Women are used to double standards, at least as a general rule. Many feel reasonable to us because we've lived with them our whole lives. For example, look sexually appealing, but not slutty. Be honest and direct, but be nice and let people down gently. We may even perpetuate some of them without realizing it. Which is why, today, I'd like to talk about the bullsh*t double standards society has about C-sections, because hoo-boy do they abound.
I've had the opportunity (for better or worse) to see, over and over again, how C-sections are described, discussed, and fretted over among other moms, the media, and society at large. The truth is that which narrative you're hearing can often be colored by self-selecting factors, including where you live, who you talk to, what your opinion is going into the issue in the first place, and the like. But that doesn't change the fact that, more likely than not, you're hearing competing, contradictory interpretations of this very common procedure all the time. This can be confusing, irritating and, moreover, make it impossible to do the "right" thing.
Spoilers: there is no "right" way to give birth, at least not as a universal concept. There's only what's right for you, your medical needs, your emotional needs, and your baby's needs. And thank goodness for that, because there's no way to get it right with these insidious and undermining double standards:
Just Be Happy Everyone Is Healthy, But Allow Me To Pity You Because You Missed Out On "Real Birth"
The idea that a C-section mom should demonstrate gratitude (and effusive gratitude at that) is one I have found to be pervasive in regard to this topic. Certainly C-section save lives and certainly one can feel grateful for the opportunity to have one, but this fact alone doesn't mean there can't be significant pain, trauma, or complicated emotions that accompany cesarean delivery. (It also props up the idea that all C-sections are always a life or death situation when that just isn't sufficiently born out by evidence.)
On the other hand, you have the people who act as though a C-section delivery is something to be mourned — that it's always a disappointment that cannot possibly be enjoyable, empowered, or joyful experience.
The best is when people rain their pity down on you. If you counter that with a, "Actually, I enjoyed my experience," they either won't believe you, tell you that you're only saying that because you don't know how magical a "real birth" is, or they'll judge you (because, apparently, the only permissible C-section is the one that happens under duress). If you agree with them and chime in, "Yeah, it was a really tough experience," they'll immediately clap back with some variation of, "Well, just be thankful everyone came out of that hospital alive."
Well, which is it? Am I supposed to feel obsequiously grateful or profoundly disappointed?
Stand Up To Your Doctor, But Do Everything Your Doctor Tells You To Do Without Question
Society: "This is your birth experience! All doctors everywhere, in every instance, are only interested in money, which means they are going to want to get you in and out as quickly as possible. Advocate for yourself! You have the right to refuse anything they tell you you 'have' to do. Like, if a doctor tells you to take a deep breath and your body is telling you to hold that breath until you literally die, that's your decision. Remember: your internet research and intuition is worth more than all their 'degrees' and 'expertise.' If you listen to your doctor and you wind up getting a C-section it is a moral failing and you should be ashamed for not standing up to the Industrial Medical Complex."
Also society: "Your doctor is a well-educated, infallible medical professional. What you want, think, or feel doesn't matter. Instead, you listen to everything the doctor has to say and you do it when they say you should. Do not ask questions. This isn't about you at all: this is about your messiah of a doctor delivering your sweet baby however they see fit. In fact, do not look directly at your doctor, for their god-like brilliance will likely blind your lowly mortal eyes."
I mean really. It's about good communication and striking a healthy balance, people.
You Have To Give Birth In A Medical Facility, But Don't Get Any Medical Interventions
There's simultaneously this idea that giving birth anywhere other than a hospital is dangerous, selfish, and worthy of anything from silent (but burning) side-eye, to caterwauling, public castigation AND that you shouldn't utilize any hospital amenity other than a bed and maybe a pair of rubber gloves for the doctor.
Ummm... OK, if you're not going to opt for widely used medical practices, then what's the damn point of going to a hospital in the first place? I'm not saying that you have to do absolutely everything your doctor suggests without question (remember: balance!) but isn't it reasonable to assume that if someone is opting to give birth in a hospital they are aware of (and varying degrees of OK with) certain practices? For example, accepting medical interventions in some cases.
Why Would You Have A C-Section When Vaginal Births Are So Much Easier, But C-Sections Are The Easy Way Out
Because what's "easier" or "preferred" is a Universal Truth that is in no way dependent upon the person or situation in question. Speaking as someone who has delivered vaginally and via C-section, I have yet to experience any mode of childbirth that I could remotely categorize as "easy."
I especially love how "easy" goes from being a common sense, "Why wouldn't you just do things simply?" sort of thing, to a moral judgment chastising you for being lazy. Like, are you judging me for not doing taking the easier approach and making things too easy? How does that work?!
Any Subsequent Births You Should Try To Have A VBAC, But VBACs Are Dangerous & Selfish
I'll admit that this is often dependent upon where you live and the circles in which you run. In some areas of the United States, a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) is basically unheard of. In others, people know about them but they are practically impossible to even attempt if you want to deliver in a hospital or birth center. In other places, however, VBACs are on the rise, and that momentum can push people who may not necessarily be interested into feeling like they have to be.
C-Sections Are Only For Emergencies, But Schedule One Because No One Is Winning A Medal For Going Through Labor
Ah yes, the old "no one gets a medal" for childbirth adage. True, I've never seen a medal for giving birth... but it somehow always seems to me that if you didn't give birth exactly like the person making this statement, they're quietly stripping you of an invisible medal that only they have the power to bestow.
All Moms Should Be Empowered To Make Their Own Birth Decisions, But You Made The Wrong Decisions
No sarcasm or satire here, my friends. I am delighted that we are living in an age when, more and more, women are being encouraged to advocate for themselves and make their own choices about their bodies (at least in regard to birth). Because yes that's how it should be. Moms-to-be should be informed, respected, and feel encouraged to work with their doctor to make the best choices for everyone involved.
However, too often (though, mercifully, not always), the people who advocate such power only want it used in a very particular way. They want to empower you to think exactly the way they do... which isn't really empowerment at all.
We're All Moms, But You Didn't Really Give Birth
Just as moms are more and more being encouraged to advocate for themselves, we are hearing a kind of unity rising up from the ashes of the mommy wars. This is a sisterhood. We are at least connected in our love of our children and most likely in a thousand other ways. But there are still those who seek to divide and build useless walls between us by ranking one method of birth over another.
It's all birth and we're all moms.
Saying anything to the contrary is as pointless as it is creepy and it sets us up to give up on a sisterhood for the sake of factions starting at the beginning of our "journey though motherhood."
Here's hoping that, in time, the sisterhood gets strong enough that we can drown out the obnoxious noise of the factions. (And then we can smile, shake hands, and invite them to join us and we can all go out for karaoke because #sisterhood.)
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