Tokophobia is the fear of pregnancy and childbirth but with me it wasn’t so much fear of the pain – no, my anxiety surrounded the idea of my baby girl being starved of oxygen or there being some other complication. I just couldn’t get the thought out of my head. I just didn’t trust my body to do the right thing. I was worried I might die too but all I could think was that she would survive me and be healthy. I spent hours worrying about it, had nightmares and would cry myself to sleep thinking about how she would grow up without me.

I had an assessment at Stepping Stones which is a part of the mental health support services in Bromley. I was offered anxiety medication which I refused as I hadn’t even taken paracetamol during my pregnancy. I did take up the offer of cognitive behavioural therapy which tries to help you understand the reasons behind your anxiety and then give you ways to control and manage your fears. Unfortunately I had one session with a junior team member who didn’t help and then she left so that was the end of that. I was having more frequent scans which did help but I always left my midwife appointments in tears.

At around 39 weeks my midwife asked if I had considered an elective c-section and actually the feeling of relief was enormous. I was given an appointment to see the Head of Elective Surgery two days later who agreed to the procedure and I was told to come back another two days later which happens to be my husband’s birthday. It was a little surreal to be telling my mum that I would be having a baby the following day.

I had some medication to take the night before, was told not to eat and my husband helped me shave down there. I was in at 9am and I was in the operating room around 11 with  the surgical team introducing themselves while I was having a spinal anaesthetic. I lay down but at an angle leaning down to the left as that takes the pressure off a major artery. The curtain went up and I was watching the clock. Someone had told me that having a c-section was like someone rummaging around in your stomach or it’s like doing the washing up in your tummy. I didn’t feel anything like that. I do remember something pouring across my tummy which could have been blood or could have been iodine. My husband was there with me the whole time dressed in scrubs.

Soon enough my baby girl was out with a full head of black hair and wide open eyes. They checked her over, wrapped her up and placed her on my chest. It didn’t seem real. Unfortunately I was feeling sick which is a side effect of the drugs so my husband took our little girl while I retched and was stitched up. I was breast feeding in recovery and then suddenly desperate for a Kit-Kat that my mum ran off to find!

One thing for me was that I didn’t have the huge rush of emotion that most mums seem to have when they meet their baby for the first time. I think that’s to do with the fact that I didn’t have the hormonal changes someone in labour has. But in the middle of the night 15 hours later when it was just me and my little girl – that’s when I got it and all was right with the world.

I stayed in for 3 days and yes, it was painful to pull myself up and out of bed but it wasn’t too bad. The scar healed well and had started to fade when I got pregnant again. With my baby boy, the anxiety and worries had eased slightly, though that might have been something to do with a new job and a demanding but highly amusing toddler. I was offered a caesarean at 39 weeks plus one and this time I discharged myself after 24 hours; the stitches were taut and I felt fine. The scar didn’t heal quite so well this time and it is a bit lumpy which is probably in part because I was lifting his older sister when I was told not to. It is still a bit numb around the scar and yes, there is a bit of an overhang of tummy. 

People judge me when I tell them about my elective “choice” but I don’t worry about that – my  kids are healthy and as far as I am concerned I had a great experience of childbirth.

 

Read more about tokophobia:

Experience: I am afraid of pregnancy, The Guardian, 17 April 2015

Tokophobia: The women who are afraid of pregnancy and childbirth, The Independent, 5 January 2017

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