Today is the official birthday of our baby boy Arthur George who was born sleeping at 22 weeks of pregnancy. Legally he doesn’t exist as he has no birth certificate or death certificate as he didn’t draw breath. If he had he would technically have been alive.
He was a termination for medical reasons known as TMR and it was the hardest decision myself and my husband have ever had to make (read more about it in this earlier post) but we knew it was the right one to make as he wouldn’t have survived to full term passing anyway around 30 weeks so we felt it was the kindest decision. We still wondered and worried as to whether we were right.
We were still grieving the loss of Violet and then felt as though we were burying our last little bit of hope when we said goodbye to her brother. We entered a period of darkness even darker than we could imagine and felt our little flicker of hope we had extinguish completely when we were informed there was a 50/50 chance of future seriously ill babies like Arthur. A few months later we got the surprise news of another pregnancy. A pregnancy fraught with worry, stress and anguish as we wondered if once again the light we thought we could see at the end of the dark tunnel was in fact yet another high speed train set to derail us once again.
Now exactly a year to the day we held and said goodbye to our little son I’m holding another 5 week old little daughter, Aurora.
We named her Aurora as it means “Goddess of the Dawn” and “Light”. We thought this was beautiful and had special resonance for us as we now can start to see daylight again through the fog.
Happy birthday to our little rainbow Arthur George who taught us to dream and hope again after the loss of our first precious daughter Violet.
He also made us more determined to change more babies lives by raising more money for Violet’s cardiac surgery fund at Alder Hey Hospital and we set a date for the Violet Ball at the end of this month, 29th September at Radisson Edwardian hotel in Manchester you can get more information here. There are tickets still available and we are looking for raffle prizes too so if you can help please get in touch.
For years I have heard close friends and family talk about how they feel like fraudulent mummies because they had caesarean sections instead of natural births.
Other friends have spoken about the pressure to have done natural child birth, without pain relief, as though the more natural, painful and traumatic your experience the bigger your entitlement to a “super mummy” badge.
I felt I needed to write this blog post about the pure bullshit (yes that’s the language I’m choosing to use) of this whole belief system. I’m someone who has now become a mother as a result of the most painful natural birth, I’ve delivered a sleeping baby early naturally and I’ve also had an elective Caesarean section too. I can say from experience that all of these make me equally a mother and each of these experiences posed their own challenges, unique type of pain and suffering (both during and afterwards, both emotional and physical pain).
My “natural” birth was undiagnosed breach during which I had no pain relief and both myself and my daughter nearly died. Now this experience, to some women I’ve spoken to at various baby groups, is lauded as making me a “super woman” and 3 years ago in the baby class tales of who had had the worst birth experience meant I usually “won” that one hands down.
I remember one woman at a baby group proudly stating she also had a breach birth naturally and when offered a C-section instead opted for a no pain relief natural experience and said she was proud she’d done it. What utter nonsense? As someone who has experienced it and without pain relief, I can hand on heart say I really wish I hadn’t have been through it at all.
Yes it is important for women to be able to have a choice in the birth process and for them to be able to have a say in their experience but at the end of the day the priority must always be the health of mother and her baby or babies so whatever is best for the patients should be what happens. For women to then wear their “experience” as a badge of honour, that they can use to bash other mums with (as if new mums don’t already have enough to feel guilty about!) is I think total and complete bollocks.
I’ve had people say to me, that they wish they’d have had the birth experience I had, instead of the C-section they actually did have, and as someone whose physical wounds and emotional ones still haven’t healed from my original birth trauma, I’ve had to say “ermmm no you really don’t want to have experienced what I did”.
So why is a C-section seen as the easy option or the cheats way? As someone who has now also experienced a Caesarean section with my latest pregnancy (actually last week!) I can say it’s certainly not the super easy and pain free alternative that it is lauded as. Those women I was in hospital with who had natural births are already out and about with their babies in slings, pushing them in prams and lifting car seats into their cars to take baby for a drive. I can’t do any of that yet because of the wound that still needs to heal across my tummy and I’m limited to what I can lift, stretch to reach and physically do. I’m also on strong painkillers for the pain following the major operation, as that is what a Caesarean section is, a major operation! Natural childbirth might be more painful at the time of birth but post birth C-section pain and discomfort wins hands down unless you of course have complications such as tears, prolapse, piles, etc.
Women at baby groups talk about their natural birth experiences in the same way we probably chatted about hunting trips and warfare as cave people. The stories seem to become more elaborate and embellished as they are repeated with some women seeming to get pleasure from reliving all the horrendous little details wanting to out shock or out gore the person before. There seems to be an element of competition about the whole thing trying to see who has had the worst experience.
