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Sue Hedges Headshot

Why didn't I have the right to a Caesarean

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I am reading today's news about Caesarean with interest...and also with a heavy heart.

I am glad for women from now on who will be able to have a caesarean - those who will have a choice in the birth of their baby - it's fantastic news.

But I am sad because of my own experience. I only have one child - he is now 11.

When I watch TV programmes and adverts and see that moment when the baby is passed to the mother and they have that first lovely cuddle, I almost cry everytime - I never had that moment with my son.

I feel extremely lucky to have him - and extremely lucky that he is still with us and unscathed from his (and mine) awful birth experience.

I was 36 when I had Joe. I had always wanted children - but after a string of disastrous relationships, I found myself at 30 childless, boyfriendless, in a temporary job, living at my mum and dad's - not exactly what I had pictured for myself at that age.

I remember sitting in my room there on Christmas Day feeling dreadfully sorry for myself - if someone had said to me at that point: "This time next year, you will be married to a lovely man" - I would have laughed in their face!

But I was!

Meeting Andy was the best thing that had happened to me in a long time. We were madly in love and saw each other every night. I was just waiting for something to go wrong - but it didn't. So when he asked me to marry him after two months, I didn't hesitate. We didn't want a long engagement - so we didn't get engaged - we just booked the wedding for December 1995 - what a year - met April, proposed to in June, wedding booked for December.

Perfect.

But there was one downfall...he had no desire to have children. I had always been surrounded by children and as a member of an active Sunday School and Brownie Pack, I went on to help out at both of those. My friends had children who I loved, and my brothers both had lovely boys. I couldn't imagine not having a child of my own. But then I had found the man I wanted to be with - and after the experiences I had had before, I decided that was more important - so we got married.

Over the next few years, Andy's groups of friends started having children and we found ourselves being part of that. I admit I felt jealous each time someone was pregnant - it was hard. But I didn't try to persuade him - what would be the point? I was mature enough to know that a baby was hard work when you were committed to it - to have a baby with someone who didn't want one would be a silly decision.

So - when he spoke to me one night and said that he had changed his mind - he wanted to start a family with me - you can only imagine how I felt. I was ecstatic - we started trying straightaway and like our romance - it happened really quickly - and within 3 months I was pregnant.

The pregnancy didn't go without a hitch, but it wasn't too traumatic either. Four weeks before my baby was due I went for a scan because they thought the baby was quite big and might be too big for me to deliver naturally. (My husband is 6ft 5 and I am 5ft 4 - a bit of a difference!).

At that point we were told that we could find out the sex of the baby if we wanted to - so we did. I was having a boy.

Two weeks later, the annual Rugby Club dinner came around. I was heavily pregnant but decided to go and try to enjoy myself. My husband and I decided to have a taxi - after all there was still two weeks to go and it was going to be his last drink - just in case. With this in mind and the Rugby Club dinner being a big booze up, he was pretty drunk when we left the hotel. I had surprised myself and managed to stay out till one o'clock - good food, good company , even a bit of a boogie with my big bump - I had really enjoyed it.

But at one o'clock in the morning with my husband comatosed on the bed, I started to get contractions. I went in the bath to try and make things more comfortable, but it wasn't great. At three in the morning, I had to shake Andy awake and we had to go to the hospital. As Andy would still be way over the limit, we had to have a taxi. I remember the taxi driver being really excited thinking that I would be the first woman to give birth in his taxi!!

But it was to be a good while before that happened.

I stayed in hospital, but things didn't move very quickly at all. Seven hours later, I was still in the delivery room , having gas and air. Another seven hours passed and I was still there. By this time, I had had an epidural and I was in a lot less pain. But I was very stressed. I was very worried that something was wrong with my baby. It was taking so long.

After 14 hours, the doctor came in and said that he wanted to test for oxygen around the baby and did some sort of test. At this point I was almost hysterical. If they were worried about that, why didn't they just get the baby out by caesarean section. I asked the doctor the question but he tried to reassure me that things would be okay.

Things obviously weren't okay and my husband and I became very concerned. If they were testing for oxygen in the blood - why didn't they just get the baby out? They already knew from my notes that I may have problems delivering, so why weren't they taking that into consideration? There was no-one around to ask and they just left me there worrying. When the time came to push, several hours later, it was so obvious that the baby needed some help to get out. I was tired too - I had been out till 1am in the morning, it was now a full 24 hours later since I started with contractions and I still hadn't given birth. Add to that the fact that I was stressed and worrying - why couldn't I have a Caesarean?

But it was my first child. With no past experience to go on I had no choice but to trust in the doctors and the midwives and respect their decision - didn't I?

Eventually, at about 3am in the morning, they gave me a top up epidural and took me to theatre. They said be prepared for lots of people around. When I got there, they still didn't give up. They encouraged me to keep pushing. I could see shiny bits of equipment (I now know they were forceps) and a nurse was at my side stroking my hair - Andy in theatre clothes the other side. I remember them telling me to give one last push to try to deliver him naturally - I didn't care about that - I just wanted my baby out, delivered safely and to be holding him - why wouldn't they just do that?

However, with the help of one final push and some forceps he finally was delivered.

The baby wasn't put on me in that heartwarming moment and there was no cry. I was allowed a quick look and in my delirium and worry about everything that was going on, I can remember my first thought being "where has that ginger curly hair come from!"

At this point he still wasn't crying. If I hadn't known the sex of the baby, I still wouldn't have known and the nurse was quite cross about this - she couldn't believe no-one had told me.

For what seemed like a lifetime but I now know it was just a few minutes there I was lying there just saying over and over "is he alive is he alive". Then I started thinking - how am I going to tell people. How will I tell people there is no baby.

I was almost feeling the grief of losing him before I knew what had happened - they were probably the worst moments of my life and I still cry when I think about it.

Finally, I heard a cry - but I still wasn't allowed to hold him - he was taken off into special Ccare in an incubator.

I didn't hold him for another five days.

I was in a ward with five other mothers who all had their babies by their side and I know they felt awkward with me there and when it was visiting time, I would just go to the canteen as I couldn't bear to see them all showing off their new arrivals, while my relatives could just peek at my baby through the door of the special care unit.

None of this, of course, is important now because he is here by my side as a lovely, healthy 11 year old.

I do think though , that things could have been very very different.

I found out afterwards that the hospital I gave birth in had a very low caesarean rate which it was proud of and it was a target they wanted to keep. But at the expense of what? I should have been given a caesarean hours before Joe was finally born - it was not right to keep me and him waiting that long at what could have been the expense of his life.

I read a story afterwards of another family who had a very different outcome. Their baby was very badly brain damaged and later died after a very similar experience to mine at the same hospital.

So - I welcome the choice of caesarean that has been announced today - but I do agree they shouldn't be offered willy nilly - they are too expensive and not necessary on lots of occasions.

It makes me wonder what horror stories have prompted the NHS to bring in this change.

But perhaps if caesareans had been offered when they were needed over the last few years instead of hospitals making decisions to protect their targets and not their patients then today's news may not even have been necessary.

Around the Web

Caesarean section - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Giving birth by cesarean section | BabyCenter

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