The Scar to Prove It

I came across a post on Instagram today from an account called @herviewfromhome that’s been bothering me. It was a re-post from @laurapalaciosphoto, and I know that it was well intended. But it started like this:

C-Section Mama: You are still a badass . . .

You didn’t fail . . .

You are still a mother

Remember the old text speak smh? Well, it actually made me shake my head. It’s the word “still” that really irritates me, as if I need comforting and reassurance about my identity as a mom because doctors cut or separated SEVEN layers of my tissue: the skin, the fat, the rectus sheath, the rectus, the parietal peritoneum, the loose peritoneum, and the uterus, in case you were wondering, (thanks Google) and pulled my son out, rather than him arriving in the world “naturally.” If you think that I’m doubting my

  • a) toughness
  • b) badassness
  • c) identity as a mom

as the author implies, then you’re egregiously mistaken.

I silently prayed for months that I’d luck out and be able to have a c-section, and suddenly there I was, kneeling on all fours on an elevated hospital bed with my bare butt hanging out the open end of a flimsy hospital gown to try and prevent the baby’s heart rate from dropping, while simultaneously mooning the sudden onslaught of medical personnel swarming my room. When the nurse thrust a clipboard holding a consent form into my hands, I could not sign it fast enough. “Thank goodness,” I thought. I was so relieved I could’ve cried if I’d had more time to soak it all in.

In January, the month dedicated to sex ed in ELA class at HRJHS, at least during my time there, my grade 8 teacher sent us girls down the hall to spend a period with Mrs. Sawchuk with the goal of thoroughly terrifying us in order to prevent teenage pregnancy. Upon hearing an incredibly detailed account of the labour leading up to the birth of her first child (you guys, her contractions never stopped. They literally were continuous), as well as watching a graphic birthing video, it did, I will readily admit, work as intended. It was so effective, in fact, that for weeks afterwards I’d be sitting in the car, or watching TV, and have the horror replay against my closed eyelids each time I blinked.

Fast forward twelve years, and the AHS baby preparation class was really no different. They show a video of women labouring in extreme pain (without relief) over the course of many hours, and having a “successful” vaginal birth as a result. And when I say “labouring in extreme pain” I mean it; the grunts, the groans, and the screams . . . they’re sickening. The instructors then have the audacity to suggest methods for coping with childbirth such as imagining a peaceful image in your mind, having a shower, or playing relaxing music. Excuse me?

I cannot be the only woman who has somehow avoided buying into the idea that pushing a baby out through your vagina makes you worthy of entering the special percentage of the populace who can call themselves mothers in a way that other ways of birthing a baby, or becoming a mother, do not allow. The same needs to be said for the archaic idea that women who choose to suffer through the pain of labour are somehow stronger then those who take advantage of pain management options, like epidurals. (As a side note, I’ve come to the conclusion that if men gave birth, everyone would get an epidural as part of standard procedure, but that’s a whole additional topic).

Many women are obsessed with these ideas though, since I see quasi-inclusive/inspirational posts “cheering up” moms who had to have c-sections or “resorted” to getting an epidural floating around instagram and parenting websites quite often.

Their message is clear: it’s ok if you had to have a c-section or an epidural. You’re still worthy of motherhood as long as what you really wanted was to have a completely natural, medication free, vaginal delivery.

I’m not going to mince words here: that is destructive rhetoric built upon a mountain of generalizations.

I can only speak from my own experience, but I happily chose to get an epidural. (I live in the 21st century. Why should I suffer needlessly when there are safe, effective pain management options?) And while I didn’t get to choose to have a c-section per se, I’m overwhelmingly pleased that that’s how it all turned out.

Not all women want to become mothers in the same way. The assumption that one specific way of going through childbirth is the goal, and is desirable for all women, just isn’t true. There seems to be many women out there who think that moms like me are envious of those who had vaginal births, or fought through labour without pain relief. I’m not. And I certainly didn’t fail. I have the scar to prove it.

*It is not my intention to single out the specific person or post quoted above; it simply acted as the impetus for me to write about this topic.

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