April is Cesarean awareness month... and during this season of awareness I've seen far too many women speaking of the number of times they were told that a c-section is the easy way out.
and it breaks my heart.
though I fully support any woman that has had a cesarean, I want to speak specifically to csections and the world of prematurity together, because it's what I know - and so often I feel like I can't relate to other mothers of term babies because quite honestly, I've never experienced it and I never will.
when people hear that hazel was born early, their immediate response is typically something along the lines of "she was eager to join the world!" or "she just couldn't wait to meet her mommy", and while I fully understand what they're trying to say (mostly, they don't know what to say so that seems socially acceptable) it couldn't be further from the truth.
we took her from her safe place. we signed our names on the dotted line that would allow the doctors to cut me open, and take her before she was ready in an effort to save us both. WE did this to her, MY body did this to her. She wasn't ready, she wasn't eager, she could have waited... she should have been allowed to wait another 4 whole months. but she couldn't. i couldn't.
I never experienced labour. My body never felt the pains of labour, of contractions. I never had my water break, or had it broken for me - in fact, hazel was born en caul (the amniotic sac still intact, her tucked away safely inside as they pulled her from my womb). They knocked me out, pulled my baby from me, let her lay on a table next to me to delay the cord clamping, and then whisked her away to the NICU. I never saw my husband meet his little girl for the first time. I was still under anaesthesia, unaware we had a daughter. unaware whether she had survived or not.
now this isn't always the case with prematurity, but it was my reality.
and this reality had my heart aching for so long - and if i'm being honest it still aches, some days more than others. for weeks after hazel was born i would tell my husband that I felt like a cheat. I asked him how i could ever say i had given birth when i hadn't. i felt robbed. stripped of my ability to give birth as a woman.
now you have to understand, i've never thought that of any woman i know that had a cesarean. it never even CROSSED my mind. but suddenly, here i sat in tears because i felt less than.
and what amplified those feelings was that i never went into labour. sure, my mom had a cesarean - 3 in fact. i always said she gave birth to us. a friend had two csections - she gave birth to her babies. but me? how could i possibly say i gave birth to my daughter when i never went into labour, when i never felt the pains of contractions, when i never birthed her from my body?
and still, nearly 18 months later i say "i delivered my daughter". i can't seem to get the words out that i gave birth to her.
is that feeling justified? maybe? is it honest? to my heart yes, but in reality... no. not at all. is it understandable? absolutely? is it the truth? not at all.
it's a stigma.
a stigma that i have yet to let go of. a notion that a csection makes you less of a woman.
even as i sit here writing this i realize this is the first time i've shared this with anyone but my husband. and my hands get shakey at the thought.
i'm not here to compare a vaginal birth vs a csection... i think both are equally as brave, and both take just as much strength as the other. but while we are so easy to tell our friends that they are total rockstars for giving birth by cesarean, when it comes to ourselves - when we look in the mirror do we allow ourselves the same grace?