The right to choose?

Now after reading this don't get all umpty with me because this is my opinion. I'm not saying it should be the law. It's just what I think...

I'm finding it hard to understand why a woman would choose to have a caesarean section if she had the choice between that and a safe natural birth.

Speaking from (a horrendous) experience it isn't something that I can get my head around.

Shall I tell you about my experience of having a c-section? It isn't pleasant so if you don't want to know then stop reading.

After resting in bed for a few hours after having Lilian I was told that after having the catheter taken out I'd need to take a trip to the loo. I knew the wound would be covered over with a very thick pad but I wasn't expecting to find my pelvis quite so swollen. The term 'kicked in the cunt' sprung to mind. My stomach had shrunk (although it was delightfully saggy) and my pelvis was sticking out beyond belief. Quite a shock.

When I left the hospital a few days later with a slightly thinner dressing on the wound, my pelvis was still swollen. It made me feel sick when I caught a glimpse. It was a struggle to walk and almost impossible to get in to the car, let alone hold my own child. My legs and ankles resembled those of a Buddha. The pain, indescribable. No, not even the strongest painkillers helped.

The days that followed were difficult. I had to put a cushion over the area when I held Lilian and fed her. Rocking her to sleep was out of the question. Climbing the stairs took forever and I couldn't laugh even if I wanted to. Not only was I in a tremendous amount of pain, laughing surely would have caused my stitches to burst. As would coughing.

It got easier though. After about three weeks. And then I got an infection. It wasn't pleasant and I was still in a lot of pain.

Weeks went by and I expected to get some feeling back in my stomach but it was still completely numb.

It's seven months since I had Lil. I still have hardly any feeling in my stomach (my aunt had a caesarean 22 years ago and she still has no feeling in hers - such an odd sensation) my scar is still red and there are days when it hurts. Mainly when I'm sick, tired or stressed. Sometimes when I find myself longing to be pregnant again.

I never breastfed my daughter. I couldn't take any more pain after the c section (hearing that breastfeeding was sometimes painful). I told the health visitor that if I'd have had a natural birth I was positive that I would have breastfed. This upsets me. When I was pregnant I was adamant I wouldn't breastfeed. I wanted my husband to share the feeds with me. After having Lilian I really wanted to, it was just impossible for me to go through any more pain

I have nightmares about the whole labour experience (but mainly about the operation). What some people don't realise is that a caesarean section is major abominable surgery. It's not just a quick operation, in and out in a day. I laid on the operating table wondering if I was going to die (a little dramatic, just don't google it like I did...) or need a blood transfusion or if something would go wrong and I'd have to have a hysterectomy.

I understand that if you choose to have this operation, it's probably under calmer circumstances. But when the doctor is sitting next to you reading out the risks of the operation, telling you that worse case scenario you or the baby could die (and in turn watching your husband breakdown in the corner) makes me shudder. Why would you choose to hear those words?

And why choose to be in that pain afterwards? Yes alright, you might 'rip like a zipper' after doing it the natural way or 'one hole becomes two' (as my best friend put it) but you will heal. I'll always be reminded of my nightmare when I look down. It doesn't look like it's healing to me even though I was assured it is. I'm not saying that having a natural birth is any less painful than a c-section, I'm saying I don't understand why a woman would choose to go down a path that ensures she will be in agony for weeks afterwards.

I'd rather sit on a rubber ring for eight weeks than choose to have that operation and deal with the aftermath.

Every case is different, I know. Natural births carry their risks. They can go wrong, can bring immense pain, your two holes could well become one. I have spoken to many women that have had awful experiences doing it naturally. I just don't know why any woman would choose to go down the caesarean route if they didn't have to. Many women who have had a c-section have had good experiences. But not one woman I have spoken to that has had the operation said they'd choose to have it.

Yes every woman has a right to choose if that's what she wants to. But if I could have had a natural birth I would have embraced it. It's what our body was created for. I can't bring myself to say 'I gave birth' because I didn't. She was cut out of me. I feel cheated, I wanted that experience. To say that the last nine months of hell were worth every second because my body is amazing and I just pushed out a 7.5lb baby (of course they were worth it but, you know...)

It would be great to know how a lot of other women feel about this. No opinion is right or wrong, in my opinion. Everyone has their reasons behind it.

And that was mine.


  1. This is so interesting Charlotte, thank you for posting. I've been thinking about this a lot.

    I had a hideous, horrendous, awful, long labour followed by a caesarean (and thats the highly censored version!) For me the labour was so, so traumatic that the caesarean was blissful relief. I was desperate for a natural birth - but for many reasons this didn't happen and an emergency section was called for, in our case to save the life of Joni.

