I may sometimes joke about not being a real woman as I don’t know what it’s like to have a contraction or go into labour but it is exactly that: a joke, a big Prabulous joke. I have never felt guilt or shame over my c-sections.
Why talk about this? Well, April was caesarean awareness month. It’s also when I came across blogger Next Life No Kids who is spearheading the Mommitment movement, aimed at stamping out the societal/cultural habit of Mum-shaming.
It got me thinking about one of the biggest mum-shaming obsessions perpetuated by society (notably and regrettably, mothers themselves): yes, the passive-aggressive view that women who have c-sections somehow failed at childbirth. For goodness sake.
Here’s the thing…
Whether a woman has a home birth/hospital birth/gas and air/no gas and air/epidural/no epidural/a scheduled caesarean/an emergency caesarean/a super quick labour/days of hell in labour/a doula/a state midwife/a private doctor/a water birth/a squat on the side of the road and just get it out birth, there is literally ONLY one thing that matters:
That a child comes into this healthy and safe. If it does, that is one lucky child and one lucky mother.
Yes, natural birth is best. It just isn’t always the best option…as I found out:
With my first pregnancy, it was discovered at 37 weeks that the baby wasn’t thriving as my placenta was no longer viable; I was told she was too underweight to stand much chance of making it out of the birth canal alive and was sent home to pack my things for a c-section that the doctors ordered for the next day.
We had moved to Malta, land of c-section obsessed doctors, when I got pregnant with our second. I was told that VBAC was too risky (and was given some flimsy excuses as to exactly why). By the time it came to my third, my fate was sealed; if the Maltese doctors wouldn’t hear of me having a second child naturally, they sure as hell wouldn’t consider it for my third.
As it turned out, all three babies were breach. All three had the cord around the neck several times…one of my absolute biggest birthing paranoias. So I can honestly say I was totally relieved at avoiding natural birth.
But a walk in the park those c-sections were not!
Spinal block, huge needles – I mean HUGE NEEDLES – ice cold operating rooms, catheters, stitches. Granted, my c-sections just involved uncomfortable tugging rather than the searing pain of pushing a human out of one’s nether regions…nevertheless no walk in the park!
And then ‘the everything else’: trying not to shiver and shake while the anaesthetist inserted that blooming huge needle. Being lifted and rolled onto my bed as I was temporarily paralysed from the waist down. Trying to feed baby without placing baby anywhere near my sore tummy. Trying to sleep with a catheter and needles in me. The blindsiding tear-inducing pain of trying to walk once the feeling returned in my legs…just the most painful, humbling experience of my life.
Of course, much later, kneeling on the kitchen floor wiping up food and begging a toddler to eat just one frickin’ mouthful would become the most painful, humbling experience of my life, hey hey.)
I begged the doctors, nurses, cleaners, the woman in the next bed’s visitors – heck anyone who walked past me – for pain relief. Yep, Alternative-Medicine Prabs was replaced by Desperately-Seeking-Any-****ing-Drugs Prabs. What can I say? Morphine, Voltarol, Co-dydramol, Anythingamol and I became friends.
Talk about mum-shaming…I think this mum just shamed herself…
Oh and laughing, sneezing, coughing and just plain breathing?
Anyone who’s had a c-section knows those simple acts feel like extreme sports due to the air that gets trapped while you’re open on the operating table, causing shocking stomach pains once the belly is stitched back up (as if that poor sucker hasn’t been through enough!).
After all that TMI, I bet you’re really wondering how or why I could possibly be glad I didn’t give birth naturally? Here are a few reasons why I’m glad I had c-sections:
1. Who doesn’t want a four day break from dishes, laundry?
I count how many mothers I know – or have read about – who were desperate to get home the same day they gave birth.
I couldn’t think of anything worse! As far as I was concerned, staying in hospital gave me a break from domestic drudgery. Just as I knew my heart was full to the brim with love for my brand new baby, I also knew my days would be be full to the brim with even more cooking, cleaning and housework due to this new addition. Then once I got to my second birth – even if I missed toddler Musical M like crazy and dissolved in tears when I finally saw her, those four days in a quiet room with my beautiful son Doe-eyed D were heaven. What’s not to like about not having to deal with domestic drudgery and a needy toddler for a few days?
By the time it came to Cheeky K, the easiest roomie who just slept all day and didn’t yell “Mama, mum, mummy, MAMAAAA!!” every few minutes, I swear it was like a mini holiday. (The only thing missing was the minibar.)
I asked for a fifth day.
2. Being unable to drive or lift heavy things for several weeks was almost liberating.
I had the ‘luxury’ of cocooning at home with a newborn (if you can call surviving on next to no sleep cocooning) as I couldn’t go far without a car and my driver (aka ‘he who got me pregnant’) was at work. I could wear pyjamas all day (if I wasn’t getting any actual sleep in them, at least I could use them as daywear) as I wasn’t going anywhere and could watch trash TV (albeit with a baby clamped to my breast) because hoovering the floor or unloading the dishwasher involved lifting. And I wasn’t meant to lift, right?
3. My biggest fear in life was the agony of childbirth so I wont lie: I WAS relieved when the docs decided I had a date with Edward Scissorhands.
I can’t deny I played at wanting a natural birth. You are expected to want it…because it’s natural… People have different fears: spiders, flying, heights, whatever. Honestly?
I didn’t view the act of pushing a rather large thing out of a rather small hole as natural. Nope. Not one bit.
Of course the irony is that despite my pathetically low pain threshold, I was nevertheless able to tolerate being cut open three times. Go figure.
4. My stomach may be shot to pieces but I now have a shelf to rest my coffee mug.
Visible scars aside, I sprang back into shape super quickly after my first two c-sections. But that third child. Mercy me, that third… I now have the delightful ‘too many c-sections shelf’. Let’s just say when I lie on my side…well…I just shouldn’t. When I lie on my back, I can’t say it’s that much better. Ah, the beauty of the post-caesarean ‘overhang’. The only way to avoid it: big girl panties. But what’s the point of that when I need that shelf for my coffee mug?
5. I may be lazy with kegel exercises but I don’t wet myself every time I cough or laugh or run, thanks to my lady region not being destroyed by pushing three humans out.
Major props to my natural birth sisters but sorry, that is definitely something to be thankful for. I didn’t say it doesn’t happen. It just doesn’t happen every time…
Seriously though, I know c-sections are no laughing matter. Mine were carried out based on medical decisions made by the doctors. Each successive operation can be more tricky and of course I would have conquered my fears and given birth naturally if circumstances allowed. But that’s not the way things worked out.
I spent only a millisecond feeling less of a woman for not achieving the ‘trophy-worthy’ natural birth before snapping out of it and realising I had still very much given birth and was crazy lucky to have each of my little bundles of joy. (Anyway, undergoing major surgery three times is deserving of a trophy in my book.)
Oh and that not being a ‘real woman’ thing. It isn’t because I had c-sections. It’s because I never got my boobs.