No labour pains, not really a mother!

By Sabrina Almeida

Appalled by the recent phenomenon of birth shaming? We should all be! With the tremendous progress women have made socially and professionally, one would have thought that we have left all the traditional mumbo jumbo aside.

Unfortunately a misguided notion (and the latest Western trend towards everything “organic”) that suffering labour pains and having a “natural” birth is the only way to become a real mother, has led to the shaming of women who undergo a C-section by self-appointed keepers of a self-established gold standard.

Yes, like others I too always inquire whether it was a natural delivery but my question arises out of concern for the mother’s physical not moral health. Having known several women who were forced to have C-sections, I am closely aware of how painful recovery can be and that future births are likely to be surgical in nature as well.

What is difficult to digest is that these modern day birth-shamers have the same thinking as some of our orthodox and ill-informed grandmothers. They too were of the opinion that a C-section was a “shortcut” and that women who opted for surgery (some do) were selfishly unwilling to suffer the pain associated with childbirth. A shameful thing to do in their eyes! No pain, no gain, right?

Given how we women have shouted ourselves hoarse about being allowed to choose whether or not we want children, why is it anybody’s business how a woman decides to bring them into the world?

A natural birth is typically recommended for health reasons as is a C-section in certain situations. Even if a woman opts for surgery because she is fearful of the natural birthing process like a friend was, or any other reason, how does that affect her parenting capabilities?

Furthermore, why does pain have to be the baptism into true motherhood? I took an epidural during my first delivery. Does that mean I was less motherly towards my older child? Isn’t it ironic that nobody chastises individuals for their use of analgesics (or anesthesia where allowed) for other minor procedures even routine teeth cleanings, but that childbirth which is one of the most beautiful moments in a woman’s life should be mired in pain to be real. Or she doesn’t deserve it!

Regrettably women have always been subjected to unnecessary social scrutiny. Most often from other women. Professional accomplishments are quickly passed over as parenting and housekeeping skills come into question. It is not possible that they have it all together—something’s gotta give.

So the cold war between stay-at-home and working moms, and now natural birth and C-section moms, rages on. Friends have often remarked about how they were made to feel like they were unfit mothers who chose career over family.

Social media only makes a bad situation worse. Women in public eye, make that any woman sharing her “unnatural” birthing experiences, will never be able to live it down. The unofficial right to comment on situations that have no connection to one’s own life and vilify others, triumphs another’s right to choose and live life on their own terms. But hey, we have the right to say what we feel, don’t we?

To the women who spend precious moments handing out judgements in virtual social media courts, I’d say focus on your own family. Or the “bad mom” tag could soon be coming your way!

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