. Right away.
I had to fight like crazy just to be given basic pain relief. They let the gas and air run out on me after 16 hours of being on the ward. I spent the whole time on the antenatal ward feeling like I was a complete burden on the medical staff who obviously thought I didn’t need to be there. And once I was on the labour ward with an epidural I was terrified it would run out like the gas and air so wouldn’t rest. I was exhausted, frightened, humiliated and desperate for it to be over.
Needless to say it was completely traumatic and not an experience that I ever wanted to repeat.
Then came baby number 2
When I found out I was pregnant with baby number 2 I was so excited. And then completely terrified. I knew I couldn’t face another labour and that I didn’t want to be under the care of midwives. Although I had to fight hard for it, I was able to get the support of the mental health midwife to request an elective c-section. I had to deal with dismissive consultants and people who downright disagreed with my choice. My whole pregnancy was overshadowed by severe anxiety and antenatal depression as a result. But I stood my ground and baby number 2 came out at 39 weeks by c-section.
It was amazing. I loved every minute of it. It was so calm and relaxed. I knew exactly what was going to happen and was supported by the incredible medical staff the whole way. Recovery was easy and it was absolutely the positive birth experience that I’d wanted the first time round.
With baby number 3 I also had to fight for a c-section again but I was better educated this time and adamant that it was the right choice for me. After all, by this point I’d experienced a natural birth and a c-section so I knew that a c-section was the better choice for me. And again, it was an amazing experience. Everything went smoothly and recovery was straightforward.
There is no doubt in my mind that choosing a c-section for my last two births was the right thing to do.
But here’s the downside
The downside of having elective c-sections is this. I have had to put up with no end of snide remarks, criticisms and having to justify my decision. Over and over and over again. I’ve had to relive my birth trauma with complete strangers who think they can question how I want to give birth. I’ve felt like I’ve had to convince people that I’m not just having a c-section because I’m lazy.
And if I get called too posh to push one more time I will throw that person off the nearest bridge. And then get them back up so I can do it again.
So here’s what you need to know
If a woman feels like she needs to ask for a c-section because of previous birth trauma then please just assume she has a fucking good reason for it. Don’t call her too posh to push – that implies she is paying privately for something convenient. I can assure you a c-section is far from convenient and not a decision anyone takes lightly. If a woman is desperate enough to want one then that just shows you how truly frightened she is about labour.
I was lucky in the end. I had a consultant who’s view was simply that if I felt the need to even ask for a c-section because I was so scared of labour, then that was enough for him to give me one. But for every person who is understanding there are 100 more who think they can judge women for choosing something other than incense fuelled, hypnobirth guided, no pain relief labour.
Don’t be one of them!
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