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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Does your c-section make you feel like less of a mother?

It's become a legendary topic of debate, right up there with formula vs. breast, co-sleeping vs. crib. I stumbled across this blog post from repeat c-section mom, Amy Hatch, who laments why certain people make her feel like she's less of a mom because of her choice to have a cesarean . She also was riled at how a doctor at the recent NIH VBAC conference referred to a vaginal birth as 'normal,' making her feel like her births were 'abnormal.'

I won't go so far as some people did and say "get over it." I can't put myself in her shoes, and honestly, on one hand I can see how it would be easier emotionally if we didn't find it as important as we do. But on the other hand, as one person interviewed for The Business of Being Born put it (God help me, I can't remember her name, but it was familiar) to some a c-section is as routine as clipping your fingernails. I couldn't agree more.

I would never willingly make someone feel inadequate because of her choices on birth. But it's such a fine line. I guess in my passionate "birth Nazism" (how I hate that term) I only think women should make those decisions not based on one five-minute, one-sided conversation with their doctors, but some dedicated research to the topic. But I can't force someone to read books about it, nor can I force them to care as much as I do about it.

Hatch goes on to say that:
it's even A-OK with me if you want to pop a squat in the forest and have your kid while someone braids your hair and sings "Kumbaya." 
*Sigh*. There it is again: the perception that moms who insist or are passionate about vaginal birth are hippies, somehow freakish in nature. Someone else in the comments section also made a reference to this, too.

Since I can't keep my big mouth shut, I had to chime in. (I've decided that I don't really need coffee in the morning, because reading some of these birth forums would get the job done just as easily.)  I offered this:
Now see, you're insulted by the 'you're less of a woman if you had a c-section' vibe that you get from certain people. Most of us who are very passionate about vaginal birth are equally annoyed with the "squatting in the woods while singing kumbaya and having your hair braided" references. Why is it that women who feel a vaginal birth is important, not to mention without an epidural, are treated as freaks?
I think by and large that a lot of OBs practice "fear-based obstetrics" not only to save their own butts, but to discourage us from making them go out of their way to "allow" us to birth in the manner of our choosing. Sometimes yes, squatting is effective in order to better position the baby, but many doctors see it as offensive to get down on our level to help us deliver. And what did your doctor tell you about the risks of c-section when you were planning your second? Did he discuss VBAC? Like mine, probably for two seconds, if only to make it sound like the most dangerous thing I'd ever do and only carried risks. Which is crap. And then, we as women who like to talk to our friends about "girl stuff" like pregnancy and birth, perpetuate the myth that our bodies are broken, deficient and incapable of giving birth. That women who don't want interventions or drugs during labor are stupid, crazy or 'think they're getting a medal.' 
One woman said that "VBACs carry risks." As if to say that c-sections do not? Are you kidding? And on another forum, I actually heard this: "No VBAC for me! I love my baby!" As if to imply that those of us who choose a VBAC don't love our children? WTH?!

I think perhaps the debate stems from people realizing that maybe things didn't have to be the way they were? I don't know. I continually realize that it has to be a kick to the gut to suddenly be told "you should have known better," or "could have made better decisions if only you had known the facts." That's great, thanks for telling me now. I know my VBAC could have been "better" (no amniotomy, for instance, or insisting on changing positions, no Nubain, etc) but it was my VBAC, and I own that experience. There is no going back and changing what happened, but, if you're lucky, you can try to prevent it from happening again, should you have more children. And even then, there are no guarantees. In the meantime, I have chosen to be an advocate for women who are having more children, even if I myself never have another one.

Ironically, I have never met a woman who made me feel inadequate or questioned me for having two sections. I pray that I don't make others feel that way, either.


Anonymous said...

My primary C-section was almost 17 years ago. I do not love that child any less or feel any less bonded with her then or now then I do my subsequent VBAC birthed children. I've now experienced a C-section, medicated VBAC and unmedicated VBAC. As for my personal health and wellness I was in much better shape after unmedicated VBAC's then either the C-section or the medicated VBAC's. My decision to continue to VBAC is based on nothing but the fact that vaginal birth is best for my health and subsequently better for my baby. For example, I was much more mobile and able to tolerate standing/sitting in the NICU then the poor mom's who had had C-sections-my baby was not in the NICU for anything related to him being a VBAC, BTW. If I or my baby *need* a C-section? Bring it on!!! But I would never choose major abdominal surgery over a vaginal birth just because....

The Deranged Housewife said...

I can tell you that, when I had my last child, I felt nothing at the birth. (emotion wise) It was weird, a very detached feeling. The curtain seemed like it went up to the ceiling, I was extremely irritable from the spinal, and had been hoping for a girl. LMAO All kidding aside, I'm glad my husband took pictures of my son being weighed and checked because otherwise I had no freaking clue what was going on. One thing I hate about that is that you feel so detached, like you're just there and not even an active participant. Without images to match what I was hearing and feeling, it's like I don't have anything concrete in my head and wonder if certain parts really even happened the way I remember.

Ethel said...

I've gotten to the point that I feel we need to embrace every woman's choice of how they want to birth - there is no right way just healthier ways with risks one way or the other (to the mother with a c-section or to the fetus with a VBAC even if it's slight). I am staunchly pro-choice, and it has evolved into a position that choice is about women having autonomy about their bodies in all aspects and to deny choice about pregnancy or birth is to deny women their personhood.

Meh if she thinks a c-section is better, we know that's wrong, I'm not too thrilled with her talking down about vaginal birth as opposed to another c-section, but choice is choice. I just want all of us women to stand up and talk about our right to have control over our own bodies, taking control means self awareness, understanding of the true risks, and assertive behavior.

With the NIH exploring VBACs and more of the birthing culture using pro-choice language and coming to this realization is so exciting for me, that perhaps as women we'll reach an understanding that this is about our whole lives and not just birth. We are denied so much, and more then anything we are denied our bodies and we need to take that back.

Melissa said...

My first two children were natural birth. With my son it was a wonderful experience. With my daughter, she was so large (a full 8lbs) and her head was so big, she came very close to getting stuck in my pelvis. Very painful, but still, I'm proud of the fact that I did it without the epi.

Now, my twins are a different story. They were born 4 weeks premature. Due to the fact that they were premature, and that one baby was breech and the other transverse, I had a c-section. I don't feel like less of a mother because of it. I did have some problems bonding at first, but I'm not sure how much of that was because I had the c-section and how much was because I had TWO babies to bond with, and I could not breastfeed (neither baby had a good sucking reflex, being premature, and the pump just wasn't enough to ever get my milk to come in, unfortunately). In all honesty I don't think the c-section had anything to do with it. I love all of my children very much, and how I birthed them doesn't bear on how I feel as a mother at all.