Yesterday on Facebook, a reader took umbrage with iVillage describing its birth photo gallery as "images of birth", saying we should have described it as "a surgical procedure enabling birth" because there were caesarean photos included. Her comment sparked furious debate. And reinforces Michelle Holland's view that women need to give each other a break when it comes to their childbirth outcomes.
I am not less of a woman because I didn’t push my babies down a birth canal or endure excruciating pain to bring them into this world. I am sick of this competitive vibe amongst women, judging not only each other, but themselves on the manner in which they birthed a child. They seem compelled to give long-winded descriptions about how many hours they were in labour, what degree of tearing they had, and whether they used drugs or not. I have heard many friends express regret that they had to ‘give in’ and have an epidural or any other pain relief. Or that that they had to be induced. And god forbid if they had to have a serious intervention like a vacuum delivery or (shock horror) a caesarean.
I am not anti-natural birth. I think that if that’s what you choose more power to you and it’s a fine choice. Until it isn’t. I remember Danni Minogue having her home birth turn into an emergency caesarean and felt relieved for her that it ended well. I would love to know if she felt at all diminished as a woman because it didn’t go as planned. I sincerely hope not.
Here’s the thing ladies. You don’t get a better baby. It is fine if you take personal pride in achieving the miracle of birth. I know I do. Yes, even after having two caeseareans, I am proud that I brought life into the world. My body, very unhappily, carried them and at the end I had healthy babies. Job well done in my book. This whole tone of ‘I did it tougher, harder, longer and BETTER than you’ from some women is crap.
Let’s remember that a particular way of birthing does not a good mother make. My cousin had a natural birth and her child was permanently removed from her care for neglect. It was a horrible and sad situation. I had my ‘surgical procedures’ and am raising two healthy and happy little boys. Our choice of birth method doesn’t correlate with our mothering abilities.
And isn’t that the point? We all want our children to arrive safely into the world and have the best possible life. As mothers, we have the right to choose how we do that, from conception to birth and beyond. So let’s not judge or justify ourselves based on one small aspect of a child’s life. Stop competitive birthing stories and focus instead on the gift of a healthy baby.
Michelle blogs at mummylovestowrite.com and is writing a women’s fiction novel, due for completion mid-2013. She is 30-something, married, and has two boys, still in nappies. Follow her on Facebook at Mummylovestowrite and Twitter @ShellCHolland.