Well, it looks like we’re doing this, folks: I’m having an elective c-section.

(Or that’s the plan, anyway: but more on that later…)

Last week I had an appointment with my doctor, at which I signed the consent forms: which means that, at some point within the next few weeks, I’ll get a letter in the mail giving me the date of my baby’s birthday – how crazy is that?

Although I know I’ve made the right decision, though, I can’t claim it was an easy one: far from it, in fact. If you read my last post on this subject, you’ll know that I was really torn on what to do, here, with both options (elective c-section and vaginal birth) seeming equally terrifying to me. Honestly, they both still DO. I really want to stress here that, although I think a planned c-section is probably going to be the best option for me, that doesn’t mean that it’s a particularly attractive option: I mean, all things considered, I’d ideally rather NOT have to be cut open on an operating table, you know? Still, though, I’m going ahead, with the full support of my doctor and counsellor, for the simple reason that, with two terrifying options to choose from, this is the one that terrifies me the least – purely because it offers the least number of unknowns.

Why I'm having an elective c-sectionWith an elective c-section, I’ll be given a day and time to turn up at the hospital, at which point I know exactly what will happen to me. When I visited the labour ward two weeks ago, the nurse there walked me through – literally – the entire process, right down to showing me the room I’d most likely be waiting in before the surgery, and the route I’d take to the theatre. The word she used most often in describing the whole thing was “calm” – and that’s a word I’ve seen come up again and again in the various stories I’ve read (and I’ve read a LOT) about elective c-sections. I like calm. Calm is good. And while I realise that vaginal births can also be calm, I think the complete uncertainty of what was about to happen would be really, really hard for me to deal with. And the fact is, while there are obviously risks associated with c-sections – and I’ve gone through every single one of them in very great detail – there are risks associated with vaginal births, too. That’s something the NHS DON’T always tell you.

When I had my first meeting to discuss the possibility of an elective c-section, I was given a long list of risk associated with the surgery, but absolutely none of the risks of vaginal birth. I had to research those myself, in order to compare the two: a task made significantly harder by the fact that the statistics on cesarean sections include ALL cesarean sections – so, emergency c-sections carried out under general anaesthetic, and with various complicating factors, are lumped in with elective c-sections, which are, broadly speaking, much less risky than those carried out as emergencies. The risks of vaginal birth, meanwhile, include tearing, haemorrhaging and urinary incontinence, and many of those risks increase with age: so, for someone like myself, who’s of what the NHS charmingly refer to as “advanced maternal age”, and suffering from extreme levels of anxiety/tokophobia, it’s not necessarily true that a vaginal birth will always be the best or safest option.

It IS, however, true to say that my age makes it more likely that I’d end up needing a c-section regardless of whether I want one or not.  That being the case, and given my extreme phobia of general anaesthetic, I think I’d choose the planned c-section over the emergency one any day. So I did. And although the various hospital staff members who’ve been dealing with me didn’t say anything to encourage me to go ahead with it, once I told them my mind was made up, they did tell me they thought I’d made the right decision, given my age and anxiety issues.

Of course, all of this could be purely academic. Although I’ll be scheduled in for an elective c-section some time at the end of December (they’re normally done a week before your due date), the baby himself obviously won’t know that, so there’s every chance that he could come early, and, if he does, that could end up being a whole different, er, birth game. If I were to go into labour naturally, I COULD still have a c-section, but it’ll depend on a number of different factors, including what stage of pregnancy I’m at, and how quickly labour is progressing. If it were to happen very fast – which is unlikely for a first baby, but could still happen – and I rocked up at the hospital in advanced labour, I’d be advised to try for a vaginal birth, and I’m prepared to go along with that, given that the risks associated with a c-section at that stage would be higher.

So, although an elective c-section is my preference, I’m not going to insist on having one under ANY circumstance and I’m prepared for the possibility of it not happening, too. Ultimately, when it comes to childbirth, there are really no guarantees: which is something I’m going to have to spend the next few weeks coming to terms with.

