January 26, 2015

What Not to Say to Cesarean Mothers

After my first cesarean, I had to know what went wrong. I looked to every avenue as to why I did not have a vaginal delivery. My baby wasn't too big, I'm not ridiculously out of shape, I was generally in good health. WHAT HAPPENED?

In tears, I'm begging my doctor for an explanation. All she could say was, "You have a healthy baby, and you are healthy, too. If we had let you labor any longer that may not have been the case. Healthy mama, healthy baby. That is what I am happy about." I tearfully nodded as I left my postpartum visit with my husband and newborn. I tried to put on a brave face for all the soon mommies-to-be in the lobby. Big smiles! I have a health baby! I should be happy.

I would talk to my mom, my friends, my hairdresser, anyone who would listen and just cry about my cesarean. They all had the same thing to say:

"You have a beautiful baby, all that matters is that you are healthy, and the baby's healthy. Who cares how he got here?!"

My mother was also a little upset by me. "You were a c-section baby and it was SOOOO EASY!""I'd have a baby every time by c-section!" As if my disappoint was an affront to her delivery choice. She's the same way about formula, too, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

I quietly accepted this, and stifled my grief as best I could. It's true. We are lucky. In other parts of the world, we both might have been dead. In another era, not too long ago in fact, we might be dead. I needed to suck it up and be thankful. After all, I have two friends that can't even GET pregnant. Surely I'm luckier than them. I had one friend miscarry; definitely luckier than her, right? I remember sitting in the speech therapist's office, waiting for our weekly oral motor appointment to help with X-man's nursing issues. I'd look around out the small children, so disabled from a genetic disorder or some other unknown circumstance. I cried and hugged my healthy baby. Surely, I was luckier than these mothers, right? How can my sadness even be justified by comparison to these other women? I felt guilty even feeling sad. I was disgusted with myself.

After Lollipop came around and my VBAC failed, I came to my postpartum visit seeking out answers. The OB that attended be in the hospital had mentioned that I had surgical adhesions from my previous c-section. Had this somehow caused a problem with Lollipop's position? I went in determined to get clearer answers this time around. Again, I was disappointed. "I know you were hoping for a vaginal delivery, but it didn't work out. As your doctor, I am just thrilled that we have a healthy mama and healthy baby! That's all I care about!" There is was. The number one sentence I loathed to hear.

We have to stop telling c-section mothers, "Who cares how the baby got here."

We hate it. Full Stop. Do Not Pass Go.

It makes us hate ourselves (We are selfish and ungrateful.)
It makes us hate our bodies. (We were too fat, too petite, too weak, too unprepared.)
It makes us resent our babies (They were too big, in a bad position, too weak, breech, multiples, had poor heart tones, broken waters, meconium in the fluid.)

While our rational sides can understand the facts of our birth, our emotional sides cannot.

Saying "Who Cares!?" completely undermines our grieving and healing processes. It marginalizes the loss of the birth story that we had written for ourselves from the moment we learned a life was growing inside of us. There are those who marginalize the importance of a birth story, but why is it that every mother whether 19 or 90 can so vividly describe her own? A birth puts a mark on your soul, and anything so momentous is worth value.

So to answer, "Who cares?"….Well, WE DO.

WE care that are babies were cut, wrestled, and separated from our womb.
WE care that we can no longer feel sensation in parts of our body.
WE care that we have a nagging sense of doubt.
WE care that we feel assaulted.
WE care that we are disfigured.

Most importantly…

We care that me missed out on a fundamental Rite of Passage. That's what hurts the most.

© Amy Swagman 2011

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