The emotional ins and outs of elective caesarean sections
Seventeen years ago today, I was lying in a hospital bed waiting to be delivered of two baby girls by elective (planned) caesarean section. I was stone-cold scared. Not of becoming a mother and all the inherent lifelong changes motherhood would bring; these babies were already desperately wanted, and never have nine months passed so slowly in the entire history of I-wish-these-babies-would-hurry-up-and-be-born-already. No. I was afraid of being sliced open through several layers of skin and muscle.
Not that I had any choice in the matter. Umbilical bedlam in tandem with a breech baby totally ruled out a vaginal delivery. Baby Two, the consultant explained after an ultrasound examination in week 37, would be in mortal danger throughout Baby One’s birth (multiple-birth babies are numbered and monitored in vitro). Without further ado, she set a time and date for delivery by c-section. But in the hormonal moment, I blamed myself. Unable to give my children a natural birth, I was flunking my first maternal duty.
Because we all know that’s what women should do. We are biologically designed for it. Women squat in fields and occasionally on pavements, bathroom floors and moving aircraft to produce healthy offspring. But there is so much media hype surrounding unnecessarily high and rising c-section figures, with some celebs being labelled ‘too posh to push’ etc., elective caesarean sections are being regarded with increasingly detrimental suspicion.
The 12 medics in the OR, on the other hand, were amazing. Perfectly in sync, they safely delivered both babies within 49 seconds flat. Modern medicine had saved the day – both in discovering the danger within and in securing the happy – literally – outcome. We were grovelingly grateful. Excited, elated. Proud, overwhelmed. All the things brand new parents are supposed to be.
Then came sore, tired and weepy as more hormones kicked in. Any journalist who suggests an elective c-section is a pain-free cop-out has never experienced the recovery period.
Or met a mother convinced her child is feeding badly due to an abrupt birth.
Or listened to a group of other mothers swapping birth stories, while feeling increasingly small and inadequate. And less of a mother. And utterly empty at having missed out on the childbirth experience.
Or felt the tremendous, oppressive guilt at having the ungrateful gall to even feel these things when a caesarean section, freely provided by the Swedish state, saved the life of your unborn child who is perfect in every way.
Mercifully, I see it very differently today. My faded scar is merely an old badge of honour for having produced two wonderful daughters who have turned out just right, and how they got here really couldn’t matter less. So if you’re reading this and recognise that you, too, are experiencing self-deprecating post-caesarean section turmoil right now, hang in there. As your baby thrives in your love and care, it will pass.
But it seriously vexes me to see media reports dedicated to overly expounding on the dangers of elective caesarean sections. I wager very few women would actually elect to have a caesarean section by genuine choice at all. And if they did, the medics would be quick to present the cons. And if these ladies, knowing the facts, still decide to go ahead for whatever reason, that would be a choice they are entitled to make.
So for the sake of all the post-caesarean mothers feeling less than adequate right now, my message to media representatives on a medical mission is back off!
No woman who has had, or is planning to have, her baby delivered by elective caesarean section, for whatever reason, needs to be told this is not the ideal scenario, or that natural births are best for babies, or that there’s no such thing as being too posh to push.