‘I'm going full glam for my c-section. I'm not ashamed.'

In just five short weeks, I’ll be giving birth to my second baby boy. 

Naturally, like most expectant mothers, I’m spending my final months leading up to meeting him obsessively planning for his arrival. My to-do lists have their own subheadings. My phone pings with a reminder every other hour (I really do need to finish that Centrelink application). I’ve washed and folded a silly number of tiny socks. Our bedroom has been rearranged to make way for a bassinet. I’ve added newborn-size nappies to next month’s Amazon order. 

And I’ve booked myself in to get my hair and nails done the day before my scheduled C-section

Before you ask, the answer is “yes” — I’ve also picked out the exact pajamas I’ll wear after surgery, the clothes I want to leave the hospital in, and the outfit my baby will be wearing when we emerge into the world (we’ll be colour-coordinated, of course). 

I know what you’re thinking. No, really, I do, because I used to think exactly the same way. 

Imagine being so vain that you’d care what you look like when you give birth. The only thing that matters is a healthy baby. 

That was my attitude going into my first birth, and I think it’s one a lot of women share. There’s a certain amount of shame, and even superstition, that comes with wanting to look and feel your best when giving birth — like somehow, the very act of putting forethought into your appearance could be tempting fate, or asking for something to go wrong. 

There’s a sense that women should just be happy with the hand we’re dealt during birth, and that expecting anything “more” would be greedy. Giving birth is, inarguably, dangerous, and the priority is getting both mum and baby out the other side as safely as possible. When you put it in those terms, it seems frivolous — maybe even callous — to care about how your hair looks. 


So when I was pregnant with my first baby, I decided I would do it “right”. The only thing I would focus on was getting my baby safely into the world. I didn’t need it to be special, or life-changing. I didn’t need to look or feel a certain way. I didn’t mind where it happened, who was there, what I was wearing, whether my nails were painted, or if I left the hospital in a hessian sack. I was totally chill about the whole thing, nothing to see here, and certainly no unreasonable demands, as if maybe — by not asking too much of it - luck would shine favourably on me and my son. 

Well. As I was astonished to learn, that actually isn’t how luck works. Or how the universe works. Or how babies work. Or how birth works. 

WATCH: Meet The Delivery Room, Mamamia's new podcast all about birth stories. Hosted by Jessie Stephens and produced by Emma Gillespie. Post continues after the video.

Despite my very best efforts to keep my expectations low, I gave birth to my first baby via emergency c-section at 32 weeks. The whole experience felt completely out of my control, which only added insult to injury, because I had been so careful not to try to control too much. Not to be too demanding or anything, but… where was my reward for expecting so little? 

As any rational person could tell you, the fact that I had pregnancy complications was completely unrelated to my attitude towards my birth. The universe doesn’t punish people who are bold enough to think they can control their future, any more than it rewards people who try to fly under its radar. Apart from actual medical interventions recommended by a doctor, there’s nothing you can do, or can avoid doing, to guarantee a smooth path through pregnancy, or a healthy baby. 


And, unbelievably — although I really did feel like there might be — there isn’t a prize for refraining from planning your optimum birth. 

LISTEN: Leigh sits down with Jessie Stephens, alongside her husband Rich, to talk about their birth story that took place for 32 hours. Post continues after the podcast.

So this time around, I think: why not? Why not lean in to every frivolous thing that may, or may not, make my birth experience that little bit more special?

Why not aim for the glowing post-birth photo I never got with my first son, who was whisked to the NICU before I even had a chance to hold him? 

Why not have a monogrammed blanket ready to go so we can announce this baby’s name to the world, when my first son came as such a surprise we were still confirming his name on the way into theatre? 

Why not buy a new pair of slippers to make that first shuffle across the hospital a little bit luxe, when my footwear last time consisted of the Havianas I was wearing when I was admitted and nothing else? 

Of course, things might still go wrong. There’s a chance that things will happen in the next five weeks that make my slipper purchase entirely redundant. 

But if they do, it won’t be because I dared to hope for a best-case scenario. 

And hey. At least my hair will look fantastic.  

Image: Supplied. 

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