In a few days I’ll be celebrating the fifth anniversary of my second C-section, a date that I always look back on with abundant fondness. It’s not the memory of having my abdomen sliced open that makes me smile, of course, but rather it’s the baby girl who emerged as a result that’s worth infinite celebrations.
My older daughter was also born via C-section, although that first time wasn’t planned. I had something called dysfunctional labor, which meant I dilated to 10 centimeters without ever having a contraction. That probably sounds dreamy at the outset, except 15 hours after my water broke, I pushed for two hours; and when the baby wouldn’t budge past my pelvis, they had to rush me in and cut me open. So I while I got to the hospital with a healthy baby, I also had all the bleeding that accompanies a vaginal birth, plus the distinct
persecution privilege of recovering from surgery. Yippee?
While I’m not sure anyone actually looks forward to operating rooms, when my second daughter’s C-section was scheduled, I was psyched. Not about the surgery, of course, but about knowing I was at least avoiding the worry of so much of the unknown, including the presumably agonizing pain of labor.
No one I know in real life has ever made me feel less-than for having had c-sections instead of vaginal births. In the end, the only thing that matters is walking away with a healthy baby, right?
Online, however, it’s a whole other story. It’s as if hiding behind a keyboard empowers people to belittle an experience they’ve never had — whether it’s conspiracy theories that most doctors are lazy and greedy and perform C-sections only to accommodate their schedules and wallets, or the notion that some moms are “too posh to push.” It’s all ridiculous, of course.
In fact, it’s so absurd that a mom named Raye Lee recently took to Facebook to pen a now-viral post calling out those who criticized her C-section experience — by referring to it as the “easy” way out.
“Oh. A C-section? So you didn’t actually give birth. It must have been nice to take the easy way out like that,” Lee said she heard from others. Her response? “Ah, yes. My emergency C-section was absolutely a matter of convenience. It was really convenient to be in labor for 38 hours before my baby went into distress and then every contraction was literally STOPPING his HEART.”
Much like my first birthing experience, Lee was told she was making progress and wouldn’t need a cesarean, although ultimately she had no choice. She describes the surgery as “the most painful thing I have experienced in my life,” although she’s been able to frame the experiences as a positive one, describing herself now as belonging “to a badass tribe of mamas with the scar to prove that I had a baby cut out of me and lived to tell the tale (because you can die from this, you know).”
It’s unclear who, exactly, would knock how anyone chooses or doesn’t choose to give birth — never mind being critical of someone else’s major surgery. Do these same armchair quarterbacks also pick apart another person’s appendectomy? How about brain surgery? What about open-heart surgery?
And yet, another woman’s birthing story is ripe for criticism. What gives?
While some moms, like me, may look forward to a scheduled C-section, because some of the hassles and pain of vaginal childbirth may be avoided or lessened, I can assure you no one looks forward to what Lee describes as “having a shrieking infant pulled out of an incision that is only 5-inches long, but is cut and shredded and pulled until it rips apart through all of your layers of fat, muscle, and organs (which they lay on the table next to your body, in order to continue to cut until they reach your child).”
Making matters infinitely more complicated, too, is that just when you have a whole other life to care for in addition to your own, your core muscles are shot for at least six weeks after the birth, which makes even sitting and standing an arduous task, never mind doing it while carrying around a living and breathing football.
In her post, Lee continues:
“When that first nurse asked you to try getting out of bed and the ripping pain of a body cut apart and stitched back together seared through you,” Lee wrote, “you realized the irony of anybody who talks about it being the ‘easy way out.'”
Fortunately, despite the ignorant comments of far too many who have preconceived notions that C-sections are a walk in the park, Lee knows she’s strong. And not just strong for herself, but for her son. “I would honestly go through this every single day just to make sure I am able to see his smiling face,” she writes.
As I get ready to celebrate my beautiful younger daughter on her fifth birthday, I’ll feel my scar and, like Lee, smile just a little bit wider; because even though giving birth her may have been a physical battle, it’s one I’ll always be happy to have won, no matter the scars that remain.