Tokophobia – Therese’s story

When I was a young nurse I worked in a hospital with a maternity unit.  I was sent there for a six week rotation and got put into the labour ward. I witnessed quite a few labours and births; I hated every moment of it.I knew I never wanted to be a midwife! I hated the attitudes of the midwives too, they’d make judgements about women wanting epidurals or pain relief. I suppose this is where my distrust stems from.

I thought the look of babies coming out vaginas was disgusting. I recall the first time I saw a woman being stitched up after a tear.  She was in pain and no one seemed to care one bit.  She was saying she could feel it but the doctor and the midwives just kept doing what they were doing, trying to get her to focus on her baby and get the baby sucking at her breasts.  I just thought the entire situation was the most barbaric, awful thing I’d ever witnessed.  I thought women seemed to be treated like meat, like breeding cows.

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I hated the way the midwives forced the women to breastfeed. I hated all the boobs hanging out everywhere, I thought it was uncivilized and uncouth. I didn’t want to walk into a ward and see all these poor women with their boobs hanging out.  I realised that I never wanted to do that.  I never wanted to stretch my vagina like that. Never wanted to have my legs in the air and all my genitals showing.

When I married my husband he was okay to never have kids. We thought we’d stay childless by choice and for several years, we did.  Then I had a few things happen and I realised I really wanted my own kids. So I knew I’d have to go through with giving birth but by that stage  I also knew that if I went privately, I could have elective caesarean section.

Tokophobia - Little Tsunami. Riding the Wave of Motherhood
“When I married my husband he was okay to never have kids.”  Image source: Unsplash

I went to antenatal classes and at the end of the first day – after they’d covered labour and birth – I left crying. I was very emotional and said to my husband “There is just no way I’m doing that.”  The next morning we all had to meet at 8am at the hospital for a tour. They had a great new unit with the labour wards around the main nurses station.  The end one was set up as a theater for caesarean sections. As soon as I saw it I knew that was where I wanted to be.

I will add that I’m a specialist Intensive Care Unit and Emergency Department Registered Nurse. I’m totally comfortable with the machinery and sterile environment and I love the totally “controlled” look of it. I like to have control and I like processes. Knowing what time and there being no surprises. The entire elective caesarean thing fits my personality.

I’d been through was a ten year battle with very severe endometriosis. I had 2-3 years of treatment, two huge surgeries (one lasted seven hours, one lasted five hours)  I’d come through these surgeries fine, so all the hysteria about caesarens being “major abdominal surgery” made me laugh.  When I asked my obstetrician about it, he said “compared to what you’ve had done already? This won’t be anywhere near as bad.” So I wasn’t concerned at all. As it turned out? I was up and around the next day, albeit with some pain, but nothing in comparison to the previous surgery.  And I figured, there’s no way you are going to get a baby out without any pain.

I ended up having two children in 11 1/2 months.  We relocated and I had a different obstetrician but he was also happy for me to have either VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) or have another caesarean section – I opted for the latter, of course.

Tokophobia on Little Tsunami - Therese's story
“My method of giving birth to them has had no impact whatsoever on my love, closeness or commitment to my girls.” Image source: Unsplash

Why didn’t I have counselling for tokophobia?  I never thought I needed any! I don’t see why women have to go through vaginal childbirth if they don’t want to. We live in a democracy and women should be free to choose. I don’t see what business really anyone has to push me to birth a baby out my vagina if I don’t want to.

Anyway, where would you go for counselling? Midwives are going to try to dispel your fear and loathing and talk you into having a vaginal birth. I talked it over with both my obstetricians. Both understood my fears and were happy to accommodate my decision. One said “it’s your body, you’re an educated woman and know what surgery is all about. It’s your choice.” People, especially midwifes, criticise obstetricians for this but both these men were so understanding and accepting of me.

We lived 1.5 hours from the private hospital I wanted to give birth at and I knew if I went into a sudden and fast labour I’d have to give birth at the local public hospital.  So I went in for a few appointments, to get a chart and known in the system and be recorded as a “possibility”.  I always felt that if I had to give birth vaginally, then I would – it would just not be my preference. My older sister  rang me and tried to push me into a vaginal birth. She told me I’d “never really feel empowered as a woman” – I just about laughed my head off! I remember saying to her “Growing the baby inside me from two cells isn’t enough? I have to push it out my vagina to feel truly empowered?”  I knew what I wanted in life and what I could do, I didn’t need to give birth to feel empowered or accomplished.

I loved being pregnant, which blew me away. I felt totally and utterly connected to the baby from the moment I saw the stripe on the stick. I was totally in love with my babies from the moment I knew they existed. I just wanted them from inside to out…I didn’t fall in love with the entire “process” of that at all, I just wanted it done.  Twelve years later I still adore the ground my children walk on.  My method of giving birth to them has had no impact whatsoever on my love, closeness or commitment to my girls. I think I’m an excellent mother.  I’m not perfect, But who is?

If I had my time again, I’d do it exactly the same. I’m actually very proud that I had two beautiful healthy babies and not one labour pain.  To me, that’s an amazingly wonderful reflection of a great system.

Therese, mother to two children.

Queensland, Australia.

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