I am the survivor of an unnecessary, unconsented c-section.
Ten years ago, reading something like that would sound overly dramatic. A cesarean? No big deal, right? (And that’s sadly what most attorneys think, too, thanks to obstetric industry marketing.)
But as anyone who has had an unplanned, emergency c-section can tell you (and even some mamas who had time to mentally, socially and physically prep their post-partum environment) they are a HUGE deal.
C-sections, or sections as OBs casually refer to them as, are big deals to the mothers who get them. They are not big deals to the OB, nurses, anesthesiologist, pediatrician, and all the other people involved in your surgery. They might not even be a big deal for your significant other (but they probably are more of a deal than he or she will let on).
And certainly, they seem to be no big deal to your friend Jane who will say to you as you lie disabled in your hospital bed a day after the birth, unable to get up and pee or breastfeed unassisted – at least you have a healthy baby!
Well, I’m here to say out loud, because it seems to be ridiculously taboo to do so – that, most times, NO. And screw Jane.
No, you likely don’t have a completely healthy baby. That baby has been stuffed with multiple drugs through mom to make the surgery possible that have absolutely affected her breathing, her APGAR score, her alertness and possibly her ability to breastfeed. (Isn’t it ridiculous that our entire pregnancy we’re afraid of a drop of alcohol or smoking and then lo and behold at the end of pregnancy our medical team shoots us up with Fentanyl, which is more potent than Heroin? I’d love to see the studies citing Fentanyl as safe for mom and baby.)
And what about the mother? Does anyone care if the mother of the baby comes out healthy, too?
It would seem no. Not by a long shot.
I can’t tell you how many times – starting hours after giving birth to my first child (and that’s hard to type, because honestly it still feels like my OB gave birth) – I heard the words, “At least you have a healthy baby,” or “At least the baby is ok.”
Those words to me, while usually well-meaning, are dripping with condescension and ignorance. I mean, what about me? When I was pregnant everyone was asking how I was feeling, and now, suddenly, ten hours later, no one cares? It made me feel like a disposable vessel.
Was I spoiled as a pregnant woman, that people cared about me then as a human being? Or did I give up my right to be cared for and about as a human being as soon as I became a mother?
I’m here to say hell no. This is unacceptable. I am a person. Who just underwent major abdominal surgery.
Who, in their right mind, would walk into the hospital recovery room of a person who just had debilitating and painful abdominal surgery and respond with a shrug, and a judgy attitude of, well, at least your purpose has been served. You are just the vessel, after all. Now let me pick up and cuddle that piece of soul and flesh you’ve been growing for the last 9 months. I’ll tell you who. You’re friend Jane. Your mom, your dad. Your Aunt Minnie. And especially your OB and the eight nurses who’ve administered your medication.
Nope. Nope. Nope.
This is some serious disrespect for us mothers.
This is a whole box of issues that feminism has left in the corner, a bit afraid to touch. This is ridiculous.
I’m here to stand up and say this was a huge deal for me AND my baby. Neither of us were completely healthy coming out of this experience, and it could have been not only completely prevented had my physician legally upheld informed consent or ethically upheld her duty to do no harm and cut open a healthy woman to extract a healthy baby without medical indication. But I digress. I survived that surgery. My baby survived that surgery.
We survived harm done: major, non-indicated surgery on a healthy pregnant woman.
We survived the nurse slipping me too much Fentanyl behind the anesthesiologist’s back. We survived Narcan to bring me back. We survived severed bonding. We survived emotional abuse by the nurse and OB and outright physical battery.
So yeah, we’re survivors. And we matter just as much as our babies. Not just because we need to take care of said babies, either. But because mothers are humans and our lives matter.