Last week Kirsty Allsop was in the news talking about how you shouldn’t be judged for having a c-section. As someone who went through two emergency c-sections this is something that I feel very strongly about. I do believe that there is a real stigma attached to having a c-section and everyday many women are being made to feel like they failed because they didn’t have a “natural” birth.
This was certainly the case for me first time round. I had been in labour for over 48 hours, with just gas and air (because I had bought into the hype of no ‘real’ drugs). They had already tried forceps but this too had failed. So in the very early hours of Monday morning oldest was born via c-section. I had been awake since Friday night and therefore the whole experience seemed very surreal.
I felt completely unprepared for a c-section. I had attended all of the NCT classes and c-sections had only been mentioned very briefly in passing, as in “avoid at all costs”. As I lay on that operating table being sewed back up whilst attempting to breastfeed my baby I didn’t feel the europhia that I had been promised.
Instead I felt that I had already failed my first born.
Looking back I now realise that this was crazy. I should have been happy as we had been fearing the worst. On Sunday afternoon we had been told to prepare for our baby to be born “abnormal”. Yes those exact words were used. I should know as I remember sitting there in shock as the words screamed around my head. After delivering those words they had simply drawn the curtain around us, leaving us on our own as my husband sobbed. However, we were one of the lucky ones and against all the odds she was born completely healthy.
Our first birth was not what we had prepared for. The NCT classes had painted a lovely picture of twinkly candles, water births and soothing music. Don’t get me wrong I realise that there are some people who do manage to achieve this. For us it involved projectile vomiting- a lot, not understanding what was going on and being hooked up to machines whilst feeling scared and abandoned.
Despite vowing never to go through it again I found myself in the same hospital 3 years later doing just that. I had been told that I would be able to give birth naturally and that I was not to worry because what happened last time was a one off. I was worried about how big my bump was but they reassured me telling me it was nothing to worry about. This time I can’t fault the care that we received during labour. We had the best care in the form of two midwives who didn’t leave my side and who encouraged me the whole way through. I was closer to my dream vision of the birth. Yet it still wasn’t meant to be. I remember being wheeled of to surgery again with a sense of deja vu. It was when I got to surgery that my waters properly broke and then they realised that I had excess water, otherwise known as polyhydramnios. Again we were told to prepare ourselves as this can lead to complications. But again we were one of the lucky ones.
I am grateful for the c-sections because who knows where my daughters and I would be without them. I do agree with Kirsty Allsop that there is a lot of negativity surrounding c-sections and that this is pushed on us by some parenting groups, newspapers and social media. I was terrified first time round about having a c-section as I hadn’t been prepared for it and I had only been told the negative things that surround a c-section. However, second time round despite my intial dissapointment I felt empowered. I had tried to give birth but I hadn’t been able to and that wasn’t my fault. Second time round the labour and susequent c-section was a positive experience. We felt supported by the fantastic midwives and consultant who listened to me and clearly explained what was happening. Also this time I knew what was coming- the safe arrival of my baby and that was the most important thing of all.
We need to stop spreading these horror stories about c-sections and we need to be properly educate women on what a c-section is and what it involves. We need to be telling them that it is ok to have a c-section. Most importantly we need to remember that c-sections save lives. But key to helping women realise that a c-section isn’t a sign of failure is the support she receives in hospital and in the community. We need to take away the stigma of c-section, the press needs to throw away the cheap moniker “too posh to push” and parenting groups need to talk parents through all the options during childbirth.