And by that, I mean my Caesarean section was a maternal request. There was no physical indication for a Caesarean, yet I asked for and was granted one for the birth of my second child.
It never ceases to amaze me that there is a general consensus on the positive nature of women being supported in whether or not they consent to sex; of women being supported in their choice and access to contraception; of women having choice as to whether or not they continue with a pregnancy; of women having access to support for either of those choices; of women having antenatal care; and of women then ceasing to have choice, rights and support when they give birth.
Here in the UK, women have the right to a home birth. There are now NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommendations that women also be allowed a Caesarean on maternal request. At last, a balance is coming: that regardless of birthing choice, women be supported in their choice.
As a result of the NICE recommendations and the midwives and obstetricians caring for me, I was supported in my choice to have a Caesarean. Perhaps there are those that would suggest a doula and counselling would have stopped my need for a Caesarean. There are a few flaws with the notion that women should be, by whatever means, stopped from having a Caesarean. The first, in my case, is that my midwives and the majority of my antenatal care came courtesy of our local midwife unit. A midwife unit that happens to an award winner. A midwife unit that has a 70% water birth rate and has access for all mothers to relaxation and hypnosis. They recognised that a positive birth is not about how a baby comes into the world, it’s about treating a mother like a human being, a person. About supporting a mother in making informed choice.
And it’s the choice that matters. The motivation for the choice matters, just as the motivation matters for however a woman chooses to give birth, but it is critical that the choice be, above all else, an informed one.
If women can be supported in the choice to give birth at home or at hospital, to give birth medicated or unmedicated, why can’t they be supported in making an informed choice from all the available options? With the help of midwives and obstetricians, women can be supported and informed about a range of options surrounding birth, but as soon as those option veer north of a woman’s vagina, all of a sudden, women aren’t deemed competent of knowing what’s right for them and their child.
When people are forced to follow the advice of doctors, they are sectioned in order to receive treatment. When Caesareans by maternal requests are denied, women are being forced to give birth in a way that they didn’t choose. These denials and the support of these denials seem to reinforce the idea that women are incompetent, and seem to reinforce the idea that it’s okay to treat competent women in a way that goes against their wishes.
There are plenty of arguments floating about that tell of the horrors of a Caesarean. The problem is that there’s often no balance brought about by also telling the risks of vaginal birth, too. And many of the risks associated with Caesareans are possible with a vaginal birth. Of the results achieved by continuing to talk about the horrors of Caesarean delivery, there is one that is incredibly damaging: the undermining of those women who have difficult vaginal deliveries. There will be women who have Caesareans who have very painful and difficult recoveries, but it mustn’t be forgotten that there are women who give birth vaginally who also have very painful and difficult recoveries. There are women who will have lasting damage from a Caesarean, but there will also be women who have lasting damage from a vaginal delivery. There are babies delivered by Caesarean who may have trouble breathing, but there are babies delivered vaginally who are going to have trouble breathing, too. The risk from a Caesarean may be higher, but there are very few risks which are exclusive to Caesareans.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that this is my body, please don’t try to take away my choice.