My C-Section Storyby Gemma Campbell
April was C-Section Awareness Month, but every month needs to be this. You see in the UK 1 in 4 babies are born via caesarean. For many, a C Section doesn’t exist on the birth plan. You attend antenatal classes and talk about birth canals, breathing and birthing options relating to vaginal births. You discover the various fruits related to how much you’ve dilated (?) and sometimes you even discuss the array of drugs available from good old Entonox (gas and air) to spinal blocks. You may even attend hypnobirthing classes to utilise the power of focus and breathing the baby out. But where are the classes that discuss a 'unnatural’ birth?
My first baby had a Plan A and a Plan B birth plan. Plan A was what I was expected to write down – Maternity Led, whale music, minimal drugs and intervention. Being of the more practical humorous type, Plan B simply stated: “whatever is necessary to ensure the healthy mum and baby option”.
Unbeknownst to me, my first was back to back and so I had a few days of rumbling labour. I was uncomfortable and thought I was experiencing Braxton Hicks as there was no ‘show’ nor even any hint of my waters breaking. Then one morning it ramped up and uncomfortable became panting and gripping of the kitchen worktop. We had a show (urgh, think massive bogey/phlegm). We started timing them and when they got to 8 minutes apart, I decided I wanted to go into hospital. Unfortunately, I was only 3 cm dilated and so they suggested I went out for a birthday lunch (I went into labour on my 30th birthday). Hours and hours later I suddenly started being sick. Real projectile vomit. We went in. And then the ‘fun’ really started. Here is not the place to detail my lovely long and traumatic labour but the end result was the next day I ended up with an emergency C-section.
Now, as I didn’t know anything about a C-section, I had no idea of any prejudices regarding them. It was only chatting to new mums at various baby groups that I discovered many of these mums who had ended up with an emergency C-section felt a sense of failure. They’d attended these classes that promoted natural births. They had been told how giving birth is so natural women do it in paddy fields and in the middle of deserts. They had somehow got it in their heads that any sort of intervention was ‘unnatural’. I was lucky in that I knew my emergency section had indeed been just that and it had saved my life.
With my second, I was encouraged (almost coerced) into agreeing to a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). However, at 37 weeks, an additional growth scan suggested baby was aiming towards 10lb+. I was now a viable candidate for an elective. I’m sorry to say, I absolutely wanted an elective. The thought of something bigger than a watermelon attempting to navigate its way out of my downstairs region terrified me. My consultant (a woman who’d never had a baby) tried to persuade me I’d be absolutely fine with a VBAC. My Midwife, who was present, gave me the nod – this was to say I was allowed under NICE guidelines to demand an elective (we’d pre-discussed this that morning). Especially as I had a good reason other than ‘just because’ now. A week later I received a call and a date. And I don’t regret it at all.
There are many of my c section friends who went on to have very successful VBAC babies for their second and even third. But for me, the option meant that my second, born two weeks before his due date at 8lbs 6oz, via an elective section saw me almost enjoy his birth. The team of women were professional, caring and unbelievably proficient. My recovery was also rapid and whilst I do regret not ever being able to get rid of my c section ‘shelf’, I am glad I opted for an elective.
One thing I do believe needs to happen however is much greater preparation for this possible event and removal of the myths that surround it. I was not too posh to push. The second time around I was very aware of the serious risks posed by such a major surgery. And thanks to the support of my midwife, I was also made aware ultimately it was my choice.