Can we please rid the world of c-section guilt?
There was one crucial reason why I felt compelled to start this blog.
I was sick of feeling like a failure.
And I was angry that so many other mums were feeling that way too.
Parenting is hard enough without the guilt and shame, I decided. I wanted to do my bit to banish those feelings, for every mum, forever.
But last week I discovered a new type of mum guilt. One I’d never even heard of before.
I stumbled upon the term when this article popped up in my newsfeed.
Instantly I was enraged.
Not because the post itself was infuriating. It was very insightful and provided lots of practical information.
No, what incensed me was that such a term exists in the first place. Because no woman should ever feel ashamed about the way she has given birth.
According to the article, the cause of many women’s c-section guilt is a sense that their body has let them down. That, somehow, they’ve failed to do their job properly.
‘Failure’ is a word that you come across a lot when women recount their experiences of pregnancy, birth and motherhood.
That has always baffled me.
Bodies ‘fail’ all the time. We break bones, we develop illnesses. Even elite athletes aren’t immune to injury. Yet when those things happen, no one questions what went wrong, they concentrate on how make things better.
And that’s precisely what a c-section is, a way to make things better when a pregnancy or labour has taken an unexpected turn.
It’s not a failure, it is not the ‘easy way out’ and, most importantly, no woman would ever choose to have one if she wasn’t convinced it was the best option for her and her baby.
Any why the hell must women shoulder the burden of failure anyway? You’ll never see a newborn beating themselves up because they got distressed midway through labour. Nor, I imagine, would you find many healthcare professionals who are losing sleep over the fact they didn’t spot a complication like a breech presentation.
What makes me most ashamed is that we’re all to blame for this shame that women feel. Because, ultimately, it’s society’s perceptions of motherhood that are responsible for c-section guilt.
We’re told that women were born for this role. Everything should come completely naturally to them. They must do everything the ‘right’ way, and without support.
So of course, when a woman needs medical intervention to give birth, she feels like she stumbled at the first hurdle. She needed help, so she must be a bad mum.
Except she’s not a bad mum. She’s the bravest mum of all.
When my friends who’ve had c-sections talk about their birth experiences, I never hear them complain about the trauma or the pain.
What they will talk about, however, is those early postpartum days, where they struggled to adjust to motherhood.
On more than one occasion, I’ve heard mums recall how care providers have refused to help them feed or change their baby. These women - who, don’t forget, have just had major surgery - are told they need to learn how to do things by themselves, so they’re left to their own devices.
With treatment like that, no wonder these mothers feel like they’re failing.
All new mums need help, not least those who are healing from a particularly painful birth experience.
So the sooner we stop judging these mums and start giving them the support they deserve, the sooner we banish the guilt for good.