Thursday, May 16, 2013

A controversial decision.

There is something I would like to confess. To just throw out there in the hope of diminishing the power it holds over me.

I want to have a caesarian, and if all goes to plan and nobody makes a sudden early appearance, I will. There is no medical reason for me to have a caesarian, and so I'm painfully aware of what this might look like, and the judgements that people might make. 

This hasn't been a quick decision to come to, and although I feel happy to have made it, I still feel ashamed. Which is a shame. It's difficult to not get defensive about why I have made this decision, and it is very tempting to use last year's surgery as an easy way out of a difficult conversation. I want to understand more about why I'm ashamed, and to explore it a bit.

I know loads of people who have had children, and none of them chose to have a caesarian. I am full of admiration for them. A high proportion of those I know did actually end up having sections, as an emergency measure in the late stages of labour in order to save either the mother or the baby's life. I am the first person I know to choose to have an elective caesarian.

A few different things contributed to this decision. 

Past experience of childbirth.
I am very close to my sister and was there for the births of her two daughters. Both were traumatic, and ended in emergency sections, for different reasons. The second in particular was touch and go, with both their lives being in quite some danger. I know this has no bearing on how childbirth would be for me, we have different body shapes (people have been known to mention my "child bearing hips", much to my delight) and we are different people. 
What happened to my sister is unlikely to happen to me. But it isn't just my sister, it's loads of people. I don't actually know one person who's giving birth experience wasn't traumatic. This isn't a good thing in my book, especially because...

I'm a chicken.
I have always been afraid of pain, and childbirth is well known to be painful. Obviously I realise that people have been doing it for ever. It's a natural process that the body is perfectly designed to manage. Pain relief or no pain relief, this is arguably what I'm here for. But I really don't want to do it. Just thinking about it makes me really anxious. 
I know I could do it if I had to, last year taught me that. But if there is an alternative then I'd like to take it. Last year there was no alternative, and that was a horrible feeling. I had to be brave and I had to agree to my skull being opened. There wasn't another option. 
Clearly, a caesarian will hardly be pain free, but it's a pain that can be anticipated and understood. And prepared for. 

I want to know what to prepare for.
Childbirth is unpredictable. And unknown things happen. I don't know where to start in preparing myself for it, or for any of the things that can go wrong. I feel that choosing to have a caesarian from the outset means taking control. I can prepare for the operation and can look into exactly what it entails and how to best be ready for it, and best recover from it. 
An added benefit is that I'll know when it will be in advance, so we can make sure we're ready for whoever is going to be joining our family, and I can plan properly. We also won't have lost a night's (or two nights') sleep labouring. Although I reckon maybe lost to nerves instead. 

Additional bonus things.
I really don't like the idea of tearing. There, I said it. Or incontinence.

Having made the decision, and being whole heartedly supported by Olly (the only person who's opinion really mattered to me - it's his baby too), I immediately felt a whole weight of anxiety lift. There was a big black cloud over the pregnancy that I wasn't quite allowing myself to think about, and now it's gone.

I believe that it is better for the baby if I am less anxious during pregnancy and this decision has certainly achieved that. If he arrives unexpectedly then I will obviously cope. But by then I will have progressed through the majority of the pregnancy anxiety free, and the benefit from that will have already been banked.

I haven't really spoken about the risks here, but have gone through them with my midwife and various consultants. I'm sure I will go through it all again with them before we set a date. If there was a clear indicator that a caesarian would be worse for the baby, then this would be an entirely different matter.

I still feel like I'm being defensive about it, having just reread what I've written. It's a difficult subject that many people have strong opinions on. Having said that, everyone I have spoken to so far has been really supportive, so I don't quite understand why I'm so defensive. Maybe it's the selfishness of the decision - am I doing this for me, or for the baby? Realistically, I am the one benefiting.

Being honest, I would have always wanted to have a caesarian, but before brain surgery I wouldn't have had the conviction to ask for one. I'd have felt like I had no right to take the "easy" option. Now though, I'm less afraid of what people think (although clearly still bothered by it, just not enough to change my mind).

I have new priorities now. I am going to do what I think is right for me, and our family, based on our situation.