what birth announcements show us about the stigma towards c-sections
Written by The Editor
Oh, shit, here it comes: Another one in your inbox. A good friend has a baby, and their well-meaning partner has the nerve to send a breathlessly typed missive straight from the hospital, birthing center, or circle of midwives that’s something along the lines of:
Dear Friends and Family –
Baby So and So was born today at a healthy such and such weight. Mom was a CHAMPION! She gave birth with no epidural and literally no medical assistance whatsoever. All the midwife could do was just stand there in awe as my Baby Mama wiped one single bead of sweat from her brow, and delivered the baby with her own two hands. I can report with full confidence that her vaginal walls and buttocks still retain their utmost strength and integrity, as there was no tearing.
Mom and Baby are doing very well. Baby is already saying his first words and Mom is resting comfortably in her pre-pregnancy skinny jeans.
Your Friend’s Partner Who Shall Be Unnamed
OK, so maybe the email doesn’t actually say the above. But if you’ve ever given birth and you receive one of these birth announcement emails, the way in which someone’s partner describes the means by which that baby was born, can sometimes seem to carry with it an inherent judgment. Trigger words and phrases may include: Without epidural, natural, drug-free, and – my favorite: In the comforting womb of our own home(true story).
If you’re a better person than me, perhaps you can read someone’s email birth announcement and simply think, “Hey. That’s awesome. So glad that they’re doing well.” But if you’re at all a bit competitive, jealous, and insecure (checkmarks for all of the above right here!); you might read about someone else’s birth experience, immediately compare it to your own and then weigh the two against one another.
It doesn’t help that often times, the partners of those who have just given birth choose to highlight what they feel – and often what society as a whole also agrees – is a virtue of their partner’s birthing experience. When a woman gives birth vaginally and without the aid of an epidural, we tend to announce it and celebrate those very facts – vocally. Words like “Goddess,” “Champion,” and “Rock Star”, start to circle the new moms name. Suddenly, a woman has achieved near saintly status, purely by foregoing the aid of medicine and by the grace of being able to have a vaginal birth.
Of course, a vaginal birth is not the path everyone’s birth plan takes. Nationally, Cesarean-sections account for 32 percent of all births, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the many, many birth announcement emails I’ve received, not one has mentioned – let alone celebrated — the C-section birth. And its no big secret why: The C-section, no matter how hard we have been trying to destigmatize it of late – is not something people tend to share with friends and family from the outset. It is perceived as a private matter – often one that is revealed during a one-on-one visit to meet the baby. The way in which we reluctantly roll out the news of our C-sections, in itself, implies that it is something of which we should be ashamed.
And what of the woman who has decided to have a vaginal birth with the aid of an epidural? Is she not also a “rock star”? Apparently not. In my non-empirical study of strictly personal experience (Science, y’all), friends of mine who gave birth with “drugs” did not seem to enjoy the same saintly status on the mass emails that went out with their immediate birth announcements, as their “drug-free” cohorts. The birth announcement emails belonging to the C-section or epidural mamas tend towards the “just the facts, ma’am” variety: The baby’s gender, birth weight, name, perhaps length, and a note about Mom and Baby’s general well-being. It is almost a reflexive impulse to keep the “less celebrated” ways of giving birth out of these emails altogether.
As we move towards destigmatizing C-sections and accepting all births as wondrous, near-goddess-like feats of strength (both emotional and physical), we can use the birth announcement email blast as one litmus test of what we find commendable when women give birth. One day, I might receive an email that raves about how strong a mother was throughout her C-section surgery, or how beautiful it was to share some somewhat peaceful moments with the mother who had an epidural before giving birth vaginally. Every way that a woman delivers a human into this world is a reason to send a mass email to everyone in your circle about how fantastic and strong that woman is. The news of a small human being born, and the details of that birth, is always worthy of blasting into the digital stratosphere. We just haven’t quite gotten to that comfort level yet. Someday.
Featured image: Lauren Hutton circa 1980s © 1980 Gary Lewis – Image courtesy mptvimages.com