pregnancy

"I was told I had taken the easy way out." We need to talk about C-section shaming.

PSA: C-sections are just another way of giving birth.

While that statement might sound obvious, in 2021, plenty of people still think otherwise. 

When we asked the Mamamia community if they had ever been shamed for having a C-section, over 100 women replied and, sadly, most of them said they had. 

Now, as everyone's experience and circumstances are different, we asked these women what happened when they were C-section shamed. Here's what 30 of them had to say.

But first, watch: Questions about childbirth, answered by mums and non-mums. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia

1. Truan

I've had two C-sections and with the first one (emergency) I was told "I had taken the easy way out" (like I had a choice in the matter) and that "how I gave birth wasn’t natural". It’s a very hard thing to cope with as a new mother because you do feel like a failure. You do feel like you should or could have done something differently. But I’ve come to realise that at the end of the day, when the kids are in school and older, no one is going to care how they were born. You damn well grew those little babies in your body and that’s all that matters. 

2. Danni

I was shamed by an older lady at work. Not because of my first C-section, which was booked due to medical complications, but I’m now 27 weeks pregnant and have opted for a C-section again. It was a light decision; I was given all the information and stats by my OB-GYN, who advised if I attempted vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) there was about a 70 per cent chance I’d end up having an emergency C-section. According to this one colleague I’m lazy for not attempting a vaginal birth. I haven’t been offended though because I know her opinion speaks more of her values of motherhood than mine.

3. Tiarne

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While booking in for my C-section at the hospital, I was told by the midwife the medical reason I was having a C-section was not good enough and I was not even trying to birth my baby. My OB was so angry when he found out.

4. Helen

The only person who ever shamed me about a C-section was me. I was so disappointed in myself, high expectations for a natural delivery turned sour after 34 hours of labour. I felt down about it for years after. Everyone else in my life was completely supportive.

5. Elspeth

I’m so sorry for anyone who has experienced negativity about a C-section. I expected I would get some but I’ve never received a single negative comment or sly question about it. I required one for medical reasons with my first baby and with my second I opted for one for a variety of reasons, but doctors and nurses never questioned it. I might just be lucky but I hope it’s also a sign that C-sections are less unusual than they used to be. And also certainly not the easy way out!

6. Pree

I felt like I had let the world down when my first was a C-section after being told he was breech. I blamed myself for years, when he didn't connect with me for breastfeeding or when he stopped drinking formula milk at six months old. I put it all down to the fact that somehow it was all happening because I cheated him on a vaginal birth. My husband told me otherwise but I was convinced.

7. Maddie

My mother-in-law is still so upset that I had a C-section. She goes around telling people (cousins, etc.) not to ask about how I gave birth as "it’s not how they do things in their family". My daughter was breech, 4.9kgs at 38 weeks. A C-section saved our lives. I am over being ashamed.

8. Lauren

Yes, many times - by friends, acquaintances, family, the medical profession. It seems everyone has an opinion on my two C-sections and how I either didn’t need them or that I was "too posh to push" (a direct quote from a friend). The funny thing is, I don’t feel shame when these nasty things are said, I feel relief knowing that they saved my life and am thankful to live in a time that has advanced medical intervention for birth so that I don’t die. And secretly, planned C-sections are wonderful - an amazing, calm, controlled way to bring a baby into the world.

9. Catherine

Three C-sections. The first was emergency, the last two were planned. I felt no shame and was not shamed. Unfortunately, I could not give birth naturally and the health of my babies was my only concern.

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10. Shelley

My mother-in-law shamed me. I went to a routine checkup with my gynecologist at 36 weeks who took one look at me and asked his receptionist to drive me straight to the hospital (this was in South Africa 25 years ago). I tried calling my husband who was at work and when I could not reach him, I called my mother-in-law to keep trying to contact him. As I was going in for an emergency caesarian, I had preeclampsia. I will never ever forget what she said to me that day on the phone, "Oh what a shame, you're not going to have a natural birth."

11. Kath

One of our male best mates said to my husband (while I was still in hospital two days after my C-section), "Oh I feel so sorry for her because she must not be feeling like a real woman because she hasn’t actually delivered the baby properly." I actually had never ever thought this and I felt gutted.

12. Danni

People tried to shame me but I made sure I was well informed and worked hard to make myself fighting fit after both C-sections. Started walking laps of the maternity ward as soon as I "got my legs back" and ate healthily so my bowels worked well without any drama. I pretty much had an "F you" attitude to anyone who tried to shame me. It worked!

13. Donna

I had a "friend" who asked if I was disappointed that I hadn’t given birth. I thought the three children who were with me were enough evidence that I had indeed "given birth".

