More than one-third of the babies born in these times have been a result of Cesarean delivery. And it might sound unreal, but mothers face a new type of emotional trauma referred to as the ‘Caesarean guilt’.
Advanced maternal age and an inactive lifestyle can be partly blamed for this alarming trend, but most of the responsibility rests with the healthcare system. More investigations and monitoring in hospitals has led to more interventions that one can argue about. Whatever be the cause, women are not happy about giving birth the caesarean way. Most of the caesarean moms I know are unhappy or even ashamed of their birthing journey.
We, as a race, have come a full circle in our relationship with science and technology. Only a few decades ago, we lapped up everything processed, and embraced advancement in science with open arms. And now, we have become increasingly wary of these man-made products and procedures, and yearn to go back to our roots. Be it what we eat and how we raise our kids or even how we birth, we want to go au naturel. Consequently, women who haven’t had the opportunity to birth vaginally are found feeling left out of the ‘normal-birth-club’.
All about my birthing journey
My first baby was born by an emergency caesarean. I had the worst of both the worlds – fourteen hours of fruitless labour followed by being cut open. I had a meltdown in the delivery room when I was asked to consent to a caesarean.
The second time around, I was all geared up for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). I did yoga, pelvic tilts, butterfly poses and even belly dancing, so that my baby could willingly come out, but she was quite happy inside and at forty weeks, with no baby in sight, my doctor and I had to give up and opt for a repeat caesarean.
This time around, I was more relieved than crushed. I just wanted the baby out of me, after my never-ending pregnancy and I knew that my doctor did her best to help me have a normal delivery, but life had other plans.
My maid was particularly invested in my birth stories, and had a lot of expert opinions to offer. She would say that city girls can’t tolerate pain, so they take the easy way out. And when I made the mistake of countering her and telling her that it was an emergency because my labour didn’t progress, she said ‘yeah weak people can’t tolerate labour pain, so they don’t get labour pain’.
I found myself offended by her ridiculous reasoning, and became partly defensive of my situation. In fact, most mothers who have been wanting a normal birth find themselves defending their doctor’s decision, and their own body’s capability to give birth naturally.
Let go of that cesarean guilt
For those of you who haven’t been blessed enough to experience a natural birth, it’s time to let go of this opportunity missed and count the blessings of being a mother. It is often perceived that caesarean moms are lazy, or too scared to deliver normally. But we are in this situation for medical reasons rather than out of our own whim. Also, a C-section surgery might seem like a breeze with no screaming, panting and pushing, but it has its share of challenges. Caesarean is definitely not the easy way out because:
1. Having a needle inserted in your spine for anaesthesia is one of the most uncomfortable experiences ever.
2. While the anaesthesia begins to take effect, you get this horrible pins and needles sensation all over your lower body, before you stop feeling anything.
3. The urinary catheter is a tube inserted into your bladder and can be painful during insertion. The pain is likely to get worse during removal.
4. Breastfeeding post caesarean is very difficult. You can’t turn to your side because you are paralyzed waist down for the first few hours after birth, and trying to sit up sends shooting pain all over the incision site.
5. Walking for the next few weeks feels like your gut is going to come spilling out of your incision. Even coughing and sneezing exert painful pressure on your stitches.
6. Recovery from caesarean takes longer than a normal delivery. There is a higher risk of caesarean site infection too. The delivery may seem fuss-free, but our troubles actually begin after that.
7. Subsequent pregnancies and labour becomes more dangerous and difficult after a caesarean.
Many mothers have attempted home births after their first caesareans, because they were sure their doctor would do a repeat caesarean. While many have been able to give birth naturally with the help of a midwife, it would be unfair to say that what they did was right. Their resolve to avoid caesareans could put the life of their baby in danger. In fact, one patient refused a caesarean at all costs for her first delivery, putting her baby’s life at risk and ended up giving birth to a stillborn child.
Judge no more
It’s time we stopped judging our sacrifices and experiences and break free from society’s judgement too. No birth is superior or inferior to another. Becoming a mother is not an exercise in martyrdom. Shaming new moms has become so rampant, and being judged by other moms is worse for our emotional health than sleep deprivation or a bawling baby.
We judge ourselves worse than anyone else does. Starting on this wrong note leaves us unforgiving of ourselves, and we often label ourselves as “bad moms”. Not being able to deliver normally leaves an empty emotional hole in our hearts, and this concern of the new mother is often left unaddressed by her partner and doctor alike. I have gotten around to accepting my caesarean journey only after the birth of my second child. Even now when I am judged for not delivering normally, I just shrug it off but it’s taken me years to reach this stage.
The solution lies in your own hands
Speaking to many other moms who have had similar birthing stories has helped me. You could join an online community and anonymously vent about your experiences. Schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your birthing’s detailed history. This will help you get closure about the events that occurred in the delivery room.
Understanding the medical reasons about why there was no other way besides a caesarean would alleviate your sense of ‘failure’ to an extent. If you feel particularly haunted by your experience, then make sure you speak to an expert counsellor.