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BIRTH STORIES: "My caesar was a healing experience"

A recent study in NSW hospitals has found that tens of thousands of women with low risk of birth complications are undergoing unnecessary medical interventions in private hospitals.

The study found that those giving birth privately had a 20 per cent lower chance of having their first child through normal vaginal delivery.

This from the Sydney Morning Herald:

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The leader of the study, Hannah Dahlen, said the women examined between 2000 and 2008 were aged 20 to 34, were not pre-term or overdue and carried babies of normal weight.

While 35 per cent gave birth with no intervention in public hospitals, this dropped to 15 per cent in private hospitals.

”These are horrifying figures,” Dr Dahlen said.

”Women need to be informed that intervention in childbirth is no walk in the park, with caesarean sections, for example, potentially causing a scarred uterus, which can increase the risk of complications in future pregnancies.”

That’s the view of one health professional but what of the women having these c-section? MM reader Carlie Daley writes that her caesarean birth was actually healing…

My caesarean birth was healing. How can this be so, you ask? How can being slashed across the lower abdomen, while you’re paralysed from the torso down, and your baby pulled out and away from you, be healing you say?

Let me tell you my journey of birth, a story that defies popular opinion that medicalised birth is disempowering for women. I was meant to have ‘natural’ births for both my babies but the stars didn’t align. I’d read all the spiritual books about ecstatic and natural birthing, booked myself into the hospital birth centre and was surrounded by mid-wives who had given birth either at home or were very supportive of birth as a natural process. I believed my birth would be a transcendental experience. True, both my births were transcendental, but they were not natural in the least.

FYI – This is not Carlie

First time I booked myself in for a tour of the water birthing suite at my local hospital I visualised myself labouring in the pool, with beautiful murals painted above me. Candles flickering. Music playing and my partner supporting me all the way. I watched You Tube clips of women labouring in water and I cried – that was exactly how I wanted to bring my babies gently into this world.

Yet, the birth of my firstborn was traumatic. He was overdue by 14 days thereby ejecting me from the birthing suite at that particular hospital and induced. I laboured through the stronger contractions associated with an induction for 6 hrs. There was virtually no dilation of my cervix. I relented and had an epidural, feeling like a failure, then my medicalised birth progressed to other levels of intervention – forceps, vacuum delivery, episiotomy, third degree tear etc.

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Throughout my pregnancy and birth I had met about 10-20 different mid-wives. I still don’t remember one single name. After this ordeal we had breastfeeding problems that went on and off for 6 months until I gave up – culminating in the black cloud of postnatal depression. Sleep problems for 2 years consolidated these feelings of despair. I felt like an epic failure.  Nothing had come ‘naturally’ for me in the arena of motherhood, and it wasn’t until my boy was about one that I started to feel I had some grip onmy role.

Amazingly we decided to go back for a second round after I had my postnatal depression under control. On one hand I was open-minded about my birth plan after my plans had fallen through the first time; on another I thirsted for a ‘natural’ second birth to heal my first one. We even moved to the country to be closer to myfamily and to access better health services in regional Australia – I managed to get a caseload mid-wife who followed us all the way through from pre-natal appointments to the birth.

She was a fairy godmother with silver hair and an infectious, positive attitude. She assured me despite my previous experiences she wouldn’t abandon me no matter what my birth outcome, even after I developed gestational diabetes. This single factor – the continuity of care- helped me trust my second birth. It is also what I believe is the key to having a positive birth experience, no matter what the circumstances.

Of course when I found out at the eleventh hour my girl had turned breech and in a footling position with very low fluid and was quite likely a hefty weight, my heart sank. I was advised to have a Caesar as the risks were too high. Despite my initial disappointment, birthing this way with a strong mid-wife by my side was still empowering in its own way. When my girl was placed in my arms and she suckled at my breast I felt strong and powerful and we bonded immediately.

Today’s community of  mothers can place too much emphasis on the way our babies enter this world – forgetting the most important things – that our babies are born safe and sound.

Carlie Daley is a writer and mother living in the hills of Northern NSW trying to make sense of it all through words.  Her ramblings on creativity and motherhood can be found at Scheherazade’s Den.

How were your children or your friends’ children born? Would you have a cesarean by choice?

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