On its own, childbirth is already pretty terrifying for a lot of women. Going into labor 10 weeks early? That’s scarier still. Add an emergency C-Section to the mix, and the adrenaline really gets going. But U.K. mother of four Amber Hughes has really lived the stuff of nightmares. After surviving all of the above relatively intact, she got to watch her doctors puzzle over where her baby was, since after they were done cutting her open, the newborn was nowhere to be found.
The 21-year-old went into labor with her son, Olly, long before he was due, and the labor was not an easy one: She lost her mucus plug at 28 weeks, went into labor 16 days later and was informed she’d need an emergency C-Section after laboring for 36 hours and dilating by only 3 centimeters. But that pales in comparison to what happened next.
After her doctors made the incision, Hughes watched in horror as her husband and doctors went from confused to panicked when there was no baby in sight. They could hear Olly screaming but couldn’t find the little guy until a few minutes later, when they discovered that while they were busy slicing, Amber had given birth naturally. He was right there in the bedsheets between her legs.
Olly was OK, but Hughes is understandably upset, having just undergone major surgery only to learn that said surgery was unnecessary. That’s hard enough as it is. And while it’s clear the doctors did what they believed was the right thing in this case — emergency cesareans are no walk in the park, of course — it must be difficult to know that if only a few more minutes had elapsed, she wouldn’t have had to start the hard, agonizing work of recovering from the procedure.
She told Daily Mail that she wishes things had gone differently, saying, “My body was telling me it was ready, and I should have listened to it. I now wear a scar that wasn’t needed, across my tummy. I’m thankful my baby is okay, but we’ll never be able to forget the day the doctors lost our baby.”
In the comments on the piece, people are accusing Hughes of being dramatic and trying to make a buck off the hospital, but is it really so out of line for her to be upset by her experience and to try to get answers as to why it happened?
No one is saying the doctors in the operating room with her had nefarious plans or did any dirty dealing, and of course Hughes is thrilled that her son was born healthy and remains that way six months later. But any mom who has had a C-section — really, any mom who has ever given birth at all — understands that the procedure sits firmly in the “no joke” category. To do both at once is like having the worst of both worlds.
Any sort of childbirth carries inherent risks with it, and those risks go way up when scalpels start getting involved. To fully heal from a C-section (we’re talking skin, muscle and uterus), you’re looking at a month at least. There’s an increased risk of infection, a whole lot of pain that often requires taking heavy-duty painkillers to cope with and the chance that future birthing experiences will be affected.
C-sections are lifesaving when they’re necessary, and they can be a wonderful option for women who have experienced trauma or have a real phobia of childbirth. It’s a wonder that an operation that was once almost exclusively fatal for the mother is now a matter of course. But because we’ve come so far, people often overlook the fact that it is, in fact, a major surgery. You at least want to know you’re undergoing the procedure because it’s absolutely necessary. You would at least expect that if it weren’t, your doctors would be sympathetic toward you — or a little embarrassed if they lost your baby — but Hughes maintains that this wasn’t true in her case.
The bottom line is this: Literally the only thing that gets most of us through the pain of giving birth or learning how to poop again with two dozen staples holding the top and bottom of our abdomens together is knowing that at the end you get a baby.
So when all is said and done, your hormones are raging, and there’s no baby in sight? Well, what is the appropriate response to that? Sheer, untainted graititude when a little fumbling locates your child? Human emotion just doesn’t work like that. Hughes has a right to be freaked out and, yes, even a little angry. It doesn’t make her a gold digger or a drama queen.
It makes her an ordinary mom who went through an extraordinary experience.