14. Vicki

The week before I was scheduled for my C-section someone said to me, "Ah well it will be easy for you, all you have to do is lie there and the doctors do all the hard work". To say I was unimpressed was an understatement.

15. Emily

I’m scheduled for a C-section next week and have had nothing but encouragement and support even from my home-birthing, hippy friends because it’s all about empowerment, choice and women supporting women.

Listen to This Glorious Mess, Mamamia's twice-weekly parenting podcast. Post continues after video.

16. Laura

On the morning of my elective C-section for my second son Leo (my rainbow baby after multiple miscarriages) the midwife walked into my room where I was so excited to meet my little one and greeted me, not with a hello or even a smile, but a look of utter disdain as she asked in front of her junior colleague, "Why are YOU having a C-section?" I was genuinely a bit taken aback as everyone had been so supportive until this point. I sort of stammered my answer about the fact I had an emergency with my first and that obstetrician had recommended it but it definitely felt judgemental and it stung!

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17. Cathy

I wasn't shamed for the C-section per se, I was shamed for having a planned general anaesthetic (GA) with my C-section. Prior to my C-section, I had I think more than a dozen operations and I get very anxious going into surgery. I knew I didn't want to have an epidural and be awake and my only option for the delivery of my twins was a C-section from very early on in my pregnancy. I had a well-informed discussion with my obstetrician and my husband that I needed to have a GA for the delivery. They were fine. I was told by others that I was denying my husband his god-given right to be at the birth of his children (twins). And for the record, the people that shamed me were other women, not men. My husband understood that whatever I needed was best for our daughters.

18. Christie

I've had both vaginal birth and a C-section. I think that most people feel like they have the right to ask why you had a C-section. Having an adequate "reason" is the mental tick that the person asking needs to somehow justify your birth. There seems to be a competitive nature when comparing birth stories amongst women.

19. Ainsley

A midwife friend-of-a-friend told me it was "so sad that I didn’t get to experience the beauty of birth", and that had I chosen to have a midwife-led birth I would have had a better experience. I didn’t feel shamed, I just felt like she was a bit of a w*nker.

20. Meg

My partner asked his dad for good luck before our C-section and his dad responded, "You don’t need good luck since you’re not putting up with a screaming woman giving birth." 

21. Kirrily

I usually push back. When they say, "Oh, I had a natural birth", I reply "Were you in the bush by yourself with no drugs? I'm so proud of you."

22. Sam 

My first was a C-section and I was never shamed. I was supported when I asked to book for elective caesarians after this, but my babies wouldn’t stay in till the planned surgery dates. I always felt very supported in my births.

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Many women Mamamia spoke to had experienced judgement for having a C-section. Image: Getty.

23. Shauna

Not shamed, but I was honestly shocked at how many people, usually men, would make a "joke" about how it wasn't childbirth or that it was an easy way out.

24. Carol

Both my pregnancies were footling breach so two C-sections. The most shame came from myself. I felt so inadequate not being able to birth "naturally". I got over it. Eventually.

25. Sarah

I was upset when I didn't have a natural delivery. But my OB said to me, 'while a straightforward natural delivery is optimal it is one day of motherhood and is actually the least important indicator of what type of mother you will be. You had 9 months before this to care for your baby and a lifetime after.'

26. Lisa

My mum remarked after my emergency C-section (after a 20-hour non-progressive labour), "What is wrong with girls these days? They can’t have babies properly anymore!"

27. Claudia 

All. The. Time. I had two planned C-sections. When women start trying to shame me, I cut them off and say, “Yes! I was too posh to push. I’m now 50 but my fanny is still 18 and I never wet my pants.” They don’t deserve to hear the reasons if they are going to be that judgemental. I have a long narrow cervix and if I didn’t have modern medicine, I’d be a statistic. I also have a very narrow pelvis that would not open well if I was to even try to give birth naturally."

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28. Merryn

I haven't directly, but at my baby shower, a friend of my husbands, who was also pregnant, went on and on about why anyone would ever have a C-section as it's a terrible idea, and natural birth is the only way to give birth (assuming she didn't know I was booked in for a fully elective C-section). I've had lots of questions about why I would ever elect to have a C-section (no medical reason whatsoever) which I'm always happy to answer, I get a few snarky comments about being "too posh to push", but a quick "my body, my choice" generally does the job. I'm a pretty confident person though so I don't really care about silly judgement from other people.

29. Skye

I was told: "You haven't felt pain. You'll be in trouble when you actually have to give birth!"

30. Stefanie

I had two great C-sections (one not planned, then one planned) and always try to share my positive experiences to destigmatise!

Feature image: Getty.

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