A contradiction? Nope. So often I see the phrase natural birth and c-section used as two different ways of bringing a child into the world. Although I get the fact that the two methods need to be differentiated, I can’t help but feel a little irked that it implies that a c-section is not ‘natural’.
It’s just semantics, I suppose. Perhaps women don’t like to use the term ‘vaginal birth’.
At 30 weeks pregnant, my little guy was posterior and decided to stay that way for the rest of my pregnancy. Often called “sunny side up”, this position increases the chances of extreme tearing, difficult labour, and a higher chance of emergency c-section.
My husband and I had prepared for a ‘natural birth’ (with epidural) regardless, until 4 days prior to my 39th week, when there was a tragic loss in the family. I was devastated and fragile, and could not bear the thought of having to go through a labour that would very likely be long, hard and painful. I didn’t have the strength in me.
The day after the tragedy occurred, I went straight to my gynae (who was extremely pro ‘natural’) and told him to book a c-section on the day I went into week 39. Although he was an awesome doctor, and I’d go with him again, should I have another child, he had the audacity to say: “Are you sure? You might surprise everyone and have a normal birth.” I didn’t want to surprise anyone. This wasn’t a competition.
I was huge, tired and emotionally finished. I didn’t want to be in labour for 24 hours only to be rushed through for an emergency c-section, or deal with tearing that would cripple me for weeks after.
That’s the whole thing-sometimes it does feel like a competition. Women telling their stories of 9 hours in labour and giving birth with no pain relief by choice. Why? Like my husband said, it’s like going to the dentist and getting teeth pulled, and choosing not to have anaesthetic. If modern medicine has allowed for women to go through the birth process pain free, then I say take it!
Please don’t get me wrong-I applaud women who choose to do it, but for their own personal reasons-not to prove a point or so that they have something to boast about. Some women really do wave around this medal of honour, putting other ‘less brave’ moms to shame, or making them feel like their birth experience wasn’t as real if they had any sort of pain relief.
Worse though, are the judgements often showered upon women who choose to have a c-section. Although mine was a planned c-section, I did it for health and safety reasons, and I can almost guarantee that any other gynae would have scheduled me weeks in advance, no questions asked. It wasn’t because I was “Too posh to push”-I hate that phrase and want to squish it out of existence. There is nothing posh about having a c-section. Let me give you a quick walk through.
I arrived at the hospital and was weighed, measured and examined. I then had to put one of those nasty hospital gowns on-the flattering, show off your ass gowns. I waited anxiously for three hours until finally a student nurse shaved me (at 9 months pregnant, you haven’t been able to see, let alone maintain your lady bits), and inserted a catheter.
I had about three other nurses watching and explaining to her as she went. It was incredibly uncomfortable and I was conscious of it in me the whole time, up until it was time for surgery. About 15 minutes later, I was wheeled down to the surgery area of the labour ward, and lay outside waiting with my husband while they finished up on the new mommy before me.
I had never so much as spent a night in hospital so this was kind of nerve wracking. Once I was in theatre, they had to give me a local anaesthetic before they could insert the epidural. You actually need anaesthetic for the anaesthetic. The needle really is that huge! I was sitting on the bed and could feel this awful catheter, and remember complaining about it, to which the anaesthetist responded with a laugh “You won’t feel it for long!”.
I hunched over a pillow and the epidural was administered. Within 20 seconds I couldn’t feel my legs and all I could do was giggle. It was the strangest feeling I had ever had. Now, here comes the part where I would like to stomp out the assumption that a c-section is the “easy way out” of giving birth. Although I was numb, I could physically feel my flesh being cut into. I’m not a big girl, but it felt as though they had to cut through layers and layers before I started to feel the tugging. Trust me, these guys aren’t gentle.
They pull, push, tug-it feels as though your insides are being smashed around and pulled out. I was very calm, until suddenly my blood pressure dropped significantly, and I started freaking out and panicking. I kept saying “something’s wrong!” but the doctor’s reassured me while I threw up into a bowl my poor husband was holding and I thought I was going to die. Something was administered through the drip to help stabilise my blood pressure, but I still felt horrid. Better, but horrid. Before I continue, please note this was a bad reaction and doesn’t happen to most people-this is just MY story.
About a minute before my son was finally pulled out, I started to feel pain, even though the epidural was in full force-that’s how hard they pull. Just in time, I heard “get your camera ready”, and this angry, purple ball of cute was lifted and shown to us. I had been semi conscious through the whole ordeal, yet suddenly, at that moment, I was fully aware.
I was given my baby to hold for a few minutes, after which my husband followed him through to the nursery, while I was stitched up for half an hour. I remember thinking, at least my legs are closed, and I still have some dignity left, because in my mind my legs were together and laid down flat. I looked up and they were splayed open like a spatch cock chicken! I thought they were someone else’s legs. So it really wasn’t that posh.
Last bit to my story, because of my reaction I had to spend an exceptionally long time in recovery, and my poor husband kept sneaking in to check if I was okay and getting kicked out and scolded repeatedly.
Despite sounding like I went through a horror movie, I would take a c-section again in a heartbeat. But let it be clear that:
A: It is no way an easy way out. This is major surgery, it is painful, and it takes a few weeks of agony before you fully recover.
B: It is not anymore dignified than a vaginal birth. In fact, not only are all of your goods on display-your insides are too!
C: It is no less natural in my opinion. My baby was brought into the world in the safest way and I bonded with him just as quickly, contrary to what many anti-caesarean individuals say. There was nothing unnatural about it. I witnessed my son being born. I was present.
Whether one chooses a c-section for personal reasons or is forced due to safety concerns, let it be known that every decent mother does so with their baby’s best interests at heart. C-sections are not like they used to be.
My poor mother was put under general anaesthetic and only got to see my brother and I hours after she had us. Whether you have a water birth, a medicine free birth, a vaginal with epidural, planned or emergency c-section, it is a damn tough job giving birth, and we as mothers should all be applauded no matter how we do it.