An ode to C-section mothers

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Actress Kate Winslet was actually so embarrassed about having a C-section for her first child that she lied about it:

When she celebrated the birth of her first baby, she hailed the joys of natural childbirth.

But now, four years on, Kate Winslet has admitted she lied – her daughter Mia was delivered by emergency Caesarean section.

The actress said she wanted to have her naturally and only lied because she believed she was a ‘failure’ for not being able to do so…

She told the U.S. magazine Gotham: ‘I’ve never talked about this – I’ve gone to great pains to cover it up. But Mia was an emergency C-section.

‘I just said that I had a natural birth because I was so completely traumatised by the fact that I hadn’t given birth. I felt like a complete failure.’

I am well aware that many women feel like failures for having a C-section, but I’ve never understood it. Personally, I think C-section mothers should be extra proud of themselves. When offered the choice between risk to their unborn baby, and risk to themselves, they chose taking on the risk in an effort to protect the baby. If that isn’t the essence of motherhood, I don’t know what is.

Consider C-section for breech birth. We tell women that breech vaginal delivery increases the risk of death or serious disability. Why? To the extent that childbirth is “designed,” it is meant to occur with the baby in the head down position. The fetal head is “designed” to bear the stress of banging against the maternal bony pelvis every 2 minutes for hours at a time, is “designed” to distribute the force of uterine contractions most effectively to the cervix in order to open it, is “designed” to change shape (known as molding) to conform to the mother’s pelvis so it can fit through, and is “designed” to be the biggest part of the baby, so that if the head fits, the body almost certainly will follow easily.

Obviously, none of those tasks is fulfilled by the breech. Instead, being born in the breech position makes the baby uniquely vulnerable to permanent injury or death. The head can become trapped because it is bigger than the rest of the body; the entire body can slip through and the head can be jammed up against the mother’s pelvis, it’s oxygen supply obliterated as the umbilical cord is compressed by being trapped between the baby’s body and the bones of the mother’s pelvis. This, not surprisingly, can result in permanent brain damage and/or death.

Make no mistake, the absolute risk that the baby will die from a vaginal breech birth is small, less than 1%, but to me that makes it all the more remarkable that most women carrying breech babies will choose C-section. Faced with the small, but real risk of the baby’s death, most mothers will opt for abdominal surgery with the pain, potentially harder recovery and increased risk of infection or bleeding. In other words, women who choose C-section for breech want to protect their babies from any risk, no matter how small, at the cost of pain and potential suffering to themselves.

The same thing goes for women who consent to C-section for fetal distress. In 2013, the diagnosis of fetal distress is imperfect at best. We know that almost all babies who experience lack of oxygen during labor will give evidence of that on electronic fetal monitoring. In contrast, many babies who appear to be in distress may actually be fine. When a woman consents to a C-section for fetal distress, she is saying in essence: I don’t know whether my baby is truly experiencing oxygen deprivation, but I don’t want to take any chances. Cut me and help the baby; if I’m wrong, it’s a price I’m willing to pay to be sure that my baby is okay.

In other words, its a sign of devotion, not a sign of failure.

Kate Winslet is not alone in her embarrassment, but there is absolutely no reason she or any other mother should ever be embarrassed by having a C-section.

As a mother of four children, let me say “Bravo!”

I never had to face the choice that many C-section mothers do, but I hope that I would have reacted as selflessly as they do.

Can we have a round of applause for C-section mothers? They certainly deserve it!

  • Anna

    I would like to add that sometimes c-sections are performed for the benefit of the mother too so that she is not be morbid afterwards and able to care after the baby straight away instead of having endless health issues due to complications of vaginal birth. Well, that is also another way of caring for your child, making sure you are there for them immediately and not in hospital for months (which may occur if your body is “not deisgned to birth” or baby toolarge for you). Actually, I felt no more morbid or upset than other mothers after vaginal birth. There were a few lucky ones who could leave the hospital straight after, but most of us had some difficulties either way. As for me, it was scary on the operating table, but as long as the “evil OBs” gave me something sedative + did everything to comfort and distract and provided good painkillers afterwards, it was not even nealry as horrible as the NCB portray. Today c-sections are truly just an alternarive way to give birth, they are not nearly as traumatic as they used to be some 30 years ago when my mother had me. It IS a little discouraging that you can’t drive or exercise right away, but what are those few weeks compared to a life time, and YES, THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE A HEALTHY BABY! (The phrase they hate the most). Do not see anything to be ashamed of, one is not ashamed of appendectomy, for instance, and being inferior to those who still have their appendix in place. It’s just a medical issue, nothing more.

