Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Caesarean Section - My Choice

Towards the end of February I noticed quite a lot of talk on Twitter following an episode of One Born Every Minute (a program I don't actually watch)*. I think there was a lot of talk about elective caesarean sections and some people perhaps having an opinion that those having them were 'too posh to push'.

Easily done, I guess, considering the use of words and what society and the media puts across. Also, if you haven't been put in an elective section position then you aren't going to be fully aware of what it means.

The problem is the term 'elective'. It almost brandishes the woman with the 'too posh to push' - a term I detest so much. This was a phrase that was said to me when I was pregnant with Mini Cheddar in 2009 and due to give birth by elective section. This person was a total stranger! I left the shop feeling really angry with myself for just giving a fake laugh and walking out the shop upset when what I should have done was put this woman right.

You see, Mini Cheddar was a breech baby. She had been breech right from 28 weeks and we tried everything to get her to turn. I played music to my private parts (yes, really!) in an effort to get her to move her head towards the sound. I lay on the sofa with my bottom raised and all sorts of other positions to try and move her. My husband even lit special candles and held them against my little toes every day. If you've not heard that one before, it's called moxibustion. It's supposed to have a great success rate but sadly it didn't work for us.

No, MC was stuck breech and at almost 37 weeks I had to face up to the fact I couldn't have the natural water birth I'd spent months planning. I was completely crushed. I cried for a a week or so.

I had no choice but to have an 'elective' section. There it is again. That word - elective.

To elect is to 'choose' and given the choice I would have chosen natural birth any day. I didn't want to undergo major surgery. I didn't want to risk not being able to have skin-to-skin with my baby and not being able to establish breastfeeding. I didn't want to spend 2 or more nights in hospital. I just wanted my water birth and I spent a good amount of time crying about the fact my dreams were shattered.

There was also that old saying I'd heard 'Once a section - always a section' but the hospital set me straight that if I went on to have another child and everything was okay then I could try for a VBAC.

However, MC's birth turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life and something I hold dear to my heart. I wish I could relive it over again - something that I'm not sure many other people would say. I absolutely loved writing my birth story "My Always Shining Star" and I could talk about the birth forever. It was lovely. We had immediate skin-to-skin and I breastfed her successfully for over 6 months.

So, when I fell pregnant this time around I was faced with a bit of a dilemma. Repeat caesarean or a VBAC.

What to do? What to do?

This baby was in the right position and so the hospital would support me (and encourage me) if I wanted to go for a VBAC.

You know what though. I didn't. Deep down I just didn't want to. Not that I'm 'too posh to push'. Not that I'm scared of the natural birth process. Nothing like that.

I was told that if I wanted a VBAC I would have to be continuously monitored and stay on the bed. I still had hopes of a water birth but I was told that wasn't an option with the VBAC. Also, if I went 10 days over my due date I would probably have to have an 'emergency' caesarean anyway as they wouldn't fully induce me.

Also, I felt pressure to choose a VBAC. Not the hospital but underlying comments from 'well meaning' people and what society would expect me to do. There will always be the 'natural birth brigade' who act holier than thou and consider that you 'aren't a woman until you experience natural birth'.

You know what I say to that?

Utter bollocks**

My beautiful daughter and son -
both born by 'elective' section
Whatever way a child is delivered into this world is 'birth' - be it natural or by caesarean. What women go through carrying a baby for 9 months and whichever way that child is born is amazing. What matters is that mother and baby are happy and healthy. No woman should be condemned for bringing a child into the world.

Also, what about all those women who can't have children? Are they any less of a woman? No.

Knowing someone who underwent a VBAC which went wrong and resulted in a baby with cerebral palsy made my decision a lot easier. I know there were risks to me having a caesarean but I'd rather risk myself than risk my baby. Surely that means I'm not 'too posh to push' but I'm a brave and confident woman who wants to put the health of my baby first?

I don't care what society expects me to do. At the end of the day it's my body, my baby and so should be my choice.

* This post is by no way getting at anyone who may have thought 'elective' always means too posh to push. As I said, it's no surprise as this is what society and the media portrays.

**I very rarely swear on my blog so forgive me but I'm extremely passionate about this subject.


Alison Turnnidge said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks that having an elective section isn't a bad thing, my first was born by emergancy section at 33wks so therefore I had NO choice because neither of us would be here today but when I had my second my Consultant said I could try for a VBAC but due to scarring from the previous section and fibroids in the lower section of my womb he recommended another section, which I had no problem with mainly because after many years of trying for a sybling for my eldest daughter I wasn't about to jeapodise the outcome. This time round I was much more relaxed than the first one because I felt more in control, if that makes sense.

