Genetically engineered to want to suffer?

With the birth of my second child getting gradually, slowly, inchingly closer, I am thinking more than ever about the birth. The baby part will sort itself out – yes, it’ll be tough, but we’ll handle it somehow and hopefully muddle through like we all do. But the birth part – wow. That’s the bit I’m dreading.

First time around we did the ante-natal classes and swotted up like proper little students. We’d have passed exams in the theory of childbirth. And I knew what I wanted to happen. Yes, I knew it would hurt – but holy mackerel was I in for a shock.

So, one 23 hour labour, every type of pain medication and a general anaesthetic emergency caesarean later, I face the prospect again. In my braver days I choose to listen to the (vast majority of) friends of mine with two children or more who say it’s much easier 2nd time around, that you know what’s happening, it tends to be shorter and so on. And the magical words – you heal faster from a natural birth. But on my less brave days, I become very, very aware of the fact that this time around, I have a choice.

Having had a c-section, I do have the option of an elective caesarean this time. One of my best friends, due this month in fact, is having one. She ummed and ahhhed for along time, and eventually it was the logistics of it all that swayed her decision. Like us, she doesn’t have family on the doorstep to babysit at short notice when she goes into labour and, less easily solved, her husband works in a job where he not only works shifts, in other countries no less, but also cannot book flexible paternity leave, but has to book a set time slot up front. Their first child was born 2 days before he had to go back to work. This time, that won’t be the case.

I have the same issue with family being far away, with husband not working close to home (although not in other countries, fortunately, and with flexi-leave) So why is it that I am shying away from the idea of it? Are we genetically programmed to feel the need to suffer to have our children?

Perhaps that’s it. I can’t help feeling that somehow, booking in a slot and going in for a neat little op which will produce a baby with minimal fuss, a few days in hospital to bond with the new arrival and then home, stocked up with pain-killers. A few weeks later, all fine. No 3rd degree tearing, no hideously, mortifyingly embarrassing procedures while you’re in labour. No throwing up everywhere or screaming or lying in your own blood for 8 hours. (Really, really sorry, to anyone about to give birth for the first time – chin up, everyone’s different, remember!)

And yet I can’t quite give in to the temptation. I know having a c-section is not a “little op”, that it’s a fairly major operation. but at the moment it’s the one option I am more familiar with, that I know how to cope with. I can’t bear the thought of being away from my son for 3 days, nor of not being able to pick him up when I get home. But still, I can’t shake it off, this fascination with the choice.

Perhaps it’s the choice itself that makes it harder. If I’d had a natural birth last time I wouldn’t have the choice this time and would just have to get on with it. Somehow it’s harder, knowing I could choose to avoid it all. Maybe, when the time comes, the fact that I chose it will actually help me deal with it. We can but dream.

But where does it come from, this inbuilt feeling most women seem to have (certainly all my friends do anyway) that you have to endure enormous pain and suffering in order to have a baby? There’s plenty of hardships afterwards to make up for it, so why don’t we find it an easier choice to opt out?

I suppose it’s hard to shake off 33 years of being told that that’s how babies come into the world. It somehow just seems too easy, too neat and tidy, to just have it all planned like that. Maybe there should be pain, maybe there should be uncertainty and risk and blood and screaming. They’re a hell of a prize after all, it has to be said – so maybe it’s no bad thing that we have to fight hard to win them.


~ by DelightingintheDetail on October 6, 2010.

3 Responses to “Genetically engineered to want to suffer?”

  1. Ahhh, but there’s a way to resolve this dilemma. (Surely more than one, but this is the one I’m led to share.)

    You could choose to wait until labor begins, allowing your child to determine his/her birth date, labor along and see how it goes. You would be able to change your mind anytime you wanted to.

    There is, of course, the risk of the emergency cesarean again, but I’m sure you know how incredibly rare that likelihood would be.

    As I’m sure you know the likelihood of a vaginal birth (VBAC) is far, far in your favor.