  • Rosalind Dalefield

    I’ve had to argue with adults that Wikipedia is not a valid reference 🙁

  • Rosalind Dalefield

    Some of the natural childbirth advocates claim that ‘your body will not grow a baby too big for you to deliver’ which is absolute bollocks, but they sincerely believe it.

  • Rosalind Dalefield

    I cried and cried after the forceps delivery of my first baby, because he suffered significant fetal distress which the nurse-midwife ignored for a long time before calling the doctor, and I felt that I had failed by not making more of a fuss about it. Of course I was in horrendous pain and overwhelmed by that. It took me a long time to realize that I should be angry at the midwife but should not blame myself for not ‘taking over’.

  • Erin

    I know it’s sad but I find articles like this one patronizing. Six months after the arrival of my son I try and convince myself I was brave or at least realistic but it doesn’t work. Not regretting the choice I made (posterior baby well and truly stuck with waters broken for 80 odd hours) doesn’t stop me feeling that I failed, that my body is useless and every time I look at my revolting repulsive scar I hate myself that little bit more.

    • Fallow

      PLEASE get looked at for PPD. PLEASE. This is not an okay way for you to feel about yourself. My PPD was horrible, but I was in denial about it. I thought I was just a horrible, useless failed woman, too – and I did not have a c-section, so that self-hate is quite possible with a vaginal delivery, too.

      My PPD did not let up in any sense, until my baby was about 9 months old. I was in active therapy the entire time, or God knows it could have been worse. Please – if you aren’t getting help, see someone. If you are, tell them you need more help.

      • Erin

        I have a diagnosis of moderate PND and PTSD (managed to re-live being sexually assaulted on the operating table thanks to twin triggers of not being able to breathe and hair-stroking) but help is not exactly forthcoming. I’m seeing a psychiatrist every two months whilst I wait for some sort of therapy but the eta on that seems to be measured by years not months.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          I am so terribly sorry; that sounds like a horrible experience. While I’m glad you’ve gotten some help, a psych visit every two months doesn’t sound like it’s enough help–more a stopgap. And that’s awful.
          Judging by your English, you’re somewhere in the UK, I assume? There are at least a couple of UK health professionals who post here with some frequency. I wonder if any of them might offer a suggestion on how to cut through some of the red tape. If you’ll post on one of the recent threads, I have no doubt they’ll offer you any help they can in that regard. Believe me, the comment section here is very supportive. I wish I could offer more specific advice, but as I’m in the US, it wouldn’t be much help at all.
          I hope you find healing and peace soon. Please feel free to post directly to me here or elsewhere if you’d like to vent to another mom who had PND.

        • An Actual Attorney

          Erin, I posted on today’s post for you too. Where are you? What health system? That wait is unacceptable to me and I’m sure to many foods here. Maybe we can help you brainstorm solutions? I know how hard that is to do yourself in the midst of depression.

    • Dr Kitty

      Please talk to someone.
      Please.
      You didn’t fail, you made a choice, as a loving mother, to put your baby’s welfare above your own when it was clear that circumstances were not aligned in your favour.
      Your body successfully carried your baby and will be there to provide love and comfort and wisdom and guidance for the rest of his life.
      You didn’t let him down.

      Be kind to yourself.

