parent opinion

"Don’t you want the best for your baby?" I was shamed for having a planned C-section.

When I was pregnant with my first, I had a very specific birth plan. I wanted a vaginal birth with minimal drugs. 

I wanted my gynecologist to deliver my baby. I wanted my husband to hold my hand the whole time. I wanted tons of pictures and videos to capture her first day of life. 

I wanted all my friends and family to visit me at the hospital.

Watch the trailer for Mamamia's podcast The Delivery Room. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

My water broke on Wednesday evening; 33 hours of pain and contractions later, I was barely four centimetres dilated and my baby’s heart rate was showing distress. 

It was a nightmare, to say the least. 

My daughter was born via an emergency C-section early Friday morning. With the exception of my husband holding my hand, everything did not go according to plan.

For months, I blamed myself and my body for not being able to give birth vaginally. I felt like I had failed the first step to giving my child the best chance at a healthy life. Combined with difficulties breastfeeding and the adjustment to becoming a new mum, I took a while to treat myself with compassion and accept what had happened. What really helped was seeing my daughter grow into a happy and healthy little girl.

I didn’t think much about her birth until a few years later when I got pregnant with my son; my doctor discussed with me the option to do a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). 

While thinking about my decision, it brought me back to those traumatic hours spent on a hospital bed and the disappointment I felt afterwards. 

I knew in my heart I wanted things to be different. So I decided to go with a scheduled C-section.

One night as we were having dinner with my parents, my mum asks me if women can give birth vaginally after getting a C-section.

I’m slightly irritated, anticipating her annoying questions to follow, but I respond, "Yes, they can. It’s called VBAC."


She nods and then asks, "So you’re doing that, right?"

I shake my head and respond abruptly, "No."

She takes a deep breath and starts jamming her unsolicited advice down my throat, "You know, I gave birth vaginally to all three of you. Since you were my last, I thought you would have been the easiest. But no... you were 10 days late. I was in so much pain because your head was too big. I ended up getting stitches because I had a third degree tear. I still have leakage sometimes.

"But I managed because it’s the sacrifice I made for you girls. It’s better for babies if they’re born vaginally because it’s more natural. I suggest you reconsider and think about your decision. It’s your chance to do it right this time. You should at least try.

"Don’t you want the best for your baby?"

Listen to Mamamia's podcast The Delivery Room. Over eight weeks join host Jessie Stephens as she speaks to eight different women about eight very different births. Post continues below.

I could feel my stomach drop and my heart race. I wanted to yell at her. But then I changed my mind, and I wanted to leave. But then I thought about it again. I sat down on the couch and began to empathise with my mother. 

I love her; however, she can say the most abrasive things that trigger me mentally and emotionally.

But not today. I calmly respond, "What you went through was tough. The pain you felt with me must have been excruciating. I can’t imagine being 10 days late. And I remember you telling me that dad couldn’t be there when I was born because he was travelling for work, right?"

She says, "Yeah, it was tough. I had your uncle drive me to the hospital while your grandparents watched your sisters. I was all alone. Your dad didn’t come to the hospital until the next day."

I validate her, "That sounds scary. You’re very strong having done all this yourself."

She’s nodding. Then I look at her in the eyes and I confront her, "Even though I don’t have to go through what you went through, it doesn’t mean I’m not strong. You know what happened with my first. You were there every day, sitting beside me while I held her and cried.

"I felt horrible when you judged me for choosing to have a scheduled c-section. It’s not your place to criticise what I do with my body and how I choose to give birth. These are the rights your generation of women has fought for.

"And you need to stop comparing your life with mine. There’s no prize for the mother who suffers the most. It’s not a contest."


Her jaw drops as I continue, "Mum, I love you and I cherish the time whenever we talk. The fact that I feel safe expressing my feelings with you about this instead of yelling or leaving speaks for itself. This is the type of relationship I want with my kids. 

"Twenty years down the road, I highly doubt they’re going to resent me for not giving birth to them vaginally. But they might if I criticise every single decision they make in their life.

"Ultimately, of course, I want what is best for my children but I also need to make decisions that are right for me. How I take care of myself is a reflection of how I treat others. I’m not a martyr. I’m a mother."

Her lips are pursed. She takes a minute to think. Then she says, "Okay. You do what you want to do. I’m sorry I upset you."

And with that, we start talking about something else. I may not have changed her mind but at least I have peace with myself.

Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP is an author, wife and mum of two. She writes stories to empower individuals to talk about their feelings despite growing up in a culture that hid them. You can find more from Katharine on her website or podcast, or you can follow her on InstagramFacebookTwitter or YouTube.

Feature Image: Getty

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