Author: Claire Clarke
Now don’t get me wrong. However you plan to birth your baby and however it actually turns out, you are still a warrior. But seeing as April is C-Section awareness month, I wanted to shout out to all the mums out there who have the scars to show their birth battle sitting proudly below their bikini line.
In the growing world of social media, there is one type of birth plan that tends to be portrayed as the ideal. It’s usually seen to be in the water or hypno-birthing over a pregnancy ball. And, after no medication, a beautiful woman labours peacefully and calmly, then clutches a just-born baby to her chest.
My birth plan looked pretty similar on paper.
I’m a wedding planner. I organise every minute of someone’s wedding day and I saw the day I went into labour to be the same way. My birth plan listed items such as ‘subdued lighting’, ‘avoid internal monitoring’, ‘natural methods to induce labour’, ‘no pethidine or diamorphine’, ‘move and walk freely’, ‘I plan to use a birthing pool’. My actual labour was the complete opposite.
After my waters breaking at 6pm on the 15th July, I started natural contractions by 1am on the 16th July. Labour progressed very slowly and I was sure it was ‘go time’ 9 hours later when I made my way to the midwife-led birthing unit at Northampton Hospital. The excitement bubbled despite the pain I felt over constant pot holes and speed bumps in the road (I swear pot holes suddenly appear which were never prior there when you’re in labour!). I’d never been so ready to pop on my birth playlist, jump in the water and breathe through labour in the anticipation to meet my little boy.
After waiting in the gorgeous private room with a birthing pool in view, a happy midwife enters, examines me and says those dreaded words we’ve all heard on One Born Every Minute… “you’re only 1cm dilated. Please head home to continue labour”. After lots of tears, I left… deflated. My labour had slowed (something I now know is due to the Oxytocin levels being replaced by Cortisol as my stress levels increased) and I was back home, bouncing on a pregnancy ball desperately trying to speed my labour back up.
I’m under no illusion now that my aim of trying to keep in control and dictate my labour to match my birth plan likely played a big part in the way my labour progressed. So if you’re pregnant and up to this point are nodding your head in agreement with how you see your birth plan to be, my advice would be to let go. Try to let your baby tell you how your labour will go. Have a birth plan but keep it loose. That way, there is no chance of you feeling the disappointment I felt for the hours that followed.
Now I feel like maybe I’m being too hard on myself. I mean I’d done an amazing job at growing a little human for 9 months and in just a few hours I would bring my boy into the world but I had so badly wanted to bring him into the world in a calming environment and that’s simply not how my evening played out.
By 6pm, I had to make my way back into hospital since it has been 24 hours since by waters broke and I was now at risk of infection. What I thought would be a quick examination and being allowed to continue my birth plan turned into 2 hours of monitoring before being moved into the labour ward at only 3cm dilated. After another 2 hours of monitoring (I tried to stay as mobile as possible- see picture above!) and another 1cm dilated, for my son’s safety, a clip was suggested on Austin’s head. Austin has a lot of hair and after the first try failing, the clip was finally attached and I was told to stay on the bed for the rest of labour. This simply added to my disappointment as piece by piece my birth plan slipped away. Maybe Austin felt my stress as it was less than an hour later, Austin’s blood pressure dropped, the emergency call button was pressed, doctors and nurses filled the room and I heard the words “Emergency C-Section.”
I’ll be honest, I hadn’t planned for this scenario. Panic set in as paperwork appeared in front of me to be signed, bags were packed and surgery socks were fitted. All of this as I continued to breathe through the pain of my contractions.
In the moments leading up to surgery, a caesarean mother must hold onto the strong and fierce love she has for her baby. I let the fear wash over me and then I allowed it to drift away. In that moment, although I knew a caesarean birth was the best (and only) choice, I knew I was about to endure major surgery with real wounds and scars.
Some women have weeks to mentally prepare for a caesarean. I had minutes. Minutes to prepare for major surgery. In those minutes, everything I had envisioned for the first time I met Austin changed. I personally don’t handle unplanned change too well but in that moment, I let go of my pride and found my inner strength.
The staff at Northampton General Hospital genuinely were amazing. They all remained calm and kept me in the loop while prepping me for theatre and all I can now really place at the time of being on that operating table was how it felt to have someone in my tummy. I remember saying “he’s out” and my husband Daniel looking confused as I’d felt this before Austin had even began to cry.
But that moment Austin appeared wrapped in blankets and the cutest knitted hat, my disappointment started to flow away. It doesn’t really matter how your baby appears. All that really matters is they’re safe. And healthy.
So, just like a vaginal birth, a caesarean birth also requires immense strength and bravery. Emotionally and physically, every women who endures labour is strong. But there is an added strength that a warrior of a C-Section carries in the days and weeks following while having to care for a newborn as their bodies heal.
All mothers are left with scars… emotional or physical but C-section mothers often carry both. Yet, the scar they see in the mirror daily, the scar that still causes a slight discomfort when caught on a tight waistband, that scar is a powerful reminder of the bravery they possessed when bringing their child into the world.
These scars are beautiful and are worth celebrating every day.