In closing this post, I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to comment on my last one on this subject, or to get in touch by email or direct message. I had such a huge response to that post that I wasn’t able to respond to every single comment, but I did read them all, and truly appreciated all of your different stories and advice. More than anything, though, I was really encouraged by the support I got from all of you: I was really scared to publish that post, because I know people can be very judgemental about women who decide to go down this route (Terry actually didn’t think I should discuss this on the blog, because he was so worried about the potential backlash, and how it might affect me), but out of well over 100 comments, only one was even remotely judgemental – which is pretty good going, really, and a useful reminder that the internet can be a supportive place, as well as a scary one.

I’m really hoping this post will be met with the same kind of support, and that people will understand that, while this obviously wouldn’t be everyone’s choice, it’s the one I – and the professionals I’ve spoken to about it – feel will be best for me under the circumstances: which is all anyone can really ask for, isn’t it?

So, one way or another, I’m going to be having this baby NEXT MONTH, people: how trippy is THAT?

P.S. I’m hoping this goes without saying for my regular readers, but if you’re new, there’s some background on my health anxiety here, and while I welcome your comments, I’d like to respectfully ask you to please not post scare stories about either type of birth. As I said above, even if I changed my mind right now and decided to try for a vaginal birth instead, I could still end up having to have a c-section regardless, as could any of the other pregnant women who might read this post, so scare stories will only upset me now, without actually helping. I’d also just like to add – and, again, I hope this goes without saying – that I’ve thoroughly researched both types of birth (The doctor even wrote in my medical notes that I was, “Very well informed,” which made me feel oddly smug, as it’s not often someone says THAT about me!), so I’m not going into this without knowing the facts, or on a whim. Thanks so much for understanding!

38 Comments
  1. You are a very brave lady! You went with your gut and made the right decision for you and your baby. My three c-sections were all under different circumstances, two emergency (different stages of labour for each) and the last, planned. None were too bad but the planned one was definitely more relaxed, I was able to be in complete control (at least until the doctors were) and my little guy was born with Pat Benitar’s ‘Love is a Battlefield’ playing in the background xxx

  2. Exciting yet understandably terrifying times! The main thing I learned through out my pregnancy and journey into motherhood is no two peoples journeys are not the same. What works for one person is not necessarily the right thing for you. Also everyone has advice! I found all the advice, tips and stories very overwhelming and all contradicting. I wanted someone just to tell me exactly what to do, how and when but of course that is not possible as there is no right answer. I kept waiting for these maternal extinct that everyone talks about kicking in then I would just know…. for me that never happened and I just had to wing it 🙂
    So even though I hated getting advice and hearing stories I am about to do the same….
    Even though it will drive you crazy listen to all the advice and opinions but dismiss 90% of them you don’t think it’s right for you that’s fine, but maybe there might be that one thing that someone says to you that you think I can imagine that working for me and my baby and it might just make your journey that little bit easier.
    Also I had a planned section (Daniel was breach and not for turning) my own experience is I found this very calm and liked the fact it was all planned (well as planned as these things can be). I went into the hospital (2 days before my due date) at 7:30am and by 11am I had my son in my arms. I was out the hospital after two nights and found the recovery very easy. My experience is everyone talks about the horror stories and no one tells you about all the success stories, which are much more common than people think.
    Anyway good luck and so excited for you and can’t wait to see your little bundle of joy! xx

  3. I had an emergency csection a few weeks ago and when discussing options for future pregnancies the conversation about possible future elective csections spoke about how different they are from emergencies. How calm, how you have chance to come to terms with everything and everything is ready and waiting in theatre. Anaesthetic sorted while you’re comfortable and still and calm.
    If a smooth natural calm earth mother vaginal birth could be guaranteed for all I think everyone might choose it, but it doesn’t work like that so we each must look after ourselves. You know what’s best for you and I’m so glad you were empowered to make the best decision for you.

