Some birth experiences are quick and uncomplicated, while others take a little longer to tell. For some mums, their birth experience wasn’t quite what they were expecting.
Like in the case of Sharleen Lee, mum to Mia, 2, and Raven, 4, who had to have an emergency C-section during her first pregnancy. Her baby was in distress after a 12-hour labour that didn’t result in Lee dilating.
“It was disappointing as I think every mum has this idea of what giving birth will be like, or a plan to go through a natural birth. And when things don’t go according to plan, it can be upsetting,” she recalls.
Lee says that she was very emotional during Raven’s first month, because she felt like her body had failed her by not being able to give birth naturally. This was in addition to the stress of looking after a newborn. “Because I’m a usually active and fit person, I thought I would have no problems giving birth naturally. I guess Raven had other plans for her entrance!”
In Singapore, about 40 to 45 per cent of babies are delivered via a C-section. Some mums opt for C-sections because they are afraid of painful contractions, or perhaps want to have their baby born on a specific date.
“When things don’t go according to plan, it can be upsetting.”
While some C-sections are planned, it’s important to note that some aren’t. But that doesn’t mean that the birth experience is any less than a vaginal birth.
Says Lena Tijono, mum to Sal, 3 months, “I remember when I told a friend that I had to have a C-section, she immediately looked sad and said, ‘oh no, what happened?’ It’s disheartening to hear that when what you expect to hear is ‘Congratulations!’”
Among other ridiculous, insensitive and downright hurtful things that C-section mums have heard, here are some of the worst.
1. “I’m so sorry.”
This is a common reaction, according to mums we spoke to who had a C-section. Says Tijono, “It really puts a downer on a happy event. If the baby is healthy, and the mummy is healthy, there really isn’t anything to be sorry about!” Ultimately, as a mum who got the job done (and done well!), the last thing you want is for others to feel bad for you.
2. “You’re lucky you didn’t have to go through labour pains.”
So, what exactly were those 14 hours of pushing, just to be wheeled into the operating theatre because you weren’t dilating fast enough, called? By the way, it takes longer to recover from a C-section as it’s after all a major abdominal surgery. Unlike vaginal births where some mums are up on their feet just hours later, a C-section makes it harder for the patient to walk, turn over, and even nurse baby.
3. “Do you feel like you missed out on giving birth?”
Last we checked, a new mum plus a new baby means a birth did take place. Everyone’s birth experience is different. Your baby may have been born in the hospital, or at home; in the middle of the night, or in the late afternoon; via a vaginal birth or a C-section. “My birth experience may have been different from yours, but it was also a magical and unforgettable experience. And I’ve got my beautiful baby to show for it,” says Nina Feroz, mum to Yani, 10 months.
4. "Did you try…"
… breathing exercises, changing positions, walking around the ward, bouncing on a birthing ball – erm, yes. All labours are different, and it’s easy to assume that what worked for you would have led another woman’s baby to simply slide out of her, too. Of course, this is not true, and asking her to go back and review the last 48 hours of her life, is really, just plain annoying.
5. “How big is your scar?”
With a newborn, the new mum is likely to be exhausted by the sheer amount of nursing and diaper changing that is required of her. While she’s also likely to be in a fair amount of pain from her C-section incision, it’s probably the last thing she wants to think about, so don’t go reminding her about it. “One former schoolmate actually said she was curious to see the scar. It was so awkward for me to politely decline, because seriously, do you know how far down they make the cut?” Lee recalls.
It is actually really offensive to assume that the mum hadn’t educated herself on what was going on with her body, and how she was going to deliver her child.
6. “Are you sure you needed a C-section?”
Like anyone would gladly and willingly let a doctor cut into her? No, most caesarians are done upon the advice of a doctor, in order to deliver a healthy baby to a worried mum. Indeed, it is actually really offensive to assume that the mum hadn’t educated herself on what was going on with her body, and how she was going to deliver her child.
7. “It’s harder to lose the weight if you had a C-section.”
Chua Yit Min, mum to Terry, 3, says a well-meaning aunt told her this after she had to go through a C-section. “I don’t think it’s even medically true, but it made me feel super depressed, at a time I should have been enjoying my baby!” It doesn’t help that this same aunt, continued mentioning it to her for months after her baby was born, even as Chua was losing her pregnancy weight. “Ultimately, it wasn’t my decision to have a caesarian birth, so why make me feel bad for it?” Chua laments.
8. “I heard that the risk of having a C-section is higher if…”
… if you don’t exercise, eat spicy food, don’t drink enough water… the list goes on. Most of these, are of course, medically unproven. The only certainty is that saying something like this to a mum who has had a C-section does will make her feel like she has done something wrong, or that her body has failed her.
9. “There’s always next time.”
A comment like this is likely to come from a person who fails to realise what went into the decisions prior to the C-section. They just care that you had one, and assume that wasn’t a good decision. Instead of looking at C-sections as a second-choice birthing option, focus on the fact that it has brought a new baby into the world, and that is always something to be celebrated.
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