This is a fairly difficult post for me to write. I have been thinking about writing about my decision to opt for a c-section for a while but for some reason I have put it off. I think I have been afraid of feeling judged or tempting raised brows from all the know-it-all, been-there-done-that types, which is ridiculous because for the most part, I simply do not care what people think. It was a decision I made for myself, my baby and my little family. My vagina (that's right - I said it!), my decision. End of. Or is it?
Those who know me will know that I am by large an open book. A sweary, sarky open book. I like to think that I am pretty liberal and there are not many topics of conversation that are off limits to me. I am a fairly confidant conversationalist, if the topic is something I have an educated opinion on. If not, I will either shut up and listen or switch off if I'm not interested. If something bothers me or I don't wish to discuss something personal, I have no qualms in politely steering the conversation in a different direction. However, whilst I was pregnant and the big scary subject of GIVING BIRTH (yes, it deserves shouty capitals) came up, I found myself squirming and feeling uncomfortable regarding my decision to opt for a c-section. This was largely because when people found out about it, they would then ask why and I would feel the need to staunchly defend my choice. I reiterate...MY CHOICE (thanks again, caps lock).
Let me say, I am not ashamed of my decision. I applaud those women who give birth naturally. I applaud those women who deliver with assistance. Or without assistance (ouch). I applaud those who have a water birth, or an emergency section, or a home birth, or a drug induced pink elephants on parade type birth. You are all beautiful and are real life super heroes. High fives all round. Mostly, people were surprised but supportive about my decision. Then there were those who were not so supportive. More 'quietly judgemental'. And let me tell you, they really pissed me off. Especially the relative strangers who decided to wag their horrid, judgy fingers at me and tell me that it wasn't the way nature intended. Or that I was a drain on the NHS if there was no 'medical' need. Or that in their day, they were lucky if they had an asprin etc. Then there were friends (and are still friends...just.) and even my own husband who (once) called me a wimp. "But thousands of women do it everyday"...Good for them I say. A hearty well done. It is not for me
Opting for a c-section is not an indication of a weak woman. Unfortunately, many see it that way. Now I am by no means at all suggesting that all the newly pregnant ladies should run off to their local surgeries demanding a c-section thinking that it is the easy option. Being sliced open is NO FUCKING JOKE. Let me tell you possums, it was the hardest, most painful, emotional, bizarre thing that I have ever been through. And totally worth it.
But why Katie, WHY?!
I have always wanted children. Not to the point where I would say it's all I've ever wanted. I enjoyed my life before my baby. The spontaneity, the cinema trips, the meals out, the times spent with friends, and the drinking, oh the drinking! Oh yeah, and conversations that didn't revolve around poo. The consistency, smell and volume are a daily topic of conversation in the Modern Military household. Sad twats.
Once we go married, the natural progression for us was to have a child. We had discussed it a few times before we tied the knot and we were both on the same page. The kid page. That's not to say that kids are the only option for newly weds. Parenthood is not for the faint of heart and I respect anyone who has the balls to go against the grain and raise a glass shouting/slurring "I choose life...my life!" Hurrah for you, you sexy bitches. We however, started trying almost immediately. Now, I say 'trying' and by that I mean we were 'doing it' *giggle* without protection, thinking that it would happen when it happened. And it did eventually. I was not checking my vaginal mucus every 4 seconds to test when I was ovulating. Forgive the visual. It took 16 months to get pregnant this way. The non-trying trying way. During these months I was harbouring a little secret. And upon discovering that I was in fact 'with child', it came to fruition and I had to admit it. I was TERRIFIED of giving birth. I was terrified of having no control. Not knowing when my little bundle of joy would decide to enter the world. What if hubby was at work? (bear in mind he works 4 hours away from home!) Too many questions to list. Now, I've seen One Born Every Minute (they don't even show you HALF of what giving birth involves...episiotomy anyone? Placenta delivery? Pah!) and I have read everything on the internet regarding birth. That's right, everything. Took a while I'll tell ya. Not only that, I have been present at a real live birth. Back in 2007, I was asked to be my best mate's birth partner and witnessed first hand the terrifying glory that is vaginal birth. I have been on the front line. That's right folks. I was not an uneducated, wide-eyed little girl stumbling around waving the caesarian flag.
I did my research. I didn't even know I had a choice to be honest. If you read my post about 'finding out', you will know that I was bloody scared. It was only when I was truly honest with myself that after a few short weeks of being pregnant, I had to speak to my doctor about it. I couldn't bear the thought of a vaginal birth. It kept me awake at night, I couldn't function properly when thinking about it and I had real anxiety. Not the kind of 'anxiety' that a Kardashian feels at the thought of wearing Primark. Real, full on, panic. I spoke to my sister at length about it. She is not only a Theatre Nurse in a busy hospital but she herself has had a c-section. She told me to talk to my community midwife about it and ask about an elective section. So I did, and we took it from there.