    • Elizabeth A

      Please get evaluated for depression. You carried your
      son, you labored like a champ (for an incredibly long time) and you were both brave and realistic. You did not fail, and you in no way deserve to hate yourself.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      Why should you or your body be valued by what it can do? If your son, God forbid, had cerebral palsy or another physical impediment which made him rely on a wheelchair, would you tell him his body was “useless”? Of course not! You’d love him for who he is, and who he is has nothing to do with what his body is capable of.
      I had these thoughts, too. I had a C-section because my daughter was transverse breech and couldn’t be turned, and then I couldn’t breastfeed effectively because…oh, who knows why. Milk never really came in, infections, etc. I spent the first year of my daughter’s life barely surviving, hanging onto sanity by a thread as I thought every day about what a horrible, worthless mother I was for not being able to have DD vaginally or breastfeed her. And you know what? None of that is true, just like it isn’t true that your body is “useless.”
      Please. Get help. Don’t do what I did. I didn’t get help, and while I eventually got better, I’ll never have that first year of DD’s life back. I spent it in such a depressed haze that I can’t remember her first word, or her crawling or walking for the first time, or even most of the newborn period as anything but a terrible, dark hole. Give yourself and your son the gift of peace and yes, happiness. You can have it again. Just reach out for help. Please.

    • demodocus

      Scars fade, even really bad ones. Maybe not much, but they do. I agree with the others that maybe you should talk to a counselor.

    • toni

      Everyone’s body fails them in some way.. needing a c-section doesn’t say anything about you as a person or a mother. I had two seamless v. deliveries but with my daughter the placenta had crapped out and she was undernourished for who knows how long. Fortunately the doctors discovered this in time and she was induced just over 3 weeks early weighing 4lb. My body was starving her, talk about a failure! I think the most awesome part about the whole process is growing the baby from a couple of cells to a beautiful squirmy thing with limbs and kidneys and a brain… the birth part is, er,interesting but not as impressive IMO

    • Who?

      I had a normal delivery and breastfed my son and still felt terrible about myself, my choices and how I was managing. Looking back I would have benefited from having someone to talk to about how I was feeling. Those opportunities were offered but I didn’t want to admit how I was feeling, considering how well everything had gone. I felt I had no right to be anything other than really happy and fine. I’d have happier memories of the time and would have got off on a much more secure footing as a new parent if I’d been able to ask for some help.

      Lots of women have these feelings at some level, but you don’t need to struggle with them alone.

      Please be as kind and loving to yourself as I’m sure you are to your son. A counsellor or your doctor will be able to help you onto a healthier and happier path.

    • Rosalind Dalefield

      After two posterior presentations requiring forceps, I too felt that my body was useless. Then I read an article about the Cambridge Stud, the premier racehorse breeding farm in my country, and that the best racehorse mares tend to have the greatest difficulty foaling. I felt better straight away 🙂 You’re a thoroughbred, girl!

  • sdsures
  • sdsures

    What about fathers? Or same-sex couples?

  • sdsures

    A while back, there was a post here, or referenced from here, about a woman who insisted on having a HB with her breech baby (don’t know how they determined the baby’s position prenatally), and breathlessly documented the entire experience, including photos, on her blog.

    There’s one photo I will never forget. It was so disturbing that it’s burned into my brain. The mother was squatting, and a tiny foot was sticking out.

  • no longer drinking the koolaid

    You can’t fail at something over which you have no control.

  • amazonmom

    I know this is old but it sure is a needed idea. I get crap about a c/s for breech even almost 5 years later! Looks like my second thinks transverse is awesome, so RCS it is! The vaginal birth at all costs pushers can shove it.

    • demodocus

      vaginal birth pushers can shove it…. omg the puns rofl

  • Courtney84

    Omg I know it’s an old post but I was so excited today to see this linked on the Catholic NFP forum I belong to. Many of the women on that board are into some amount if woo. There is a c section healing group and some one shared this there. Unfortunately, the sharer also made sure to point out that a lot of what Dr. Amy says is meen.

  • Hey, you posted this 3 days after my C-section delivery! It was a wonderful day, and I have no regrets. We did it for my baby’s safety, and he is indeed in great shape. I wouldn’t erase my scar if you did it for free – it’s like having his name inked on me forever. <3 Thanks for the ode!

    • Bombshellrisa

      Hey-congrats on your baby boy!!

      • Thanks! He puts his hands up in the air for safe deliveries and happy mamas and babies!

    • sdsures

      Happy birthday to the little guy!

  • my scar looks like a butt too!! LOL No time for a bikini cut for me either, would I trade my first born for….anything HELL NO!