  4. You’ve taken all the time you needed to make this very personal decision, so you know it is right for you. And yet you are being very stoical about other possibilities, having informed yourself and explored everything, you are well prepared for the birth of your baby. I admire your bravery very much and your decision making.

  5. I got induced with my son (due to health reasons with him and I) and it was a very, very calm experience. There was still a lot of anxiety surrounding the unpredictability of it all. My friend had a scheduled c-section and it was definitely the right choice for her. The whole procedure went very smoothly, you know, for the most part. An emergency came through, so they got bumped down the list, but that’s to be expected. You chose the best thing for you at this moment, and that’s all anyone can ask for.

  6. I have had two elective C-sections (related to the health of the babies, not for “convenience” or other issues). Both were as calm as surgery can be and the caregivers were able to control much of the chaos surrounding birth. I wish you peace with your decision and the processes involved. I wish you joy with your new little one. Can’t wait to “meet” him!

  7. You are so brave Amber! And I think you’re being very wise and proactive in all the research you’re doing. (I work for a university and so have access to all kinds of medical journals – let me know if there’s any info you’d like me to try and obtain if you can’t find it yourself.)
    The hospital is very, very naughty not also telling you the risks of a normal birth – it’s in the NHS guidelines that they’re supposed to! The cost of a caesarean is more than twice that of a normal birth though, I guess that’s partly why they promote the latter.
    Good luck!!!! xx

  8. Well done on your well-researched decision. So glad your hospital visit set your mind at rest and they listened. Can’t wait to see your first post when you introduce the world to your little man.

  9. I would totally consider an elective c-section even though I do NOT have health anxiety, or any known issues that would make it a better or worse option for me. You are not alone.

  10. Good luck!
    And remember, by the time your child starts primary school (oh how time flies!), no one will have to know or care how he was born, then if he was breast or bottle fed, etc.

    C-section save lives, mums and babies. Nothing wrong with going with the best possible choice.

  11. How exciting! I am so happy for you. I knew you would come to a well-reasoned decision because you have been so well-informed throughout, just as your doctor said.

  12. Calm, calm is good. Quite obviously you are doing the right thing, you’re well prepared and your little boy will be here next month. Incredible. And also, very exciting!

  13. I am so glad that the decision is made. My opinion has NO relevance, but I still do entirely support you. 🙂 Calm is good. And if the Little Guy decides to come early, you’re well-informed (Go you!) and you and your doctors will make the best possible decisions.

  14. “Advanced maternal age” is quite an improvement on what they used to call it, in my day they called it “Elderly prima gravida” I was so thankful I was in my very early twenties when I had my two children, and escaped that label !!!
    Modern mothers are so lucky that there is so much information, so readily available, and hospital staff are so much more understanding. I went into childbirth with just a home medical book to help, doctors and nurses told women absolutely nothing in advance, and childbirth was not mentioned or discussed in polite society.

  15. My first child became an emergency c-section after almost 24 hours of labor and two days before they were going to actually induce me (he was 3 weeks late) and my second child was a scheduled c-section and I went into labor two days before that…so, you never know if the date they give you is really going to be “the birthday”. I was under general for the first one but only had the spinal for the 2nd one; both went very well and it wasn’t scary being awake in the OR, all the surgical staff were very supportive and attentive. The recovery wasn’t as bad as I expected either, I was up walking the same day the second time around. You’ll do great <3

  16. I’ve been following your blog for nearly ten years. I fully support your decision to have the type of birth that works best for you and I am sending you best wishes for the most peaceful birth possible, whichever way it happens.

  17. Well done for making a decision that works for you. I, and several of my mum friends, had an emergency c-section and the two that have gone on to have elective c-sections said it was a much more calm and relaxed experience and they felt so at ease. Best of luck and take it easy with the recovery 🙂

  18. I had 3 c-sections in 5 years. Best decisions I ever make!!! Best, best best. So proud of you for making the decision that works for you!!! Can’t wait to see what he looks like!!!