Every step of the way, I was told to think carefully about what was ultimately my decision. And boy did I do a lot of thinking. And what really was soul searching. I felt that I would be called a wuss. A charlatan. For Christ's sake Geppetto...I just want to be a real woman. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted the c-section. It ticked my boxes. The recovery time was not ideal by a long shot, but if it meant eliminating my encompassing fear which lets face it, throughout my pregnancy would have ultimately had an adverse effect on the little pipsqueak growing in my belly, I was all for it. I spoke to several different doctors and they all agreed that a c-section was an option for me. I really worried what people would think. Pregnancy does crazy things to you, and as a normally headstrung, grounded, rational woman (ahem, husband may disagree) I can tell you, those hormones fucked with me. Normally I would not give a flying fig what anyone thought but those hormones turned me into a quivering, fearful mess. I'm not going to sugarcoat it. I was right to be fearful (but not right to care!). Lots of people judged me. Twats.
I suffered many a snidey comment, especially from older women (even the nurse administering my cannula in the theatre had to put her two cents in). And you know what, really it's not their fault. People are always cynical, quick to judge, even jealous of the comforts afforded to their successors. But although I had the ultimate comfort (sort of) during the delivery of our baby, the aftermath of having MAJOR surgery was utterly horrendous. I don't want to alarm any of you who are about to undergo a section, nor do I want to put anyone off who is considering it as an option for their family. I am simply telling my story and trying to give it the gravitas it needs. "Having a section is a walk in the park" someone said to me. It is indeed a walk in the park. If the park is filled with quicksand. And full of rabid dogs. And on fire. The physical trauma really took it out of me, and I'm not going to lie, I wasn't expecting it to be as bad as it was. But with determination, a squishy new baby to look after and some liquid morphine, I got through those first three days. Not without plenty of tears and a near breakdown at 3am the second night. One day soon I will write my 'birth story', but not yet. The purpose of this post is to explain about my choice for a section. And to tell you that it is in no way, shape or form the 'easy' option.
I don't know where people get off asking you such personal questions about your body and your choices when you're pregnant. It's pretty strange really. Having questions fired at you, all indirectly involving your vagina. People feel a right to ask you all sorts of crap when your pregnant, and have the cheek to judge your parenting ability based on your answers. They are full of advice. You mustn't eat this, you mustn't drink that, you should take these supplements 'cos our Lisa did and she gave birth (naturally with no drugs) to a super baby with the ability to shit gold nuggets and do really hard maths. Sometimes (most of the time...ok, every time) you just want to shout "fuck off!" and if you're anything like me, sometimes you do.
I hope this post will help anybody feeling judged and under the microscope feel a little better. It's ok to want to stab someone in the face who unnecessarily casts speculations about you and makes assumptions about your body and mindset. (I said want to...I am not condoning violence!) We make decisions based on what is best for us and our families. It doesn't matter what Tom, Dick or bloody Harry has to say. My section was the right thing for me, and I'm really glad I went down that route. And I would do it again. My recovery was remarkably quick in the end. I went through a week of hell. And then I just bloody got on with it as my husband had to go back to work 5 days after our baby was born. So I single-handedly looked after a newborn almost immediately after being (albeit by choice) sliced open a few days previously. DID YOUR LISA DO THAT?!?
Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors, and it is not for us to judge the decisions of others if they aren't harming anyone. That being said, we all fucking do it. I am not going to get on any bullshit high horse and give you any holier than thou rubbish but the point I make is this...Judge from afar people. Go home, sit in your comfy chair, pour yourself a drink (ahhhh, drink) and bitch about others with your husband/wife/BF/GF/friend/cat. Shout your opinionated little mouth off until the cows come home. But do it in private. Pregnant ladies do not need nor want to hear what you have to say regarding THEIR bodies and THEIR choices. So just zip it. Remember, you asked the question and if you don't like the answer that's your problem. It isn't your job to try put doubts in her mind or make her feel small. Clearly...I am slightly bitter.
And to my pregnant comrades...people are going to give you their opinion constantly. Get used to it. Good and bad advice. Names, nurseries, preferred hemorrhoid cream...try to take it with a pinch of salt despite wanting to claw your own face off. Or theirs. Just relax and put your smiley happy psycho face on. Remember, they aren't the ones pushing anything out of their orifices so they may have an opinion, but it is your decision. Don't listen to that woman (there's always at least one) who gave birth with no pain relief, listening to whale music, channeling the chakras of the cave women they are descended from. Good for them. Hope they enjoyed the medal they got for that one. Don't be a hero - take the drugs. Or do whatever the hell you (and the health professionals) think is best. It's your body and your baby. (And the fathers of course)
So long for now lovely readers, with my vagina intact I bid thee farewell till next time. Thanks for taking the time to read this post.
