Monday, 3 November 2014

I'm not posh but I'm not pushing

cesarean, csection, not posh but not pushing, childbirth, birth, parenting, pregnancy, birth plan, mother diaries
"Too posh to push"

I'm not sure who invented that phrase or why class has anything to do with giving birth. It assumes that, if you're privileged, birth can become something on a par with getting your bikini line waxed. The nitty-gritty births – the 'natural' kind – are for the hardcore, working class mothers who are prepared for a bit of hard graft; popping out their babies in time to make meat and potato pie for tea. And along with the people who consider c-sections something for snobs, there are also the mothers who rave about giving birth naturally. You hear their stories of how wonderful it was to have a four hour water birth on nothing but half a paracetamol. "I did it!" They say. It's no wonder that when my first birth resulted in an emergency c-section that I felt like a failure.

I always thought that if I were ever to give birth again (and maybe because I thought I never would), that I would give birth naturally, as though to prove something to the world. I'd actually got pretty good at blocking out all things birth and babies and when I found out I was pregnant again, four years later, the memories of a difficult birth were all too raw. I was referred for help to deal with post traumatic stress but despite my obvious anxiety this did not stop the consultant recommending that I try for a natural birth 'because it's best.'

Best. People are very good at telling mothers what is best, and at no other point in a woman's life is she told more about what is 'best' for her than when she decides to have children. Best for what? Statistics? Finances? Respectability? If you are considering my medical health then my mind comes into that equation too. Usually the people who seem to be most forthcoming with advice about what is best are the people who have never been through what you have.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not one to shy away from a bit of pain. After having experienced a burst appendix during my current pregnancy I can safely say that was the most intense pain I've ever been in. It was, however, a lot less traumatic than my first birth, and despite a mere 32 hours of labour I still wondered whether to try for a natural birth again. After all, c-sections are by no means an 'easy' option; they involve intensive surgery, pain and weeks of prolonged recovery. They involve scaring, body disfigurement, self-injecting and wearing rather fetching embolism stockings for about a week. People who have never experienced one say to me "Oh, just opt for a c-section," as though it really is on a par with getting your bikini line waxed. The truth is, there is no easy way to give birth and no right way at that. What is best for one woman will be entirely different for another.

What has struck me about being given an option this time around is how much pressure there is on women to have the perfect birth experience. There are many women who have had positive experiences, but a lot of these women do not have grace for those who do not – it's as though they can take credit for their genetics and circumstances; as though birth is purely about mind over matter and determination. This attitude makes the rest of us feel penalised if we have complications; looked down upon if we opt for more medicalised ways to deal with childbirth.

The thing is, I need to have grace too. Grace to accept that some women do find childbirth wonderful and that I was just one of the unfortunate ones. I need to learn to listen to their stories and accept them as encouraging experiences. I need to know that a difficult birth experience does not necessarily equate to another, it just might. But every women is different, and one woman's motive for having a natural birth will be entirely different to another's. I have come to realise that, for me, giving birth naturally had become more about identity and self-worth than about actually doing what is best for me or my family. It's not like I didn't give it a good go the first time round – my problem, if anything, is that I push myself too much. Refusing pain relief at 8cm dilated is just damn-right stupid. I could do that again; display my working class roots to the full, but what that would do for my mental health is another thing entirely. At what point would I be kind to myself and say I needed pain relief? At what point would I accept things not going to plan? At what point would I be proud of myself? What would it take to say "I did it!"? You see, I did it the first time around. I don't need your applause for that; I don't get a medal. No one looks on my child any differently because of the way I birthed him.

So, this time I am having an elective c-section and you have no idea how hard it has been for me to make that choice. It is not, as some may think, an easy way out for me or a means of avoidance – it is about giving myself the birth I really want. It is about choosing a birth where I can be more prepared for the pain and the healing and know roughly what that involves. It is about being in a good place mentally when my baby arrives. It is about giving myself a birth that fits my preference for planning and knowing roughly what's around the corner. It is about choosing a birth that means I can prepare my son for the impending arrival of his sibling and make sure he is cared for. It is about accepting that long labours and big babies run in my family of small-framed women. And yes, it is about having a better night's sleep before the chaos starts. Above all, it is about being kind to myself. Call me posh all you like, but I, along with all women, deserve to have a good birth. I'm not posh, but I'm not pushing.

No comments :

Post a Comment