The C-word

A healthy birth is the priority

I was 39 weeks pregnant with my first child when my obstetrician dropped a bombshell; I would need a caesarean.

The baby’s head was too big, my pelvis apparently inadequate and the risk to my unborn child’s life – and possibly my own – too great to foolishly risk a vaginal birth.

I didn’t consider questioning the doctor; as soon as the words “risk your baby’s life” entered the discussion the issue was signed, sealed…. and well, almost delivered.

Today four caesareans and a lot of research later, I would definitely challenge, and probably defy, that first doctor’s decision.

Who knows what might have happened in labour; how my ligaments may have stretched to accommodate a neonate skull, how labour hormones may have kicked in to give me a hand?

Maybe the doctor made the right decision; I’ll never know for sure. But I’d have liked to have had the choice – and the information to best make my own decision.

It took me a week to get over the brutality of that first surgery. I was in shock, pain and felt an enormous sense of failure. I had no idea how caesarean surgery would feel; that laying on an operating table while someone rummaged in my abdomen would be like living a scene from a horror flick. I didn’t know that they would take my precious baby from me within minutes of his birth and keep us apart for the first hours of his life – just because that was the ‘routine.’

I didn’t know that back on the ward I wouldn’t be able to pick up my baby; to give him his first bath or breastfeed comfortably (or as comfortably as is possible in that first week).

When I fell pregnant with my second child I was terrified of another surgery, but never considered that I would have any other option. It wasn’t until I went to book into hospital that the midwife there told me about vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC).

My obstetrician was unenthusiastic about the option. We “would see” he told me and like a good girl I acquiesced to his greater wisdom and the few times I nagged about it he muttered about small pelvises and big heads until I gave up and resigned myself to my surgical fate.

After that second caesarean doctors only smiled benignly when I mentioned the possibility of VBAC. I felt like a tree-hugging hippy suggesting cooking up a placental pizza in the delivery room. I still didn’t know enough, wasn’t assertive enough and really was quite scared of my scar splitting open and spilling bits of belly and baby mid-labour.

My birthing fate was sealed with that first caesarean.

Women should clearly be able to make their own birthing decisions, but it is imperative that those decisions are supported by clear information and education. Anything less cheats women and their babies.

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