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Opinion: A C-section is not the easier option and mums shouldn’t be judged for it

C-section or natural birth: Samantha Leckie talks deciding what's best for her and her baby.

When I first entered motherhood, I learned very quickly that pregnancy and being a mum can often come with the passing of judgement – and plenty of it.

From pain relief or no pain relief, to birth plan options, breast or bottle feeding, to sometimes having to choose between a natural labour or a caesarean section – there are so many decisions you need to make.

And – in my experience – not one of these important decisions are likely to come without opinions from others.

The C-section stigma

Especially the decision to opt for a C-section (even though that decision can often be taken out-of-the-hands of the mother due to health reasons).

A stigma around C-sections still very much exists. It can still often be referred to as the “easy” option.

Let’s start right there, I’ll state this clearly now: There is no easy option when it comes to birthing a child.

So why do we judge each other at times when we need nothing less than support?

I’m not saying everyone does it, but I know I’m not the only mum to have had comments from others – even other mums – about decisions I’ve made during and post-pregnancy.

Choosing between a natural birth or C-section

Recently I was faced with making that very pregnancy decision; to give birth naturally or opt for an elective section.

Not every mum is given the choice, but after being diagnosed with pre-eclampsia while pregnant with my son, Jacob, I had to undergo an emergency C-section at 38 weeks. I wasn’t given an option back then, baby just had to come out and I needed to get better.

But as I’ve had one C-section, that means with baby number two I was asked if I wanted to have a vaginal birth or an elective caesarean.

For me, personally, the decision has been fairly easy. But it didn’t come without a side of judgement and knowing I’d have to prepare myself for facing any potential unwelcome comments.

‘Missing out’ on labour

Now, I consider myself to be quite a strong-minded person. Well, at least when it comes to knowing what’s right for me and my health.

When comments like, “If I can push out babies, you surely can too” are dished out, I can roll my eyes and get on with my day.

However, not every woman is like me. Every woman feels and thinks differently – that’s okay, that’s a good thing.

But I haven’t always felt this comfortable speaking about the fact I’ve had a C-section.

When I gave birth to my son I was just about to turn 25. I’ll be honest, back then I didn’t know myself as well as I do now at 30.

I didn’t have the same level of confidence in myself, and if anyone had said anything bad about me I would have shattered – especially as a new mum.

Samantha’s son Jacob when he was less than a day old.

So when I spoke to other mums after the birth of Jacob, I suppose I felt somewhat inferior if they’d had a natural birth.

I remember feeling upset. As a mum, I wasn’t able to tell a story about how I pushed for 40 minutes, felt the “ring of fire” or bravely laboured for two days.

And I actually felt sad that I missed out on all that pain and suffering – even though I did suffer myself prior to and after surgery.

Samantha after she gave birth to her son Jacob in 2016.

I felt guilty, really guilty. I even questioned if I could say I gave birth.

Had I let myself down? Could I say I gave birth to my son? Or did I have to say I’d had an operation? Did a C-section leave me feeling less of a mum? Did I have to experience natural labour to feel like a ‘real’ mum?

All these doubts and insecurities swirled round in my first-time mum head – even though I was recovering from major abdominal surgery… even though my new scar ached, I was scared to stand straight in case my wound burst open, no heavy lifting and no driving for six weeks.

I wasn’t straight back on my feet after the C-section. It took time and perseverance through the pain of surgery.

Making a decision for baby number two

Today, I don’t feel that same guilt about having a C-section, but my feelings at the time were real and painful.

I’ll be honest, when I first started to think about how I’ll give birth to my second child, I did feel a twinge of doubt. Should I just give natural labour a go? To try to experience what I missed out on the first time? That’s despite the fact my gut told me a C-section was the best choice for me.

But three factors helped me to very firmly make up my mind and I’m sticking to them. I’m opting for an elective section and that’s because it’s what’s right for me and my baby.

The first factor was that I realised I shouldn’t care whether I’ve managed a natural birth or not. The most important thing when making a birth plan – I think – is that the mum is happy and confident with her decision.

Why should I fear other people’s opinions or any stigma, when it’s a decision affecting me and my baby only – not anyone else’s.

Samantha is now just over halfway through her second pregnancy.

A C-section might not involve labour contractions, but it still means enduring pain… to me that is labour enough.

Secondly, my physical and mental health come first.

In the future I hope to have surgery to create a J-pouch (a J-shaped bowel created by a surgeon using my small intestine). I need this surgery because I have Ulcerative Colitis – a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease – and this led me to needing emergency stoma surgery last year.

So my physical health is very important to me. I don’t want to take the risk of damaging what’s left of my rectum – if that did happen, it might lessen my chances of a J-pouch.

Equally, and lastly, my mental health is also key. Having gone through the trauma I suffered last year, I don’t want to live in fear of the unknown – that being a vaginal delivery. A C-section is terrifying, but to me, it’s familiar.

End the stigma

They say a mother knows best, but that doesn’t mean we need to pass judgement on other mums – and neither should anyone else. Every single mum is different.

What works for one mother may not work for another, and likewise with babies, too.

When a mum is facing the decision between a C-section and a natural birth, she needs to know there is no wrong decision. It’s about making the best decision for each individual.

If mum is happy and healthy, and baby is being delivered safely, then who is anyone to pass comment other than congratulations?

The only way the stigma around a C-section will cease to exist is if we stop judging each other.

No one should feel or be made to feel guilty about having their baby delivered safely.