Well, it looks like we’re doing this, folks: I’m having an elective c-section.
(Or that’s the plan, anyway: but more on that later…)
Last week I had an appointment with my doctor, at which I signed the consent forms: which means that, at some point within the next few weeks, I’ll get a letter in the mail giving me the date of my baby’s birthday – how crazy is that?
Although I know I’ve made the right decision, though, I can’t claim it was an easy one: far from it, in fact. If you read my last post on this subject, you’ll know that I was really torn on what to do, here, with both options (elective c-section and vaginal birth) seeming equally terrifying to me. Honestly, they both still DO. I really want to stress here that, although I think a planned c-section is probably going to be the best option for me, that doesn’t mean that it’s a particularly attractive option: I mean, all things considered, I’d ideally rather NOT have to be cut open on an operating table, you know? Still, though, I’m going ahead, with the full support of my doctor and counsellor, for the simple reason that, with two terrifying options to choose from, this is the one that terrifies me the least – purely because it offers the least number of unknowns.
With an elective c-section, I’ll be given a day and time to turn up at the hospital, at which point I know exactly what will happen to me. When I visited the labour ward two weeks ago, the nurse there walked me through – literally – the entire process, right down to showing me the room I’d most likely be waiting in before the surgery, and the route I’d take to the theatre. The word she used most often in describing the whole thing was “calm” – and that’s a word I’ve seen come up again and again in the various stories I’ve read (and I’ve read a LOT) about elective c-sections. I like calm. Calm is good. And while I realise that vaginal births can also be calm, I think the complete uncertainty of what was about to happen would be really, really hard for me to deal with. And the fact is, while there are obviously risks associated with c-sections – and I’ve gone through every single one of them in very great detail – there are risks associated with vaginal births, too. That’s something the NHS DON’T always tell you.
When I had my first meeting to discuss the possibility of an elective c-section, I was given a long list of risk associated with the surgery, but absolutely none of the risks of vaginal birth. I had to research those myself, in order to compare the two: a task made significantly harder by the fact that the statistics on cesarean sections include ALL cesarean sections – so, emergency c-sections carried out under general anaesthetic, and with various complicating factors, are lumped in with elective c-sections, which are, broadly speaking, much less risky than those carried out as emergencies. The risks of vaginal birth, meanwhile, include tearing, haemorrhaging and urinary incontinence, and many of those risks increase with age: so, for someone like myself, who’s of what the NHS charmingly refer to as “advanced maternal age”, and suffering from extreme levels of health anxiety/tokophobia, it’s not necessarily true that a vaginal birth will always be the best or safest option.
It IS, however, true to say that my age makes it more likely that I’d end up needing a c-section regardless of whether I want one or not. That being the case, and given my extreme phobia of general anaesthetic, I think I’d choose the planned c-section over the emergency one any day. So I did. And although the various hospital staff members who’ve been dealing with me didn’t say anything to encourage me to go ahead with it, once I told them my mind was made up, they did tell me they thought I’d made the right decision, given my age and anxiety issues.
Of course, all of this could be purely academic. Although I’ll be scheduled in for an elective c-section some time at the end of December (they’re normally done a week before your due date), the baby himself obviously won’t know that, so there’s every chance that he could come early, and, if he does, that could end up being a whole different, er, birth game. If I were to go into labour naturally, I COULD still have a c-section, but it’ll depend on a number of different factors, including what stage of pregnancy I’m at, and how quickly labour is progressing. If it were to happen very fast – which is unlikely for a first baby, but could still happen – and I rocked up at the hospital in advanced labour, I’d be advised to try for a vaginal birth, and I’m prepared to go along with that, given that the risks associated with a c-section at that stage would be higher.
So, although an elective c-section is my preference, I’m not going to insist on having one under ANY circumstance and I’m prepared for the possibility of it not happening, too. Ultimately, when it comes to childbirth, there are really no guarantees: which is something I’m going to have to spend the next few weeks coming to terms with.
In closing this post, I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to comment on my last one on this subject, or to get in touch by email or direct message. I had such a huge response to that post that I wasn’t able to respond to every single comment, but I did read them all, and truly appreciated all of your different stories and advice. More than anything, though, I was really encouraged by the support I got from all of you: I was really scared to publish that post, because I know people can be very judgemental about women who decide to go down this route (Terry actually didn’t think I should discuss this on the blog, because he was so worried about the potential backlash, and how it might affect me), but out of well over 100 comments, only one was even remotely judgemental – which is pretty good going, really, and a useful reminder that the internet can be a supportive place, as well as a scary one.
I’m really hoping this post will be met with the same kind of support, and that people will understand that, while this obviously wouldn’t be everyone’s choice, it’s the one I – and the professionals I’ve spoken to about it – feel will be best for me under the circumstances: which is all anyone can really ask for, isn’t it?
So, one way or another, I’m going to be having this baby NEXT MONTH, people: how trippy is THAT?
P.S. I’m hoping this goes without saying for my regular readers, but if you’re new, there’s some background on my health anxiety here, and while I welcome your comments, I’d like to respectfully ask you to please not post scare stories about either type of birth. As I said above, even if I changed my mind right now and decided to try for a vaginal birth instead, I could still end up having to have a c-section regardless, as could any of the other pregnant women who might read this post, so scare stories will only upset me now, without actually helping. I’d also just like to add – and, again, I hope this goes without saying – that I’ve thoroughly researched both types of birth (The doctor even wrote in my medical notes that I was, “Very well informed,” which made me feel oddly smug, as it’s not often someone says THAT about me!), so I’m not going into this without knowing the facts, or on a whim. Thanks so much for understanding!