There's a lot of preparation involved when becoming a parent, from readying your house to getting yourself pumped up for the actual delivery. Now, for those of you who skipped health class, there's two exits through which a baby can emerge: a vaginal delivery or via C-section incision. And did you know that being a feminist prepares you for a C-section? It's true! Well, it was true for me, anyway! I noticed that in many instances where I came across challenges or conflict regarding my birth, a lot of the basic tenets of feminism helped me through.
This isn't to say that being a feminist is going to ensure that you'll have a perfect C-section experience. Neither does it mean that if you had a bad C-section experience you've somehow failed a feminist purity test. Feelings about any birth can be complicated and weird, and I feel this is doubly true of C-sections. It also doesn't mean that you have to identify as a feminist to have a positive birth experience (but I think it helps).
Here are some of the ways I experienced a better than average C-section experience as a result of my feminist sensibilities:
You Recognize Some Of The Creepy Narratives Surrounding Birth
Birth is weird. Like, it's physically weird because a tiny human comes out of your body after growing from two cells. That's some science fiction-level weirdness! But it's also weird because people have these ideas surrounding birth. Ideas like "there's a right way and a wrong way to bring a baby into the world." And — spoilers! — there's actually no consensus on what those ways even are so there's literally no way you can "win" at this game. Feminists know that a lot of these ideas spring from reductive, sexist concepts about what women's bodies are for and what they're supposed to do and blah, blah, blah. We can see through that nonsense. So when someone starts coming at us with wild-eyed diatribes against C-sections, we know from whence it comes and we are here for precisely none of it.
You Know Choices Are Important
Expectant moms can be wary of C-sections, often for completely understandable reasons (assorted risks, undergoing surgery, longer and harder recoveries). But sometimes, as mentioned above, it's because C-sections are looked down upon as an "invalid" way to give birth. There are some who would go as far as to argue that having a C-section isn't really giving birth, and those people are wrong.
But feminists know that there is no One Correct Way To Do A Thing (Even When People Claim Otherwise). This isn't just when it comes to giving birth, either. From how we should look to what jobs to pursue, whom to love, and how to behave, there's a "list" of things of women are "supposed to do" and detailed ways we're "supposed" to do them. Birth is just another arena where women are unfairly judged. But feminists know that if said thing has everyone's consent and isn't harming anyone, then it's a perfectly valid choice. Now, obviously, not all C-sections will be a matter of choice: some of them are done under emergent circumstances. But knowing that any birth option is valid can help a mom overcome some of her trepidation about cesarean birth (or the surprise announcement that she needs one).
You Know You Are More Than Your Body
A lot of the women I've talked to about C-sections frequently feel as though their body has "failed," or that they are less of a woman because their body didn't do "what a woman's body is supposed to do naturally." But feminists are aware of the many, many ways our bodies are used as weapons against us, often by making us feel inadequate. We know that a woman's womanhood and femininity are not measured by (or necessarily even housed in) her body.
You Know The Importance Of Making Your Voice Heard
Women are often expected to be "ladylike." You know, demure, quiet, polite, accommodating, basically like a pretty, human doormat. And do you think a silly little thing like giving birth is going to serve as a failsafe guard to prevent people from asking you (overtly and otherwise) to physically and emotionally contort yourself to fit their comfort levels?
Feminists know this sort of behavior pervades every aspect of society, and so we are more apt to recognize it in the delivery room and, hopefully, speak up and assert themselves.
You Know The Importance Of Knowing Your Rights
Feminists know that the powers that be often depend on you not knowing what you're entitled to in order to keep/put you where they want you. So feminists learned long ago that knowing your legal rights — in the streets, at work, at school, in your home, in your relationships — is an important aspect of ensuring that you are treated respectfully and, yes, even legally.
You Know Ahead Of Time That Women Are Often Treated Badly In Medical Settings
Often, overlooking women's particular needs is built into the American healthcare system. Women are underrepresented in medical research and doctor's training. On top of these fundamental issues, women's pain is often underestimated or simply dismissed by doctors and nurses. And, sometimes, sadly, there's nothing even the most informed patient can do about that. But in other cases forewarned is forearmed.
You Know The Importance Of Self-Care
C-section recovery, like any birth recovery, takes time and intention. But (and I say this as someone who has a C-section and a vaginal delivery) C-section recovery is longer, more difficult, and will require more consideration. A whole lot of those self-care tips feminists practice to avoid activism burnout can come in handy here.
You Know That Self-Care Is Action Even When It Doesn't Feel Active
Women are used to having to constantly justify our existence. So when we take even a little bit of time to relax and recover we often feel guilty about being "lazy." But feminists know this (even if we sometimes have trouble internalizing it) and we know that physical recovery (and, to be honest, emotional recovery, too!) really requires you to be conscientious about how you're moving, what you're doing, and how you're going to go through the rest of your day (all while also caring for an infant). So it's not a question of just sitting around and not doing anything, it's a matter of planning how you're going to rest and do everything you will need to do.
You Know Pain Isn't The Measure By Which We Validate Female Experiences
Yes, everyone loves a martyred woman... except for those of us who realize that womanhood should not require noble suffering in order to be considered "good women." So if our childbirth experience didn't hurt us because we were numbed from the waist down (or unconscious), that doesn't mean we're not good women.
You Know There Are Some Things You Don't Have To Apologize For
So, you know that whole "having to justify your existence and choices 24/7" thing? There's zero time for that. Our schedules are packed with recovering and raising our own little mini-badass. So, if you're expecting me to feel bad for having had a C-section, or you're expecting an explanation for you to judge as worthy or not... buh-bye.
Battling The Patriarchy Has Made You Tough AF
So this C-section — including it's physical demands and tolls, as well as all the sociological baggage some of y'all are trying to put upon us for having had one — are going to be child's play.