I was super smug to think that I was cooking not one but two tiny people in my uterus in 2005. Excitement turned to nerves once I realised that as much I was loving carrying them, they’d have to come out at some point (I’m a bright woman and do know that you can’t carry babies indefinitely but I’d been preoccupied with containing melon boobs and buying double of everything. Giving birth was lower down on the to do list for a while)
I wrote some sort of birth plan that included a vaginal delivery with relaxing music and only gas and air as pain relief. I wasn’t too precious about the tunes and a little extra pain relief was fine if necessary but I dearly wanted to feel proud of myself for pushing my little people into the world.
I had a vision of a caesarean delivery being like a very relaxed Punch and Judy show – mum lying flat on her back with the ‘tarpaulin’ screen in front of her awaiting the debut of twin one followed by twin two popping over the top for an appearance. It made my heart sink to imagine meeting my babies this way so when my waters broke at 32 weeks I was focused on a vaginal delivery. (I think the only ‘true’ natural deliveries are the ones where the warrior mothers’ squats to drop her new born with little fuss at all before carrying on with her day as if it was an every day occurrence. Even vaginal deliveries can require some sort of pain relief or intervention to help mum and baby at times)
I experienced contractions throughout the night, tripped my weary head off on pethidine and dilated slowly but surely towards my babies’ grand entrance but at 6am on 30th June my midwife realised that the head of baby one was actually his bum and I was wheeled down to theatre for an emergency caesarean. Suddenly the questions that had been running through my mind for hours on end; will my down below tear or need cutting? How dignified will I be during the pain? How much will it hurt? Oh dear lord will I poo in front of the midwife? – evaporated and were replaced by an aching disappointment as I realised that I actually did want all of those things (not the poo one). To me, that made me a ‘proper mum’. One that could swap horror stories in Costa with other mums wearing the same invisible badge of motherhood that says “my children wrecked my fanny and I’m proud”. But in the moment where Mark walked in looking terrified and wearing what can only be described as a cross between a forensics guy and someone wearing a hair cap from a biscuit factory, I knew that the only thing that mattered was delivering my babies safely.
We didn’t know then that we were never destined to have the babies we had dreamed of and that our lives would change forever in the space of just a few moments and you can click on the blog link to read why.
I never even caught a glimpse of my babies over the blue curtain above me as they were whisked off to special care let alone have the skin to skin bonding that the baby programmes I had watched said was so crucial. Instead I fell into an exhausted sleep and snored like a warthog on the ward before waking to feel like a complete failure and although for a long time I felt very alone in this, I now know that those feelings of despair are very common in mums where the C-section wasn’t the preferred delivery option.
What I also know that is in cases where mothers have a caesearean section its often based on medical advice or a difficult history of a previous birth. Despite some celebrities making caesareans look like the ‘easy option’, few people fully understand the severity, potential complications and recovery time of this invasive surgery and its never a decision made lightly. I’m sure there are some mothers who dearly don’t want to have a vaginal birth and that’s absolutely fine, each to their own, but I hate it when people assume that having a c-section is some sort of abandonment of your identity as a woman or that it makes you less of a mother. One article which went viral was written by a photographer who refused to document the arrival of a woman’s baby into the world because she said that it wasn’t ‘giving birth’ but merely ‘having an operation’. Attitudes like this only serve to reinforce the idea that only a vaginal birth is a valid one and that anything else simply doesn’t count. I assume the people who agree with this are also the people who believe that women who adopt simply can’t call themselves Mothers but that’s for another discussion.
I did feel like less of a mother for such a long time and only looking back once those feelings left me, do I feel that I can write about it. In doing so I asked other mothers what their experiences had been.
Emma Murphy I had to have a section as my Placenta ruptured. I was devastated to not give birth naturally. Felt worthless
Holly Hancocks I had an emergency c-section after being overdue, induced, laboured, 10cm dilated and 90 minutes of pushing and was upset about it for a long time. I was so determined to give birth naturally. Sadly, my surgeon advised all my future births should be c-sections too. Apparently I’m just not the right shape. I think the fact I’ve never written about my little one’s birth on my blog speaks volumes. I’m just not proud of it.
Lyndsey Kim O’Halloran I had an emergency section after a 3 day induction and my girl was very distressed. This ended up with me having sepsis and e-coli, a 2nd surgery after a week and 2 weeks in hospital barely being able to hold my daughter and definitely couldn’t breastfeed. Distraught is an understatement. I know it meant Erin getting here safe and sound but it was hell and not what I wanted at all. Nearly 2 years on and I still get infections and I’m so terrified of getting pregnant again because of my experience.
Emma Reed I had an emergency c section on Christmas Day 2013. I was exhausted, confused, delirious and it was the last thing I wanted. I was scared to death by the doctor who came running in in a panic and the whole birth was full of worry. I couldn’t hold my baby after because of the spinal block. It wasn’t the experience I was expecting and it took me a very long time to recover from the mental trauma.
Christy Bruckner I had pre-eclampsyia and after a failed induction had an emergency csection. At the time I was so tired and in so much pain I was just relieved it was going to be over soon. Unfortunately I had sepsis afterwards and was too weak for weeks afterwards to hold him or look after him. I couldn’t breastfeed and I was frustrated and upset with the outcome as the entire experience of birth and caring for my newborn in the hospital felt as unnatural as it could possibly get. I do feel like something was missing for me from the whole experience and I felt quite disconnected from him for a while even after getting him home.
