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…

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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.


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 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.

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