For my first child's birth, the theatre was crowded with doctors. I couldn't stop shaking from the drugs. I was wired up and cut open. He was pulled out of my tummy. It wasn't how nature intended.
There hadn't been any pushing. I didn't, with laboured breathing and clenched fists, push my first child from my body while my husband held me and encouraged me to keep going. I didn't feel the pain of naturally giving birth to my son after carrying him for nearly nine months. I didn't feel him getting closer to leaving my body. In fact, after the epidural, I didn't feel very much.
It was an emergency caesarean, not the natural delivery I had hoped for. It bore no resemblance to the birthing videos we had watched in our ante-natal classes. In those, new mothers had just their partners and a midwife with them at the moment their bodies bravely pushed their child into the world.
The midwife who took our classes offered us all a chance to view a video of a c-section delivery - but we'd need to come early the following week so those that didn't want to see it didn't have to. It was as if this operation of last resort was something we didn't have to talk about if we didn't want to - instead we were meant to focus on choosing the right pram and practising how to breastfeed on a plastic doll. I didn't want to think about c-sections at that stage. I wanted to give birth to my child naturally, I thought.
In the end, I didn't have a choice. The only way my child was going to come out safely was by section, with an entire medical team on standby.
What hurt me in the days and weeks afterwards, more than the gaping hole that had been stitched up across my abdomen, was the sympathy I got from people. It took me a while to realise they were viewing me with pity. It was as if they felt sorry for me, because in some way I hadn't been able to bond with my baby at the moment he entered the world. Well I don't believe that's what happened that day. I have never felt any pity for myself or my son over his birth, and I won't ever regret having a c-section. Not only was it medically necessary, but it meant he was born healthy and well.
In the months afterwards, I realised how much of a motherhood myth has been created around natural deliveries. There is an unspoken pressure on women to have as natural a birth as possible. Of course, I can appreciate the benefits of not being drugged to the eyeballs when your child takes his first breath. I understand the beauty of having control over your child's birth, and of having as little medical intervention as possible in the most natural event we ever experience.
Caesareans are major surgery, they require a lengthy recovery period, and they come with their own risks. However, they are also sometimes necessary due to medical emergencies. And, even when they aren't, they are sometimes the only way a mother feels she can give birth. Surely she shouldn't be judged for that?
There is a silent judging of women who give birth by c-section. Were they too lazy to push their babies out? Did they not, perhaps through vanity, want to risk the stitches and tears and stretching? Did they not feel the need to bond with their child through the act of giving birth?
This judging of c-section mummies needs to stop. Having a c-section has no bearing on your capabilities as a mother. It has no bearing on whether you will get up night after night when you child cries. It has no bearing on whether you will pick them up time and time again when they fall. It has no bearing on whether you will spend your life worrying about them and doing all you can to care for them. Having a c-section has no bearing on whether you will love your child.
Women are already under immense pressure to fit in with the image of the perfect mother. The pressure and the judging starts when they are pregnant if not before. It does not stop, but it must.
This pressure and judgement can do no good for mothers or their children. It cannot help mothers coming to terms with births different from those they had envisaged. It can create cliques and exclusivity among new mums, at a time when really they just need each others' support. It can stop women from having a choice.
I didn't push my baby out and see his head enter the world from between my legs; but I can't believe that if I did I would have bonded with him any sooner, or loved him any more the second he was born.
Do you agree that women who give birth by c-section are judged for it? And what are your views on the pressure on women to have natural deliveries, and the impact this can have on them?
This article was first published on Essential Mums.
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