No, I wasn’t ‘too posh to push’.
In the past two decades, the cesarean birth rate has nearly doubled, prompting the World Health Organization to claim there are too many unnecessary C-sections in western countries, where childbirth is safer than ever, and calling for a reduction in the numbers. But there are two sides to every story… including mine.
It’s a story I shared during a recent conversation with a heavily pregnant colleague. A conversation that came to a surprising halt once I mentioned both my children had been born by C-section. When she accused me of being “too posh to push”, I explained it wasn’t a choice but a medical requirement, while cursing my own weakness in feeling the need to justify myself.
Science does tell us that the optimal way for a baby to be delivered is the old-fashioned ‘natural’ way, but that doesn’t account for high-risk pregnancies. It also doesn’t account for a woman’s right to choose the best course of action for her own body, without fear of judgement. If someone has a headache, they take paracetamol, so why not embrace the wonders of modern medicine when you are doing something as important, painful and, yes, dangerous, as giving birth. If you have any doubts, take a stroll through your local cemetery for a peak into our obstetric past, when is wasn’t uncommon for both mothers and babies to die during childbirth.
It doesn’t matter whether you endure a drug-free ‘natural’ labor, give birth while a shaman chants ancient blessings, seek relief through an epidural, or deliver via a cesarean while hopped up to the eyeballs on pethidine – whatever our choice, we should count ourselves privileged to live in a world where medical intervention is available and birth-mortality rates are low.
I was ready to bid a polite goodbye to my accuser when she pityingly pointed out how disappointing it must have been to be robbed of a natural birth by my obstetrician. Wait… what?
Struggling with infertility as I was, it took medical intervention for me to fall pregnant at all. When I was told I could be putting both my babies and I in danger without further medical intervention during delivery, I agreed without hesitation. By this stage I really didn’t care if they arrived in a freaking cab – I just wanted a healthy baby.
My colleague then went on to allege that due to my selfish desire to not die giving birth and electing to have a cesarean instead of squeezing a baby out of my vagina, I had taken the “easy way out” and wasn’t a “real woman”. At that point, shock turned to anger, because a cesarean is not an easy option, but sometimes it’s the only option. And as for being “too posh to push”, it’s hardly a spending spree at Chanel!
Allow me to demystify the procedure a little. A C-section requires a massive spinal injection to numb you from the belly down during surgery. This will leave your legs temporarily paralyzed but doesn’t mean you won’t feel your baby being born, because you will. Most people feel intense tugging and pushing as the baby is eased out of their abdomen. During the birth of my firstborn, I felt everything – from the first slice of the knife to the surgeon moving my intestines aside to get the baby out. Nothing screams ‘birth chic’ quite like your husband seeing a stranger hold your internal organs.
The surgical garments and cap you are required to wear during surgery will not be designed by Karl Lagerfeld, or by anyone remotely concerned about style – and that’s okay, because your newborn child (the reason you’re there) won’t be judging your sartorial style.
Certainly, at some point during this entirely frivolous procedure, you’ll want to swap the surgical garments for designer après ski wear, because operating rooms are cold. So cold, in fact, you wouldn’t raise a perfectly groomed eyebrow if a polar bear in a surgical mask was standing next to you. The only logical reason I can come up with for the deep-freeze temperature is that abdominal surgery is so sophisticated, the nurses like to keep a few bottles of champagne chilled for the occasion.
After your baby is born, they won’t call in a seamstress to sew you up – instead, they will put you back together with staples and glue. It will leave a fairly major scar. This will fade over time, but it’s a keeper. You may like to note that the area around your scar will remain numb to the touch for a while. In my case, ‘a while’ means five years and counting.
Along with a gorgeous, healthy newborn baby, you will receive some other special goodies in your post-partum gift bag. These will include a catheter, to be inserted up your hoo-ha for at least 24 hours. There may also be laxatives, as you won’t be able to poop for days.
Once the epidural wears off, you will suffer severe abdominal pain unless you take copious quantities of drugs. If you’re really lucky, you may also get violent headaches that require an epidural blood patch; this is administered via another massive needle inserted into your spine. It’s at this point that so-called “posh pushers” sit back smugly and think to themselves “Those vaginal birthers sure are missing out” as their butlers (cunningly disguised as nurses) deliver another tray of meds.
Just like with vaginal delivery, there will be post-partum bleeding – but don’t worry, it will only last about six weeks. Coincidentally, this is about the same period it will take for you to be able to laugh, sit up or lay down without abdominal pain. Easy peasy!
Sadly, my colleague seems to have signed up for mommy wars before she’s even delivered her first, so I politely suggested to her that rather than worrying about the way babies come into this world, she should start worrying about the way they are raised in it. It would certainly be a shame for her baby to grow up as judgmental of other women as she is.
Images via tumblr.com and boyeatsworld.com.au.
Comment: What has another woman judged you about?
Aleney is a travel, food and parenting writer. When she’s not treading on Lego or being forced to watch Frozen on loop, the mother of two can be found hauling her ravenous offspring around the globe. Follow Aleney on Twitter and Facebook.