Rebecca shares her positive birth story of wanting to have an elective caesarian and how healthcare staff supported her with this decision.
Where & how was your baby born? Was it as you expected and did you have any support / tools?
My baby was born in London at the end of November by way of elective c-section. It was undoubtedly the childbirth experience that I was most familiar with; my mum had had three (my older brother was breech), my sister had one because she had a low-lying placenta, my sister-in-law had an emergency one because her baby’s heart rate was dropping, not to mention several of my friends who had to have one because of various emergencies. Having said that, I cannot tell how much I was influenced by this familiarity given my overwhelming fear of pregnancy and childbirth (tokophobia). I always knew I wanted a c-section and never had a desire to have a vaginal birth.
When I spoke to the midwife on our first call, I mentioned this fear and she referred me to the consultant midwife and the perinatal mental health team. Several weeks later I spoke to the consultant midwife who talked me through the risks of a c-section. Had we met in person she would have been able to tell I was getting upset at the thought of the procedures and risks etc, but due to the pandemic we had to talk on the phone and she didn’t know until the end that I had begun to cry. I very much felt between a rock and a hard place – I wanted to do the ‘right’ thing for the baby, but also what I was capable of. In the end she referred me to the obstetrician who said I should get in touch again when I was a bit further along with my pregnancy (I think I was about 22 weeks when I spoke to them). I was also contacted by the perinatal mental health team, and spoke to counsellor with them several times during the course of my pregnancy and afterwards. I think their role was to assess how much support I would need in the run up to the birth, and afterwards. It was a very positive experience to speak to her when I did, she assured me that there was nothing wrong with me etc. I was impressed that the NHS referral to this service was so quick. On reflection, my only frustration or worry at this time was that it appeared to me as if a c-section was up to someone else – but actually I do understand that I didn’t make it clear that I wanted it until a bit later. I had said ‘I am worried about natural childbirth’ rather than ‘I know that I definitely want a c-section’ which they were respecting.
In terms of the procedure itself, it was a positive experience. I read that there would be ‘a bit of tugging and pulling’ and there was definitely more than a bit!! But it didn’t matter because I had trust in the doctors – they had all introduced themselves and the obstetrician had spoken to me in the morning. It really helped that my midwife and I had gone through step by step what would happen in the morning when I got the hospital, and what would happen when the baby was out. Recovery was faster than I thought it would be (up and about the next day rather than week or so I had read about).
What are your top tips for others going through birth?
- Be clear about what you want if you know you want it, it saves time and worry. (I made this mistake again when asked if I wanted to breastfeed – I said ‘I’d like to try’ rather than ‘I’d like to try but I want support with ALL the options’. It led to a great deal of stress and guilt when I felt pressure from nurses over breastfeeding, but actually they were only responding to what I had said).
- Try not to be sucked into the idea that the type of birth you have relates to your attitude/ability/deserving to be a mother. I felt apologetic about saying I wanted a c-section, or that I’d had one. It flew in the face of the idea that somehow childbirth is something to ‘be survived’ or something ‘to go through’ and therefore makes you a more deserving mum. Now I’m proud to say it – I knew what was best for me and baby and I got it.
What aspects of your journey are you most proud of and / or did you enjoy?
I’m enjoying my baby more than I thought I would/could! A proud workaholic, I thought I would want to go back to it fairly soon, but I don’t at all! It’s also quite fun being pregnant (albeit without including all the discomfort and pain!) it’s an amazing experience and I’m very lucky to have been able to.
If you could do anything differently what would it be?
As mentioned, I would be much clearer about what I wanted from the start. I didn’t want to annoy/upset nurses and doctors, but actually I was just being unclear.
What helped you?
I asked to see the same midwife each appointment and that REALLY helped. She actually was there at the birth on her very last day of work as a midwife! Asking a million questions of my midwife, and being very clear with her that I was uncomfortable with lots of the talk/knowledge of labour and pregnancy. It meant that she understood me and we developed a positive relationship.