Once again, a woman commenting on this blog has expressed views that could be offensive & insensitive to those recovering from the impact of birth. We again considered ignoring the comment, but as we see so many similar viewpoints on various forums, chatlists, websites and blogs that go unchecked and unchallenged, we have chosen to address the myths, misconceptions and hurtful assumptions that this woman has raised.
How this all started
Some readers commented on our blog that they feel robbed and ‘less of a woman’ as a result of their caesarean births. One woman says, “I can no longer talk to my parents about the births of my two daughters as I get the same thing…healthy mother, healthy baby. I am not healthy. I have not entirely healed. My surgical birth openings may be less sensitive but my heart and mind still feel the pain. I still feel robbed of the natural birth experience and sometimes feel “less of a woman”. I feel my girls were also robbed of the natural rite of passage and were “taken” instead!!
Another woman shared those sentiments, writing, “The not wanting to talk about certain things, and the feeling that my son was “taken.” I had a cesarean, also. I … ALSO get the “Well you should be glad they did a cesarean because the baby was in distress!” Yeah, he was in distress, from the pitocin contractions, and I never should have let anyone induce me. ..So, needless to say, I don’t talk much about the birth to my MIL or her friends or anything like that, and I try not to talk about other things. Their remarks remind me that I wasn’t happy with labor/delivery, and it makes my blood boil.”
A disagreement of feelings
These comments then received the following response by another woman :
Hi ladies, as a mother who had a emergency cesarean, i would just like to express my disagreement of feelings. I don’t understand how you could feel “less of a woman” or “robbed” of the experience of vaginal birth? i was dreading it. I was induced, failed to progress past 8cm, and had emergency C section and i feel that cesarean was the best outcome possible for me and baby!! A positive is my vagina is still intact lol. I think that maybe you view your experience too negatively.. i mean i didn’t have the worst birth ever (eg. broken tail bone that one of my friends experienced and a billion vaginal stiches) but it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. 18.5hrs of labour (thank u science for epidural, couldn’t have gone the whole way otherwise) But i feel that either way it wouldn’t have been fun! It all involves pain which ever way they exit. If i was back in the ‘old days’ one or both of us would have died!! They think that my pelvic shape may have something to do with it and doc said next time i will probably have to have cesarean again. I did feel that the whole thing was traumatic for me, like now and then i have flashbacks, but all of the pain and suffering gets almost forgotten with that one prescious moment of the doctor holding my baby girl up over the curtain and my partner and i bursting into tears of happiness …that is when i had known i had done it. She was out and alive and so was I, and I felt a real sense of accomplishment. We had made a beautiful baby and she was healthy. Now if you ladies cant tell me that you felt that feeling, of success seeing your baby out, alive and well, i believe that you are selfish. Selfish because you aren’t really caring about what is important- that babies well being! Would having that baby come out dead from your vagina because that is what is “supposed to happen” make you feel better? NO!! And having a traumatic birth only makes you a stronger person, learn from it.. it makes other things in life seem less painful. If people judge you because of a cesarean then that is ridiculous. No one has ever made me feel any less than what i am..a wonderful mother. People will always throw advice at you, but take it with a pinch of salt, they always think their way is best. But only you know what is best for your baby.. Mentally, having my baby was the scariest and most challenging thing i’ve ever done. I proudly tell my birth story to my friends and other people, because its MY story and its what happened to me. I am not ashamed, i am no less of a woman than my mother who had me vaginally. I am not weaker because i had to have a cesarean. I just thank god for what i have… An beautiful baby girl, and my own healthy and functioning body.
Below is Birthtalk.org’s reply to Jacinta. We have chosen to address her statements in segments, for ease of reading…
Jacinta – it is due to common misunderstandings such as yours that we began this blog. We were tempted to delete your comment, as you have said some things that could be very hurtful, and come across as unkind, to many women. However, because so many traumatised women deal with comments like this every day, and because so many people share your sentiments, we have decided to publish your comment, and include our own reply. We are tackling your comment section by section, beginning with your opening statement.
…as a mother who had a emergency cesarean, i would just like to express my disagreement of feelings. I don’t understand how you could feel “less of a woman” or “robbed” of the experience of vaginal birth?
