Let’s just start this off by saying I speak from a place of wisdom. Years of it. In other words, after raising kids for almost two decades, the shit I thought mattered back then, the shit that kept me up at night and made me feel like less of a mother and woman, is so not even on my radar now, I’m actually embarrassed to say I even cared that much about it in the first place. And one of those things I cared so deeply about way back when was how my babies came into this world.
My first son was born 19 years ago via emergency C-section, and I felt I had been biologically sucker-punched. I was totally gutted. Literally, filleted on the table like a rainbow trout. This went against every deep-rooted and inherent female instinct in my body, and everything that myself, my husband, and that soft-spoken Bradley Method instructor had been mentally and physically preparing for us for.
It didn’t matter to me that the C-section saved my son’s life and mine. As a matter of fact, for many months after, that actually never entered my mind. Instead, guilt and failure did. With each and every other natural childbirth story I read or saw documented on TV, I cringed in defeat and cursed my broken body, my scar, and my complete and total failure to do something that is seemingly the most natural thing in the world to do: have a damn baby come out the way nature intended it to.
There I was, not only trying to navigate new motherhood and self-diagnose mastitis (who knew your breasts can get infections?!) but also trying to process the fact my body was broken and I may need to turn in my childbirth card. Whether or not it was self-induced and unjustified guilt didn’t matter to me; I simply could not get over the thought I had failed as a mother before I had even started.
After a failed attempted VBAC with my second son, the guilt remained, albeit I was so busy with the daily caretaking of two kids 18 months apart, time to sit and reflect on the failings of my body were few and far between. But still. Still the feelings that I wasn’t woman enough lingered, and when I had to confess to strangers both my babies were born via C-section, the mere fact it felt like it was something I had to “confess” irked me.
I never dared to say it proudly; rather I shrugged my shoulders and would mumble, “Unfortunately I had to have a C-section,” to which all the questions of “Why?” would start. And do you know how all of my “Why?” answers started? They started with things like, “I couldn’t…” “My body didn’t…” “I’m not able to…” “I can’t…” My fault. My fault. My fault.
In the years that followed, I realized a few things. The babies who came into this world drug-free, naturally, vaginally, possibly under bath water that was littered with rose petals and surrounded by lavender vanilla candles, with light jazz playing in the background, still shit in their pants. They threw the same tantrums, spit out the same green peas, kicked the same soccer balls, and failed the same spelling tests as the ones who were yanked out of a filleted abdomen 90 seconds after it was medically determined they had to be. How you come into this world just does not matter.
I know this because nowhere on my son’s college application was the question, “Were you delivered vaginally or by C-section?” On his first real job application, there will be no box to check “vaginally born” or “C-section,” and I have yet to see a resume template that includes a section on describing how the applicant came into the world.
When I dust the shelves of Little League trophies and framed academic certificates in my home, there does not exist an award that says, “Season MVP, All-Star, and Born Drug-Free.” And on the walls in my own bedroom? Well dammit, I’m just gonna have to live with the fact there is no framed award for me stating, “Delivered Baby Naturally.” Finally, you adoptive mamas out there? I would bet the farm you’re the last mamas in the world to give one single fuck how your baby came into the world. Because it still just does not matter.
On the day of the birth of my last son (via scheduled C-section), I strutted (waddled) into that hospital like I was on the red carpet of a movie premiere. Not a twinge of guilt, what-ifs, shame, self-doubt, or one ounce of birth humiliation was in my body. What replaced it was a combination of “I don’t give a fuck” and overwhelming gratitude.
As I sat in the OR room waiting to be prepped, I high-fived all the highly educated and exceptionally skilled nurses and doctors who were there by my side with the same goal in mind: to safely deliver a baby. I practically squealed thinking how lucky I was to live in a country where I had access to the kind of health care that could deliver my baby safely, even if my own body wasn’t able to. Sheer gratitude took over, and as I lay there in those tense moments of surgery before my son was pulled out, I never for a moment looked around the room and thought failure. I simply thought, thank you. Thank you. And can you hurry it up a bit? I want to meet my son.