C-SECTION WAS MY CHOICE
It’s not always easy deciding on how you’d like to give birth. Should you opt for an elective caesarean or a natural birth? Lisa Lazarus spills the beans on her decision to go the elective route, and what the recovery was really like…
THERE I WAS
in my hospital gown on the operating table, the anaesthetist chatting away to me, holding up photographs of his children, the little boy dressed as Superman, the girl with her blonde bob. I was paralysed from the waist down. The doctors had put up a screen, so neither my husband nor I could see what was happening down below. A few short minutes later, the doctor lifted my baby high into the air – my son, dark-haired, strong, perfectly formed and beautiful. Perhaps that moment summed it up best of all: the miracle of birth, intertwined with the day-to-day chatter of doctors performing a quick medical procedure. Making the decision to submit to voluntary major abdominal surgery wasn’t easy. Through my pregnancy I vacillated: natural birth or an elective caesarean (a C-section upon request)? I trawled the internet for ages, reading about episiotomies, and the after-pain of a C-section. I focused exclusively – and, in retrospect, incorrectly – on the birth, rather than on what comes afterwards.
COMING TO A DECISION
A few weeks before the due date, when I was still undecided, the obstetrician confirmed my baby was lying posterior (back of his head towards my spine). Unless he turned, which many babies do during labour, I was in for a difficult time. Labours of this kind are known to be very painful, often ending in an emergency C-section. When I was asked why I chose a C-section – and people do think it’s their business how your baby was born – I used to say it was because of my baby’s posterior position. This “medical reason” seemed to satisfy people, but, honestly, that was only part of the truth. At heart I was scared of a natural birth. I’m scared of pain. I was scared, too, of potentially damaging my vagina, or of becoming incontinent. And what about the unknowns of a natural birth – would the contractions last for hours, be unbearable, and how would it feel to push out something of that size? Initially, I felt ashamed about my decision – that I’d let down my baby or not been “strong woman” enough to face the birth. Now, 10 years later (I had an elective C-section for my second child as well), it seems utterly superfluous to the process of parenting. Getting the baby out is a means to an end, and certainly not the end itself.
THE EXPERIENCE OF A C-SECTION
The operation was in some ways easier and in some ways more difficult than I had expected. The speed of delivery is overwhelming: from the initial injections to seeing your baby takes about as much time as popping down to the café – less than 20 minutes. Stitching you back together does last somewhat longer. My operation didn’t hurt at all; in fact, the anaesthetic made me feel warm and euphoric. The sorest part was the drip inserted pre-op. Payback time came afterwards – not so much with my first baby but certainly with my second one. Day two post-op was the hardest as movement tugged viciously on the cut (which is on my pubic hair area and is not visible) and I experienced horrible burning. It would have been more difficult without the drugs. You do get drugs to dull the worst of the pain, but remember, you’re not able just to rest freely. You have all the responsibilities of learning to breastfeed, if you’re choosing that, and looking after a helpless infant. Looking back, am I happy I chose this route? Emphatically, yes. It’s unrealistic to expect birth to be easy; birth and its aftermath are struggle and sweat (and of course, joy). An elective C-section allows you to retain some control, perhaps illusory, over the whole process.