An Ode to C-section Mothers

Let's have a round of applause for C-section mothers

Posted Mar 28, 2016

Steve Debenport/iStock
Source: Steve Debenport/iStock

Actress Kate Winslet was actually so embarrassed about having a C-section for her first child that she lied about it:

When she celebrated the birth of her first baby, she hailed the joys of natural childbirth.

But now, four years on, Kate Winslet has admitted she lied - her daughter Mia was delivered by emergency Caesarean section.

The actress said she wanted to have her naturally and only lied because she believed she was a 'failure' for not being able to do so...

She told the U.S. magazine Gotham: 'I've never talked about this - I've gone to great pains to cover it up. But Mia was an emergency C-section.

'I just said that I had a natural birth because I was so completely traumatised by the fact that I hadn't given birth. I felt like a complete failure.'

I am well aware that many women feel like failures for having a C-section, but I've never understood it. Personally, I think C-section mothers should be extra proud of themselves. When offered the choice between risk to their unborn baby, and risk to themselves, they chose taking on the risk in an effort to protect the baby. If that isn't the essence of motherhood, I don't know what is.

Consider C-section for breech birth. We tell women that breech vaginal delivery increases the risk of death or serious disability. Why? To the extent that childbirth is "designed," it is meant to occur with the baby in the head down position. The fetal head is "designed" to bear the stress of banging against the maternal bony pelvis every 2 minutes for hours at a time, is "designed" to distribute the force of uterine contractions most effectively to the cervix in order to open it, is "designed" to change shape (known as molding) to conform to the mother's pelvis so it can fit through, and is "designed" to be the biggest part of the baby, so that if the head fits, the body almost certainly will follow easily.

Obviously, none of those tasks is fulfilled by the breech. Instead, being born in the breech position makes the baby uniquely vulnerable to permanent injury or death. The head can become trapped because it is bigger than the rest of the body; the entire body can slip through and the head can be jammed up against the mother's pelvis, it's oxygen supply obliterated as the umbilical cord is compressed by being trapped between the baby's body and the bones of the mother's pelvis. This, not surprisingly, can result in permanent brain damage and/or death.

Make no mistake, the absolute risk that the baby will die from a vaginal breech birth is small, less than 1%, but to me that makes it all the more remarkable that most women carrying breech babies will choose C-section. Faced with the small, but real risk of the baby's death, most mothers will opt for abdominal surgery with the pain, potentially harder recovery and increased risk of infection or bleeding. In other words, women who choose C-section for breech want to protect their babies from any risk, no matter how small, at the cost of pain and potential suffering to themselves.

The same thing goes for women who consent to C-section for fetal distress. In 2016, the diagnosis of fetal distress is imperfect at best. We know that almost all babies who experience lack of oxygen during labor will give evidence of that on electronic fetal monitoring. In contrast, many babies who appear to be in distress may actually be fine. When a woman consents to a C-section for fetal distress, she is saying in essence: I don't know whether my baby is truly experiencing oxygen deprivation, but I don't want to take any chances. Cut me and help the baby; if I'm wrong, it's a price I'm willing to pay to be sure that my baby is okay.

In other words, its a sign of devotion, not a sign of failure.

Kate Winslet is not alone in her embarrassment, but there is absolutely no reason she or any other mother should ever be embarrassed by having a C-section.

As a mother of four children, let me say "Bravo!"

I never had to face the choice that many C-section mothers do, but I hope that I would have reacted as selflessly as they do.

Can we have a round of applause for C-section mothers? They certainly deserve it!

Adapted from Push Back: Guilt in the Age of Natural Parenting.

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