Firstly, it is entirely appropriate that you would have a ‘disagreement of feelings’ with the women who have commented previously. There is no ‘set’ response to birth and womens’ experiences of that journey can be vastly different. It also follows, then, that you can have a different set of feelings post-birth…every experience of birth is different, every caesarean is different, every vaginal birth is different. The reason you don’t understand how someone could feel less of a woman or robbed is because fortunately you didn’t feel that way yourself…NOT because it is unreasonable to feel that way (which is what you have assumed).
i was dreading it. I was induced, failed to progress past 8cm, and had emergency C section and i feel that cesarean was the best outcome possible for me and baby!! A positive is my vagina is still intact lol.
A caesarean possibly was the best possible outcome for you and your baby. No-one would argue with you on that, as we don’t know the exact circumstances around your birth. It sounds that, whilst obviously challenging, a caesarean birth was also less scary for you, which also would have influenced how you feel about your experience. Going into birth with a feeling of dread can also mean that decisions are made out of fear, rather than knowledge. Your comment regarding having an intact vagina needs to be addressed also, as you have made a common, yet incorrect assumption. The birth process is not designed to cause vaginal trauma and mostly does not need to be experienced in this way. So whilst it’s great that your vagina is still intact, so are ours…and we’ve had vaginal births (Melissa has had a caesarean followed by a VBAC). Our three vaginally-birthed babies have ranged from 9lb to 10lb, (that is, around 4kg to 4.5kg). We do not offer this information as a boast of our ‘birthing prowess’, as we know that our ability to birth these babies without vaginal trauma was largely a result of having access to excellent antenatal information, plus wonderful emotional and physical support during the birth, the positions we were able to use for birthing, and having caregivers who did not pressure us to push. We are telling you of our own experiences merely to demonstrate that vaginal birth does NOT have to equal vaginal damage. To be honest – there are many women who would not see an intact vagina as an overriding positive, if the alternative is having a scar on their belly & uterus that gives them additional risks for future pregnancies.
I think that maybe you view your experience too negatively.. i mean i didn’t have the worst birth ever (eg. broken tail bone that one of my friends experienced and a billion vaginal stiches) but it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. 18.5hrs of labour (thank u science for epidural, couldn’t have gone the whole way otherwise) But i feel that either way it wouldn’t have been fun! It all involves pain which ever way they exit. If i was back in the ‘old days’ one or both of us would have died!! They think that my pelvic shape may have something to do with it and doc said next time i will probably have to have cesarean again. I did feel that the whole thing was traumatic for me, like now and then i have flashbacks, but all of the pain and suffering gets almost forgotten with that one prescious moment of the doctor holding my baby girl up over the curtain and my partner and i bursting into tears of happiness …that is when i had known i had done it.
This is not about who’s had the ‘worst birth ever’. It’s about women having experienced feelings during labour & birth that have resulted in feelings of trauma & distress afterwards…whether this is the result of how they were cared for, or the circumstances surrounding their birth. It’s not about pain. We have had women come to Birthtalk who have painless labours, and still suffer postnatally because of how they were cared for. I can imagine that your own experience was ‘no walk in the park’, as you say, with 18.5 hrs of labour – that’s a pretty intense experience…and often more so with an induction. And without knowing more about your labour it is impossible to say whether the Doctor is giving you accurate, evidence-based information in telling you that you will need a repeat caesarean. We would recommend getting a second opinion on that one, as there are so many more factors at play than merely pelvic shape.
What are some of these factors? Firstly, being induced means that you already were not experiencing a ‘normal’ birth, as your body then goes into labour before it may be ready. If your body is not ready, then this raises question marks over a number of things, starting with your baby’s readiness & correct positioning. If your body was not ready, then you likely lack the presence of hormones that reduce the pain in a labour which starts on its own, so it will hurt more. And there would be question marks surrounding the readiness of your cervix to dilate. Even experiencing feelings of dread about the impending birth, and having feelings during the birth that lead you to describe your birth to us as ‘traumatic’, can be enough to disrupt the progress of labour. You describe your birth as consisting of ‘pain and suffering’, which often indicates an environment not supportive of birthing (whether it’s the physical environment or the emotional environment), and this can affect the ability of your body’s hormones to do their job to progress your labour, and also reduce the pain. Then if you add in the fact that you had an epidural, which alone is associated with increasing your chance of caesarean, then perhaps you can see that there are many variables (separate to pelvic shape) that may have led to ‘failure to progress’.
