“Fear is such a powerful emotion for humans that when we allow it to take us over, it drives compassion right out of our hearts.” – St. Thomas Aquinas.
I was compelled to document this experience before I forget the details. I was a mother of three and quite happy to not have another child. I was at the peak of my fitness, preparing to race into my 40s by running a marathon, when the news hit me like a ton of bricks… Bam! I was pregnant with my fourth child.
The idea was horrific. I kept asking myself, “How am I going to be a mother of four kids while home-schooling, running a household, supporting my husband, and of course maintaining my own sanity?” However, the idea that freaked me out most was the idea of having a 4th Caesarean Section. I wondered whether it was even possible. Would it be safe? Was I going to die while “giving birth” to baby number four and leave my family destitute without their mother?
After speaking to some doctors, I found out that four or even five C-sections is indeed possible. As long as you don’t go into advanced labour, it is completely safe. This came as a relief…I was so stuck in my old-fashioned understanding about the dangers of more than three C-sections that I failed to grasp the growth in Obstetrics in the 21st century.
This did not console me completely though. I had already had three horrible birth experiences. These were mainly because of my deep desire for natural birth, being forced to have an emergency c-section twice and not even being given the option the third time. I found the c-section operation so gloomy and clinical with bright theatre lights, a bunch of doctors and nurses all around, the dreaded epidural and drip, and of course the slow recovery. It haunted me so much that I never referred to my past experiences as “giving birth”, but merely as the day that the baby was cut out of me.
As the date was set for my C-section to take place, and we were at my final check-up, my Obstetrician asked me if I had any questions. I then proceeded to divulge all my fears and how frightened I was of the idea of having to go through another C-section and that I was filled with the anxiety of being given an epidural for the 4th time, how I had no fear for needles but the idea of having a drip in my arm was nerve racking.
He then gazed at me with a gentle smile and asked me, “Have you ever heard of a Gentle c-section, also known as a natural c-section?”. I hadn’t. He explained that a gentle c-section is a procedure that makes a c-section seem less like a major abdominal operation and more like a vaginal delivery. I would be more involved and see more and not be hidden behind a curtain while doctors are working on me, only seeing the monitors with my vitals as proof that I was actually part of the birthing process… This is of course not at all relatable to the warrior mammas that have given birth vaginally, but as far as c-sections go, this concept excited me tremendously and deterred my thoughts from the fears I felt.
Then at 13h30, Saturday 14th August my contractions started, two days before my scheduled C-section. Not at all according to the plan, but off we went to the hospital leaving our three kids in the care of a close friend. Fast-forward to the dreaded theatre table. Immediately the ambience seemed different. The lights seemed dimmer than the harsh ones I was used to. The mood seemed more relaxed and pleasant. I could hear the music from my personal playlist from the night before. The epidural happened so quickly, and I was soon face-to-face with a purple scrubs cap with the words “A person’s a person, no matter how small” printed on the front. I burst into tears with the joy of knowing I made the right choice in selecting my doctor, and without even meeting baby girl number four yet, I was in love.
I watched the entire birth. Once the incision was complete, he did not rip the child out of me but allowed my little munchkin the opportunity to manoeuvre her own way out, only guiding her gently, while “she will be loved” played in the background. I remember thinking, “This is as close to a natural birth as I will get” and my eyes started to well up again. Then the nurses brought her to me to feed. Usually, I only get to breastfeed my kids after my time in recovery. This time no one took her away from me. I got skin-to-skin and quality bonding time. I was so distracted by being able to embrace my child that before I knew it, I was stitched up and done.
This experience is exactly what I needed to heal the wounds and dull my fears of c-sections. Not that I am saying I intend on having another child. I am still grappling with being a mom of four which is in itself a challenge to bear. Needless to say, the fear and horrors from my past have completely subsided.