She’s a 25-year-old mother of one 5-year-old boy. She had a miscarriage last year. She’s come into the maternity ward, in labor and excited to meet her baby. Her bag of water breaks while she’s sitting waiting to be admitted. She’s 2cms dilated. I put her on the EFM machine & her baby “looks” and sounds great. We have some time and centimeters to go...
She comes well prepared with ALL of her records, a rarity here. She has with her, all ultrasound reports (of which there are several), all prenatal lab work (to include not the customary one, but 3, rapid HIV), her last annual exam and her card from the health clinic detailing all her prenatal care. She’s well spoken, obviously eager, and very healthy.
Upon admission, I do a physical exam and look her over from head to toe. Any swelling? Mild. Any tattoos? Nil. Any scars? Well, yes. As she looks down to her abdomen- I see a thin, well-healed 7-inch long scar along her bikini line, previously obstructed by her gravid belly. “I had a c-section.”
She proceeds, gracefully, through a normal and unremarkable labor. She pushed her baby out with confidence, ease and not a bit of (outwardly apparent) fear. I congratulate her as I’m drying her baby girl off. I clamp and cut the cord as I hear the midwife say to her: “You pushed your baby out! You can call yourself a mother now! “
I gave pause in that moment as a variety of emotions raged. We all know the depth and range of emotions that cesarean births are SO steeped in, for better for worse. It’s reprehensible that anyone would strip a sense of motherhood away from a woman who has undergone a cesarean birth.
I have witnessed the power that vaginal births have to transform women. I have also had the great pleasure and honor of also witnessing the absolute, deep and cellular healing a vaginal birth confers upon a women who have a triumphant and successful VBAC. I would argue though, that a vaginal birth does not a mother make.
This woman looked to me after I got her all cleaned up and ready to be wheeled back onto the ward, “Am I really a mother now?” “You already were.” I replied as I placed her beautiful baby girl into her waiting arms.