Cesareans, the not so easy way out

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During my pregnancy I did what other females do and dreamt up how I wanted my labour to be - I wanted the “perfect natural” delivery, without any drugs, and with a speedy recovery. You know, just like Miranda Kerr. Not too much to ask is it?  I wasn’t interested in a Cesarean, and actually knew very little about them, why would I? I would never need to have one... until I ended up having one. During my pregnancy I was living in South Africa, which has the second highest C-section rate in the world, behind Brazil (in the private sector). When I would talk to women about having my baby, I was often asked what date I was booked in for the birth. I found this strange because in New Zealand this seldom gets asked. To my knowledge, it’s not common to book in a C-section in New Zealand unless you or the baby has a medical condition or health concern. In South Africa I found a clinic close to my house that was a natural birthing clinic, which focuses on a holistic approach to child birth, this is where I would have my baby. I prepared myself for a natural labour by doing pregnancy yoga, exercising and walking almost every day as I was often told it makes labour “easier”.

I was 10 days overdue, and if anyone has been in this position you know how each day feels like a week! My midwife performed a stretch and sweep (ouch), and I had acupuncture and went into labour that night. After 10 hours of contractions, I made my way to the clinic as my contractions were now 5 minutes apart. My midwife checked me and I was only 1cm dilated which was frustrating as I was ready to push this baby out. A few hours went by and I had only dilated to 7 cm's, still not enough to push. This is when I found out my baby was stressed and her heart rate was dropping each time I had a contraction. Not only was this bloody scary, I found out that I had to have an emergency C-section to get her out safely.

For some reason I felt like a failure and embarrassed, my birth plan had gone out the window and I was now having to have a C-section which people often call “the easy way out”. Almost 20 hours of labour had passed and I had to be rushed to a different hospital. I still remember being wheeled into the busy hospital on New Year’s Eve. I looked like a crazy woman in my wheelchair screaming at the top of my lungs from the pain. My contractions were now 2 minutes apart and all I wanted was to get my baby out safely and quick before anything happened to her.  I got dressed into my gown, and was wheeled into the operating room where surgeons and staff from NICU were waiting for me. Maxwell was delivered safely by the incredible team at Parklane hospital in Johannesburg, who I cannot thank enough, including my amazing midwife.

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Unfortunately, there is a lot of stigma and judgement around the way babies enter this world, and many mums who have had a C-section may feel some kind of guilt or disappointment, or they may have encountered some negative comments from others.  Some may think it’s not letting your body do what it was made to do, I’ve even heard some people comment online how the C-section Mum isn’t a real woman. Last week I saw a post of a woman wanting to book in a birth photographer for her C-section only to be told the following:

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There are women that choose to give birth by C-section, but in modern society that choice is theirs and everybody has their reasons why. After having the scare of Max’s heart rate dropping, I can see why women opt to have a C-section the second time around after similar incidents. Since having one I’ve learnt so much and I think some of the myths surrounding them should be dispelled. Firstly, they are MAJOR abdominal surgery, as you can probably comprehend by how many internal incisions are made and later sewn up. Then there are risks from the anesthesia, blood loss, scarring, damage to organs and there can be a long recovery. During the operation, you can feel your baby being tugged out of you and once he/she is born, you are unable hold them straight away. Some women have to be put to sleep and miss out on seeing their baby being born. Once the spinal tap has worn off you feel like you have been hit by a bus, you have a huge cut across your abdomen and have a catheter connected to you for a few days because you cannot go toilet. I remember waking up in my hospital bed in a pool of blood, wearing giant underwear with a human sized nappy. I can assure you that this is not the easy way out!

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Modern medicine is amazing and C-section’s exist to get babies out safely, I am so grateful that we have this option. It is major surgery and I feel like mum’s who go through this should not feel ashamed or embarrassed but be proud of themselves for putting their life at risk for the safety of their baby.  I feel like the stigma needs to be dropped because giving birth has nothing to do with pushing, contractions and excruciating pain but everything to do with giving, and if that means getting your baby out the sunroof, no one should be judged for that. Birth is not a competition, surely we are all winners, we created a precious human!

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