A Christian Perspective on Caesareans
by Alison Stanley
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Four years ago my daughter was born via an emergency c-section after my body didn't respond to being induced. I was already 8 days overdue and I was induced on the Monday morning. By Tuesday evening nothing had progressed despite having had my waters broken that morning and being on the oxytocin drip all day. After hours of intense contractions, my baby's heartbeat started getting a bit too fast and my Obstetrician made the call that she would cut open my stomach to get my baby out. At the time I was happy for anything that was going to end the pain and bring my baby to me faster. I quickly signed the forms while the midwife prepared me for surgery. A couple of men in scrubs wheeled me down to the operating theatre. I sat still as the anaesthesiologist inserted the spinal block. While I'm normally paranoid about needles, my main concern was making sure my husband made it into the surgery in time!
It was quite a frightening experience. I remember praying as I felt the doctors pulling at my stomach, feeling quite fearful that I might actually die on the operating table. Then I heard my daughter's cry and everything seemed right in the world. She wasn't even out of my tummy yet, but she let her presence be known. As the Obstetrician held her up for me to see, she reached out her little starfish shaped hands and I shed a few tears. I had a perfect little baby and at that moment, it didn't matter how she had come into the world. In fact, when I saw some of the other babies in the ward, I liked that my baby had a little round c-section head.
The weeks and months that followed, however, were a different story. Though I was happy to be a mum, I couldn't help feeling like somehow I had failed as a woman. This was compounded by a few internet forums I participated in where women spouted their strong views on why caesareans are evil. One woman wrote “I can't stand it when women who have had a c-section say they have given birth”. That comment stung. As more and more of my friends gave birth naturally, it made the wound seem a little more painful. I kept thinking “why couldn't I give birth naturally?”, “what's wrong with my body?”, “what would have happened if I'd kept labouring on my own – did I let the Obstetrician talk me into a c-section too early?”...
Looking back, I feel quite silly when I think about what was going through my head back then. But my self-doubts seemed to be fuelled by articles about celebrities who were 'too posh to push', or negative statistics citing the rising rate of caesareans, with experts referring to Obstetricians as if they are knife-wielding maniacs. On one of the online forums I visited, a women shared that she had been told it was a sin to have a caesarean because it was God's intention that women experience the full curse given to Eve in the garden of Eden, to have great pains in childbirth! Bizzarre!
When my daughter was 12 months old, I fell pregnant with my second child. This time, I was keen to have a vaginal birth, or VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean). I was determined to give it a try. I drank raspberry leaf tea, tried to get plenty of rest and did lots of walking to try and kick things off naturally. But, my second baby had other plans. After having two false alarms where I went to the hospital, only to be sent home again, my Obstetrician booked me in for a planned caesarean at the end of the week. In my heart I knew that I would be going back for another c-section. After a week of strong Braxton Hicks, I was just happy to get my baby out, however it happened.
I got to the hospital at 7am on the Friday morning and I was back in my hospital room with my new daughter an hour later. It was a surreal experience and so different to the first. I knew what to expect and savoured every moment of the 'birth'. Because I hadn't laboured for hours, it took a lot less time to recover the second time around. The whole thing was so easy and I didn't regret it at all. I guess I also had gained some perspective on things too, as a few weeks before my second daughter was born, a friend of mine had a stillbirth. Rather than wishing I had a different birth story, I became even more thankful to God that I had two beautiful, healthy children.
What I've learnt through my experience is that the way that children come into this world isn't an issue at all. What matters is how we raise them to be the people God created them to be. Birth is just one day (or maybe two) in the life of a child, but yet so much emphasis is put on it. The other thing that has helped me is to realise that if I hadn't have had my caesareans, my children or I may not be alive today.
My daughters are intrigued when they hear the stories of how they were born, and I love that I can share the special circumstances of their birth with them. With God's help, I've changed what could have been a negative experience into a positive.
If you are struggling with hurt, disappointment or bitterness after experiencing a c-section, here are some things that can help:
* Thank God that we live in a society and time period that medical intervention is available
* Ignore anyone who tells you that you've taken the easy way out, or that you haven't experienced proper birth
* Write out your birth story for your child to read one day (I scrap-booked mine). I found this to be a really helpful exercise. It will help you to realise that each birth story is just as special as the other
* Whenever you look at your child, thank God that by his grace he has brought this child into your life (no matter what the method may have been).
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