  19. I’m so glad you made the right decision for you. My last baby was a planned section that came a week early. Still calm and peaceful and fun.

  20. Without going into too much detail, I had four c-sections. I learned a lot from these experiences. Here are my serious recommendations for less pain and rapid healing. My best anesthesia experience was a spinal with duramorph which is a synthetic form of morphine that kept me out of pain for 24 hours. That makes a big difference for healing too. The second thing, and don’t let your doctor talk you out of it, is a soft, wraparound girdle to hold your stomach in. This prevents small tears when you cough or laugh. I healed much faster with less discomfort when I had one. My best wishes and prayers to you for a lovely, healthy, and joyous birth experience.

  21. I’m so glad you were able to come to a decision which feels right for you. Here’s to a lovely last month of pregnancy, calm, smooth birth and beautiful meeting with your little boy. x

  22. It’s a strange time, this waiting for baby! You have done your research, thought it through and have come to the best decision for YOU and your family. You should be proud of yourself for that – it’s a hard thing to filter the external pressures.
    I had what was termed an elective caesarean i.e. it was planned, but it was kind of forced by my son’s positioning. So it wasn’t all that elective, really. I wasn’t that keen, but honestly it was a good experience. I think that you are right that the planned bit is key – there was no rush, all staff were to hand, the anaethetist had plenty of time to go through everything with me, everyone was happy and excited, and we got an amazing photo of my son half in half out! So get Terry to have the camera ready 🙂
    Very best wishes for the coming month!

  23. Good for you. You made the right decision. While they were wheeling me into my C the person who was wheeling me in (driving the “table”) said: Happy birthday. I said “it’s not my birthday…..”oh:” and started to cry and never quit. My husband said, “why are you upset?” And I said: “I’m not crying because I’m scared.”

    My weird advice is to look at the clock exactly when you hear the baby’s cry or they tell you he’s born. It was overwhelming to note the exact time a new life came into the world.

    I don’t remember this, but my husband said the doctor, nurse, anethesiologist (spelling) were discussing really mundane stuff, like cell phone plans during the C. I hope that reassures you that it’s very by-the-books for these guys.

  24. Bring all the elective c-sections !!! In my city (Monterrey, Mexico) most of women decide to have c-sections, it is the norm, the common. On the other side, my mom had four natural births and her reason to choose this, was because her insurance did not let her choose. So, you will be great. just drink LOTS of liquids once you are allowed to after teh procedure, take your meds, and that is it. You will love it, wathcing your child for the first time, feeling nothing but joy and not pain, is amazing. Like, why would I have to feel pain? Thanx, but no thanx. We also have busy schedules and love to have control over the dae of birth in order to have paid maternal leave.

  25. Amber, you are so capable, smart, touch and brave- – you got this. Every woman needs to do what is right for her and her baby. I have tried following others’ advice and that has messed things up. Wishing you calm, happiness and sending support your way.

  26. I’m not overly anxious but I still had to give up watching Holby City when I was pregnant, because there was always a scary story about the maternity ward! You’re probably aware but there is a risk of your C section being delayed if an emergency c section comes in. I know this because I was that emergency and delayed someone else’s birth plan. I was really pleased it ended up as a c section though and it never caused me any problems. You’ll be fine. Enjoy it!

  27. I am so pleased for you that you’ve reached the stage where you’re able to make a decision about what type of birth you want. It sounds like the hospital staff have been really supportive and understanding too.

    I am a long way off having children (if ever) but have been reading Forever Amber for quite a long while now, and really enjoying all your pregnancy content. I’m so excited for you and Terry to meet your baby 🙂

    Your blog is one of my favourites so I just wanted to say – thanks for always providing interesting and funny content, and all the best for the rest of your pregnancy (and beyond!)

    Rachel xxx

  28. Thank you. You give me hope. If I ever do end up pregnant your honesty about your experiences gives me hope I’ll be able to get the kind of birth I want and need. Buckets of positive, calm, controlled thoughts and all the luck in the world coming your way for what’s to come X

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