Living with failure
I shall never know whether within such a peaceful, familiar environment we would ever have achieved a natural birth; I can only say the chances would have been much higher. Instead, I missed the birth of my son and the first hours of his life. I still carry within me unresolved birth trauma, which at unguarded moments suddenly pulls at my heart strings, with it a feeling of inadequacy when I hear of natural birth or see it on the TV.
I live with this failure, not helped by some women who believe you cannot truly bond with your baby if you have had a caesarean. I defy this belief in the strongest possible terms; it is narrow-minded, judgemental, cruel and totally untrue. From the moment I saw my child I loved him unconditionally without end, our bonding blossoming. I know this to be the case of many other women too. Admittedly, caesareans can impact hugely on bonding and postnatal recovery, but they don’t per se, or habitually. To write off all women who have had caesareans is wrong, even more so in an age when caesarean rates are increasing.
Perhaps it is this extreme belief that natural birth is the only way which sets so many women up for massive disappointment and failure, like it did me. Just like failure to breastfeed can. Women need to be made aware that having a caesarean is a real possibility, so they can plan and prepare adequately for this, emotionally and physically. Also, hospitals should make caesarean births far more mother-and-child friendly than they are, allowing the experience to be as natural as possible within the confines of the artificial environment of theatre. For instance, mother’s should be allowed to hold their baby skin-to-skin as soon as possible.
I was not made aware of the possibility that I may have a caesarean. I wrongly believed if I was physically and emotionally fit I would automatically give birth naturally, because it was what I wanted. But giving birth is not like choosing between a selection of breakfast cereals in the supermarket. As modern Western women most of us we have control and choice over nearly every aspect of our lives, but not when it comes to childbirth. To some extent we are fed an illusion of choice. We are at the mercy of the medical establishment and we are in their hands.
However, we can take control; we can affirm our right to control of our own bodies. What we need is a strong sense of purpose and vision in what we desire for our labour. We also need to be pro-active, strong, informed and ready for the fight. If one occurs we must hold onto our convictions, not feel disempowered by the authority of the medical establishment. We need to research widely on this subject, to equip us with the knowledge which will educate us about what we are capable of as birthing women. Lastly, we must know our rights, so we can say no if we choose.
An enriching experience
Everything happens for a reason. Suffering is a great teacher. This whole experience has enriched me beyond words. Most importantly, it gave me my son, albeit in a way I never would have chosen. It has also lent me new eyes to see life from a different angle, new legs to walk down a different, alternative path, one I never imagined or knew existed. It has provided me a whole host of new experiences I am deeply grateful for. The opportunity to write this, to research birth and labour, a vast topic with wisdom found in the most unlikely of places, the trigger to my parenting journey along continuum, attachment lines, to question accepted practice and to look for alternatives.
So in the future, with baby number two, (I do not take having another child for granted, this is our hope) I plan to enter this new phase with my eyes wide open, ready to really take control of my body, my baby and our birthing experience. I feel empowered to act in the way I know is right for me and my child. Yet this is the future, we shall see, it is yet to be made…
About Caroline Jane Cole
I am a full-time Mum to Ewan James, born in June 2010. When I get chance, I write on natural parenting issues, on topics including sustained breastfeeding, baby-wearing, bed-sharing, home-education and natural living, for parenting magazines and websites. I am an active member of La Leche League GB and a trained breastfeeding peer supporter. See my website; www.stoneageparenting.com.