    I love the line “…chin up, everyone’s different, remember!” – not only everyone, but every single labor and birth.

    You will make *your* right decision and poop on anyone that questions you afterwards. I love this piece and hope it helps you to clarify your final choice.

  2. Funnily enough at my son’s ‘Stars in training’ class, we were talking about our experiences of labour and how the first time round one is so bad – it’s amazing some of us go through it again.

    On paper, I think I was 20 odd hours in labour, but I take it from the first contraction, and I was in labour for over 30 hours.

    I had two epidurals, (the first didn’t work) and then a spinal block when they wheeled me into theatre just in case, after doing an hour of pushing.

    The epidurals weren’t really working as baby was back on back, and it was something I didn’t want, (NCT classes warned us epidurals slow things down) but had to have as they needed to induce the contractions, because they’d slowed… I think I was just bloody knackered! But midwives thought I’d been through so much that I wouldn’t be able to cope with the pain without the epidural.

    I pushed for an hour – like you see in the films, midwives holding both legs etc. etc. etc. then they took me to theatre as a precaution in case an emergency c-section was required. I was told by the anaesthetist that if I had to have the surgery, they’d have to give me a general (I still had feelings in my leg). Somehow, I repeat, somehow I pushed him out. I couldn’t feel anything from my chest down, and I do seriously believe it was mind over matter, (my yoga helped!) I pushed him out. I thought of the muscles I needed to use, when the midwife said push (I couldn’t feel my contractions at this point) I pushed mentally. With the help of forceps and an episiotomy my first son was delivered.

    My second son flew out 😉 I had only gas and air, and tens machine. I didn’t want an epidural, because I knew that slowed things down (and why most women end up having C-sections). He wasn’t back on back, so I could stand through a lot of my labour. From first contraction to delivery – less than 6 hours! Actually can’t remember what time contractions started in the morning, but he was delivered at 10.44am. I felt the need to push, I didn’t have midwives holding my legs or anything… I did it all. I felt the head. It hurt, but my god it was over v. quickly and gas and air helps!

    If you’ve already had a c-section, it’s whether you’re stretched enough down there. (Sorry but I think that’s a little the reason second time can be easier) But I do believe the recovery rate is better. I was up and about with my second son so quickly my husband was astounded.

    Good luck with your decision. It’s only you who should decide, what’s best for you and baby. I’m glad that my second labour was more natural, it felt actually rather empowering. I was almost in tears, thinking if labour was pleasurable that was it! lol! Only me, my husband and two midwives. First time around felt like the whole hospital had looked up me!

  3. I started with a C section. I hurt plenty after it! I spent the 12 hours after it in a demarol haze, while my son was in the nursery.
    With labor you have the pain up front. And it isn’t always such great pain. You already put in 23 hours of work on your cervix, after all. It’s had some practice. You never know, you could have a much easier time with this labor.

    Will your doctors/hospital let you walk around during labor? Can you labor in a pool? Some women find that just using the pool changes the feel of labor enough for them to handle it, without an epidural even. I am not sure where you get the images of third degree tears and lying in a pool of blood from. These would not be common things to have happen to you! A lot of women give birth over an intact perineum! Others have a small tear, not to be compared to a C section scar. Some births occur without any blood at all until the separation of the placenta, and you bleed from that even after a C section.

    I have done it both ways and vote for vaginal birth. And you know, if there is any chance you would do it a third time, that one is likely to be even easier. (likely, not certain; little is certain about birth.) While a third C section will not be any easier.

    If you want to, you can leave the hospital sometimes within hours of a vaginal birth and be back with your other child. I thought this was a great advantage when I managed to have my first VBAC.

    One thing I am almost certain about is that if you choose a VBAC and have a successful vaginal delivery….without “third degree tears and lying in a pool of blood”! you will be glad after it is over that you did. With a C section I think you will always wonder what it would have been like if…. At least I would have.

    Wishing you a happy experience whatever you choose,
    Susan Peterson

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