Can We Stop Calling C-Sections The ‘Easy’ Option?

'The harsh reality is that we have very little control over the birthing process. You can hope, and plan, and write reams of details onto those labour notes; but the truth is that birth is an unpredictable process.'


by Kate Dyson |
Updated on

As the proud mother of three ‘sunroof’ babies, I’m under no illusion that a caesarean section – or abdominal birth as it’s now becoming commonly known as – is an easy option. Nor is it something that a mother-to-be would choose casually, or because she’s too lazy to birth her baby naturally.

Sadly, ever since poor Victoria Beckham was maligned by the tabloids for being ‘too posh to push’, c-sections have been deemed the inferior birth choice for the modern woman who apparently can’t be ‘bothered’ to give birth ‘properly and a world of opinion has bizarrely opened up about this valid method of delivery for many babies.

My own c-sections came about as a result of a particularly traumatic birth with my eldest. After a painful and exhausting sixty hour labour, they found that her little neck was deflexed, and she was becoming more distressed by the second. The decision to move to a c-section was critical and without a doubt, she and I may not be here today had the team around me not made the decision for an emergency caesarean section.

My second and third c-sections were both elective. After the trauma of my first birth, I would argue that the idea of it being a ‘choice’ was taken firmly out of my hands and certainly my head. Without any doubt, my ‘choice’ to abdominally birth was a beautiful, bonding experience that meant my children and I were as safe as can be.

Last week, actress Jenny Agutter – star of Call the Midwife – was quoted as saying that it was ‘sad’ that women have pre-arranged c-sections. Despite Jenny’s medical knowledge being limited to that within the show’s script, she felt it appropriate to share her opinion that all women should experience childbirth ‘if they can’ and dubbed caesareans as ‘sad’ because people say that their baby will be born on a given day.

It’s unsurprising that many women feel guilt or failure over their birth with outdated and unwarranted opinions like Jenny’s. After being conditioned through antenatal classes to believe that a vaginal delivery is the ‘best delivery’, I felt a strange sense of failure after my eldest’s birth. I had gone wholeheartedly down the ‘natural’ route when pregnant with her. I signed up to the antenatal classes and learnt the breathing techniques, and I had the hypnobirthing CD. When my labour started, I was welcomed into the birthing centre and visualised the contractions as waves, pulses, opening up my body to welcome my daughter as the soothing water of the birthing pool enveloped my body.

The harsh reality is that we have very little control over the birthing process. You can hope, and plan, and write reams of details onto those labour notes; but the truth is that birth is an unpredictable process – especially your first. Without a doubt you can prepare yourself theoretically; but there is simply no comparison to the process of giving birth, in any form. And as a society, we should prepare women for all eventualities of birth – vaginal but also instrumental and surgical births too.

The way your baby comes into the world is as individual as you, and they. That experience can be transcendingly, intensely beautiful; it can be traumatic, brutal and painful, and EVERYTHING in between. That is possible with all births, not just ‘natural’ births.

As a feminist, I also strongly believe that women have the right to autonomy over our own bodies. There is a myriad of reasons that a woman may choose an abdominal birth for herself. Women who have experienced sexual trauma, or who have a deep-rooted fear of the pain of childbirth; their medical history, or physical condition may prevent them from vaginal births or influence their decision for abdominal birth. Their mental health may be adversely affected – as mine would have been – and cause long lasting effects beyond the birth experience.

When pregnant with my youngest, I found myself musing over the idea of a vaginal birth. I felt recovered from the PTSD and PND caused by the birth trauma of my first labour, and I discussed the possibility with my consultant. They were supportive but after two previous caesareans, it was clear that the safest birth for me – as well as my baby – was via the ‘sunroof’ again. However, having listened to my concerns, they supported my experience with lowered drapes, delayed cord clamping, immediate skin-to-skin; and the delivery room had dimmed lights, and soft music. As I write this, I’m filled with the overwhelming intensity of his birth, the gentleness of his arrival and the ferocious love that poured out of me as he was placed upon my chest. Importantly, what it was completely devoid of was sadness; it was powerful, perfect and without a doubt the right birth for me.

Above all, we have to stop judging the way women give birth. There are reasons for every birth decision, and they are never as flippant as comments like Jenny’s would let us believe. A woman’s right to choose her birth - the right birth for her, and her baby – is nearly always led by safety; but what it never is, is ‘sad’.

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