I have finally made peace with my birth story.
It’s been a long journey. I know that my story is not the stuff of which natural birth fairy tales are made. Although I did (unknowingly) labour, and had the support of a wonderful doula, my birth was not ‘physiological’. I had a C-section that was, for all intents and purposes, elective.
I have harboured my story like a secret, and whenever I tell it, I emphasize the parts in which I laboured, and all of the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ that necessitated surgery. It’s not that I am ashamed. But working in the field I do, I don’t want to be perceived as too posh to push. I am also secretly terrified that any obstacle my son faces will be traced back to the moment of his birth, with his mother prone and heavily medicated in an operating theater. My rational mind knows this is ridiculous. I have thrown myself wholeheartedly into the work and play of raising my children. I am not a perfect mother (or human). I am not even confident that I am 100% a ‘good enough’ mother most of the time. But every now and again, I have flashes of maternal competence and I can immerse myself in the sheer joy of my children. Having emerged from the fog of postnatal depression, and having the incredible privilege of watching my children grow, I am able to savour more of those moments that I know are fleeting. Those people really were right: it has gone by so quickly and I want to relive and enjoy many of the moments I may have failed to notice as they happened.
All of this is to say: my son’s birth via C-section does not doom me to the annals of history’s bad mothers. And yet. It has taken me the better part of five years to even begin to admit that I was worried. I am only beginning to shake the shame.
Why is this? In my line of work, I spend a lot of time thinking about motherhood and its (dis)contents. I know that many womxn are pushed into motherhood through a portal of extreme trauma. Time after time, we find ourselves in conversation with womxn who have been brutalised by public or private healthcare systems that then tell those womxn to be grateful that they have emerged from birth with their and their babies’ lives. This is wrong for many reasons. In the 21st century, the measure of a healthy birth should not be whether or not the mother and her child survive. Given everything we know…