The C-Section Slog
(Me, in labour. Bringin’ the glam)
A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was looking to have a very different birth to the one I planned first time around. With Milo, I practised hypnobirthing, was looking forward to a natural labour and had chosen to stick with the NHS rather than opt for private. It was my intention to use a birthing pool & I was calm, excited and happy with my choices. We put together a very, very short birth plan which was quite honestly just ‘I’m happy with everything as long as I/the baby don’t die, please don’t mention gold medals or long jump’ and I hoped, despite all the imminent pain, it’d be something I’d look back on with rose tinted spectacles.
As it turns out; my birth canal’s as narrow as Trump’s opinions, the epidural was administered in a way which meant it didn’t work and a forceps delivery/incorrect stitching meant I’ve been left to have reconstructive surgery and my only real memory of being in labour was three solid hours of pushing, met with a fuzzy recollection of Greg crying while being informed the risks of forceps were death or cerebral palsy.
It wasn’t ideal.
So, as discussed previously, I went through some CBT sessions and tried to gain a bit of control back from my PTSD. I had a bit of a revelation it was my body and it was totally unsurprising such a trauma left me reeling. And when I found out we were expecting again, we decided there and then to check out private hospitals and ask for an elective caesarean. Plain and simply, I booked myself in for birth.
Since mentioning this on Instagram, I had a LOT of emails/DMs/comments from women asking why I felt I needed to do that. Lots of ‘every birth’s different!’, tonnes of ‘don’t let your previous experience put you off!’ and other remarks which I’m sure were meant in kindness but actually just left me baffled. Along with that, I also had a heap of messages from women practically begging me for advice on how to secure a c-section because they were struggling to get the same on the NHS. Midwives, healthcare professionals all telling them they didn’t need what they were requesting. That it was all in their heads and to not let their nerves get the better of them. Basically, not.bloody.listening.
Do you know why I’m being listened to? Because I’m paying. Because, depressingly, I’m stumping up the cash to choose what my body can or can’t handle, and unfortunately, not every woman has that luxury. Figures available to us (Department of Health) state the average cost of vaginal deliveries are £1,985, whereas elective/emergency caesareans come in at £3,781, and while we’re told it’s not a financial issue, I’m hugely certain this is the case. It seems women are being put through physical and mental trauma and babies left either unwell or dying thanks to the fact there’s pressure to keep costs down and it’s just not on.
As I can see from the comments I’ve personally received and the ridiculous stigma which exists everywhere that c-sections are almost the middle class, lazy version of producing a human, there’s a huge amount of pressure lumped on women to get stuck in and put themselves through it. I see it as no badge of honour, I didn’t feel fulfilled as a person having Milo yanked from my nether regions with a giant claw and when a woman tells me she’s only given birth via Caesarean section, I think of her giving birth to life, not cheating her way to motherhood. For me, why on earth would I want to test the waters and see if indeed my birth canal IS a bit on the dingy side? I’ve been told it is. The three hour pushing session with no success told me. The marks on Milo’s head for the first three days of his life told me. The fact I couldn’t sit down for twelve weeks because my inner vaginal wall had been sewn to my perenium told me. And I’m not the only one to have been through this, there are stories far more horrifying than my own, I got off lightly.
So, forgive me if I don’t have time for the wishy washy support of ‘it might not be the same this time!’ because the ‘might’ screams out like a banshee to a woman who’s terrified of being stuck under the bright lights of a hospital room, trapped in her own body’s pain. That ‘might not‘ very quickly highlights the issue here, there’s no guarantee to being safe. It all warrants being listened to and if we don’t listen to our own bodies during the lead up to something as crucial as giving birth, then who will?
Women aren’t requesting a HUGE OPERATION just because they fancy spending the next couple of weeks on their back or don’t fancy being left with a vagina resembling a smashed tulip, women are requesting them because it’s the only way they can see being able to bring their children in to the world. And it’s a serious bloody matter. I know for sure, if I had the uncertainty of labour looming ahead of me and no-one honouring what’s essentially some basic human rights, I’d be feeling pretty mentally unstable right now. And that isn’t a way someone should be entering in to birth/motherhood. These procedures are read up on, are a means to an end, more often than not a medical requirement and yet it’s still suggested we should ‘oh just give the dangerous thing a whirl’, like we’ve just plucked the idea of someone slashing our stomach muscles in half out of the fun bin.
I can’t offer any usual advice to women who are stuck in the wanting-a-caesarean-but-struggling-to-be-heard plight, all I can say is that you genuinely have all my support and encouragement. We deserve to choose our birth stories and it starts with being listened to. Sadly, we’re made to feel otherwise.