Too Posh to Push

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I was going to have a water-birth. I was going to do “kangaroo care.” My husband was going to cut the cord. I was going to nurse immediately.

Wanna make the gods laugh? Tell them your plans.

I have no doubt that we would most certainly have lost our child, and my life would have been in serious jeopardy, had I insisted on going the “natural” route when I was delivering my first born. Luckily for both of us, I had a highly trained professional medical team beside me here at Bangkok’s Samitivej Hospital who presented me with all the options. Nineteen hours after my waters broke, and still only 3 centimeters dilated and my contractions having completely ceased, I was presented with 40/60 odds. I was told that there was a 40% chance of a “natural” birth if I took the labour inducing drug. A 60% chance that it would all end in a c-section regardless. I had 30 minutes to decide. I called a good friend, I trusted my gut and I opted for the c-section.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing. Despite the best medical training and the advanced equipment at their disposal, there was no way that the team assigned to me could have known that my baby’s birth canal was 100% blocked. I’ll never forget my OB/GYN coming to see me the next morning to explain what they had found when they opened me up. It would seem that my unborn baby’s umbilical cord had been coiling up like a snake at the bottom of a drain while I’d been leaking amniotic fluid all day and had completely blocked the birth canal below him. My womb was dry and he literally had no way out.

I haven’t put the word natural in inverted commas for nothing. It outrages me beyond what is probably civil when people use the term “natural” birth when referring to “vaginal” birth. On some level I think that the word “natural” is so widespread because we don’t like to say the word “vaginal” out loud. But I take offense. I feel it implies that my birth experience was somehow inferior. That my child’s birth was somehow “unnatural.”

Let me be crystal clear here. I have never, not for one second, regretted the decision that I made. Moreover, with all the talk these days about c-section rates in Thailand, let it be known far and wide that this was my decision to make. I did what every expectant and new mother out there should do – I took in the medical advice and then I trusted my intuition. As a new mom, you’re really going to have to take a lot of gut checks – and follow up on them.

This wasn’t supposed to happen to me. I read all the pregnancy-related books I could get my hands on in the months leading up to delivery. I always skipped over the chapters on c-sections because that wasn’t part of my plan. My body was going to do what woman had done for millenniums before me. It’s what our bodies were designed to do, right? Shh…is it just me or did you hear the gods laughing too?

While I was basking in the euphoric glow of my gorgeous son and new motherhood, I couldn’t help but notice the ever so slight responses from people when they learnt that I’d had a c-section. The look in their faces, the tone of their voice. Like I somehow hadn’t measured up to some invisible marker of womanhood. I actually had a close family member derisively refer to me as “too posh to push” when I made the decision to opt for a c-section with my second (and last) child. I found myself involuntarily going into detail to explain my choice: much like this post in fact. At the end of the day, I’m here and so are my two happy healthy boys. Isn’t that what matters in the end?

Not for nothing but, “Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death and disability among women of reproductive age in developing countries.[1]” I’m glad I had a plan. But I’m even happier that I had the wisdom, and opportunity, to change my mind.

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[1] http://www.who.int/healthinfo/statistics/indmaternalmortality/en/index.html

My name is Jodie. I'm a 38 year old Canadian working and living in Bangkok, Thailand. My husband and I are both international teachers - though I'm taking this year off to be a full-time mom.

When we're not busy with other people's kids, we try our hand at raising our own very curious nearly four year old son and his 9 and half month old brother. When it comes to parenting, like most of us, I’m making a lot of it up as I go along .

5 Comments

  1. J  /  December 6, 2012, 8:44 pm Reply

    Thanks Jodie
    Another reassuring article for a first time mum who after weighing up the pro’s and con’s has opted for a planned c- section here in Thailand. Since then I feel I’ve been forever defending my decision and to my surprise I have had so many people trying to talk me out of a decision I feel comfortable with – many of them level headed open minded friends.
    I’ve also been shocked at the number of books that presume a woman will feel guilty after having a c-section. For me, the way I choose to give birth doesn’t define me as a mother, it will be how I raise my child in the years to come.

  2. Jodie  /  December 7, 2012, 1:03 pm Reply

    “For me, the way I choose to give birth doesn’t define me as a mother, it will be how I raise my child in the years to come.” So well said!! And it doesn’t define you as a woman either.

    It was only after my first c-section that I went back and read those chapters I’d skipped. Imagine my surprise when I read how depressed I was supposed to feel and how I should be struggling to bond with my child. Rubbish! Sometimes I wonder if I’d actually read all that crap beforehand if maybe it would have turned into some self-fulfilling prophecy.

  3. Lin  /  December 13, 2012, 8:18 pm Reply

    Thank you for this post Jodie. I had a planned c-section due to various (medical) reasons and I am still defending my, or actually ‘our’ (my husband and mine) decision. On one hand I am so happy that I am in a country where you can make the choice, other than my home country where you will he pushed to the limit to have the baby ‘natural’, on the other hand i do feel a pang of failure sometimes because of the general opinion that everyone has and the books etc that you mentioned. I completely agree with you about the bonding and I was also very successful in breastfeeding (quite a few people told me if I had a c-section I would probably not have any milk come in ??) Also, I think I gave my husband a great experience bonding with our baby as he spend his first 2 hours with him while I slept after the operation and was also changing and bathing him the first few days as I couldn’t. I guess with all baby-related things everyone has a different opinion, but I think people should stop making us feel guilty about opting for a c-section.

  4. Jodie  /  December 14, 2012, 11:46 am Reply

    Hi Lin,

    I can really relate to what you’re saying. Obviously, having had both my boys here in Bangkok, I have only the stories of friends to compare with. Two friends in the UK were subjected to over 70 hours EACH of labour. Every other option (drugs, foetal extraction methods etc.) were offered to them but not once was a c-section option presented. One friend was so traumatised by her birth experience that she refuses to bear another child and has taken steps to ensure she can’t have any more children. Another had bonding issues because of the trauma she experienced. Neither one was successful with breastfeeding.

    I especially like what you’ve writen about the gift of bonding with the baby that you gave your husband. I’d never thought of it like that but it’s so true. And, like you, I had no issues (other than the pretty standard cracked nipples) with breastfeeding. My boys spent their first few hours chillin’ with their big daddy and then they came to big momma for their first feed.

    I spent a couple hours chatting with a Bangkok based doula yesterday (what I learnt will feature in an upcoming article), and one of the things that came up time after time was how beneficial doulas can be as they are a source of information/assistance/support that is completely non-judgmental. More and more, it seems to me that motherhood has become a competitive sport. So sad about that. But the good news is that there are so many other communities of supportive women out there. Connecting to them is so vital for all of us who refuse to play the guilt game!

  5. Sasha  /  September 6, 2013, 1:15 pm Reply

    Thanks for sharing Jodie!

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