Mari said...

If only in moments like those we had the courage to turn and slap the person in the face for being so rude (a dream of mine that I'll never accomplish as like you I always do the stupid laugh and turn away seething).
Good for you for sticking to your guns, for speaking out (I am so on your side here) and showing these ignorant twits the reasons for choosing a C-section.
I was forced into mine at the last minute as neither twin could move down to the birth canal and were stuck up inside me like a jigsaw. My only thought was bring them into the world safely and like you, I couldn't care less about me at that point
kisses to you and your beautiful children xxx

Lisa said...

My first was born by emergency section after 40 hours and failure to progress. I am trying to decide which way to go this time and finding it a really tough decision. It's good to hear another persons experience so thanks for sharing.

Charlotte Taylor said...

Obviously I still have a little womb raider onboard, so I haven't got a clue how his birth will pan out. I don't actually care, so long as he is okay. I'm lucky that he's been head down for months now, and I'm aware that may change, and change, and change. I have hopes for a serene water birth, while I pop out a little baby and lie back in the water like some sort of mermaid. I'm aware that will not be the case. Mainly because I'm DEAD dramatic.

It annoys me that certain individuals in society feel the need to point the finger and make the issue of birth into a witch hunt. Baby comes first and, I think we will all agree, that as long as they get here safely, they can take any route that they, or we, please. xxx

Viv @MelkshamMum said...

Well said. I had an elective c-section with my first as she was discovered to be breech by an eagle eyed midwife at my local unit. My waters had broken and the surgeon didn't believe she was breech until they scanned me. I was absolutely gutted as I had hoped for a natural water birth but was so glad the initial midwife picked up on it before I was in labour trying to push her out! I did however want to do the VBAC with Alban but that turned out to be me drugged up to my eyeballs again with an epidural, flat on my back with him being ventoused out. I ended up back in theatre anyway as my placenta got stuck! Interestingly enough I had huge trouble feeding my first but it came naturally with the second. Don't know if that was down to the births. Possibly not but who knows?! x x

Katie said...

Well said and I have often commented on my blog about c-sections.  As I think you know Mads was also an 'elective' section due to the fact that she was breech- if you class elective as my hospital physically writing on my notes 'Can not have a natural labour.'  I feel very strongly about this subject as I have no regrets about having her and her birth was amazing, yet I still feel that I labelled in the to posh to push category.  Who knows what will happen when I have another one but I like you, do not want to be criticised for my choices.  xx

Herding Cats said...

They seriously need to change the name to change the perception of an 'elective' section by others.  My first daughter was born by emergency section due to failure to progress and presenting face forward.  At the time I felt that I had somehow failed at doing the one thing that all woman should be able to do.  My second daughter I tried for the VBAC option, only being the stubborn madam she is at 40+6 she was evicted by an 'elective' section, 'elective in the sense I really had no say in the matter as it was what was best for me and my daughter.  1 month and 2 days ago I gave birth to my thrid daughter again by 'elective' section and again the choice was taken out of my hands as I was deemed too high risk for natural labour. I hate it when people think I did it because I was too posh to push.

Alice Harold said...

Thank you so much for writing this, it's given me real food for thought and I've bookmarked it to show my husband. I had an elective c section the first time round (though it didn't feel elective, I had no choice due to e being breech and like you was distraught) and all the way through this pregnancy I've been adamant I want to go for a VBAC. But the consultants I've seen haven't been particularly supportive of the choice, and whilst they haven't been unsupportive I know that at the first sign of trouble theyll be wheeling me in for an emergency c sec. Plus I can't have a water birth, know I will have to be hooked up to monitors the entire time etc... My c section with Elfie was so lovely and peaceful, I'm terrified I'm holding out for a VBAC for the wrong reasons if you see what I mean!? I really don't want a heavily medicalised VBAC but at the same time I don't want to feel I'm letting myself down by not trying, as I'm young, fit and healthy I have a good chance of it going well.

What to do?! I do know that as soon as I hit 41 weeks (if I do go over) I will be whisked in for a c sec so maybe the decision won't be mine.

Caroline Morgan said...

Great post :) Thank you for writing it. 

My first birth was induced vaginal birth (32 weeks, daughter born sleeping). 

My second was an EMCS after a long labour, induced at 36 weeks due to previous loss,  2 hours pushing and baby going nowhere.  