Ready to be sliced and diced.
On the 10th May 2014, we discovered that I was pregnant with our first baby. It was one of those moments in life that you remember with absolute clarity. I have never felt so many emotions all at the same time. I don’t think I spoke for a good two minutes. I was filled with excruciating happiness, excitement, intense fear, hope, insecurity, worry and awe.
Now ladies, we have all imagined that precious moment when we reveal the news that we are tenderly 'with child' to our significant others. We imagine fireworks, an orchestra’s symphony swelling into a crescendo of violins and thunderous brass. We imagine them leaping to their feet, grinning like a love-struck teenager whilst sweeping us off our feet into an embrace to end all embraces. In our imaginations, they swing us round, taking care not to press too hard on our slightly swollen abdomens (slightly swollen despite finding out 2minutes ago...a little artistic licence if you will) whilst whispering gently “I love you so much, I can’t wait to become the world’s most wonderful father and take care of you and the beautiful little baby we have created”…
Let me warn you ladies, do not get your hopes up. This little imaginary scenario does not happen. The reality, for me anyway left a little to be desired. My darling husband, in true squaddie style, looked up from the sofa, grinned…and offered me a high-five whilst saying “Yay, our bits work”. True story.
Despite this slightly less than romantic response, we were both happy. Totally and wholeheartedly terrified, but happy. We decided to keep it to ourselves (only telling close family and friends) until after our first scan, to make sure everything was ok. Our first scan was on 10th July 2014. Let me know in the comments if you would like an account of my experience of our first scan…it wasn’t how I expected and to be honest, I was pretty disappointed. But nevertheless, Baby was fine, it was a huge relief and I was a very happy girl.
So, here was the first glimpse of our little pipsqueak…
We had our first scan on July 10th 2014. I had waited for what seemed like forever for this date and I can’t describe to those who have not experienced it the sense of anticipation and stress I felt leading up to it.
I don’t think any newly pregnant woman does not have the same fears or anxieties. ‘Is the baby ok?’, ‘What if there is a problem?’ or even ‘What if there is nothing there at all and the test was wrong?!’ These are all common worries. However common they may be, it does not change the fact that right up until you see that little blip on the screen, I’m not sure you really believe it. Or you're scared to believe it in case there is a problem. All I remember about that time is that I was terrified and in some ways, these feelings ruined the first precious few weeks of my pregnancy.
As soon as those little positive lines appeared on the test, I was overcome with a sense of foreboding anxiety. Over the moon yes, but haunted by an unseen cloud of doom and gloom. At this time, the internet was not my friend. Whilst trying to seek the comfort I so desperately craved and trying to chill the fudge out, I read horror story after horror story about women who had lost their babies very early on, had blighted ovums and a whole host of other equally upsetting things that went wrong with their early pregnancies. This sent me spiralling into a bit of a depressive state (fun for Mike). Why did I not feel the way I thought I should, or wanted to? Happy, glowing, content with our little secret that only a handful of people knew about. I felt guilty about being consumed with worry but didn't dare voice my concerns. I am not really one for 'divine intervention' or fate but I felt that if something were to be wrong, it would be my fault as I had ‘wished’ it upon myself by thinking about it too much. I have learned now, albeit too late, that there is no ‘normal’ way of feeling. That was how I felt. I think in hindsight that I should have embraced it a little more and vocalised my worries. It may have helped, it may not. I hope that other women have a better experience than I did and don't send themselves stir crazy wading through a cyber landscape of miscarriage and brimstone.
Although my husband was supportive in his little way, he didn't quite know how to react to my unrelenting madness. About a week after finding out I was pregnant, he came home one night to find me hysterically crying over the washing up, shouting at him for every reason under the sun and telling him that he needed to take me out because I felt like the walls were closing in on me. Now, I can imagine this was a little difficult to deal with after a week at work in the field on exercise and a 4 hour drive home. I won't forget the look on his face. A mixture of weary surprise and ‘holy shit, is this how she’s going to be all the time?!’ He took me for a drive, talked rubbish to me and after half an hour, I had calmed down. Thankfully, this was a fairly isolated experience, but for the majority of the pregnancy I was screaming quite a lot internally.
I tried to explain to my midwife during my first appointment how I was feeling, but I was quite aware that I sounded like a crazy person so didn't unleash all of what was going on inside my head to her. She was nice, but I felt that she had heard it all before, which in all fairness, she more than likely had! Waiting for the scan was difficult, made worse by the fact that it was booked for when I was nearly 14 weeks, not 12. For the last year and a half, I have been tracking my menstrual cycle on an app called ‘Mydays’ so I was fairly certain of the date we had conceived (turns out I was spot on!) so I was disappointed that I would have to wait till nearly 14 weeks. Those two extra weeks felt like an expanding eternity. After my initial appointment, it felt quite strange to just be given a pat on the head and sent on my merry way. I was told to eat healthily and take my folic acid. What? That's it? The midwife didn't seem to understand the gravity of what was happening to me. And only me. Because of course, it's not like any other woman had ever been pregnant in the history of the universe...right?
