There are many phrases you should be wary of when speaking to a woman who has just given birth. "Is the baby supposed to be crying like that?" for one. "You look exhausted," for two.
But one thing you never want to say to someone who's given birth by caesarean section is this: "Oh, you got off so easy!"
In an Instagram post that's gone viral, Melbourne-based blogger Olivia White put up a picture of her C-section scar from last year, noting, "This is what you really look like a few hours post c-section 🗡 To anyone who thinks it's the easy way out, we'll [sic] try having a 6 inch gash in your abdomen like a gutted shark 🦈 who had the body parts of the surfer 🏄🏼 it ate retrieved! That's then sewn back together with fishing wire while it feels like your vital organs are trying to escape!"
White had faced plenty of criticism during her second pregnancy about being public with her choice to have an elective C-section. Her older daughter had been born via emergency C-section, and medical complications meant that White couldn't hold her or bond with her for the first few days.
"Constantly people ‘remind’ me that I can still have a natural birth even after having a C-section previously. And some even go as far to suggest that electing to have the baby via caesarean is an easy way out and even made disparaging comment about being 'too posh to push' – insert blank stare of disbelief," she wrote in Mamamia last year.
"So, going into this pregnancy I knew from day one how I was going to birth this baby, and it might not be for the reasons you think. While I know every birth is different and there certainly is a chance I could have this baby vaginally, the most important thing to me this time was having a positive and empowering birth experience."
At a time when there are many opinions about the "best" way to give birth, including many articles that warn of the dangers of C-sections, it's not surprising White felt the need to publicize her scar and the effort that came with it — because as she writes, "If it wasn't for the ability to deliver my babies this way, they might not be here today."
And while White received messages of support and praise, there are still plenty of people out there all too willing to dismiss the difficulties of a caesarean birth as compared to a vaginal one.
In 2016, a woman named Raye Lee posted pictures of her C-section scar on Facebook, accompanied by graphic images and a description of the emergency situation that led to her son's birth.
She described not only the cut made to remove her son, but also the aftermath that many people don't consider.
"You use your core muscles for literally everything... even sitting down, imagine not being able to use them because they have literally been shredded and mangled by a doctor and not being able to repair them for 6+ weeks because your body has to do it naturally," wrote Lee.
"If it wasn't for the ability to deliver my babies this way, they might not be here today."
In White's comments, she's more than in agreement. The family blogger, who often posts glamour shots of her kids and husband, also points out the "kangaroo pouch" she now has and wouldn't change, which resonated hugely with commenters.
"Pouch sisters for life 👊🏼," wrote one. "What about when you first get up out of bed (in most cases not even 24hrs after they slice you up) and you literally feel like your guts/vag are going to fall out 😳"
No matter how that baby comes out of a woman's body, it's hard work — not just during, but after too. And every mom could use support for that.
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