ďYouíre LUCKY you had a caesareanĒ she said to me, and inside I died just a little. I wanted to say ďNo, YOUíRE lucky because you DIDNíT have oneĒ, but having not given birth I didnít feel like I could really comment.
Whenever I heard how lucky I was, I felt as it my voice was being drowned out by the horrors of vaginal birth. Horrors I could only imagine and yet somehow I longed to experience.
I wanted to FEEL my baby entering the world, slipping into life, I wanted to pull them to me and look at their little face, touch their fuzzy head, smell their new smell, I wanted to be the first person to touch my baby!
The odds are good that this is how the other woman felt too, but despite having had a vaginal birth, this wasnít her experience of it. She was probably on her back, surrounded by gloved, masked strangers, all peering at her nakedness, and telling her what to do. They touched her baby before she did.
So the grass seems greener on the other side but the sad truth is itís just a different shade of green. Iíve been living with the grief of stolen birth for years and Iíve also had two perfect, unhindered homebirths, I can see what is happening in these conversations.
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Two women are reaching out for understanding, neither understands that the other is just as traumatised. The difference is that itís ok to say how horrendous vaginal birth is but weíre expected to be grateful for caesareans
When a woman gives birth itís normal for her to feel hugely relieved that itís over, sheís often quite shocked by the intensity of the experience, but if a woman feels like surgery would have been better itís safe to say that she experienced one long medical procedure, rather than a ďgood birthĒ.
Women who give birth at home almost never say that they would have preferred a caesarean.
My homebirths left me KNOWING that I was lucky. I was luckier than a woman who had a caesarean AND I was luckier than many women who have vaginal births.
Giving birth at home showed me what birth is, and isnít, in ways that far too many women will never understand. It showed me how birth is a multi faceted experience and itís not as simple as vaginal or caesarean. To suggest that it is, is a symptom of obstetric culture and the oppressive denial of womenís experiences.
Modern obstetrics has leached into our minds and told us how birth is, we watch births on television, we hear the horror stories, the impact of modern obstetrics has so permeated our psyches that it is all but invisible. We live and breathe birth as a horror story and caesareans as easy, like a lucky escape route. Neither is realistic though, not when we only view them through the obstetric paradigm.
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According to popular birth culture, being alive is all we can expect from a ďgood birthĒ, but thatís a cruel lie that leaves millions of women at odds with each other and themselves. Women unable to explain or even comprehend the way they feel about their births because birth is not an experience they have, itís something that is done to them.
Thereís no disputing that timely obstetric intervention saves lives, but itís traumatic! Thereís also no disputing the fact that far too many births are altered by unnecessary intervention. Some of them end in an operating theatre, and some with a highly managed vaginal birth.
When a woman says she wishes she had experienced the opposite, she isnít saying what she thinks she is saying. Firstly she is dismissing the experience of the other woman, but secondly she is saying that her own experience of birth left her wanting more.
Women want to greet their babies with love, with a feeling of achievement. That isnít because they have unrealistic expectations. The fact that we tell women they do highlights the unrealistic expectations of modern obstetric culture: That women will willingly go along for the ride, unquestioningly submitting to it all and brushing aside their feelings like brave martyrs.
Birth is uniquely challenging, but wherever possible, a woman should feel like she has achieved something, not survived something, when she first holds her baby. To suggest that a woman who had an unwanted caesarean is lucky shows not only a serious lack of empathy, but a deeper pathological misunderstanding of the impact that birth should have on women.