You may think as a 30 something married mother of two young ones, who's idea of a good night is a period drama, a tub of Ben & Jerry's and lights out at eleven, that no one would care about my vagina! But the social and cultural obsession on serving up opinions on the comings and goings of ones fanny are not just confined to what sort of sex you're having. It also extends its judgmental grasp to the how, where and which orifice your baby exited your body from.
You've probably heard, or even said one of these, wanting to be helpful but not knowing the impact they may have on the listener.
"We would never encourage unnecessary caesarean."
"Too posh to push."
"Oh it's a shame you didn't get to birth your baby."
"Oh no! I would hate to have a forceps delivery. Must have been awful."
"It's a shame you had a caesarean."
"Why would women selfishly have a caesarean when a natural birth is so much better for their baby?"
"If they only care about designer vaginas they shouldn't even be mothers."
Oh it's a shame you didn't get to birth your baby bores into my heart and puts a weight into my stomach. So I will say this to you caesarean mother and to those (knowingly or unknowingly) judging caesarean mothers:
You birthed your baby.
She birthed her baby.
When did birth mean to exit out of the vagina? It never did! Look it up in the dictionary. It means to leave the mother's body. You have carried your baby, given up alcohol, got stretch marks, and been a bit scared about your birth. Then you had that moment. When your baby made the transition from their watery world into our world of air, of bright light, of hunger, of a mother's smell, of a mother's love. Then they are given to mummy (straight away, after an hour, or after some special help). You touch them and they are yours, grown from you. You will care for them forever and keep them with you in your heart and mind however far on this plain or the next they are away from you. They are your child. You birthed your baby. You are a mother.
Bizarrely the people that can be the perpetrators of such phrases can be people within my own community of birth educators, who are against the over medicalisation of birth (PS. which I am too). It's important to not be too anti-caesarean that we become anti-caesarean mothers. Because as a caesarean mother myself I don't feel I should be judged on whether my baby exited from the sunroof or through the door. Don't judge why I had a caesarean. Ask only if it is right for me and trust my judgement as that of a grown arse woman old enough to care for children. Do not birth shame caesarean mothers! Birth is a journey which starts at conception and ends, if we are lucky enough to be blessed with this miracle, a baby in our arms. Nothing can take that away.
This is not about the pride or anguish we feel about our own births as mothers. Mothers who have birthed in a pool at home, who've had an instrumental delivery, who've had a caesarean birth, or any type of birth may call their experience positive. They equally maybe traumatised by that experience. That is your journey. If you had an amazing caesarean and feel on top of the world positive - awesome, feel free to tell everyone. If you had a homebirth in a pool which has left you depressed and maybe even traumatised - I hope you manage to heal yourself emotionally, feel free to tell everyone and not be ashamed of your experience.
Birth shaming will not reduce caesarean rates as it is not individual women who create birth culture. It is how medical professionals are taught about birth. It is how maternity units are run and policies written. It is how homebirths are viewed. It is how we talk to women about their bodies as a society. It is how we treat mothers. It is how we help women to prepare for their births before they give birth. It is how we educate our girls about sex, birth and about the abilities of their vaginas (your vagina has skills, don't you know). How we help women who have had negative or traumatic experiences of birth to heal. That's how we will reduce caesarean rates.
All birth shaming does is teach women that all births are equal but some are more equal than others. You are telling us our bodies failed, we are lesser mothers. Let us change this dialogue and swap it with real ways to change how we as women view our bodies and our births.
So let us, mothers of the world, unite. Comment below and declare:
I birthed my baby/babies. I am awesome!
And delete this everyday birth shaming from our vocab.