The Reality of the Emergency C Section

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If you haven’t read this article in the Independent yet and haven’t seen the photo doing the rounds on pretty much every social platform and every parenting community, then I would encourage you to take a look and go and read back story.

emergency c section photo

It’s a beautiful photo, I’m sure you will agree. The backstory is equally inspiring and resonates with me in many ways.

After a complicated pregnancy that was induced at 36 weeks (you can read more about that here), I was so ready to have my baby. I was sick of hospitals and I was sick of hospital appointments and I was sick of the unending worry that comes with pregnancy complications.

Sick. Sick. Sick.

And after a 3 day period during which I was induced and then had to sit and wait for a labour room, when they finally knocked on the door of my room to tell me they were ready to take me down I was relieved.

This part, at least, could go to plan. Surely?

My waters were broken and I was hooked up to the drip and labour progressed relatively quickly. But after an epidural failure, a host of other complications I won’t go into here and 10 hours or so, it was decided that my son’s heart rate was dropping to a rate at which it was no longer safe to proceed with a natural labour.

The Relief.

My first instinct was relief. Relief that he would be here soon, that the pain would be over soon and that I would have him in my arms. And indeed, the emergency section went incredibly well and was over very quickly.

The Disappointment.

It was at that point I really began to feel less relieved and more disappointed. Not with him. He was (and is) perfection in a bundle. But with myself, for not just being able to deliver him naturally in a way that we are designed to be able to do by nature.

The “OMG he’s perfect.”

It was only the next morning (and I know how lucky I am to have come around to that way of thinking so quickly) that my mindset changed. As the drugs wore off and the reality of finally having Oliver here with me set in, the emergency c section became a secondary concern. A painful one, at that time! But secondary.

After all, this wasn’t about me. It was about him. It was about getting him out alive and well and as safely as possible.

And it worked. Despite being a little early, he needed no neo natal care. He was a low birth weight, his body temperature was a little low and his blood sugar was low.

But he was fine. And those little minor problems were quickly overcome.

And he was perfect. He was tiny – certainly the smallest baby I’ve ever held. And he had these big eyes that would open from time to time just to check out who was around. His hair was almost jet black and there was loads of it and his top lip curled upwards when he wanted something.

Suddenly the “how,” stopped mattering. All that mattered was the “what.” My son.

I know some women who’ve had unplanned emergency sections and who, for months, are unable to feel ok about it. Not just because of the permanent physical reminder in the form of a scar or because of the weeks of pain in recovery, but because they feel like they failed in some way in bringing their baby into the world.

I was lucky. Within 24 hours, the “how,” of my birth experience was over for me emotionally and it was all about our baby and our future.

Perhaps, in part, my ability to move on from it quickly was the complicated pregnancy. We had experienced enough during the 8 months I was pregnant to know not to expect anything to go to plan. So we did not make a birth plan. I’d tried to adopt an “anything could happen,” mentality.

And I’ll say it again – I was lucky.

The photograph doing the rounds this week is stunning and i’m glad it’s made emergency c sections a talking point. Because a medical intervention of any kind isn’t a failure when it helps to deliver your baby safely and soundly. And I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

The Reality of the Emergency C Section

The reality is that nobody chooses to have an emergency C section. Nobody chooses to abort their labour and be dragged off down to surgery in a state of sheer panic that something might be wrong with their baby.

The reality is that nobody chooses the disappointment that often accompanies this sort of birth and women who end up having an emergency section did not choose the severe abdominal pain and crippling recovery period while trying to care for a newborn baby.

The reality is that nobody can fully control how they feel about it either. Some women will shake it off quickly. Others will feel disappointed for months.

The reality is that the emergency C section birth may well feel completely unfair, as though it robbed you of your natural birth.

But for those of us fortunate enough to come out the other side of it with healthy babies, our reality is that this painful, agonising, crippling, disappointing medical intervention may well have saved our babies’ lives.

Isn’t medicine marvellous?


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