I get so annoyed when I see the continuous discussion on parenting forums. You know the one, where they compare 'natural' childbirth with caesarean section and ask people 'which is better'? As if that were an actual answerable question.
Having gone through both, I'm in a fairly decent position to discuss the 'merits' or otherwise of both. But honestly, there is no argument to me. Getting that baby safely out into the big bad world, whatever way it comes, is, let’s face it, miraculous. I prefer just to celebrate that!
So my first baby decided she would arrive by c-section early on. There were various reasons for this; she was breech, I had a very low-lying placenta throughout the pregnancy, towards the later weeks, her growth was slow and doctors preferred not to wait, one way or another it was inevitable. We joke that she was awkward then and she remains so in her life to this day!
Because of this list of reasons against natural delivery, I was never really prepared to have one. My mindset was focused solely on booking a date for delivery, but even up until the end it seemed the medical staff in my maternity unit still hoped for a complete turnaround which would make natural birth a possibility.
At the very last moment, at a final scan my placenta was millimetres outside the 'danger zone', but baby remained stubbornly breech and I thanked God that she hadn't suddenly decided to turn around! I was ready to do this. If they'd told me then that they wanted to hang on another week (she was born at 38 weeks) I would have been devastated! There was no way I was mentally prepared by then to 'go natural'.
As it turned out, although not an emergency, everything ended up happening very quickly. I went in as normal for my 338-weekcheck. They were about to send me home again until 39 weeks when I asked about a date for surgery. Next thing I knew they were keeping me in over-night, to keep an eye on that low down placenta, and at 7.30 the following morning I was asked if I’d like to have my baby that same day! A slot had become available. If I hadn't already consumed breakfast (damn those 6am hospital starts) I could have been in surgery at 9am. As I had eaten, I would have to wait until 2pm!
I was ecstatic! No more waiting. My baby was coming, the constant sickness I'd suffered for 9 months, not to mention all the worry, was finally over.
The surgery was straight forward, and in so much as having your stomach opened up can be, it was a fairly pleasant experience. There was a calmness (for the most part, excepting a small blip where my blood pressure dropped) and my husband got to share the experience with me. I will never forget the moment when the surgeon held my little girl in the air above me. 'It's a girl', he declared, and I was filled with pure joy!
Afterwards, of course, I was numb, then sore, and stairs and climbing in and out of bed for weeks after could feel like I was being torn in two. My first attempt at getting upstairs once home ended with the opening of the floodgates which every first time mother experiences, where exhaustion and pain give way to an unprecedented outpouring of pure emotion.
But despite my pain I was elated! My baby was here, so I barely noticed any of it. I spoke to other mothers who were due to have sections and were terrified. 'Don't be' I assured them, 'It's absolutely fine'! I felt like a hero. I had done this and it wasn’t so bad.
And I look back now and remember the whole thing (even the bad parts) with fondness, the excruciating pain not forgotten but not a deterrent. I did go on to have a second, after all.
So I became pregnant with number two. At my first pre-natal appointment I was asked if I wanted to go straight to c-section delivery, or would I like to try for VBAC (Vaginal birth after caesarean). I couldn't help but feel the medical staff all felt the correct answer was the VBAC, and the trouble was, I'd listened to all of those women, talking on forums about how a c-section isn't an actual delivery, and I worried that I wasn't a 'proper' woman and that I would never really understand child birth unless I did the natural thing. So I opted to do the natural thing.
On the day of my 40-week check-up, there was no sign of labour so a 'sweep' was performed. Just in case that didn't 'do its thing' and bring labour on, a date for another section was booked for the following week. I have to admit that I felt relief! By that stage I was pretty terrified to give birth naturally and was pretty happy with the idea of having another section.
That night I went into labour.
Honestly, I found my labour really painful. I'm not one of those women who wants to push through the pain barrier and was more than happy to have an epidural, but by the time it was approved by a very busy doctor, things had progressed too far and I was pushing as it was being administered (into my spine, while I was being held still by a team of nurses). I got half of it. The midwife said I can tell people I had a natural labour because of this and in fairness, I was able to walk back to the ward afterwards. One of the pluses of natural delivery.
Trust me, I do not take any sense of superiority from the experience.
Rather, I felt, and still feel, much more of a failure for my natural birth than I did my section. I found the pain and then discomfort in the days and weeks after much harder to cope with. There were moments when just holding my baby was too hard, In fact, I could barely stand up, let alone walk for the first couple of weeks.
And I compared myself to other mothers I knew who had given birth this way, some up and about within days as if they hadn't pushed an entire human through them just mere hours previously.
I felt broken, literally. I didn't experience the euphoric joy I had on my first child and the whole thing left me thinking I must be somehow lacking.
I still haven't managed to work out if I felt differently the second time purely because it was the second child-not the blissful newness of first-time motherhood-or whether if I'd had my births the opposite way around I would have found my section experience different. But If I was to go again (and I have no plans to -mainly because I don't want to experience labour again) I am 100% certain I would choose to have a c-section.
I suppose the point is that each birth is different, even for the same woman. We all have to do what's right for us, and ultimately our babies. And no one has the right to make any kind of judgement on that.
Ladies, we all perform tiny miracles every day. Child birth is amazing, no matter how it happens. Let's just give each other a break.