If women talk about their experiences with such great delight then why aren’t the genuine battle scars, including C-section scars, stretch marks & saggy boobs also celebrated by society and why are women made to feel bad about them? Should they not be championed as battle scars and showcased alongside the tales of woe?
Why are some women also made to feel bad for having C-sections by men too? Some men when I was pregnant and they heard I was having a planned c section actually joked “too posh to push hey?” With even women giving each other a hard time over childbirth what hope do we have for men to then react appropriately?
Do you feel bad about your childbirth experience? Have others made you feel guilty about it? Have you decided to change things with any future children?
I feel we have a long way to go when discussing childbirth but it is about time we simply celebrate motherhood no matter how our babies arrived into the world and we should celebrate all types of motherhood too, including those whose babies don’t quite go or arrive as planned. It’s important to talk about child loss too and alternative experiences.
Last week was a hard week for us as it was our daughter’s third birthday and along with the happy memories we also had memories of her difficult birth, where both of us nearly died, and the memory of her having heart surgery too.
This time three years ago she spent her first 10 days in various NICU wards, at St Mary’s hospital first before she was transferred to Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool. In Liverpool she had open-heart surgery at just 4 days old. We had to sign a million legal forms and contracts saying we knew the odds were stacked against her. That we knew she might not survive and return alive from the operating theatre. And that if she did there was a chance of brain damage; disabilities and the heart problem might not be “fixed”. We also knew her chance of survival without the operation was nil and she was only alive because of the additional hormones and support she was being given.
I still remember the day she went off to the operating theatre that morning was only the second time I had actually held my daughter in the four days since her birth. The first time being the day after she was born just before she left St Mary’s Hospital in an ambulance for Alder Hey, with her daddy in a taxi in hot pursuit, as we didn’t want her to be alone without at least one of us. I had to remain in St Mary’s because of all the injuries I sustained during labour and as soon as I could be discharged to head over to Liverpool I was.
The days before her operation and the hours before it we spent time talking to her about what we were going to do together once she was out of the hospital. We chatted about all the different people she would meet, describing friends and family members to her in detail. We spoke about all the places we would take her to including New Zealand to see her Uncle Tom, Cyprus to see her Aunty Mel and Bali for mummy & daddy’s honeymoon. We chatted about her Grandma and Nanna. Said she would learn to swim. We basically described to her then the life she ended up having crammed into a 15-month period. I wish I had have mentioned university and her own children to her then perhaps she’d have stayed around for longer!
When they took her down to the operating theatre I couldn’t watch, as I knew I would end up screaming and it would distress Violet, so instead I collapsed onto the floor of the nearby family room sobbing. Her brave daddy on the other hand walked her down to the operating theatre, talking calming to her the whole time reassuring her, reminding her how much she was loved and how strong she was, that she could do this.
Then commenced the longest 8 hours of our life as we hung around the hospital waiting for a phone call and finally received it saying she was out and still alive! We were so relieved and our hearts sank when we returned to the NICU ward to be told that the specialist team wanted to speak to us before we saw her. We thought oh no this is where we get told something bad has happened but we were told the opposite that the surgeon thought it was an 100% success and she wouldn’t need any other operations on that part of her heart again ever. You know what we discovered he was 100% right too, as her post mortem showed his operation was a permanent fix. This is the reason we are fundraising in her name for Alder Hey so superstar surgeons can continue to work their magic on baby’s that are told they only have a slim chance of survival.
Last week these memories all felt like it was someone else’s story, as though it was a different life and it played in my mind like a feature length film.
The thing I found hardest was the realization that ordinarily I would have spent the weekend before her birthday preparing for it by buying her gifts, cards and organizing a birthday party for her. Then the night before I’d have been putting an excited little girl to bed and wrapping her presents to set up for the morning.
This year instead of planning her party the weekend before I focused on doing some planning for the Violet Ball to be held in her memory on 29thSeptember to raise money for Alder Hey to thank them for saving her life at 4 days old. Instead of wrapping her presents the night before her birthday we decided to make up little “Random act of kindness” parcels containing little packets of sweets, including Parma Violets, and then on her birthday we distributed them all around the area where we live. Including taking some to her nursery, leaving some on the benches near the playgrounds in the local parks where she loved the swings, left some near the mural on Beech Road that has a violet coloured balloon in her memory, some elsewhere on Beech Road near to where she attended Babel Baby classes and we placed some on benches in the cemetery close to her grave after we took her birthday balloons.
Third birthday balloons
Random act of kindness
Random act of kindness
The challenge now will be deciding what we do next year for her fourth birthday? Please let us know your ideas as all will be considered.