Sunday, November 16, 2014

Unforeseen Complications of a Summer Cesarean Birth

My silence on this blog over the past year is no accident, and while my cesarean campaign work has continued (via NICE, public speaking, researching, writing and supporting women who are refused their maternal request), my main focus has been on a new campaign - with eerily familiar issues to those surrounding birth choice - related to our child's education.

In short, when we decided that we wanted our son to begin school in England at compulsory school age and not before, our 'request' for this to happen opened a huge can of worms.... that ultimately led to

Being 'summer born' in England (in legal terms, born between April 1st and August 31st) means, in theory at least, a child can start school in one of two different academic years, depending on whether the parent wants them to commence their education before or at the law's prescribed deadline.

This is something readers from countries like Canada, America and even Scotland might be familiar with, but in England the 'norm' or what's 'normal' is for all children to start school at age 4 - despite professing to be a country with a compulsory school age of 'the term following a child's 5th birthday'.

Most parents who dare to fight for a school start in the September when their child is age 5 often face insurmountable opposition from schools and/or local authorities, and even the 'lucky' ones who do succeed in securing a Reception (Kindergarten) class start at age 5 for their summer born child live in fear of their being forced to 'skip' a year later on in primary school or upon entry to secondary school.

And yes, this really does happen to children in England - and also to children who move to England from overseas with a date of birth that falls within a different 'chronological age group' than the country they've moved from.

In practice, it means these children lose a year of their education, and even children with English as a second language are shoehorned into strictly enforced 12-month teaching 'batches' [September 1st - August 31st]. And should Special Educational Needs money need to be thrown at any subsequent problems these children may face, this approach is still considered preferable to 'opening the floodgates' and having too many children floating around in the 'wrong' year group.

Déjà vu

The words unjust, illogical, inconsistent and ideological come to mind.... As do the need for greater flexibility, autonomy, freedom of choice and focus on an individual's best interests...

But wait, in what context have I come across these terms before?

Policy makers too afraid of changing the status quo, too afraid that if they allow a minority of people to do something, too many others might follow; a misconceived perception of what this 'different' choice might cost financially (despite evidence that this choice is more cost-effective in the long-term); and favoring what's 'normal' regardless of the risks and/or outcome for the individual.



Anonymous said...

I've been following your blog for a very long time, and was aware of your new campaigning through the media but just wanted to say keep up the good work.

In the period of your absence, things have changed a lot in my life. I now have a beautiful son born by ELCS for mental health and personal reasons. My experience of getting an ELCS on the NHS was wonderful and hassle free. I would like to thank you, as I do feel that you helped pave the way for it being a stress free none judgemental experience for me. Without your website, I'm not sure if I would ever have been able to empower myself enough to even consider having a baby. In the end it was not only possible, but also a positive experience.

My son was, ironically, born on 1st September at 39+2 weeks. I was given the choice of having him in August or September as the recommended 39 weeks fell on a weekend. I decided for health reasons to opt for waiting a couple of extra days.

The difference of this for the rest of his life really wasn't lost on me, especially given your latest campaigning. It was relief to get to the day of my op as planned, for more than one reason.

Good luck. I'm sure you'll have every success with your latest endeavours.

cesarean debate said...

Thank you so much for your kind words and for taking the time to let me know your wonderful news.

I'm so happy that you had the birth experience you wanted, and more importantly, a beautiful baby boy (who will now be guaranteed a full education because of his lucky birth date).

Your message has made my day, and I'm really glad that I was able to help in however small a way.

If you see this message, and if you'd be comfortable doing so, may I ask you to email me at with any information at all on whereabouts in the UK you gave birth please. Just the hospital name (or Trust name) is fine if you'd prefer not to name your obstetrician.

I only ask because so much of the correspondence I receive is from women who are facing refusals to their caesarean requests in the NHS, and it would be wonderful to have more good examples of how it can - and should - be done if NICE guidance is properly followed.