Let me tell you a story about the very first birth I ever witnessed.
I was a student nurse on my maternity placement. The room was tense, with an air of anticipation.
It was in hospital and the mother and father had been waiting anxiously and eagerly for this day, the day when they would finally get to meet their precious baby.
Doctors and midwives gathered round to help welcome this new life and I was allowed to observe and given a prime spot to witness the miracle. Silence. The sound of suction, a gush of fluid, some pulling and stretching, a beeping machine.
Then, from the mother emerged an actual baby human, pink and glorious, bottom first, a beautiful girl with a proud cry. It was so amazing, a true miracle!
I was so moved and I felt so privileged to be present to witness something so magical. A baby just came out of that woman’s stomach!
I knew it was in there, I knew it would happen, but seeing that baby emerge was breathtaking. I cried and I wanted to shout about it to the world from the rooftops.
That birth was a caesarean birth – it was just the same miracle of birth, and the same feeling I get every single time I see a baby being born, regardless of how they come out.
I may not cry each time but I still get that rush of emotion, pride in the human race, and the feeling of being in the presence of a miracle.
When you stand in a room of 200 people, can you tell which were born vaginally and which via c-section? No.
What I do know is that many lives have been saved since this operation has been performed, and even more now it is done in a sterile environment with qualified medical personnel.
We hear a lot about being ‘too posh to push’ and the ‘easy’ way out when it comes to having a c-section. Vaginal birth is seen as the ultimate in womanhood, and if you had no drugs and had a home birth you are a hero.
Except even with the best laid plans it doesn’t always work out that way.
You may need an elective c-section for breech or placenta praevia (where some or all of the placenta is in front of the cervix and could cause bleeding and death to both mum and baby if labour was to occur naturally), or any number of reasons; or you could need an emergency c-section at any stage of labour. The clue is in the name there, emergency means there is threat to life, either the baby, mother or both.
So in this day and age there shouldn’t be any shaming going on.
While some women are left feeling disappointed, others are celebrating their c-sections, which we should be – it’s a birth of a brand new human after all, one you’ve waited and longed for, that is finally here to be loved and cherished.
Personally, I’ve had vaginal births and a caesarean birth. I’ve had vaginal birth with stitches and without.
I can tell you that although the vaginal births hurt more during labour (actually I had a vaginal labour then a c-section so that hurt too!), the c-section hurt a lot more during recovery, and I was less able afterwards.
I was also left with scarring, numbness around the area and a teensy feeling of failure.
I looked down at my scar and it reminded me that things didn’t go quite to plan.
Yes, despite knowing that my c-section quite possibly saved my baby’s life and my own, I wonder at times whether if I had done things slightly differently would it have gone another way?
My scar faded over time but the truth is we can never answer those ‘what ifs’.
I followed medical advice during the labour and it was in their hands. Even if I had the power to change things, we may have ultimately ended up with the same outcome.
He’s here safely, I am alive and I went on to have two further vaginal births with no complications.
Could this be the reason we are still finding this shaming by other women (which it largely is), that we all feel secretly that all c-sections should be avoidable? Is it a shame we put on ourselves?
It’s time to let go of all of that. We do what we can at the time with the information we have.
Some women do everything ‘right’ in their eyes, they attend all the classes, read up on everything, exercise, eat right, do hypnobirthing, and yet during labour things go wrong and they end up with a c-section.
I’ve seen women feel bitterly disappointed in themselves afterwards, but it’s not their fault.
Despite your best efforts, with the best will in the world it’s just beyond your control. A baby’s cord can get squeezed during contractions, the head can get stuck in a position that no matter how hard you push it isn’t coming down; there are all sorts of reasons it just doesn’t pan out. Thankfully we have an alternative.
Another element is freedom of choice. If someone has the money, has done their research, has been advised of all the pros and cons of c-section yet they still want to go ahead with an elective c-section, who are we to judge?
Informed is best, and if the information is given and absorbed, we have to respect their decisions.
Birth is birth, no matter how the baby comes out; it doesn’t make you any less of a mother or a parent.
Does it make the dad any less of a dad? No-one even questions that, do they?
A father is made when a baby is born, as is the mother, however that may be. You don’t get lads down the pub or commenting on their Facebook status how they’ve failed as a father because their partner had a c-section, do you? It’s almost laughable. Which is how we should treat anyone who says anything about yours or any woman’s mode of birth.
All mums are heroes.