Why I Chose To Have An Elective C-Section

As a Canadian, I’ve always felt out of place in this country. In my heart, I feel like a New Yorker – or as if I should be living in Los Angeles – and often bemoan the fact I don’t have an American passport. I just feel like Americans “get” me better. I like their work ethic, their pride in their country and the fact they do seem to enjoy other people’s successes.

There is now further proof that I am more of an American gal, thanks to a recent statistic from the International Cesarean Awareness network, which says that “around a third of U.S. pregnancies end with the operation.” Even in Britain, a quarter of babies come into the world via C-section. Apparently, C-sections are the “most frequently performed major surgery in the United States.”

Data published in the British journal BMC Public Health also shows some interesting statistics. In the early 80s, elective C-sections were mostly performed on women from lower socioeconomic classes. By the early 2000s, they found that upper-class women were the ones most likely to have scheduled C-sections.

Almost eight years ago, I had an elective C-section in Canada and wrote about it in my book Knocked Up and in a national newspaper in Canada that I wrote for at the time. To say it caused controversy is an understatement. To say that Canadians remember that I had a C-section to this day is a reality, as if I was the only person to ever even think about having one.

In Canada, both doctors and mothers frown upon elective C-sections. The smart mothers, in this country, do not talk about getting elective C-sections. That is, if they can find a doctor who will perform one. The first obstetrician I visited, and whom I asked for an elective C-section, told me to go to “Brazil.” I found another obstetrician, in a different province, who was understanding to my pleas and agreed to give me my elective C-section.

To say that I’m tired of arguing about my choice is also an understatement. If I could roll my eyes on paper, I would. But while people were only too willing to bash me publically about my decision, and still do, there was a whole other breed of women who privately sent me e-mails pleading for my doctor’s name (no fewer than 50 emails arrived in my in-box). To this day, I still receive the occasional e-mail asking about my experience from women who want a C-section and can I please, please, please suggest a doctor who will perform one.

These women, like me, don’t want a C-section because they are “too posh to push,” which is a phrase I think is totally ridiculous, totally overused and, quite frankly, totally wrong and misleading.

When you have a catheter next to your bed that’s filled with your own urine, and a doctor cutting layers of muscle, it’s anything but too posh too push. It’s really quite disgusting.

Do you want to know why I chose to have an elective C-section? I can feed you lines, as I have in the past, like, “I’m not good with surprises” and “I wanted my mother, who lived in a different city, to be there for the birth,” both of which are true.

But, what’s the truest of all, is that I was scared shitless to go through labor. I was so terrified that the very thought of labor pains and not knowing how long I’d be in pain for, or when it would start, stressed me out to the point I was having panic attacks and would sob uncontrollably. Once the doctor agreed to an elective C-section, the panic attacks went away. I felt calmer. Who could argue that a less stressed out mother isn’t better for the baby growing inside?

In this day and age, where it’s finally okay to admit that you suffer from mental illnesses like depression or bipolar (like Catherine Zeta Jones), why can’t the medical community comprehend that there are just some women who can’t deal with the thought of labor and consider it a real medical problem? Trust me when I say that just because you tell me that, “millions of women do it every day!” it does not make me feel any better.

In Canada, where we are fortunate to have universal health care, it often comes down to a money issue. I can see this point. I had an anesthesiologist at my side the entire time, along with two nurses and a doctor. I was allowed to stay in the hospital for almost three days. Yes, other Canadians had to pay with their tax dollars – but so did I. Would I have paid for this if that were allowed in Canada? Absolutely. And it’s not because I am flush with money. It’s because, as I said, I was terrified.

Women who think I’m doing a disservice to my baby by having a C-section can – if I can be so blunt?– bite me. I do not remember the day I was born and neither do they and neither does my daughter. My daughter is thriving. She is smart as a whip, got into the National Ballet School and one of the best private schools in Canada.

I do not judge mothers who choose to have babies at home with no medical assistance. I do not judge mothers who insist you Purel your hands every time you walk in the door. I just smile and move on. I had an elective C-section. Smile and move on. Also, I’m not a martyr. I do not believe that just because you went through 48 hours of labor that you are a better mother than I am. You are not.

I do not regret having an elective C-section. When I say I really do believe I had a mental medical problem when it came to giving birth “naturally,” I believe I did. I believe other women do as well. I believe doctors should be more understanding.

Of course there will always be women out there who choose to have elective C-sections because they think it’s easier. It’s not, as they will find out. Unlike most of my friends who could work out within a week after giving birth, I could barely walk for a month. Could I hold my baby, like any other new mother, though? Absolutely.

Instead of coming down hard on mother’s who choose or want an elective C-section, people should not be asking, “Are you too posh too push?” They should be asking us about our mental state and trust us that we know ourselves better than anyone.

Also, I didn’t breastfeed. But that’s another story….


(Photo: iStockphoto)

You can reach this post's author, Rebecca Eckler, on twitter.
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