In ‘the old days’ one or both of you may have died…or you may not have. It depends on so much more than just lying on a bed and labouring and ‘seeing what happens’. As you can see from what we have said above, if you were labouring in a different environment, with different support, and different information, the outcome may have been different. (we should also add that we are not making a judgement of you for having an induction or an epidural…it’s not about whether you have them or not…it’s about having good information about how these interventions can affect the progress of your labour, and taking steps to support your body in such situations, which is only possible with a different set of information)
We hear what you are saying, that the whole thing was traumatic for you, for which we are really sorry. We could understand this, from what you have told us about your experience, especially if you are having flashbacks, which indicates that this birth has affected you profoundly.
You say that either way, your birth ‘wouldn’t have been fun’. We know many, many women who find their births to be enjoyable experiences, and who would have more babies…just to experience birth again. So yes, maybe ‘fun’ is not the right word…but women having empowering (even if painful) births describe them as ‘exhilarating’, ‘ecstatic’, ‘mind-blowing’, ‘awesome’ experiences, that are infused with positive emotions (ie no dread, no suffering, no trauma)…and these are NOT all natural births that we are talking about. We are just throwing this ‘out there’ to challenge your assumption that birth will be horrible & something you just have to go through, regardless of how the baby is born. Again – we do not judge the fact that you experienced dread, suffering and trauma…we completely understand why you did, based on what you have told us, plus reading a bit between the lines…we are just saying that with different education about birth and perhaps differences in your care, it does not HAVE to be that way, and is not ALWAYS that way.
She was out and alive and so was I, and I felt a real sense of accomplishment. We had made a beautiful baby and she was healthy. Now if you ladies cant tell me that you felt that feeling, of success seeing your baby out, alive and well, i believe that you are selfish. Selfish because you aren’t really caring about what is important- that babies well being!
And how do you know that the women who have commented above did not burst into tears of happiness when their baby was held over the curtain? I certainly did exactly that, even though my birth was very traumatic and I ended up with a caesarean after 30 hours. You can be happy about your baby’s arrival, and devastated with your experience of the arrival, all at the same time. That’s what can make it all the more confusing for a woman in that position.
And of course you should feel a sense of accomplishment for making a beautiful, healthy baby. But just because you feel it, doesn’t mean that other women will. How you experienced your caesarean will likely be different from how another experienced hers. How can you tell another woman that she should feel like you, when you did not go through the same thing that she did? Caesareans can be beautiful, positive events…or they can be horrific, devastating events…or anything in between. And the things that make them one or the other are not things that you can find out just by hearing that a woman ‘had a caesarean’. That does not tell you how she was treated, how she felt, what went on during the surgery, whether the health carers treated her appropriately. It is THESE THINGS that a woman is responding to as well, NOT just ‘having a caesarean’.
The impact of being mistreated can easily overshadow the feeling of accomplishment for making a beautiful baby, especially if no-one acknowledges the significance of this for the woman. If a woman ‘can’t feel that feeling of success seeing her baby out, alive and well’, then to call her selfish is extremely revealing. It clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding about birth, and especially about traumatic birth. What is important goes WAY beyond the baby’s well-being. Of course all women with healthy babies are grateful for that- it’s a bit of a no-brainer really. But if they have been through a traumatic birth, they may be swamped with overwhelming emotions that need validating and processing. The woman’s wellbeing is every bit as important, as it affects her ability to mother.
Would having that baby come out dead from your vagina because that is what is “supposed to happen” make you feel better? NO!!
