As a mum with lupus, I’ve had two high-risk pregnancies that have ended in C-Sections. Today, my daughters are both thriving. But surrounding the recent birth of my second, there have been so many questions about my deliveries, and I’m fed up with defending myself.
After months of planning for a vaginal delivery with my first, a medically necessary induction led to 20 hours of labour that wouldn’t progress, a baby in distress, and an emergency C-Section. I will never forget the dread and emotional swoosh of letdown I felt as they wheeled me into the operating room and prepped me for surgery.
What a failure I felt like at the time, wrongly believing the popular rhetoric about how women’s bodies are “meant to do” this and if we can’t, we are somehow a disgrace. For months after my daughter’s birth I struggled with having had a C-Section. I would stare at her tiny face and feel like I wasn’t fully a mother because of how she’d come out. It was absurd.
I wish I could go back shake myself, telling that wrongly guilt-ridden mother that she had done exactly as she’d been “meant to do.” I had chosen my child’s safety over my own pride. I had trusted my smart, pro-baby, medically up-to-date physician and taken his advice for a healthy delivery. I had handed her over for skin-to-skin to my husband, moving from my “birth plan,” but giving her what she needed and him a welcome surprise — the foundation of their bond.
When I found out I was pregnant a second time, the birth was on my mind. As a mum with lupus, I knew about the higher stillbirth rate I was up against. My health condition mandated non-stress tests, extra ultrasounds, and progressive monitoring throughout the pregnancy as with my first.
Most doctors won’t let lupus mums go past 40 weeks. This is why I was induced the first time, which obviously ended in a really scary and dangerous way. For this and the fact that a VBAC in itself is risky, we decided a scheduled c-section would be best this time. I prepared for it physically and emotionally, and felt less anxious knowing that my daughter would enter the world in the way that was most prudent for us.
But even though I was confident in our choice, people came crawling out of the woodwork to question and try and deter me from it. Conversations in which my c-section date came up often ended with me fighting tears as a friend (OR EVEN A STRANGER!) insisted that I should “at least try” to go for a vaginal birth.
The morning of the section, I was nervous but excited to meet my second little girl. As I lay on a hospital bed in a gown waiting and buzzing with nerves, a nurse came in to set up my IV.
“Before I do this,” she said, “I just want to make sure you’re aware of all of your options. Did you even think about going for VBAC?” she asked. My husband and I were floored.
“Yes,” I said. “I opted to have a C-Section.”
“Well, okay, as long as you’re fine with it. I just hate to see anyone have a section if they didn’t know they were able to try for a VBAC.” Then she went on to list all the reasons that vaginal births are “better,” from the speedy recovery to the “instant bonding.” She didn’t know anything about my medical history or if a VBAC even was an option for me. I was pissed off. To this day, I still cringe thinking about that conversation.
Now, I have a healthy 2-month-old. We’ve recovered from her delivery, but sadly the world around us still hasn’t. It comes up in social gatherings often, and people still email or message me via social media to ask why I had a scheduled c-section.
I realise that blogging about my life opens us up and I’m happy to answer questions for mums who are in similar situations and need guidance, but most of these inquiries end with judgment. One person even asked how it felt to “come clean” and share word of the c-section, as if it was some deep and dirty secret.
What the heck, people? Why do you even care?
Every woman and every birth is different. I’ve never really been into “birth stories” myself; I’m more concerned with hearing that mum and baby are healthy. Even before I had my emergency c-section, I never asked or cared about another mom’s delivery story. I couldn’t tell you which of my friends had c-sections unless they’ve actually mentioned it. Why this is anyone else’s business I’ll never understand.
But here’s the thing: even if the question is posed innocently enough, I take it as a slight. Because our current-day mum culture places such a high emphasis on vaginal birth, when you stray from that you’re considered slightly damaged. When you choose the c-section, it’s even worse. And I don’t want to be judged by your stupid delivery standards anymore. I don’t feel I should have to justify my decision to anyone.
My scheduled c-section was by far the safest choice for myself and my baby. I sit with this knowledge and am confident in it. But even if circumstances had been different, why is that anyone else’s business? If a mum wants to share her birth story with you and you’re interested, by all means listen. But when it comes to other people’s deliveries all you should really care about is how everyone is doing.
I’m tired of explaining or defending my decision to schedule a c-section. I didn’t do anything deviant or dirty. I did what was best and if you feel you have the right to question it, then we probably shouldn’t be speaking about this at all. So, please just stop asking. We’re doing great and that’s all you need to know.
Photo: Getty Images