10 Questions Every C-Section Mom Absolutely Dreads Hearing
When it comes to talking about C-sections with someone who has had one, especially someone who has recently had one, my advice is this: tread carefully. Why? Well, because there are a million different ways to feel about birth in general, but having a c-section involves a special level of societal judgment and/or concern-trolling that complicates matters. So just know that there are more than a few questions every C-section absolutely dreads hearing, then watch the words coming out of your mouth.
In my personal experience, informing people I have had a C-section is rarely met with neutrality. The most common response I get is pity, which sucks because I actually enjoyed my delivery and being on the receiving end of someone else's unnecessary sympathy just brings everything down. The second most common response I get is, "Well, the only thing that matters is that everyone is healthy," which isn't too terrible but, really? That's the only thing that matters? Maybe we could set the bar a little higher. I can't imagine if I had a traumatic experience and had to hear people telling me over and over that my feelings didn't matter because I was alive. The third most common response is not-so-thinly-veiled judgment, usually from the same people who ask the worst, most grilling questions (because they somehow find it appropriate to be an authority on whether or not your C-section was justified).
The vast majority of these questions are completely unnecessary. So please, for the love of all things childbirth related, just don't with any of the following:
"Was It Necessary?"
Depending on your tone and how close you are to the person you're asking, there is a polite way to ask. "Did you know you were going to have C-section beforehand?" or, "Was it planned?" are also pretty neutral (again, with the right tone and personal familiarity). Asking, "Was it necessary?" carries a lot of implicit judgment that puts a new mom in the position of having to justify a personal medical decision to you when it's absolutely none of your business.
Besides, how are we defining "necessary?" Necessary for what? A birth everyone felt good about? A birth everyone survived? A birth that carried the least amount of risk? How about this: "It's how the birth went down. That's all you need to know."
"Are You Going To Try To Go Natural Next Time?"
Like "necessary," "natural" means different things to different people. For a lot of those people, it is a loaded-ass term best avoided, especially when used in juxtaposition to a cesarean.
Deciding how to give birth, especially after having had a C-section, is something that may require a lot of thought and discussions with a care provider. It may be a decision fraught with a lot of emotion and/or mixed feelings. You butting in and implying any investment in this whatsoever is not helpful.
Also? Seriously? You're talking to someone who just had a baby and you're already talking to her about next time? Do you even know if she has considered another baby? And even if she has, do you think she wants to think about giving birth right now? Come on, dude: stop and think.
"What Did You Do Wrong?"
I don't think I've ever known anyone who has said this in exactly these words, but this can be implied through so many questions, including the following:
"Did you give in to an epidural?"
"Did you let them give you Pitocin?"
"Did you let your doctor convince you that you needed one?"
All of this usually translates into, "I have a lot of half-informed theories about interventions and actions that result in a c-section, so which did you not work hard enough to avoid? After all, we all know C-sections are across-the-board-terrible."
Acting like there is some simple, straight-forward thing a woman could have done to avoid a C-section is at best presumptuous and dumb and at worst mean-spirited and hurtful. Like... even if you're right, no one needs you to Monday morning quarterback this one. And chances are you're not right about whatever you believe to be the cause of someone's C-section. Know how I can say that with confidence? Because you're obviously not their doctor or midwife. Statistically, you are not a doctor or midwife period, so stop pretending to have a professional's insights.
"How Were You Able To Bond?"
Call me crazy, but I'm pretty sure it's possible to bond with a baby without passing them through your vagina. Like... can you imagine if the only way you could bond with anyone was to squeeze them out of your fancy bits? Dating is awkward enough without this kind of pressure, you guys.
"Do You Feel Guilty?"
Asking if someone feels guilty is a passive aggressive way of telling them they should feel guilty.
"Oh that's not what I mean," you insist.
OK. Then I suggest skipping this "question" entirely. And if you are hellbent on knowing whether or not they feel guilty, try this one:
"How do you feel?"
They may even mistake you for a nice person who is concerned for their physical and emotional wellbeing following such a monumental life change. If they want to tell you then they'll tell you. If they don't, deal with it.
"Does That Really Count As Birth?"
Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, OMFG YES, are you actually insane?
"What Does Your Scar Look Like? Is It Gross? Can I See?"
I mean, you recognize that this is very personal, right? In a best case scenario it's inappropriate. In a worst case scenario, you're asking intimate questions of a person who has just had all her intimate bits (her literal insides) on display in front of a team of medical professionals (most of whom were probably strangers) and treating her physical pain like an icky sideshow attraction. There's also a decent chance she's self-conscious about it. If you're really super curious, do a Google image search of C-section scars (and prepare yourself). You don't need to know the gory details about your friend's particular scar.
But hey, maybe she'll want to talk about it with you. Just let her bring it up.
"Did You Have A C-Section To Spare Your Vag?"
OMG, can we seriously not with this well-worn trope that is based on only the tiniest shred of truth? Look, if I admit that this some woman during the span of history has decided to have a C-section so you doesn't have to deal with a vagina birth, maybe, but can you admit that this is almost never why someone has a C-section? (And, if it is and they did, it's still none of your goddamn business.)
"Do You Know How Much Better A Vaginal Birth Is For Everyone Involved?"
2) That's just flat out wrong in emergency situations
3) That ship has sailed, my friend. It's too late to do anything differently at this point, so why try to make a mom feel bad about the things that have already happened? She's a mom, so trust me when I say she has the rest of her life to second guess herself and feel guilty. We don't have to start now.
"Did You Even Try?"
What are you trying to convey with this question, pal? That she should have "tried" harder because there's only one particular way a woman is supposed to give birth? That you know what was best for her, despite not being her (or even being in the room where it all happened)? And, OK, maybe you just want to know if she went into labor or pushed before she had a C-section — this still might be a little personal but, depending on how well you know her, could be a neutral question. But asking, "Did you try?" is not the way to ask, because it implies there was a way she was "supposed" to do thing rather than asking her how things actually happened. Go with, "Did you go into labor beforehand?" maybe. Or, again, just let her share what she's comfortable sharing.
Someone else's birth experience isn't about you. They are under no obligation to sate your curiosity or justify their decisions. Please keep this in mind and treat C-section moms with respect and care.