And then the sickness began…
From around 6 weeks, I felt AWFUL. I was tired and constantly nauseous. My skin was terrible and I felt drained of energy. This was on top of the unyielding worry. I started being sick around twice a day although I felt sick constantly so it’s not like there was no warning. I work in a secondary school and on a few occasions, had to run out of class to be sick. This was difficult to explain away, as I didn't want to tell my colleagues (and certainly not students, they tend to be somewhat gossipy) that I was pregnant. I was thoroughly miserable and a few times (this is hard for me to admit, but it is the truth) regretted being pregnant, which would set me off again as I felt so guilty that the thought had even crossed my mind. I’m not a good sleeper at the best of times and have never been but I was barely sleeping, and would burn out in the middle of the day. Working full time, there was not much I could do about it. I think my husband thought I was faking sometimes. At this stage, you are not physically showing at all so I think it’s difficult for men to really understand what you are going through, being the visual creatures that they tend to be. One minute I had been fine, then almost immediately after finding out I was pregnant, I was a hormonal, screamy mess! I’m sure he thought I was after sympathy. And you know what, sometimes I was. Being the wife of a squaddie, I have always found sympathy or indeed empathy to be in short supply. The words "man up" were heard in our house more than a few times. The words "insensitive" and "bastard" usually followed. I digress. This horrible sickness lasted until around 11 weeks. Then came some sweet relief. I stopped feeling so nauseous which was my main complaint and had a little more energy. In fact, I was so paranoid that I thought something was wrong because I didn't feel unwell. Seriously, I just can't win with myself!
Me, feeling particularly sorry for myself.
Finally the day came for our scan. It wasn't until 5.30pm so I had a whole day of work to endure first. Mike had travelled home from his base that day to come with me and traffic had been bad so I was worried we were going to be late. I, of course blamed him. He picked me up from school and I cried the whole way there. When we got there, we were directed to wait (more waiting...really?!), and I saw three or four couples go in and come out looking happy. I hoped desperately that we would follow suit. Mike was very quiet and didn’t say much apart from “what will be will be” which was all he could say really. It was finally our turn.
We went into the little room and the bored-looking lady told me to lie down and unbutton the top of my trousers. She was very quiet and barely looked at me. To her, I was just another crazy pregnant lady. I tried to smile and offer a few pleasantries but she didn't seem interested so I quickly gave up. She squeezed some of the ultrasound gel onto my tummy and pushed the wand firmly down. This bordered on painful. I had drank so much water (as directed) that I needed the toilet very badly and thought I might wet myself, which I'm sure would have been very amusing and a great anecdote. Then I finally saw it. With my unblinking peepers I saw my little pipsqueak pop onto the screen and my heart skipped a beat. I was totally mesmerized by the image. I don’t recall seeing any movement and kept asking “Is the baby ok?”. The technician just nodded and continued checking whatever she was checking, making no attempt to explain what she was doing. Mike said “Ha ha, I’m glad it’s not just a big poo!” (how romantic and appropriate) She showed us the spine and the bottom and then all of a sudden, it was over. It lasted from start to finish, around 5mins. We took our little picture (pricey!) and toddled off, feeling happy but bewildered. I then had to have bloods taken which due to my ridiculously small veins, took tiny pediatric needles, and two phlebotomists! The only thing that rivaled the feeling of happiness was going to the toilet afterwards. It was without question the best wee I have ever had.
The first pic of baby MMW.
And that was that. When I thought about it later, I wished I would have asked a lot more questions, asked to hear the heartbeat and generally been a bit more pushy, as the technician we had was pretty useless. I felt really angry about it afterwards as I had been so worried for weeks and then I felt that she had robbed me of my magical experience. I got myself into a mood (a pregnant woman in a mood? surely not I hear you cry en masse), and we even had an argument on the way home. When I got home I cried for an hour, which was totally silly. It was mostly relief I think. Nevertheless, our baby was fine and this was wonderful news.
I felt very lucky. Seriously lucky. I can’t imagine the devastation I would have felt if there had been a problem and my heart sincerely goes out to those couples who do experience problems. My advice to any newly pregnant woman is to not trawl the internet and take solace in the fact that (in my experience) the sickness subsides. Although my first scan was a bit of a crap experience, my second more than made up for it…that one truly was magical! Let me know if you would like to hear about it.
I hope reading about my experience will help someone who also felt/feels a little depressed during their first trimester. It does get better!
In a state of constant surprise that I was actually with child.