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My C-Section Wasn’t “Taking the Easy Way Out,” Thank You Very Much

Suzanne Jannese lays in her hospital bed, cradling her newborn baby.
Image source: Suzanne Jannese

There has never been any shortage of presumptions made about mothers who give birth via C-section — especially for those who elect it.

We’re thought of as “lazy.” We’re said to be taking “the easy way out.” And, according to one viral Facebook meme I recently saw, we “didn’t really give birth.”

 

Nice.

Granted, offensive Internet memes are a dime a dozen these days (and my fingers are crossed the whole thing was some kind of satirical joke). But regardless, the question is still out there: Why do we make women feel like they’re somehow less of a mother simply because they didn’t give birth “naturally”?

For the record, I had two C-sections. Deliberately.

I’ve had a life-long fear of giving birth ever since I was forced to watch a graphic birth video at school when I was 13. I appreciate the importance of sex ed in schools, but unfortunately, this particular video haunted me so badly that it developed into a phobia that never left me. (To this day, I can’t hear the word “dilate” without feeling queasy.)

So yes, I had two elected C-sections. Both times I had to fight for them, even though we have the wonderful National Health Service where I live in the U.K., and therefore it costs me nothing to have them.

In truth, I felt guilty about my inability to attempt a process that the majority of women go through. And even I felt that I was “less of a mother” at the time for not going through labor and delivering a child naturally.

In fact, that was the first time someone ever joked that I had taken the easy way out. But I ask you: Is not being able to drive for six weeks and having surgery that cuts through your stomach muscles really what you’d call “easy”?

The excruciating recovery period, coupled with the fact that I struggled to breastfeed, meant that my first steps into motherhood were anything but smooth. I had no idea what to expect and was mystified at mommy-and-me groups when women would try and one-up each other with their horrific birth tales.

It was as if I had suddenly been entered into a competition that I never signed up for.

Women I met and hoped to befriend gave me pitying looks when I said I had a C-section; one even became teary that “things worked out for you so badly.” I was terrified to admit that I had actually wanted a C-section, for fear of them thinking I was completely insane.

Many believe natural birth is the best option, but the bottom line is, that’s not always the case for everyone. There are a myriad of reasons why someone might elect to have a C-section — just as there are a myriad of reasons that might cause a doctor to determine that an emergency C-section is the necessary (and safest) course of action.

Interestingly enough, according to The Guardian, nearly 50% of obstetricians in the U.S. would favor elected C-sections if they gave birth. Meanwhile, babies are getting bigger and yet our pelvises are not. So you do the math.

Does it really matter how we give birth or what we went through when all is said and done? Surely, the most important thing is that we have delivered healthy babies.
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Both times I was pregnant, I went to meetings with my doctor armed with all of my statistics, determined that I would have the birth I wanted. Which is really the most important thing of all.

Whatever choice the mom-to-be makes about her birth, we need to honor it, even if it’s not our choice. Of course, not everything will go according to plan, but we need to make sure that she’s supported, happy, and feels secure about the birth going in.

After all, does it really matter how we give birth or what we went through when all is said and done? Surely, the most important thing is that we have delivered healthy babies.

How lucky we are to live in today’s world, where globally the number of deaths during childbirth have dropped from more than 500,000 a year in 1980 to 343,000 a year in 2008. These numbers, thankfully, continue to decline at 1.4% per year.

It wasn’t until I had my daughter in 2010 that I finally “forgave” myself for not wanting to give birth naturally. It was then that I stopped explaining to every single mother I met the reasons why I couldn’t give birth. At last, I stopped feeling like less of a mom because I hadn’t experienced a natural delivery, and my hope is that other moms out there do the same.

It doesn’t matter how we gave birth: in a pool, at home, in a hospital, in bed, in an operating room, under general anesthesia, in the outdoors — all that matters is that we are here to tell the tale.

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