There's no one way to talk about c-sections. Some women plan them out of preference, while others resort to them in disappointment. Some women are tremendously grateful for them, while others need therapy to help them process what happened. However, at the end of the day, 1/3 of American mothers will give birth via cesarean and there are things these c-section moms are tired of hearing.
Just as there is no one way to talk about c-sections, there's no one way to talk about how not to talk about them. Some women will be happy to go on about horrible medical practices that lead to unnecessary procedures. Others will want to skip over that conversation entirely. Some will want to talk about how awful it was. Others will want to tell you what an amazing and comfortable birth they had. The main take-away, therefore, is to enter any and all conversations about cesarean birth with zero presumptions. Let the woman who has actually had the experience talk about how it went for her and how she feels about it. Yes, even if you have also had a c-section. Be open to her story being just as true, real, and valid as yours, because it is.
Birth is extremely personal and, as such, people can take the things others say about it very personally. That's why, yes, what you say to a mom who has had a c-section (or any mom, in general) matters. So, with that in mind, it's probably safe to say that the following sentiments should be avoided.
"That's Horrible! You Poor Thing!"
This was probably the only really disappointing thing about my c-section birth: other people's negative reactions to it. Nearly across the board, whenever I let someone know I wound up having a c-section, I was met with pity or horror. I just wanted to say "No! Really! It was lovely and enjoyable and it's how my baby came into this world, so stop trying to make it out like it was sad!"
Even though the birth of my son was an unplanned, emergency c-section, it was a happy day. Having people respond to my excitement with an "Aw! That sucks!" really sort of drains some of the joy out of it. Of course c-sections can be awful (mine is not a universal experience) but they aren't universally negative, either. Let someone tell you what their c-section was like before you start projecting what you assume it was like onto them and, inevitably, ruin their awesome stories.
"The Only Thing That Matters Is That Everyone Is Healthy"
This is such an insidious phrase, because it's basically used to silence certain kinds of experiences. Ultimately, everyone agrees that everyone coming out of a birth experience alive trumps all other factors. However, that's a pretty low bar.
C-section births can be dramatic, traumatic, painful, and confusing; exploring those feelings can be crucial in healing from a painful experience. So, saying "the only thing that matters is that everyone is healthy" shuts down those discussions completely. If you continue to voice negative emotions after that you somehow sound ungrateful, short-sighted, not recognizing what's important, or selfish. That everyone made it out of the delivery room alive is the most important thing, but it's not the only important thing when it comes to giving birth.
"Well, At Least You Got To Take The Easy Way Out"
F*ck. You. You want to see the picture I took of my scar two days after birth? Let me save you the trouble because no you don't because it's horrifying. C-sections can be very painful (they aren't always, but the certainly can be). Recovery almost always takes considerably longer than it does for a vaginal delivery. Moreover, lots of women labor or even push before they have a c-section, so it's not like everyone who has a c-section is blissfully unaware of what labor is like.
"If You Have More Kids You Have To Have C-Sections"
Nope! While this was true back in the day, before transverse incisions were used to get babies out of Fort Uterus, nowadays vaginal birth after cesarean (VBACs) are considered preferable to repeat c-sections for most women. Unfortunately, a lot of OBs put stock in this debunked adage as well.
Don't believe me? Just ask my VBAC-born daughter! She's 2, but she'll do her best to answer your questions. It might help if you ask her via an Elmo hand puppet, as that's how I get her to do pretty much everything.
"So You Haven't REALLY Given Birth"
Ummm... a baby I had been baking for however many months exit my body. Please let me know what you would call that. (Spoilers: it's "give birth.")
"Your Doctor Must Have Pushed You Into It Because They Had Plans"
While doctors coercing patients into c-sections (and procedures that can lead to an increased chance of a c-section) absolutely happens, the idea that it's an across-the-board truism is ridiculous. It also sort of sets up the person who had the c-section to assume a victim status, which, as mentioned in my first point, puts a damper on sharing what was quite possibly a lovely experience.
"This Is Why It's So Important To Educate Yourself"
Ah yes. I wound up with a c-section because I'm ignorant and too lazy to educate myself. This is something that requires an assignation of blame and it's my fault. I'd walk over to talk some sense into your smug, condescending self, but I'm finding it difficult to navigate around this massive pile of books about pregnancy and childbirth I read before I had my kid. You lucked out, this time.
"You Didn't Try Hard Enough"
1) Um, I'm pretty sure I'm under no obligation to give birth based on your standards and specifications.
2) Seriously? Screw you, you sanctimonious weirdo.
"My Birth Was Just So Natural And Beautiful"
It's not a contest. No matter how hard anyone tries to make it one it just never will be. Look, I'm delighted you had a lovely experience but maybe, just maybe, when we're talking about my experience, we won't make it all about you. (Especially, for the love of Beyoncé Almighty, if I'm relating a negative experience: your waxing poetic about your Yoda-attended sea turtle birth is just lemon juice in a paper cut.)
"Did You Schedule It So You Could Go On Vacation Or Something?"
And if I did?
(Though I have known hundreds and hundreds of pregnant women and have never heard of anyone doing this. Who can even go on vacation with a newborn, particularly after abdominal surgery? Who would want to?)
"Is It Because You Didn't Want To Ruin Your Vag?"
For real, do you even know what a vagina is or how it works? Birth doesn't ruin your vagina. Sure, it can change and it might even tear, but on the whole it's basically going to be back to it's peppy, sporting self. Certainly 1/3 of women giving birth in the US are not choosing major surgery for the sake of their vaginas and 2/3 of American women who give birth aren't walking around with cavernous wastelands between their thighs.
"Too Posh To Push"
I would never wish ill on a person. (Well, most people.) However, words and phrases I have no trouble cursing from the depths of my soul. This phrase can seriously die in a fire. It's the worst. It's condescending, reductive, sexist, and all-around obnoxious and I want it to go away and never come back. Also, it's not even really a thing.