When the hospital prep classes spent their requisite eight minutes talking about C-sections, I zoned out. I’m not having a C-section. Only celebrities and moms carrying breech babies had C-sections. Instead, I ate my cafeteria-purchased burrito bowl, scanned Facebook, and tried not to peek at the outtake from Alien happening on the screen before me.
I didn’t know much about C-sections (see above about not paying attention in class), but what I heard from others went something like this:
- C-sections were major, major surgery.
- It took months, maybe years, to recover, if you recover at all.
- Sit-ups will forever be impossible. Like more so than before.
- Your guts will be removed, placed on top of your belly, and possibly put back in the wrong place.
- C-sections do not come with a complimentary tummy tuck.
Imagine my surprise when, after a routine exam two days post-due date, my doctor had me speeding to the hospital for an induction because I was dangerously low on amniotic fluid. After twelve hours on Pitocin, one incredibly torturous balloon catheter, and a blessed epidural failed to fully dilate my cervix, a nurse sat beside me and asked me how much I knew about C-sections.
C-section guilt is real. For months after, I couldn’t utter the words without crying. I hated my birth story. I felt ripped off. I wanted the drama of a Hollywood vaginal birth— cursing my husband for getting me into this mess. Slapping the doula for telling me I was “doing great.” Give me my feet-in-the-air-mascara-smeared-cheeks-bulging-forehead-vein-grunting birth! (That’s how it happens, right? I guess I’ll never know. Sigh…)
The self-pitying tide began to turn when I started hearing vaginal birth stories from other women. (Word has it American Horror Story’s next season will be set in a birth canal.)
Hmm, maybe a C-section wasn’t so bad. In fact, having your guts sliced open and a tiny human pulled from your innards sounded like a hot stone massage compared to some of those abominations. Let’s face it. If vaginas were unionized, they’d all be lobbying for C-sections. Here are a few reasons why my little lady is glad she dodged a thirty-five centimeter bullet:
She’s Still Intact: Pulverized. Shredded. Ground up like a sack of spoiled moose meat. That’s just a smattering of how post-birth honeypots have been described. The vagina is usually the star of the show. Even the baby comes in second to the performance your lady parts give. And when it’s over and she’s been torn open like the wrapping on a three-year old’s birthday present, she’ll look like one of those Crossfit games finalists after thirty rounds of clean and jerks. My vagina has no idea we even had a baby.
She’s Not in Therapy: One friend had such terrible back labor, she couldn’t imagine anything more painful. And then her child was born. When she pushed, it felt like the next three hundred contestants on the Price is Right were coming on down right through her cervix.
Not only did she get a beautiful baby boy, but also persistent pelvic pain that required months of physical therapy. That’s right. Physical therapy. For her vagina. Every Tuesday and Thursday for the next six months, she visited a pelvic rehab specialist who attempted to loosen her pelvic floor muscles by inserting metal balls inside her cavity and massaging her vaginal tissue. Whose job is this?! While I guess it’s not completely usual to pay a stranger for this kind of service, it is kind of weird to ask your insurance company to pay for it.
She Does Not Suffer from PTSD: Vaginas were not just on the front lines, they were the front lines! Imagine them just chilling like a good downstairs neighbor, wondering what all the fuss is going on upstairs. I wonder if they’re remodeling, they think. Maybe they’re having company. And then BAM! Here comes the Kool-Aid Man! It’s no wonder the lady doth protest too much.
A lot of women develop a fear of intimacy after childbirth. The post-delivery act of something exiting their bodies can send these women tail spinning into a bottle of OxyContin, so imagine the holy terror they face at the prospect of something entering it. It was that very act that turned them into piñata shards, after all.
She’s Maintained Discretion: While we’re on the topic of things exiting your body, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my biggest labor fear: Shitting in Public. Yes, umbilical cords around necks and lollygagging anesthesiologists are super scary, but what freaked me out the most was the possibility of dropping a deuce in front of my husband. He might be able to put the sight of our son’s gooey head blowing up my vagina like Michael Bay directed it, but making like a bad puppy on polished hospital floor would surely knock the passion meter down a few pegs.
She Likes Immediate Gratification: The birth of our son happened so fast my husband didn’t think the naked newborn passing overhead could possibly belong to us.
“Is that our baby?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “That’s someone else’s.”
Someone else’s? Was this an operating room or a sushi prep kitchen? How many women were they slicing and dicing in here?
Yes, that was our baby, born exactly eight minutes after the first incision, then cleaned, diapered, and swaddled in my arms barely thirty minutes later.
She Likes Pampering: One might call this a drawback, but my lazy vagina and I loved the extra days in the hospital. 24/7 caregivers for you and your newborn, on demand chocolate milkshakes, highly trained nurses in the art of the swaddle? Yes please! Sure, I missed my cat and DVR full of Bravo television, but it sure was nice to get all Downton Abbey and ring a kindly nurse to please take care of this crying baby.
Turns out there is no wrong way to have a baby and certainly no need to feel guilty about how yours arrived. The end result is always the same: We all pee when we sneeze.
Shelly Mazzanoble is an author and playwright who has published essays and short stories with Scary Mommy, In the Powder Room, The Seattle Times, Carve, Whetstone, and authors the humorous parenting column, Mom in the Middle, for Seattle-based parenting network PEPs. Her essays have been syndicated on Blunt Moms and BlogHer. She is the mother of a toddler who provides endless fodder she will continue to mine, at least until he’s old enough to understand the word, “litigation.” Visit her blog, or find her on Facebook or Twitter.