My name is Christy and I have had two caesareans.
Hardly a dramatic statement, is it?
Unfortunately, there is a lot of stigma and judgement around the way babies enter this world, and many mums who have had a c-section feel some kind of guilt or disappointment.
Most would say that a caesarean isn't the way they wanted their baby to enter this world, but sometimes we don't get to choose, and we just need to deliver our precious bundles in the safest way possible. I personally wasn't about to argue with the doctor who told me that my baby's heart rate was dropping and that she needed to be delivered right away.
That said, a caesarean was always my worst case scenario when thinking about my first labour. But I've learnt a lot since then, so I want to dispel some myths surrounding c-sections.
Here are 9 things I wish I had known before I had my caesareans:
1. I was able to breastfeed and bond easily with my babies - contrary to opinions that say if you don't have skin-on-skin contact immediately after birth you will struggle. It's not like that for everyone.
2. An emergency caesarean doesn't always mean you will be knocked out and not see your baby for hours. I was awake the entire procedure, and I was then able to hold my babies almost immediately before feeding within an hour of their birth.
3. There is really no need to feel guilty. My baby was delivered safely and quickly and I am so grateful to have been in an environment that ensured both of our survival. Had I been away from a hospital it very easily could have be a different story for one or both of us.
4. My second c-section was elective, and I made that decision jointly with my husband for many personal reasons. Our choice, your choice. Just get that baby here safely, look at your options and advice from the medical professionals, and do what is best for you and your family.
5. I do personally know women who have successfully delivered vaginally after a caesarean (VBAC) - it's not impossible in many circumstances. If you feel strongly about it then talk to your doctor or obstetrician. Again, it's your choice.
6. My elective c-section was scarier for me than the emergency one. I was so out of it with my first baby, in so much pain from my contractions, that I barely knew what was going on. With the elective surgery, I knew it was coming and what the recovery would be like - and that made me really nervous. It turns out that elective caesars don't make it easier on you, emotionally speaking.
7. Speaking of which: c-sections are not the easy way out. They are very painful and recovery is long - particularly if you have a toddler to care for while you're trying to take it easy. It will be weeks before you can bend over or lift things, and driving is off limits for at least five weeks. If you know in advance that you will be having a caesarean, it is a good idea to plan for these limitations if you can.
8. Unfortunately, you may encounter people who will tell you that you haven't experienced "real" birth. I had a very helpful doctor tell me this only hours after my emergency c-section, and many mothers have made similar comments to me over the years. But just because a baby is delivered in a theatre and through a surgical procedure does not take away from the fact that you grew and birthed your baby. Never, ever let anyone make you believe otherwise. Why is birth a competition? Surely we are all winners - we created a human!
9. If your birth doesn't/didn't go to plan and you feel confused, unhappy or guilty about the way things turned out, you can speak to your obstetrician, GP or midwife and ask them to explain what happened and why you had a c-section. It is likely your doctor will talk you through it post-birth but, if you are anything like me, you'll be on pain killers and exhausted from figuring out how to look after a tiny human so it probably won't register. Ask at any time, as there will be record of your birth and labour, and it can help you process what happened.
Regardless of your labour and birth experience, if you feel disconnected to your baby, or that you are feeling a high level of anxiety or feelings of sadness, please seek advice from a health professional. There's absolutely no shame in getting help at any time.
Christy is a Canberra-based professional maternity and night nanny, and a mother of two. You can connect with her at Sweet Baby Daze.