“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” ~Marie Curie
This month is national cesarean awareness month. As a mom and doula I feel passionately about avoiding c-sections when they are not medically necessary. If you know me, you know I like to stay as close to “natural” as I can.
However, I hear some really bad reasoning when it comes to having c-sections versus a vaginal birth (not to mention hospital births versus home births). Frequently I hear women say things like this:
- I don’t trust modern medicine. Doctors just want to make money.
- I won’t bond with my baby if I have a c-section.
- I won’t be conscious during the birth.
- I want an empowering birth.
This bothers me. None of these are valid reasons to dislike c-sections. Yes, the birth experience will be different. Yes, the recovery will be different. I can say this from experience as I have personally had two c-sections followed by a natural birth.
I hesitate to even use the word “empowerment.” What does that really mean? Is the woman tied down to the surgery table any less empowered than the woman squatting in the tub? I used to think so, long ago before I was that woman with her hands tied. I’ve changed my mind since then.
A woman who has a c-section is not weak. Doctors are not out to get you. Aside from extreme circumstances, you can have a c-section and bond beautifully with your baby. You can breastfeed him or her if you desire to do so, and you can be lucid during and after the delivery.
Yes, the c-section rate is too high. Yes, mothers need to know their options. But they also need to understand their own motives for making the decisions they do. To my mind, the woman who faces a necessary c-section because she wants her baby to be healthy is just as brave as the woman who has a home birth because she doesn’t like doctors – or perhaps even braver.
The birth community needs to be sensitive to the emotional needs of pregnant women, just as much as the physical needs. We divide birth into all these categories – home birth, VBAC, natural birth, medicated birth. But none of them get to the heart of what birth is for a mother. Don’t let wise midwives, trained doctors, or anyone else tell you otherwise.
If you are reading this and have been feeling fearful about an upcoming cesarean birth, please know you are not alone in your fear. And know that your baby’s passage into this world will be a beautiful one. I always tell my oldest daughter that the thing I love most about my body is not my hair or my eyes, but my scars. The two scars that now appear as one, where my two first children emerged into the world. Perhaps one day more children will take the same passage, and I can only hope I will be strong enough to still love my scars on that day.