Bringing up the topic of dead babies, Jacinta, is rather unnecessary, damaging, and irrelevant. We have women come to Birthtalk who HAVE had babies die. They are often suffering from two levels of trauma : one from losing their child, and another from how they experienced the actual birth. Chances are, they would have been at Birthtalk even if their babies had survived, to deal with the trauma of the birth…but because the grief and shock of their baby dying takes precedence, they often only deal with birth trauma a long way down the track. Does that make sense? Even women whose babies die can experience the same trauma as women whose babies survive. Of course those women who lose their babies have a whole new terrible tragic level to deal with, but the women in this situation who have come to Birthtalk have expressed their relief to be able to separate the two different types of trauma., and finally process the birth trauma.
And having a traumatic birth only makes you a stronger person, learn from it.. it makes other things in life seem less painful
You say that ‘having a traumatic birth only makes you a stronger person’, but you are wrong. Having a traumatic birth does not make you a stronger person if you receive no support, no validation, no means to understand your experience. It is the healing process that reveals a woman’s strength, and for many women this process needs to be helped along by wonderful support and understanding. Your own comments have not provided any support and understanding, and actually serve to perpetuate the myths in our culture surrounding traumatic birth.
If people judge you because of a cesarean then that is ridiculous. No one has ever made me feel any less than what i am..a wonderful mother. People will always throw advice at you, but take it with a pinch of salt, they always think their way is best. But only you know what is best for your baby..
You are correct that this is a ‘ridiculous’ judgment but just because no-one made you feel less than a wonderful mother, does not mean other women receive the same treatment or have your ability to process it. Everyone is in a different family situation, with different friends, different partners, different mothers and mothers-in-law. It’s great that you have been able to feel a wonderful mother. However your comments could easily make another woman feel judged and less-than, simply because of the lack of empathy and awareness you show. There is also a difference between ‘people throwing advice at you’ ( as you have described it) and being told that you are selfish for wanting to emotionally recover from your birth (which is what many women continually hear from those around them…including you).
Mentally, having my baby was the scariest and most challenging thing i’ve ever done. I proudly tell my birth story to my friends and other people, because its MY story and its what happened to me. I am not ashamed, i am no less of a woman than my mother who had me vaginally. I am not weaker because i had to have a cesarean. I just thank god for what i have… An beautiful baby girl, and my own healthy and functioning body
Of course you are not less of a woman because you had a caesarean. Of course you are not weaker. But maybe this is because the unique set of circumstances in your own unique situation enabled you to maintain a sense of it being your story rather than experiencing it as ‘others doing things to you’. (which might explain why you don’t feel ‘robbed’). Women who feel impacted by their birth often report feeling that it wasn’t ‘their’ birth…usually because they were treated in a way that implied this.
Perhaps, too, you have not been inundated by others around you implying that you ARE less of a woman. Other women hear constantly that they are not responding appropriately to their birth…when the appropriate response is actually dependent on each woman’s experience of it. The only one who knows how a woman feels about her birth is the woman herself, because she was the one who experienced it. Without talking to her, how could we possibly know?
And we are sincerely glad you have a healthy, functioning body. Other women have not been so lucky in their recovery from caesarean. You do not know the recovery details of the other women who have commented here, or of the other women who have had caesareans…or vaginal births for that matter. It would be incorrect to assume that everyone has been as lucky as you.
Women who feel robbed after a traumatic birth are experiencing reasonable, understandable emotions in response to particular situations that arose during their births. They may feel robbed physiologically (that is, they did not get the hormones and physical experiences that women are supposed to get from birth), or emotionally (that is, they did not get the emotional support and feelings of safety that are required for a birth to feel positive). And even those who have had positive births may still need to process the circumstances surrounding their birth.
We are glad you are proud of your birth story. You rightfully have nothing to be ashamed about, and probably much to be proud of. But what you have done with your comment is to shame other women who feel differently. This is unacceptable, unkind, and unhelpful. As we said – we have published your comment to demonstrate the kind of misinformation that women who feel bad about their births come up against in our society and to perhaps allow others, like yourself, to reflect on this. And also, most importantly, to give women who are struggling after a traumatic birth a clear message… that you – and others who share your sentiments – are wrong.
<a href=”http://www.hypersmash.com/dreamhost/” id=”MY502614″>DreamHost good web host</a>