    I will always, always want people to have a natural experience but I will always, always choose a caesarean if I have any more babies.

    However, my recovery from the operation doesn't sound as bad as yours was. And it does frighten me that I might have a different experience of recovery next time.

    And you are so right, this is such an emotive subject because everyone has an incredibly personal reason why they have their opinion.

  2. What an experience. I had a forceps delivery, three blood transfusions and couldn't walk properly for weeks and I still wouldn't choose to have a cesarean. I hope the unhappiness around the birth passes for you soon.x

  3. If I were able to choose how my labour was going to go, I would choose the discomfort of natural tears over medical intervention any day. I approached my labour with a thoroughly unresearched attitude of 'I'll take all the pain relief going if I need it, and if it ends with a c-section then so be it. Luckily, i was able to have a problem free natural birth, so i wasn't given cause to regret my complete lack of research and preparation. Reading birth stories like yours and gathering more information about labour and birth during the year since having my son, I know that if there ever is a 'next time' I will be trying to get through labour with as little medical intervention as possible... I can only hope!

  4. I have to go against the grain - I had a planned C section (E was breech and they wouldn't turn her, let alone try for a natural birth). It was done by lovely doctors who talked me through the whole procedureas they were doing it and I recovered in my own room with an en suite. My wound was fixed with staples which I was very unsure of but they were fine - I was driving after 1.5 weeks and my wound was really not very painful. I had more pain with keyhole surgery in my abdomen 5 years ago.

    Saying all that, I was really really disappointed to not give birth naturally. It's something I prepared for 9 months for and there were lots of tears when I was told it'd be a C. I'm sure I had bonding issues because the birth didn't go the way I wanted and I will definitely be trying for a vaginal birth next time. I think I was supremely lucky in the care I had when E was born. The hospital was really modern and well staffed and they had the facilities so I could recover in comfort.

    We're under a different PCT now and the hospital is nowhere near as luxurious, I have even thought about home birth. If I had to have a C section I'd recover on a ward rather than in a private room. I want to have a birth that is not medicalised (I hope!) so I can get home with my baby as soon as possible. I really really want to experience 'birth'. x

  5. Despite the fact that I haven't had a child of my own yet, (which probably makes me unqualified to even have an opinion on the subject)I have many friends who have given birth, and those who have had a natural birth seem to be, on the whole, more happy about their child-birthing experiences than those who have had C-Sections. I hear it all the time, my friends say "as soon as he was out, I forgot all about the pain of the birth - it was so worth it" but for those like you, Charlotte who've had to have invasive surgery, that moment when your child is presented to you is often tainted by the effects of strong pain killers and anaesthetic, followed by an uncomfortable half an hour in surgery being stitched back together before you can even contemplate holding your newborn infant, by which time the drugs may have worn off, leaving you feeling lethargic, emotional and nauseated. Not the best way to start your journey into motherhood :(

    I think most women who "choose" a C-Section are doing it for health reasons, either for the baby or for themselves. My mother-in-law works in a maternity ward, and she assured me that no woman will be offered a C-Section on the NHS without a very good health-related reason. (the faff about a woman being "too petite" to push is apparently a myth, unless the kid is abnormally large.) A natural vaginal childbirth costs the NHS about £1,300 whereas a C-Section costs £2,400. It's all about saving money with the NHS. But even in private hospitals (where I have worked in the past and can assure you, it's all about making the most money) women are still not encouraged to have a C-Section unless the birth poses a risk to the child or mother. Like you said, it's just too risky, and why put yourself in that position unnecessarily?

    I guess it's a tough issue for you, Charlotte, because you had the decision taken away from you. And because you had such a rough time during and after your surgery. I have a friend who has had a similar experience to you and it put her off the idea of having any more children for 4 years. (she eventually got over her fear and went on to have her second child, vaginally. Yay!)

    I am desperate to become a mother. Of all the things I want to achieve in my life, being a Mum is my number 1 priority. And for me, pushing a child out of my body and 'labouring' through the birth is part of the process of giving life. My boyfriend cannot understand me when I say I am looking forward to giving birth - I cannot explain it myself. Without being able to empathise with you, I can certainly understand how you feel cheated out of the birthing process. But the most important thing (and really the only important thing) is that you and Lil are both healthy and safe. If having all that drama during and after her arrival was enough to ensure her safety, then I am sure it was all worth it. :)