April is Caesarean Section awareness month – and aims to raise awareness of and educate people about C-sections.
The origins of the procedure are hazy, it is rumored that it is so named because the famous Julius Caesar was cut from his mothers womb. The fact that she lived well into his adulthood probably falsifies that myth. It is a well documented phenomenon though that during those times midwives would surgically remove babies from mothers who had died in childbirth, or were about to die. C-sections were performed all over the world, from Ancient Rome to Ancient China, relics depict babies being born this way, but it was never clear, and probably highly unlikely that the mothers survived. Right up until the early 1800’s more than half of the women who underwent a Caesar died. These days, in the private sector in South Africa, it’s almost become more commonplace to have your baby via C-Section than natural birth, and the mortality rate for babies and mothers is very very low. With the now high rate of caesars, there’s also a very strong anti-caesar sentiment that’s growing, and has an especially strong presence on social media. It’s hit me hard, and left me feeling incredibly guilty for the way that my child was born.
Early on in my pregnancy I started researching birth. Somehow this tiny human being inside of me was going to have to get out! Almost everything that I read bashed Caesars, berated them as the “easy way out”, and lambasted doctors for pushing mothers into “unnecessary” surgical procedures. All of the advice I sought from friends and midwives and pre-natal courses did the same, and soon, instead of viewing the C-section as the life saving procedure that it can be – I was seeing it as a swear word, something evil, something the big bad medical corporation was going to bully me into, something that would hinder my child’s development and potentially stunt her growth.
I threw myself into preparing for a natural delivery, I read every article I could, and learnt about every natural pain remedy that I could, there was no way I was letting anyone pump me or my baby full of terrible chemicals. I had prepared my labour bag and packed it full of things Pinterest deemed necessary for enduring and recovering from a natural delivery. Then the big day arrived! Labour started.
I laboured at home for almost a full day before I went into the hospital – absolutely sure that I was minutes away from being told I could push. I wasn’t. I was sent home. Another day passed….I survived off heat pads, warm water, backrubs and calming candles before heading to the hospital again, sure this time that I was leaving with a baby. I didn’t. I was sent home again. Day three dawned with me not having slept more than six minutes at a time for two consecutive nights – Contractions were coming strong and fast, surely this baby was coming soon! We went to the hospital…this time I told them I wasn’t leaving without a baby.
Finally! We were admitted to the labour ward, I had the gown on, the monitors were hooked up – it was really happening. Only it wasn’t. Despite strong regular contractions, I wasn’t dilating, my body wasn’t responding the way it was supposed to. I was confused and sad and most of all exhausted – the articles I’d read and classes I’d been to told me my body would know what to do and all I had to do was endure it. I hung in there, waited for my body to respond. Baby’s heart rate dropped and then became static. A bad sign. She too was exhausted by three days of stress. My doctor started to worry. My waters were broken – and were full of meconium, baby poop – a sign that the baby is in severe distress.
Less than half an hour later, I lay on a theatre table, a host of medical staff hovering over me. I felt extreme pain as they cut and tore and pulled my baby out of me. There was silence – no cry. They held her up over the curtain, and then whisked her off, and all I could hear was “oxygen” and “suction” and tension in voices…until finally she let out a wail. Her initial APGAR was only 3.
Without that emergency intervention, if I had pushed through for any longer, I may not be watching a perfect 7 month old bouncing in her jumperoo. Without that emergency intervention, I might not have been sitting here writing this either. The first few months of my daughters life I was devastated by the delivery that I had. I felt that I had been robbed of the birth experience that I wanted. I felt that I had failed at the first hurdle as a woman and a mother – and all because of what I read and the advice that I was given in preparing me for the birth of my child.
I don’t deny that there are definite biological advantages to children being born the good old fashion way, and I don’t deny that there are doctors out there that will push a Mommy to cut before she’s had her chance to at least try the natural route. What I have a huge problem with is the culture out there that bashes and denigrates the life saving procedure that delivered my daughter into the world.
What I have a problem with are midwives and doulas and absolute strangers who can make you feel like you “chose” the supposed easy way out, were “too posh to push”. My problem is with the thousands of hippie-natural-crunchy-granola-pseudo-blogger-doctor-instagram-moms who think that they know best, and will tell you, oh but you should have tried hanging upside down with a crystal around your belly. I’ve had enough of being ashamed of the fact that my child was a Caesar baby. My amazing doctor saved her life and mine. We went through 3 days of terrifying stress together, and lived to tell the tale, because of the advances of modern medicine.
And so this April, this C-section awareness month, I want to talk to all the other C-Section Mommies, who felt the same as me. I want to raise awareness for those of us who feel like we endured a trauma. I want to tell them that it’s OK, you did not fail! You brought your child into the world under scary circumstances, you endured massive abdominal surgery and still cared for a newborn. Your baby will still excel at school and sport and life and love, they’ll still roll and crawl and speak and run. If you’re staring at a newborn and feeling like you’ve lost a connection because you didn’t push them into this world….I promise that connection will come, give it time (and maybe some Eglonyl – that stuff’s amazing). Don’t waste time in those precious early days crying over your delivery – you got pregnant to have a baby, not for a specific birth. Spend that fleeting time staring at those perfect fingers, that pouty precious little mouth and the wonder of those fluttering eyelashes. You grew a human, You’re doing great mama.