I had a C-section and all I got was a healthy baby

Homebirth and natural childbirth advocates are incensed that anyone might think a healthy baby is compensation for a less than ideal birth “experience.”

The piece by Kathy at Woman to Woman Childbirth Education, At least you have a healthy baby, is typical of the genre bemoaning C-sections and other life saving methods of modern obstetrics.

Many women, on telling stories of how they felt abused or traumatized during birth — or some other negative feeling, like having failed as a woman after having a C-section, or something — have their feelings dismissed with, “at least you have a healthy baby…” [I]t only makes her feel worse, because then she has the added guilt of not being able to “just be happy” that her baby is healthy. Certainly she is happy that her baby is healthy… but can she not also be sad that it came at the cost of severe bodily trauma?

I especially like the picture of the “mutilated” apple. That apple was torn apart and left ruined just to get at the seeds.

Certainly, not every woman who had a C-section is going to feel this way … otherwise there would be at least 31.7% of women last year who were as traumatized in body and spirit as this apple was brutalized …

So, the next time you hear someone process her negative birth experience, and you’re tempted to say, “At least you have a healthy baby,” remember the picture of the mutilated apple, bite your tongue, and if you can’t think of anything else, just say, “I’m so sorry.”

Is a healthy baby merely a “silver lining” after a C-section? Let’s do a little thought experiment and consider the converse. Imagine a courtroom during a malpractice trial, a trail that alleges that an obstetrician did not perform a C-section in time to save a baby’s life. The mother is on the stand and being questioned by the doctor’s lawyer:

Yes, Mrs. Smith, your baby is dead, but at least you had a great birth experience. You didn’t have surgery; you didn’t have an epidural; the baby was born vaginally and put immediately on your chest for bonding. Sure the baby was dead, but consider the experience.

And look at the picture of this mutilated and brutalized apple. Is this what you would have preferred? Dr. Jones has saved you from a psychic wound that would never have healed. You ought to be grateful.

People would be horrified by the lawyer’s complete lack of perspective. The health of the baby and the quality of the “experience” are not remotely comparable, and it is absurd, and even cruel, to suggest they are.

Similarly, the idea that a healthy baby is merely a “silver lining” after C-section is indicative of the complete loss of perspective on the part of homebirth and natural childbirth advocates. The picture of the “brutalized” apple is particularly telling. The implication is that physical perfection is critical, and a surgical incision leaves a woman mutilated and incapable of healing.

There is another, deeper implication that is both unexamined and unjustified. The implication of the picture is that the removal of the seeds could have and should have occurred without changing the apple. The reality in nature is far worse that the “brutalization” of the apple. In nature, the apple must desiccate and die in order for the seeds to live.

The reality of childbirth in nature is far more brutal than a C-section. In nature, the mother often dies while the baby lives. Or the baby must die in order for the mother to expel it and live. Thousands of women and millions of babies around the world die each year for lack of C-sections.

A live baby is not the “silver lining” of a C-section. It is the entire purpose of pregnancy and childbirth.

This piece first appeared in September, 2009.