Dear OB: What You Steal

When we think of life stages – birth, childhood, end of life, death – we don’t often think of giving birth as one of them. But I believe that giving birth is as much of a life stage as childhood. It’s a part of the beginning of motherhood, but a very important stage of life, just like pregnancy. Thinking of it that way, taking someone’s experience of giving birth away is a little like taking pregnancy away – at least it feels comparable to me.

Stay with me. Pregnancy prepares us for birth, right? Yes, we take that long to grow a child in our bodies, but think of the emotional and mental development we also go through during pregnancy. There’s the (hopefully) elation at finding out, the challenging morning sickness and pain, the nights becoming more difficult to sleep through and preparing us for those sleep deprived night with our infant. There’s the anticipation in the last few months and weeks, imagining your child with you, imagining the birth, the moment when your child comes out of your body and into your arms. This is an extremely important moment. This is a moment that OBs are quick to dismiss, but emotionally and mentally, think of the value of seeing with your eyes, and feeling with your body, your child coming out of you and into the world. This series of moments are crucial in helping a person wrap their heads and hearts around this huge life-changing event.

This is the moment with a c-section that many, many women miss.

Yes, the baby is removed. But the woman often does not see it, and certainly does not feel it, during a c-section. What’s more, the woman did not do it. It’s true, I feel I did not birth my child. I gave birth, but I did not do the work at the end. I wanted to, but the OB and nurse decided for me that their Saturday schedule was more important than letting my child and I have that life experience.

I did not see my baby come out, nor did I feel it. I did not see my husband’s face when he saw our daughter for the first time, nor did I see his face for hours after, while I sobbed in the recovery room, alone, except for my doula, while he held our daughter’s hand.

This did something to me, took something from me. My body and mind had a hard time figuring out for months just where this baby had come from. My mind had a lot of trouble understanding this baby was mine. Bonding was not happening.

Then, there’s the end game. There’s the end of pregnancy and the beginning of life – the real transition. This is birth. This is a long journey, a laboring. It kind of mirrors pregnancy. There’s the consistent physical pains, and mental fears, rages, hopes, and anxieties all dredged up. Then, there’s the joy of bringing the child into the world. C-sections steal this joy, especially when they are unplanned and unnecessary.

OBs around the world need to think of what they’re taking from women’s lives when they perform c-sections like they aren’t the beginning of life, when they just become a skill for them to work on, a job. This is the beginning of life, and many OBs treat it like it has no meaning. How profoundly sad, to steal such important moments from a family’s life.

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