My next baby will be an 'elective' CS. I have absolutely no intention of putting myself through a VBAC. Pregnancy is a very mentally fragile time for me, I all but stopped coping during my pregnancy after loss.  I'm not entirely sure I can cope with a 3rd pregnancy, but I want my son to have the hope of an earth sibling as well as an angel sibilng. I certainly cannot cope with the fear of the added risks (albeit small I know, but I have a warped sense of risk after my baby girl died) of attempting a VBAC for me or baby, especially when I wouldn't be able to have a full induction now so would probably end up being a repeat CS anyway. I would much rather a planned calm CS than another EMCS. 

Also, my pregnancies will never be allowed to go beyond 37 weeks. It doesn't make for an easy induction as it is, it took 3 days to get me into proper labour with my son at 36 weeks. So for my circumstances, and my history, It will be far better all around, mentally, emotionally and even physically when the time comes to have an 'elective' - and woe betide anyone who judges me as too posh to push for it. I done the pushing with my daughter, and now all that matters is my baby comes home. How a baby is born should be completely non-issue in my opinion. How very dare other people make comment when they know nothing about you. 

Lucy at Dear Beautiful Boy said...

I couldn't agree more with everything you've said, I think there is a lot of misunderstanding and snobbery about childbirth and it makes me cross.
Before I had my baby I desperately wanted a completely natural birth and I was NOT going to use any pain relief except gas and air. I'm a strong determined sort of person and was sure I could do it. I some how felt that having anything more than gas and air made me less brave and less 'of a woman' a bit like you describe about people's reactions to your 'elective c-section'. As I'm sure you can imagine things didn't go the way I planned and I opted for an epidural and had to have a ventouse delivery.
Being pregnant this time around a few people have already asked about my previous labour and then whether I'm going to try for a natural birth this time. WHAT? I had a natural birth last time and I would do it all EXACTLY the same again. For all the complications I'd happily have it exactly the same for the same end result.
One of the wonders of giving birth is that for most women, I think that the moment where they hand you your baby means that whatever you've gone through to that point is made perfect. I'm not surprised you would want to replicate that feeling.
And let's be honest a c-section is not an easy option, with a longer period of recuperation and a lot more risk of complications for mum. Be proud of of your brave decision. X

Older Mum said...

Great post. I think an elective c-section is a must have choice for any woman who went through a traumatic vaginal birth first time around.

Mummyandthebeastie said...

I could have written this myself Heather and pondered over writing something like this before I gave birth. We both had caesareans first time round that we wouldn't have chosen and we both felt the pressures for a VBAC this time. I knew that the safety of my baby was more important than anything and certainly didn't bow to pressure from the natural birth brigade. The consultant who came to see me on the morning of my section had an air of snottiness about her when checking through my notes and casually asked why I was having a section and her face spoke volumes. Later we heard her see the woman opposite me who was having twins and one was breech. She grilled her as to why she had 'chosen' a section, hardly fair! On the whole though everyone else was supportive and I know I made the right decision.

All these people that use the term 'too posh to push' have no idea what they're talking about most of the time...xx

Southwarkbelle said...

Great post and I agree wholeheartedly, I've had people imply that I took an easy option with my C-section and it wasn't even elective! After 34 hours in labour, nearly 2 hours pushing, failed Ventouse etc etc. how was emergency surgery chickening out? Interestingly recent studies suggest that there is no real safety argument in favour of VBACs if anything a repeat elective may be slightly safer for both mother and baby.

I've known women have really good experiences of elective CS, far better than my emergency one and basically - an elective CS is the only way to be sure of avoiding an emergency one!

Leyla Preston said...

Hey, fantastic post! It really spoke to me as I had an emergency caesarean with my first son (Aron, now 16 months old) and you can read about the birth story at I desperately wanted a water birth with candles and music, but I had laboured for 3 days (back labour as well!) and got to 6cm before the medical staff realised that the cord was wrapped around Aron's neck twice and his head was being pushed back rather than down the birth canal. His heartrate dropped to 54 at one point and that was when the midwife pushed the emergency button. The whole birth was traumatic and I ended up having panic attacks for about 6 weeks afterwards.

Second time round, I had an elective caesarean with Aidan (now 8 days old). I haven't written the birth story yet, but will get round to doing it. I too hate that word, 'elective'. I wanted a VBAC, but they gave me 9 days past my due date to go into natural labour and they also told me that I would be continuously monitored on the hospital bed. Nothing happened, just tightenings every ten minutes and they carted me off to the theatre room for my 'elective' caesarean. The whole experience was actually very relaxing. The medical staff were fantastic and talked me through the whole process as they were doing it. I was a bit upset that Aidan had been yanked out of my belly before his time, but I don't dwell on that. I dwell on the fact that a beautiful 9lbs 7oz (4.305kg) baby was born with an APGAR score of 10 and, by the looks of him, I'm not sure if I would have been able to handle pushing Aidan out the natural way anyway. I'm sure some tearing would have occurred lol!

farfromhomemama said...

