Warning: This post may make you wince.
As the Duchess of Cambridge prepares to give birth, on Friday my colleagues and I were discussing labour and delivery. I was a bit surprised when one of them said that she would definitely opt for an elective Caesarean, even if she had to pay for it, because she is absolutely terrified of pain. In fact, the sheer anxiety about giving birth naturally would be enough to put her off ever even trying unless she could be assured her experience would be pain-free.
It goes without saying that if there is a health reason for an elective Caesarean, it should be given. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that actually, if there is a genuine emotional reason for not wanting to give birth naturally, perhaps it is better for the mum-to-be (and the baby) if she is able to give birth in the way that makes her feel most comfortable, and to have an elective Caesarean (and if there is an emotional well-being issue for wanting one, then it should really be available on the NHS, shouldn’t it?)
I have never been one of those women who believes you should wear natural childbirth as a badge of honour. My own experience of ‘natural’ childbirth wasn’t very pretty, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Before I became pregnant I remember a midwife telling me that a Caesarean was ‘just one more thing to go wrong,’ so I hadn’t really been thinking about a C-section, and no one had offered one to me. But take it from me, there is nothing scarier than being in labour and having a doctor look at your nu-nu and then say: ‘Has anyone said anything about the size of this baby?’ And try pushing an enormous watermelon out of a space really only big enough for a grapefruit (not literally, but you get the idea) with only an epidural and gas and air to help you on your way. That, compounded by the fact that the cord was around my baby’s neck, made the whole experience an absolute (bloody) nightmare. My son was born weighing 10lb 11-and-a-half oz. He was the biggest baby born in the hospital that week, and I had the 2nd degree lacerations to prove it. There is no question I would have had a C-section if I’d been offered one, and I probably should have been offered one fairly early on.
At the end of the day, surely the most important thing is that both mum and baby are well, and not stressed at all, and that their lives aren’t endangered, in any way. If you’re lucky enough to be able to give birth in a pool surrounded by candles to the sound of whale music then that’s great, but if it’s better for a woman (and her baby) to give birth in a different way, I believe she should have the option of doing so, and if that means more elective Caesareans, well perhaps that’s just the way it should be. But as ever, I’d love to hear your views.
(By the way, I took the photo of the Duchess of Cambridge at the launch of Royal Princess, which I was very lucky to be invited to. She looked AMAZING, without a hint of swollen ankles. I hope everything goes very smoothly for her this week.)