I didn’t get my ‘natural’ delivery
But I got so much else.
I’ve always been fairly ambivalent on what the best way to deliver a baby is. Sure, evidence points this way and that, but ultimately the kind of health care system you access is most likely to predict how you will deliver your child. In this day and age, in a developed country, both a vaginal delivery and a caesarean section offer minimal risk to baby or mom. I believe that ideally, women should be given a choice, and that the choice should be based on objective presentation of the facts. I don’t think any woman should be shamed out of a caesar because it’s considered easier, and I don’t think any woman should be scared out of a vaginal delivery by horror stories of pain and bodily fluids. Of course, there are not many places in the world where women do actually have a choice.
As a private healthcare user in South Africa, I was statistically far more likely to have a caesarean section, but theoretically I did also have the luxury of choice. Ever since my med student days I’ve always felt like I would probably prefer to have a vaginal, or ‘natural’ delivery, but I couldn’t really say why. It just felt like it was more right for me. This feeling grew stronger during my pregnancy, and after a series of classes with a wonderful midwife, my husband and I both felt very prepared and almost excited to experience labour together. We knew it would be no picnic, but we didn’t feel afraid. My obstetrician seemed very receptive to our plan (I used the word ‘theoretically’ earlier in this paragraph because there is a belief that private obstetricians can make it almost impossible for a patient to have a vaginal delivery, but that’s a different post), and we were all ready to go. We were never obsessed with the idea of a natural delivery, and were perfectly ready to change plan if needed. We waited for my labour to begin.
It never did. Various issues started piling up, all too medical and boring to go into, but in the end we all decided it was better and safer for me to have a caesarean section. And that is how my son was born. We were ecstatic to meet him, and so glad that he was healthy. The caesarean was not unpleasant, he was in my arms while the surgeons were still closing, and my recovery was speedy and uneventful.
But, in those unpredictable, baby bluesy days towards the end of the first week of my child’s life, where the mere act of plumping a pillow could reduce me inexplicably to a sobbing heap, I regretted my caesar. My mood vacillated wildly between crazy-high and super-low, and the low periods felt like grief, like I’d been bereft. I thought perhaps I was mourning the loss of my pregnancy, and that I was in some way still waiting,waiting, waiting to go into labour. I was angry at my obstetrician for the decision I felt she’d influenced me to make, even though I’d reached the same conclusion before she’d even suggested it. I worried that my delivery somehow carried less meaning than those of my friends, who had worked to bring their children into the world.
Then, suddenly, as my mood stabilized, these feelings disappeared. I met a close friend’s baby girl, born via vagina a few days after my son, and she looked the same as he did. She was loved no more, and no less, than my child. Also, I could acknowledge that getting hyper-emotional about my method of delivery is very much a first-world privilege.
Not a day has gone by since the delivery that I have not been grateful for some luxury I have, that millions of women the world over — and most of the women I’d treated in my labour ward days — do not have. The luxury of delivering in a hospital that has lactation experts, intravenous paracetemol, private rooms, and as many pillows as you need. The luxury of driving home in a safe car, my baby secure in a tested carseat. A big, warm house for the exclusive use of our tiny family of three, free of wind and rain and fire risk. Twenty-four hour access to the internet, so that no question I have need go unanswered for more than a few seconds. The funds to buy a great pram, a state-of-the-art breast pump, and as many nappies as we can use. Friends who brought us meals and snacks, an awesome mom who came to stay with us to help out. Most of all, an extremely available, willing, and supportive husband, who puts the two of us at the centre of his life.
It’s churlish to complain about that one little thing, when there is so much more to be thankful for. I didn’t get my ‘natural’ delivery, but there probably will be a next time. And even if next time I don’t get it either, that’s fine too.
Reposted with permission from Karen Milford’s Medium collection, called The Baby Test. See more of her posts HERE
‘Karen lives in Cape Town where she is trying to be a good mom, a good doctor, and a connoisseur of good food and wine. On most days, she’s a distracted mom, a passable doctor, and is happy to eat fish fingers with tomato sauce and beer. She writes when she has time and when she has something she really wants to say.’