At 38 weeks our 2nd child decided she had had enough fun bouncing around in my belly and now wanted to bounce around outside. I had a caesarean scheduled for the following week (6 days before the due date) so I was a little surprised to feel my first labour pains. So surprised in fact I didn’t really believe it was labour. perhaps not surprising given I had been in hospital the previous week with a “false labour”, and this felt very similar. I dozed through the night and at 6am thought – Humm this no longer feels “false” to me.
By the time I went to hospital at 7:30am, contractions were every 3 minutes and excruciating, but only 1cm dilated!
After a very successful planned caesarean with our first daughter, we chose the same route for our second. On my notes it said I was electing and so when the consultant checked on me at 9am, it was agreed I could go straight in. The most daunting thing I have found with both caesareans is actually the preparation. I have a horror of needles and the IV in the back of my hand is, for me, the most dreaded part of the whole experience. Our baby was born within 5-minutes of surgery beginning. They held her up to me before cutting the cord and then whisked her away for a quick check. Within what felt like seconds she was back and being placed on my chest for me to cuddle. It was a little difficult with the tubes and the screen but lovely to have her in my arms almost immediately. The whole experience was very relaxed and friendly. At one point after Celia had been lifted clear the pain management needed some adjusting and the drugs were bumped up a notch, but other than that it was a very stress-free birth.
We were back on the ward in an hour. It was rather uncomfortable getting in and out of bed that first day and when walking round I was bent slightly like an old lady, but within 2 days I was back on my feet and ready to go home. I highly recommend peppermint tea and prunes; I was taking both from the moment I got back onto the ward making toilet trips relatively stress free. All in all, a wonderful birth experience once again. I’m glad I had my husband around to help with lifting our eldest (2 years) once home. It has ensured that the scar wasn’t strained, and I had no trouble at all with healing, sailing through my 6-week check.
So why did I have a planned caesarean on both occasions?
Within my group of friends, I joined the baby club quite late. And while we were happy with the decision, it did mean we had a little too much time to listen to friends’ birth stories. It was only as I sat down one day and did the maths that I realised 7/13 friends had had caesareans and only one of these was planned.
Being newly pregnant, this seemed dauntingly bad odds to me. I couldn’t even blame it on my friends being in a specific health authority, they were dotted around the UK. I knew recent national statistics indicated that 1 in 4 women have caesareans. It was this information, coupled with my friends’ rather graphic narratives of emergency caesareans as well as ‘normal’ birth stories which made me start looking at my birth options in more detail.
I started on the web and at that time (2004), it was apparent there was a lot of information about caesareans, most of which quite negative and lots of positive hype about natural birth. Positive aspects of caesarean birth proved particularly hard to find but given the odds I thought I better keep digging.
At this point I thought talking to medical personnel might be more useful. It became obvious that, in terms of physical and mental recovery, elective and emergency caesareans were two very different things and actually 1/3 female obstetricians planned a caesarean over a vaginal delivery. On top of this, the mental approach to the birth itself could play a significant part in determining the speed of recovery.
To cut a long story short, after all the reading and talking, I opted for a caesarean in the absence of any medical need.
My husband and I were surprised and a little hurt by the negative reactions this decision provoked from a variety of people. But we were perfectly happy with our decision and able to justify it.
I am pleased to say both my birth experiences were every bit as rewarding as those described in typical ‘natural’ birth stories we’ve all heard. Oh, and I was awake the whole time; I saw my babies born and turn pink; I started breastfeeding in the recovery room; I was walking within 20 hours; there was no sign of the baby blues and on both occasions I was behaving ‘normally’ within the week, well as normally as a sleep deprived new mother can.
Interestingly in my NCT group of 8 from my first birth, only 1 managed a totally natural birth. The remaining 6, who had all planned natural births, were all medically assisted in one way or another, 4 ending up with emergency caesareans.