Well, fellow C-section mamas: I'm here to tell you that I'm unfazed by my surgical birth experience. It brought healthy babies into the world while I remained safe too, and that all makes me grateful. Still, I sometimes hear ridiculous comments, as I'm sure many other women do who delivered the same way. Here, I'll highlight the top five things you should never say to a C-section mom.
"You must be really bummed out about your birth experience."
Who, me? No way! I knew all along I was a candidate for C-section, given that I was carrying twins, both of whom were in breech or transverse positions throughout my pregnancy. I was fully prepared for a C-section, and felt no shame or regret. However, I know some mamas who had hoped to deliver vaginally—and some who even labored for a long time before ending up in surgery—feel differently. They do work through regret and grief over the process. So making such a remark only shines the spotlight on their suffering.
"Yikes, C-section?! I hope your baby turns out OK."
Let me say it plainly: People who think they have evidence to support the notion that C-sections cause autism are as wrong as people who think vaccines cause autism. The evidence simply is not there. (There may be a correlation, but it is not causation.) So anyone who has the nerve to suggest to a C-section mom that her baby may be in danger of showing up on the spectrum as a direct result of the mode of delivery is both ignorant and also tactless beyond words.
"It's a shame you couldn't go the natural route."
Shortly after my delivery, it became clear that I was experiencing a rather significant postpartum hemorrhage—the result of delivering full-term twins from a heavily overstretched uterus, and not the result of mode of delivery. Well, I thank my lucky stars I was in the position to receive excellent and immediate care—who knows what would have happened if I wasn't. Before modern medicine, the reality was that many, many moms and babies died during "natural" childbirth without intervention. These days, we are lucky to have such skillful and technical interventions when needed. So I see no reason to assign some value judgment to the word "natural," whether people are getting at the difference between C-section versus vaginal birth, or hospital birth versus home birth.
"That sounds gruesome!"
C-section is major abdominal surgery. Of course that is nothing to be trifled with. But I wouldn't call non-emergency C-sections gruesome: Mine, for instance, was performed right on schedule in a fully controlled environment. It actually felt downright civilized! And in no universe is vaginal labor tame. So there's no need to make a C-section mama feel as if her experience was freakish in any way. Look, delivering a baby is pretty intense stuff, no matter the exit strategy.
"Now you're scarred forever."
I have a C-section scar that falls well within the area that any reasonable bikini would cover. (That image above is a stock photo, FWIW—my scar is much smaller.) Now 15 months postpartum, the redness has mainly faded, and the four-inch scar is a rather minor mark on my body—minor, that is, except for its major significance as my babies' way into the world. I have talked to many moms who delivered vaginally who carry scars far worse—for instance severe tearing injuries. And then of course there are the cosmetic marks any pregnant mama might face, like stretch marks, irrelevant of their mode of delivery. The reality is, all of us show incredible strength while going through the process of delivering babies, and none of our marks are worthy of anyone's judgment.
Alesandra Dubin is a mom to 1-year-old boy-girl twins. She's also a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of lifestyle blog Homebody in Motion.