Birth matters to women. Here’s how we know it’s true. If you’d like to start a heated, gloves off, knock down drag out argument on a birth group, simply ask whether a caesarean can be classed as a birth. Women will argue about that all day long, and through the night, without reaching any semblance of agreement. Why is this so heated? Because birth matters to women.
Let’s take a look at the main arguments for the affirmative.
- Women who believe that they gave birth during a caesarean believe that meeting their baby is what constitutes birth. The emergence of a baby is birth. The conclusion of pregnancy is a birth.
- To them, it is important that their caesarean surgery is recognised as a birth, because birth matters.
- They are often – but not always – grieving. Sometimes they might feel as though their stories of birth are less valid than those who gave birth vaginally. Birth matters to these women a great deal.
Now we take a look at the negative.
- Women who deny that their caesareans were births often believe that birth is a natural act contradicted by major surgery.
- These women are often grieving for a birth experience that didn’t go to plan. They might equate birth with an act of love that does not match up to their experience of meeting their baby. They feel unable to name their experience “birth”.
- They are often grieving for birth, and a part of that is finding a way to analyse and express their experience. Birth matters to these women a great deal.
Both arguments are like a parallel universe, and never the twain shall meet. Everyone finds themselves invalidated and triggered by the “opposition”. However if we break it down into individual stories, there might not be quite so much to argue about.
What we can see from looking at both sides of the coin is that BIRTH MATTERS TO WOMEN! Birth has been a rite of passage for women for thousands of years. A rite of passage is the transition from one stage of life into another, and what could be more defining that the moment of birth? The exact moment at which a woman becomes a mother.
When a woman is triggered by this argument, it often has it’s roots in birth trauma or grief. We increasingly discuss birth trauma, but birth grief is a very rarely aired topic. To experience birth grief you don’t need to be traumatised, you only need to not have had the birth experience you were hoping for. If that moment in which you met your baby for the first time didn’t meet expectations, you may experience birth grief.
Some people callously enter the discussion with no inkling of the importance of birth, arguing that birth is birth no matter how it occurs. Others barge on in proclaiming that if you have a caesarean you aren’t a “real” woman. Those people just need to just back off and stay the hell out of things they don’t understand. If you are a woman who encounters one of these conversations, disengage. Just protect yourself and walk away. Seek support from people who understand, but be mindful that other women may feel differently about the definition of birth.
The only thing that matters is that women who have caesareans are allowed to define their own experiences. Whether you want to call it a birth or not, is irrelevant. Whilst we may struggle hearing that other women feel differently about caesareans, we can always find one major point of contact in the simple premise that BIRTH MATTERS TO WOMEN. If it didn’t matter then this wouldn’t be such a hot button topic. Perhaps if we could stick to “I” statements during these discussions things would remain calmer.
”Personally I do not refer to my caesarean as a birth because to me, birth would be ABC”
”Personally I like to call my caesarean a birth because to me XYZ”
You get bonus points for adding a disclaimer about how you recognise that other women feel differently and you respect their right to express their opinion however best they can…. because you know that birth matters to women!
If birth didn’t matter then this argument would never get off the ground. That’s why some women are driven to call their caesareans a birth experience, and others shudder at the thought of describing it that way.
We could play word semantics over this issue, arguing quite convincingly from either perspective, but to do so removes the very core of the issue. This isn’t about the meaning of the word birth, it’s about something much bigger. The very experience itself. The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is true of birth. But some women have ten thousand words to explain their birth and when used from a personal perspective, none of those words can ever be wrong. Birth matters to women, which is why we each need to define our experiences from our own beliefs.
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