I think c-sections are a much more acceptable option outside of the UK. Really, I think mums should know better than to criticize someone else's decision or thinking. It seriously gets on my nerves that people can act so righteous. I had an emergency c-section after 20 hours of a very difficult labour. I really could not have cared less how my son entered the world as long as he was safe and healthy. After all, what else matters?!

bod for tea said...

Oh Heather this post spoke to me too. After planning, preparing, role-playing and carting half our apartment to the hospital for a 'natural' birth, DD was both breach and not growing so she was born by 'elective' c-section too. It wasn't the birth that I had planned or expected, but it was the birth that gave us our beautiful daughter and in this case the ends totally justified the means. Thank you for speaking out about this x

Mum ofallTrades said...

My first was natural and the last 4 were elective c sections. I can honestly say the moment when I saw my baby for the first time was no different be it a section or natural. 

Kellyroberts1980 said...

Aw you had a baby boy, congratulations! I go through phases with my blog, when I'm writing it I read others, but when I'm not I don't, so I missed this. How lovely :-) I had a vaginal birth with my first. I say vaginal, it ended in a ventouse delivery, hardly natural being yanked into the world by a glorified plunger! I had to leave my daughter for about two hours while I had surgery. My body is wrecked from the experience to be honest. I was still willing to go through it again, because of course it's all worth it, but this time he was breech. They told me they would support me whatever decision I made but a vaginal birth would be higher risk to the baby. A no-brainer then. It was a beautiful birth and I recovered very quickly. I would have no hesitation in having a C-section again. Be proud of your decision and enjoy your beautiful baby boy! x

Mummysknee said...

I'm glad you have had two positive experiences. I had two VBAC and I will never go down that route again. We have two healthy boys but after first one, I actually think I should have found out more about elective section. This time was as long labour, waters broke on the Friday and I had Bubbles on the Sunday tea time. At least this time I didn't need baby manually turn inside or a ventouse. See your experience sounds so much calmer. How is the recovery, that is the only thing that put me off. But now I have a uterine infection & I can't help wondering why midwives didn't offer me a section!

You are right, no one should judge you, as with everything, you make decisions for yourself and no one should question it, least of all strangers. They don't know anything about you!

Good on you for writing this post!

Claire Toplis said...

You make your own choices. .. great blog post.. I have to say my own experiance of being induced was eye opening 

Village Mama UK said...

Great post. I've had two viginal births and both have been quite a trial. The first took 10 months to recover from as I injured my back and the second you know about-I won't be discharged fully from the hospital until June and Baby was born in Feb! I reckon both times my recovery would have been quicker had I gone for an elective c. I can't believe the amount of people who judge others on this issue-what a shame! Beautiful photo. All the very best for the future.

Blue Sky said...

I wasn't sure that I could actually read this post as the whole subject of breech births and caesareans gets me all emotional - because of my special girl with cerebral palsy who might not have been so damaged if she had been born by caesarean rather than being a premature footling breech who was only pushed out with the help of some serious cutting.  I really don't care how a baby is born so long as the birth is in the best interests of the baby and the mother.  Heather you did what was right for you and your children and anyone who says otherwise can *sod* off (there I swore too, which I almost never do on-line) xxxx

Beadzoid said...

I read this last week when you posted it but for some reason couldn't comment.  I'm so glad you've received supportive comments because I know how some people can be about the subject of 'designer caesarians' (whoever coined this phrase should be ashamed).  Indeed only a couple of months ago I had a 'debate' with the inlaws about it when they were all up in arms about how much they cost the NHS.

When a woman decides that she needs her baby to enter the world this way there is very nearly always a bloody good reason for it.  And if that reason is simply that they are terrified of a vaginal birth, then so be it - there are obviously psychological grounds for allowing the mother to make that choice and it avoids a stressed and terrified woman in labour, which is surely a good thing.  And the usual accusations 'too posh to push' or ' helps with post-pregnancy weight-loss', such a tiny tiny minority and certainly not widespread enough to put all C-sec mums in the firing line.
I just think that people need to stop being so judgemental and good on you for being honest and upfront about why you chose to give birth to Tiny Ched (love it!) the way you did.  I'm glad the holier-than-thou brigade have remained silent on this occasion x

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HonestMum said...

Incredible post (tears in my eyes) again. I don't feel a c section is any less of a birth than a vaginal delivery and I feel so grateful and proud my boys arrived safely. My emergency was tough and took a long time to recover from but my recent elective was a complete, utter joy-calm, controlled leaving me strong and happy. I'm so happy we have a choice because having that choice is our right.


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