I belong to the one-third of women in Switzerland who brought their children into the world via caesarean section.
I also belong to the three-thirds of women who feel like they have to justify themselves for doing so.
I explain to people, often without even being asked, that a hundred years ago here – or today in a third-world country – my son and I wouldn’t be alive because at some point, my labor failed to progress and at some point, our hearts would have stopped beating, too. Although it’s actually nobody’s business. And in the meantime, I have heard so many stories similar to my own.
Do I really have to feel like less of a good mother because I’ve never experienced the final pains of pushing out a baby (and, indeed, never will)? Did I really take what many people still insist on seeing as the “easy way out?” As if a C-section were nothing more than a quick trip to the hospital, laying down briefly as if to get your eyebrows plucked, and emerging half an hour later with your make-up still perfect, all ready to post that first selfie with your newborn on Instagram?
That’s not how it works. Anyone who raises their eyebrows and scornfully makes fun of moms who are “too posh to push,” who condescendingly bitches about what allegedly motivates women to opt for a surgical delivery and who claims that C-sections are nothing but a cowardly defeat, has never experienced a C-section and the days that follow.
A c-section is an operation, not a spa treatment
The moment you enter the operating room, if not before, you wave goodbye to the euphoric feelings and the warm and cuddly ‘nesting’ instinct that accompanied you in the weeks leading up to the birth, as you looked forward to welcoming this new person into your life.
Now everything is cold – in the most literal sense of the word – because the anesthetist is running an ice-cold metal rod over your lower belly and testing whether the epidural or spinal anesthesia has kicked in. Your pulse is racing and your partner isn’t yet by your side because he’s putting on his scrubs in the room next door.
The pain during the actual birth is (in general) minimal, thanks to the epidural. You will, however, feel the strong pulling of a tug-of-war with your insides and will feel glad not to really know exactly what is going on in the lower half of your body. You won’t want to imagine it, either, and will instead concentrate intensely on the wonderful outcome that will hopefully soon arrive: the baby.
In most cases, but unfortunately not all, those feelings of joy and euphoria will come back along with the baby and you’ll be blissfully unaware that the gynecologist is currently stapling together the wall of your belly after slicing deeply through all its layers just moments before.
But in just a few hours at the latest, a stabbing pain will remind you of all that. In addition to the afterpains, your fresh scar will also make itself known and can only be subdued with some powerful pain meds. Coughing, laughing and peeing are out of the question. You’ll be stuck to an IV and catheter.
The birth might be pain-free, but it still leaves scars
While the mothers who gave birth vaginally stroll to the changing station with their babies, you’ll still be hobbling through the halls, hunched over like a croissant, on the second (and even on the fourth) day after the birth. You can forget about carrying your baby yourself.
And even properly cuddling my firstborn child was something I had to leave to my partner after our daughter was born. A C-section may leave your perineum unscathed, but it scars you in more ways than one.
Bringing a child into the world is always a bloody and exhausting achievement, no matter how you go about it. A women who chooses to have a C-section or is forced to choose one does not make a mockery of birth, as a psychologist once claimed in a Mamablog post. A woman who delivered by C-section is not a wimp. Not lazy. Not a lesser person.
She is a mother who has accomplished the feat of giving birth to a child. And she has every right to be proud of it.