There are many phrases you should be wary of when speaking to a woman who has just given birth. "Is the baby supposed to be crying like that?" for one. "You look exhausted," for two.
But one thing you never want to say to someone who's given birth by caesarean section is this: "Oh, you got off so easy!"
In an Instagram post that's gone viral, Melbourne-based blogger Olivia White put up a picture of her C-section scar from last year, noting, "This is what you really look like a few hours post c-section 🗡 To anyone who thinks it's the easy way out, we'll [sic] try having a 6 inch gash in your abdomen like a gutted shark 🦈 who had the body parts of the surfer 🏄🏼 it ate retrieved! That's then sewn back together with fishing wire while it feels like your vital organs are trying to escape!"
Look I know it might not be my best angle (or is it?) 😂 but who wouldn't take selfies hours post birth so they can see where they sliced you open and yanked out a whole person 🙋🏼 (if you couldn't tell I still couldn't see past my still inflated uterus) 🙈 This is what you really look like a few hours post c-section 🗡 To anyone who thinks it's the easy way out, we'll try having a 6 inch gash in your abdomen like a gutted shark 🦈 who had the body parts of the surfer 🏄🏼 it ate retrieved! That's then sewn back together with fishing wire while it feels like your vital organs are trying to escape! I mean sure, everything is 🌈 and 🍭 till the spinal wears off! After that it's like you've been hit by a bus 🚌 which then backed over you just to make sure it didn't miss you the first time! If you don't time the Endone exactly before the previous lot wore off then you will most certainly know you are alive (while wishing you were dead) ☠️ and worst of all you'll feel as if you'll spend your entire life wearing nanna 👵 knickers up around your waist because the thought of anything settling in the canyon between your gut and pubic region is the stuff nightmares are made of 👻🙅🏼 Anyone who's ever had c section knows that you'll forever be dependant on your friends Nancy, Dr 90210 and Spanx because you cannot for the life of you get rise of the ditch that is left by the scar 🙄 But for all the skin tight Kookai dresses I bought while pregnant 🤰🏼 that now make me look like I have a Kangaroo pouch - I wouldn't change it! Because if it wasn't for the ability to deliver my babies 👶🏼 this way they might not be here today 🙌🏻 plus I recon getting cut from A to B sounds way worse 😷🤕
White had faced plenty of criticism during her second pregnancy about being public with her choice to have an elective C-section. Her older daughter had been born via emergency C-section, and medical complications meant that White couldn't hold her or bond with her for the first few days.
"Constantly people ‘remind’ me that I can still have a natural birth even after having a C-section previously. And some even go as far to suggest that electing to have the baby via caesarean is an easy way out and even made disparaging comment about being 'too posh to push' – insert blank stare of disbelief," she wrote in Mamamia last year.
"So, going into this pregnancy I knew from day one how I was going to birth this baby, and it might not be for the reasons you think. While I know every birth is different and there certainly is a chance I could have this baby vaginally, the most important thing to me this time was having a positive and empowering birth experience."
Having a cesarean birth was certainly not in my plans, but for reasons beyond my control that's how my first baby was born. And it ultimately meant she entered this world healthy and safe, and I shouldn't shamed for that or told I didn't 'give birth'! I then decided to have an elective cesarean, and that's my choice and I have the right to make that choice and should not be shamed for that either! Whether you birth your baby naturally or require medical intervention! Whether you have pain relief or give birth listening to Mozart in a pool of petal laced water and have your placenta dried and bottled to use as seasoning on your steak! It's all bringing new life into the world and that is a wonderful thing that should be celebrated! How you get it done should not define you, it doesn't make you and more or less of a mother! We thankfully live in a time where we have access to such medical assistance that can ultimately save the life of a baby and it's mother, when in times past it has meant they may have died in child birth! Sadly something that can still happen in some poorer countries in this day and age! Not to mention that pregnancy, birth and having children is already an extremely life-altering and emotional experience! When your birth, for whatever reason, doesn't go to plan it can cause or exacerbate ones already fragile state! We are all mothers, and we should love and support one another no matter how our babies are born, especially when it can already have left someone inadequate and disappointed! Embrace your scars, don't apologise for the drugs, coat your steak in as much placenta as you like and don't, for a second, feel like you have to explain yourself to anyone!! 📸 @catherinemeyerphotographer
At a time when there are many opinions about the "best" way to give birth, including many articles that warn of the dangers of C-sections, it's not surprising White felt the need to publicize her scar and the effort that came with it — because as she writes, "If it wasn't for the ability to deliver my babies this way, they might not be here today."
And while White received messages of support and praise, there are still plenty of people out there all too willing to dismiss the difficulties of a caesarean birth as compared to a vaginal one.
In 2016, a woman named Raye Lee posted pictures of her C-section scar on Facebook, accompanied by graphic images and a description of the emergency situation that led to her son's birth.
She described not only the cut made to remove her son, but also the aftermath that many people don't consider.
"You use your core muscles for literally everything... even sitting down, imagine not being able to use them because they have literally been shredded and mangled by a doctor and not being able to repair them for 6+ weeks because your body has to do it naturally," wrote Lee.
"If it wasn't for the ability to deliver my babies this way, they might not be here today."
In White's comments, she's more than in agreement. The family blogger, who often posts glamour shots of her kids and husband, also points out the "kangaroo pouch" she now has and wouldn't change, which resonated hugely with commenters.
"Pouch sisters for life 👊🏼," wrote one. "What about when you first get up out of bed (in most cases not even 24hrs after they slice you up) and you literally feel like your guts/vag are going to fall out 😳"
No matter how that baby comes out of a woman's body, it's hard work — not just during, but after too. And every mom could use support for that.
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