For years I have heard close friends and family talk about how they feel like fraudulent mummies because they had caesarean sections instead of natural births.
Other friends have spoken about the pressure to have done natural child birth, without pain relief, as though the more natural, painful and traumatic your experience the bigger your entitlement to a “super mummy” badge.
I felt I needed to write this blog post about the pure bullshit (yes that’s the language I’m choosing to use) of this whole belief system. I’m someone who has now become a mother as a result of the most painful natural birth, I’ve delivered a sleeping baby early naturally and I’ve also had an elective Caesarean section too. I can say from experience that all of these make me equally a mother and each of these experiences posed their own challenges, unique type of pain and suffering (both during and afterwards, both emotional and physical pain).
My “natural” birth was undiagnosed breach during which I had no pain relief and both myself and my daughter nearly died. Now this experience, to some women I’ve spoken to at various baby groups, is lauded as making me a “super woman” and 3 years ago in the baby class tales of who had had the worst birth experience meant I usually “won” that one hands down.
I remember one woman at a baby group proudly stating she also had a breach birth naturally and when offered a C-section instead opted for a no pain relief natural experience and said she was proud she’d done it. What utter nonsense? As someone who has experienced it and without pain relief, I can hand on heart say I really wish I hadn’t have been through it at all.
Yes it is important for women to be able to have a choice in the birth process and for them to be able to have a say in their experience but at the end of the day the priority must always be the health of mother and her baby or babies so whatever is best for the patients should be what happens. For women to then wear their “experience” as a badge of honour, that they can use to bash other mums with (as if new mums don’t already have enough to feel guilty about!) is I think total and complete bollocks.
I’ve had people say to me, that they wish they’d have had the birth experience I had, instead of the C-section they actually did have, and as someone whose physical wounds and emotional ones still haven’t healed from my original birth trauma, I’ve had to say “ermmm no you really don’t want to have experienced what I did”.
So why is a C-section seen as the easy option or the cheats way? As someone who has now also experienced a Caesarean section with my latest pregnancy (actually last week!) I can say it’s certainly not the super easy and pain free alternative that it is lauded as. Those women I was in hospital with who had natural births are already out and about with their babies in slings, pushing them in prams and lifting car seats into their cars to take baby for a drive. I can’t do any of that yet because of the wound that still needs to heal across my tummy and I’m limited to what I can lift, stretch to reach and physically do. I’m also on strong painkillers for the pain following the major operation, as that is what a Caesarean section is, a major operation! Natural childbirth might be more painful at the time of birth but post birth C-section pain and discomfort wins hands down unless you of course have complications such as tears, prolapse, piles, etc.
Women at baby groups talk about their natural birth experiences in the same way we probably chatted about hunting trips and warfare as cave people. The stories seem to become more elaborate and embellished as they are repeated with some women seeming to get pleasure from reliving all the horrendous little details wanting to out shock or out gore the person before. There seems to be an element of competition about the whole thing trying to see who has had the worst experience.
If women talk about their experiences with such great delight then why aren’t the genuine battle scars, including C-section scars, stretch marks & saggy boobs also celebrated by society and why are women made to feel bad about them? Should they not be championed as battle scars and showcased alongside the tales of woe?
Why are some women also made to feel bad for having C-sections by men too? Some men when I was pregnant and they heard I was having a planned c section actually joked “too posh to push hey?” With even women giving each other a hard time over childbirth what hope do we have for men to then react appropriately?
Do you feel bad about your childbirth experience? Have others made you feel guilty about it? Have you decided to change things with any future children?
I feel we have a long way to go when discussing childbirth but it is about time we simply celebrate motherhood no matter how our babies arrived into the world and we should celebrate all types of motherhood too, including those whose babies don’t quite go or arrive as planned. It’s important to talk about child loss too and alternative experiences.