Other mothers had the additional trauma of a general anaesthetic and their experiences of loss and sadness are very similar.
Clare Low – I had a emergency c-section after a long labour and I was put to sleep to get my son out safely and quickly, I woke up and my son was already almost 1 hour old, he had been fed, weighed and changed and I remember I cried and felt like a failure. 11 years later it still affects me, I have days where I feel like I have never truly ‘given birth’ and get upset at the fact I missed it all.
Becky Lyons I had an emergency c section under general anaesthetic at 29 weeks and I struggled afterwards. I found that because I wasn’t conscious for the birth and couldn’t see her for more than 8 hours after birth, I struggled to see her as mine and didn’t bond straight away. I think the whole NICU and not being able to hold her didn’t help. I know the reason I needed a section and without it she wouldn’t be here so I have no issues with having a section. Whatever is necessary for a safe, healthy baby. I do find the thought of being pregnant again terrifying though!
Emma Lofthouse-Burch – I was put to sleep with my first I and afterwards I felt like I had failed. I hated that everyone held my son before me, dressed him etc and I was too out of it from the anaesthetic to hold him or feed him. I felt robbed in a way. My third was an emergency c section after attempting a vba2c, after that I felt shell shocked, it ended up being quite a complicated frightening operation and my baby was taken to special care, I refused to be put to sleep with that one
Kate Fever I had a crash section under general anaesthetic with my first after failed ventouse, failed forceps and a baby in distress. I felt awful afterwards – guilty that I had ‘failed’ her. I blamed myself for not being able to birth her vaginally, and that I was the reason she ended up in special care. I hated that everyone else saw her before I did, and I struggled to bond with her. I am positive this was a factor in my postnatal depression.
Although not everyone agrees that a caeserian section means that you’re a failure as a mother.
Sarah Cronshaw I had an emergency C-section under general anesthetic after going 12 days overdue and being induced. I wasn’t actually too bothered about not doing it “properly” but was upset about not being prepared for it. I couldn’t even lift her afterwards and felt useless. 6 years later am totally over it and couldn’t give a *!&# how she came out! 😄
Zoe Cripps I had two elective C sections. Both beautiful, relaxed and easy (minus the arguments with a consultant second time round!) but the births themselves were exactly how we wanted them.
Beth Law I had an emergency csection with my son after he got into distress being back to back. After a failed ventouse he was born by section.
I went on to have twins and opted for an elective section as my emergency for me was a positive safe experience. I can hand on heart say not one part of me feels sad I didn’t “give birth naturally”
The only negative feelings I’ve had are other people’s opinions on them. For me all my babies were born safely and the way they came out for me is irrelevant
Katy Stevens I was really relieved and the first thing that I said when my daughter was lifted up was ‘she’s made it!” I knew something was wrong and when she was born it became clear she hadn’t been growing and my placenta had started detaching and we weren’t in the best shape. Afterwards I felt a little sad not to have had a vaginal delivery, thanks to the comments of others, but then I remembered that we made it safe and my daughter was sideways and would NEVER have been able to come that way anyway.
Rose O’Keefe – I had to have a emergency c section as Bear’s heart rate kept dipping and mine rocketed due to pre eclampsia, for some reason I knew it would end up in a c section, I just felt relived both me and Bear were okay as I know after speaking to the midwife after it could of gone a lot worse due to the complications and me being high risk. Now looking back after Bear and Bell (she was planned) c sections I wouldn’t of done anything differently as long as baby is healthy and mum is well I don’t care how my babies were born
Laura Moore I had a crash section because my son stopped moving. I have no disappointment. Without it my son would be dead. It drives me mad when people say they were disappointed – think they’d be devastated if their child had died. I was lucky mine didn’t but he is severely disabled.
Vicki Coombe Ours was an emergency section after a failed induction. I’ll be honest and say although not the birth I wanted, I was just happy we were all alive. It was a little touch and go for my daughter at the end for a little while. So for me personally, it was just relief.
Rachel Bustin I had an emergency c section after 2 and a half days failed induction it then got serious as she was in distress. I lost a lot of blood so wasn’t able to see her for an hour. But next time I’m choosing a c section because I’ve been told I possibly can’t give birth naturally and all I want is everyone to be safe.
It was refreshing to read some mothers positive experiences of cesearian sections. For me, as much as I detest the ‘human bumbag’ of over hang flesh that I can tuck into my jeans I often giggle at the memory of probably the only advantage for me. It was a few years ago during a routine smear procedure. The nurse was making small talk (alwaya awkward) when she looked up at me and said “Im guessing you had a section?”
Me ~ “yeah why”
Her ~ “Still all neat and tight down there”
I’ve never wanted to simultaneously crawl up my own arse and hi 5 someone more in my life!
Overall, some of the mothers who gave shared their experiences struggled with the mental implications of a C-section, others saw it as a positive experience but one thing that connects us all is that we all carried our babies and brought them into the world. That makes us mothers. Our birth stories all ended happily and surely, we should be kinder to ourselves and realise that’s all that matters?
While we work on that, I’m off to make a badge that says “my children came out of the sunroof; my fanny is still intact. Go me!” Let me know if you want one.