A Personal History of the C-Section

A Personal History of the C-Section
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A Personal History of the C-Section

A Personal History of the C-Section

it would be a lie – or at least incomplete truth – to deny that part of me yearned for natural childbirth as the threshold of redemption. I had never fully treated my body as an ally. I had starved myself to reduce it and had spent years drinking until the blackout and various other dangers. Pregnancy already felt like a more redemptive chapter in this strained body-mind relationship: I was taking care of another little body inside of mine! Everything my body ate nourished hers. All the blood that was circulating in my heart was flowing in his. Giving birth to him would not only be the culmination of his nine months of incubation, but would also be a refutation of all the ways that I have abused or punished my body over the years, all the ways that I have treated it. as a burden rather than as a collaborator. My mind resisted this logic, but I could feel – on a visceral, cellular, hormonal level – its gravitational pull.

“Silent Knife: Cesarean Prevention & Vaginal Birth After Cesarean,” an influential anti-cesarean manifesto published by writers Nancy Wainer Cohen and Lois Estner in 1983, insists that what he calls a “pure-birth” isn’t is “not a cry or a demand for perfection,” although the definition ends up sounding a little … demanding: “Birth without any medical intervention. He is self-determined, self-confident and self-sufficient. The unspoken tension of the whole book is also the unspoken tension embedded in the larger game against Caesarean sections: between acknowledging the trauma of a Caesarean and reinforcing or creating that trauma by presenting the Caesarean as a compromised or lesser birth. A section titled “Voices of the Victims” quotes women traumatized by their caesarean sections: “It was like I was raped,” one woman said. “There was nothing I could do but wait for it to be over.” A father said, “A c- sec is one of the worst mut ilations that can be perpetrated on a woman as well as a denial of a woman’s fundamental right to give birth.

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Inspired by Ina May Gaskin’s famous statement that “you can repair the body by working on the mind,” Cohen and Estner argue that our wombs are cluttered with “unresolved stress or fears” that hamper the birth process, but that they can be swept aside. through self-awareness to “open a passage for a normal birth”. The implication is that conversely, the emotional baggage could be “to blame” for a Caesarean. Reading the book 38 years after it was written, I immediately dismissed this notion. But another part of me – the part that had been conditioned all my life to take responsibility for the impossible ideals of motherhood – was not immune to this magical thought. In secret, I had indulged in my own favorite theories about the possible psychological causes of my Caesarean: my eating disorder, my abortion, my maternal ambivalence. Had I abused my body so much that it refused to give birth naturally in retaliation? Had I been more attached to the idea of ​​being a mother than I was prepared for the reality of being a mother? Did my labor stop – as my baby’s heart rate was slowing – a sign of this unconscious reluctance?

If “Silent Knife” was written to restore women’s agency by repelling the tyrannical paternalism of Caesarean sections, then there is a different tyranny embedded in its ostensible agency restoration, a tyranny that endures today: a script of self-control that can become another straitjacket, another iteration of claustrophobic maternal ideals. Expressing compassion for a woman who feels like an inadequate mother because she did not give birth “naturally” can easily imply that she should feel that way. Many of the ideas that “Silent Knife” made explicit years ago are still deep forces shaping childbirth today, even though people are less likely to admit them: the idea that childbirth by Cesarean section is less “real” than it might involve a lack of will or a lack of mind.

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Motherhood is instinctive, but it is also hereditary: a set of circulating ideals that we meet and absorb. The fact that we are constantly being shaped by external models of an internal impulse makes women intensely vulnerable to accounts of “right” or “real” motherhood, and all the more likely to feel rebuked or excluded by them. A woman’s right to express her preferences during the childbirth process is increasingly a priority, and rightly so, but it is easy to fetishize these preferences as the ultimate proof of women’s empowerment, when they are, of course, also shaped by the forces of society. It is a kind of partial view to present the desire of a naturally born woman as an unpolluted female agency badge, when this desire has been shaped by all the voices extolling natural birth as the consumption of the natural birth. female identity of a woman.

Like my daughter went from newborn to infant to toddler, dreamed of getting a tattoo on my abdominal scar. There are entire Pinterest boards full of C section scar tattoos and Instagram hashtags dedicated to them (#csectionscarsarebeautiful): angel wings, diamonds, draped pearls, flaming guns. Ganesh, the obstacle remover. A blue rose unfolding in cursive: “The imperfection is magnificent.” More daring Gothic writing: “LA RUINE DE L’HOMME”. A “Star Wars” scene of two camouflaged fighters approaching the Death Star. A partially unzipped zipper to show a lurking eye inside. A pair of ready-to-cut scissors along a dotted line, inked next to the scar itself. A optical illusion of a paper clip piercing the skin, as if it were holding the abdomen together through the line of its rupture. My favorites are those in which the scar is intentionally incorporated into the design itself. A low cross section becomes the thorn of a feather or a branch full of cherry blossoms. These tattoos do not try to hide the scar from view, but rather implement it as part of a larger view. I began to imagine, on my skin, a row of songbirds on a string.

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The fantasy of this tattoo was part of a deeper calculation with the question of whether I want to tell the birth – to myself, to others – as miraculous, traumatic, or just mundane, a mundane necessity. Back when I first started considering a tattoo, I read the memoir from an Oregon writer named Roanna Rosewood titled “Cut, Staple, and Fix: When a Woman Got Her Body Back and Gave Birth on his own terms after a caesarean section “. My inner Sontag (“Illness is not a metaphor!”) Bristled at the approval of a mother on the front flap: “I blamed my midwife for my failure to progress, but I secretly knew it was me; my lack of confidence led to my failure. Although I did not appreciate what I interpreted as the book’s reverence for vaginal birth as the only “true” genre, I could recognize – if I was honest with myself – that my resistance is. also born of the fear of having missed an extraordinarily powerful experience. . When I read Rosewood’s statement that “a clean, passive birth is like a stand-alone birth in the same way that an annual check-up looks like having sex,” it made me feel deeply stupid – like if I understood the birth of my daughter as the most powerful experience of my life. (which I did) was kind of like mistaking a Pap test for an orgasm.

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