Category: Care of the Mother

Caesarean guilt

More than one-third of the babies born these days are by operative deliveries. Nowadays, mothers face a new type of emotional trauma referred to as the caesarean guilt. Advanced maternal age and inactive lifestyle can take just a part of the blame for this alarming trend but more of the responsibility rests with the healthcare system. More investigations and monitoring in hospitals lead to more interventions one might argue. Whatever the cause, women are not happy about giving birth the caesarean way. Most of the caesarean moms I know are not happy or even ashamed of their birthing journey

We, as a race, have come a full circle in our relationship with science and technology. Only a few decades ago, we lapped up everything processed and embraced advances in science with open arms. Now, we have become increasingly wary of these man-made products and procedures and yearn to go back to our roots. Be it what we eat and how we raise our kids or even how we birth, we want to go au naturel. Consequently, women who haven’t had the opportunity to birth vaginally are found feeling left out of the ‘normal-birth-club’.

My first baby was born by an emergency caesarean. I had the worst of both the worlds – fourteen hours of fruitless labour followed by being cut open. I had a meltdown in the delivery room when I was asked to consent to a caesarean. The second time around I was all geared up for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). I did yoga, pelvic tilts, butterfly pose and even belly danced willing my baby to come out but she was quite happy inside and at forty weeks, with no baby in sight, my doctor and I had to give up and opt for a repeat caesarean. This time around, I was more relieved than crushed. I just wanted the baby out of me after my never-ending pregnancy and I knew that my doctor did her best at giving me a chance at a normal delivery.

My maid in particular was very invested in my birth stories and had a lot of expert opinion to offer. She would say that city girls can’t tolerate pain so take the easy way out. And when I made the mistake of countering her and telling that it was an emergency because my labour didn’t progress, she said ‘yeah weak people can’t tolerate labour pains, so they don’t get labour pains’. I found myself offended by her ridiculous reasoning and partly defensive of my situation. In fact, most mothers who had been wanting a normal birth find themselves defending their doctor’s decision and their own body’s capability to give birth naturally.

For those of you who haven’t been blessed enough to experience a natural birth, it’s time to let go of this opportunity missed and count the blessing of having had the honour of becoming a mother. It is often perceived that caesarean moms are lazy or too scared to deliver normally. But we are in this situation for medical reasons rather than out of our own whim. Also, caesareans might seem like a breeze with no screaming, panting and pushing as a part of the process but it has its share of challenges. Caesarean is definitely not the easy way out because:

  1. Having a needle inserted in your spine for anaesthesia is one of the most uncomfortable experiences ever.
  2. While the anaesthesia begins to take effect, you get this horrible pins and needles sensation all over your lower body before you stop feeling anything.
  3. The urinary catheter is a tube inserted into your bladder and can be painful during insertion. The pain is likely to be worse during removal.
  4. Breastfeeding post caesarean is very difficult. You can’t turn to your side because you are paralyzed waist down for the first few hours after birth and trying to sit up sends shooting pains across the incision site.
  5. Walking for the next few weeks feels like your gut is going to come spilling out of your incision. Even coughing and sneezing exert painful pressure on your stitches.
  6. Recovery from caesarean takes longer than a normal delivery. There is a higher risk of caesarean site infection too. The delivery may seem fuss-free but our troubles actually begin after.
  7. Subsequent pregnancies and labour become more dangerous and difficult after a caesarean.

Many mothers have attempted home births after their first caesareans because they were sure their doctor would do a repeat caesarean. While many have been able to give birth naturally with the help of a midwife, it would be unfair to say that what they did was right. Their resolve to avoid caesareans could put the life of their baby in danger. In fact, one patient refused a caesarean at all costs for her first delivery, putting her baby’s life at risk and ended up giving birth to a stillborn child.

It’s time we stopped judging our sacrifices and experiences and break free from society’s judgement too. No birth is superior or inferior to another. Becoming a mother is not an exercise in martyrdom. Shaming new moms has become so rampant and being judged by other moms is worse for our emotional health than sleep deprivation or a bawling baby. We judge ourselves worse than anyone else does. Starting on this wrong note leaves us unforgiving of ourselves and we often label ourselves as “bad moms”. Not being able to deliver normally leaves an empty emotional hole in our hearts and this concern of the new mother is often left unaddressed by her partner and doctor alike. I have gotten around to accepting my caesarean journey only after the birth of my second child. Even now when I am judged for not delivering normally, I just shrug it off but it’s taken me years to reach this stage.

Speaking to many other moms who have had similar birthing stories has helped me. You could join an online community and anonymously vent about your experiences. Schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your birthing’s detailed history. This will help you get closure with the events that occurred in the delivery room. Knowing in depth why there was no other way besides a caesarean would alleviate your sense of ‘failure’ to some extent. If you feel particularly haunted by your experience, then make sure you speak to an expert counsellor.