For many women, birth either involves an actual human getting pushed out of your vagina, or an actual human getting pulled from your womb through an honest-to-goodness operation. That you are most likely awake for.
Yes, babies are "supposed" to be born through the appropriate exit door. I am well aware of the statistics that show how women are sometimes coerced into C-sections. Not every woman who has a C-section "needs" one, regardless of what your definition of "needs" is. Yes, we should trust our bodies. Yes, we were born to do this. Yes, doulas and midwives are amazing and an integral part of the puzzle that leads to empowered birth. Yes, C-sections can sometimes affect early breastfeeding relationships. Yes, some women hate their scars. Yes, we need to educate women about how to labor effectively and what labor is really like, and what is normal and what is not and what coercion sounds like and on and on and on and VAGINA.
If after all of that, you have a C-section, or (gasp) just want a C-section...
You are not broken.
Your scar is a prologue. You are still in charge of writing the chapters that follow. Your motherhood journey belongs to you.
No one should co-opt your C-section story for their birth agenda. Just like shaming women about how they breastfeed or formula-feed is anti-feminist, so is shaming them and questioning them about how they birth.
Epidural? Good for you. Home birth after a C-section? Rock on, Mama. Pitocin on a slow drip because it's time to birth this baby? Phenomenal. Burning sage by your kneecaps while upside-down on an ironing board? Ten years ago I would've thought it was some kinky sex trick, but now, I say, "turn that breech baby, mama, turn him around." Planned C-section because you have a serious medical condition? Pick that birth date, my friend. Unexpected C-section because your labor never progressed? There are mesh panties at the end of this for you, my dear. We all get the same party favors once our bundle of joy arrives.
And with that, I present to you 10 Ways C-Sections and Vaginal Births Are Exactly The Same:
1. The baby has to come out. Who hasn't looked at their giant belly in the mirror right around 37 weeks, and thought to themselves, "You know, leg cramps and heartburn and stretch marks and hip pain and endless trips to the bathroom really aren't that bad. Not when you compare them to actually having to remove a human being from inside of you. Maybe I can just stay pregnant forever. So I don't have to deal with figuring out how the whole 'get the baby out' process happens."
2. Birth hurts. I don't care how zen you are about labor or surgery, birth freaking hurts. I know that's normal. I know that drugs can help. I know that there are mental and physical and narcotical (why isn't that a word?) ways to mitigate the pain. Still hurts. Because regardless of how your baby arrives, it is still bigger than your vagina. Or a bikini-line incision. And if you're on pain meds, at some point those wear off and you are left with the startling reality that your baby is now on the outside of you. Ouch.
3. You're in charge. Wait, wait, wait... stay with me here. One of the biggest myths about birth is that the doctors are in charge. They're not. You are. Well OK... your baby is, actually. But then you. You're the vice president of being in charge. Want to do skin-to-skin in the recovery room after your C-section? Tell them. Want to attempt the ring of fire without an episiotomy? Tell them. Want to wear the expensive birthing nightgown that everyone told you you'd just bleed all over anyway? Well, pretty lady, be my guest. You have the right to control as much of your birth as you want to. Until you can't anymore.
4. When things go to hell, you still have to breathe. Because you're in charge of your birth, until you're not. If things go haywire, and the nurses start rushing around, it can be heartbreaking to have your plan pushed aside. Heartbreaking, terrifying, and unexpected. But you still have to breathe. Breathe through your contractions. Breathe into the oxygen mask. Breathe in the anesthesia. Breathe in life, so that you can give life to your baby.
5. You deserve someone to hold your hand, and tell you that you are doing a damn fine job. Bonus points if that person holds your hair back as you puke, rubs your shoulders, and cries when the baby comes out. Triple bonus points if that person is a doula, because they know the magic tricks about all of this birthy business. Even C-sections.
6. Steal all of the mesh panties. Forget hoarding all the extra diapers. You can get those anywhere. What you can't find at Target are the best things to hit your wardrobe since yoga maternity pants. The best piece of underwear that never graced a Victoria's Secret fashion show. They aren't just "boy briefs," they're "grandma briefs," but they are the softest, stretchiest, most breathable piece of hospital grade non-fabric in the entire universe. They make your freshly-ripped-open stomach or freshly-ripped-open vagina feel divine (see? same, same). And most importantly, they will fit the world-famous, ginormous, epically huge, could-be-a-pillow-for-a-mini-dachshund-but-is-actually-a-PAD that will go between your legs.
7. It won't be just your baby that comes out of your vagina. News flash: All the goodness that was keeping your baby alive in your womb? It has to come out now. And even if you have a C-section, the doctor can't just clean you all up in there and remove it (silly me, but I asked that). The bleecchhh has to come out. And come out it does.
8. Your baby is hungry. And your first job as a mother is to feed that little baby. You will still have to make your feeding wishes known. Ask to have baby put to your breast if that's what you want. Ask the nurse for a bottle if that's your plan. Demand that a lactation consultant sit next to you until baby stops crying, or ask your doula to show you how to latch the baby on. Ask the nurse to explain how much formula your little one needs. Have your partner write down baby's wet and dirty diapers so that you can keep track. It doesn't matter how you feed or how you birth. Your job from now on is to be the best waitress that you can be.
9. Speaking of hungry, you might want a cheeseburger. And fries with ranch. And a strawberry milkshake. Because now you'll have room in your stomach, and oh my God, birth is so much hard work!
10. You just birthed a frickin' BABY. An actual human just came out of your BODY. See that beautiful, kinda squished-up, screaming, perfect little tiny person? That baby was INSIDE of you just a few minutes ago. You grew him, you protected him, you dreamed of him, and you did everything that you could to make sure that he arrived safely into this world. It doesn't matter if he made his grand entrance in an operating room, or in a birthing tub, or with your feet planted firmly in stirrups, or in the back of an ambulance in the hospital parking lot. Birthing your baby was your job, and you did it like a boss. You did it. You wrote your own story. And if you think that was hard work, well, just wait for the next part.
So mamas, listen closely. Do not let the story of your birth define your motherhood. YOU define your motherhood. You worked SO hard to get that baby here. And now he is yours. And the lessons of birth are yours to teach him: "You are loved. You are wanted. You are brave. And I did everything in my power to help you find your way into my arms."
This post originally appeared on Mama By The Bay