At the end of last week, I shared an article, on Facebook, about the rising c-section rate. It's something I feel quite strongly about, as I have experienced a c-section, and subsequently a VBAC.
I found it interesting, and sad, the responses I had. My heart ached for people who had multiple c-sections, yet who felt judged and criticised, by other Christian women, for what they had to go through. These women had no choice but to have a c-section, for various reasons. It's no small thing to go through. You are undoubtedly left with physical scars, but on top of that you can be left with emotional and mental scars. I was worried that some were thinking that I may be judging people for having a c-section, so a blog post seemed like the best place to share what I think about it all.
As with anything in life, my starting point is God's Word.
What does the Bible say about it all?
Well, obviously there were no c-sections in the Bible times, so looking at childbirth is the first place to start.
There are definite, unquestionable points you can make about childbirth.
1. It's the way God designed us to give birth.
God MADE women to have babies!
Under "normal" circumstances, the physical union that God has ordained, between a man and a woman, can lead to pregnancy. Obviously not always, depending on many factors, which I am not going to discuss. Circumstances, choices and health, would sum it up. However, as the pregnancy progresses, the inevitable looms. You need to have the baby exit! The Bible certainly talks about THAT part. It's not easy, but God designed our bodies to give birth. I find it incredible, thinking about the whole way it works. Something so large, exiting THERE! How the baby's skull is designed to squish as it exits. I have SEEN it moving, straight after delivery, as the parts of the skull gravitate back to where they should be. UH-MAZ-ING.
2. It's painful to give birth.
I watched a TV documentary last week. Some of the women were talking about how we shouldn't HAVE to have pain, and why shouldn't it be a pain-free experience?! Well, I am telling you, it's part of the curse, and it's just a fact - it hurts. Some
3. It's aided and supported by others.
Think of the canny midwives in Egypt, who prevented the death of countless babies, and who were commended by God.
So, there's not much else you can say, Biblically speaking, although they are important points.
Where do you go from there, when thinking about it all, then?
Well, I would shift my attention to the book of Proverbs.
You see, my point, in everything associated with childbirth, is that God has instructed us both to gain knowledge, and be wise, in life. We aren't somehow exempt when it comes to giving birth!
Let me jump back in time.
Years ago, childbirth was an extremely normal experience. It was an event that was supported by friends and family, and young girls would have known all about it, before having to do it for themselves. Family and friends would give advice, and they would have helped them to know the "ins and outs" of it all. There were no hospitals, or ante-natal classes. Just the others around you, to help you through. Experienced mothers would rally round, and help you through.
Of course, you can't ignore the patently obvious. The mortality rate of both mothers and babies, in days gone by (and I'm not even thinking further back than about 50-60 years ago!), was much higher. If there was a complication, there was little they could do. They didn't have the medical knowledge, or equipment to deal with the things that went wrong. It's a sad fact. Women may have had medical conditions, unknown to anyone, which made delivery impossible. They would have died. Placenta previa? You'd die. And the baby, too. Simple as that. Anatomical anomalies, preventing birth? You'd have died.
Now, let's fast forward to NOW.
We are living in a day and age where medicine has advanced INCREDIBLY, in the last 50 years - gracious, in the last TWENTY years! Babies that would have died 20 years ago, can now have fighting chance of survival. Mothers, too, with medical problems, can be cared for so much better. (I watched Call the Midwife last week - sad, sad, SAD..... women who were diabetic and pregnant would be advised to TERMINATE, 50 years ago! I have several friends who are thankful that life has changed since then!)
We have access to so much, that is life-changing for so many, and can save lives left, right and centre.
So, back to thinking about it Biblically.
What has changed, throughout the ages?
Have the medical problems been cured? Not at all. You just can't "cure" placenta previa. You can't "cure" a pelvis that's mal-aligned. You can't always "cure" a transverse presentation. You can't "cure" a cord wrapped around a baby's neck. You can't "cure" pre-eclampsia.
What HAS changed is the medical knowledge and advancement in equipment. We have scanning equipment, to detect abnormalities. We have c-sections available, to deliver babies that would otherwise either not be born alive, or would kill the mother in the process of being born. We have NICU's, packed with incredible equipment and staff. It's an incredible thing, really.
So, what do we do with THAT information?
It's back to the point about knowledge, and wisdom. Herein lies my concern.
Far too many women today, mostly through the fault of an overly medicalised approach to birth, and partly to do with the pressures of others, end up with births that are far from ideal. The reason? They have not made an INFORMED choice. Friends, it's God's design for us NOT to go through life without our brains, that HE designed incredibly, unengaged, but for us to THINK, and KNOW. As I say, Proverbs is FILLED with advice to gain wisdom and understanding. Did you think, somehow, that childbirth is exempt? Being such a life-changing event, it SHOULD involve us gaining wisdom and understanding! It's a God-honouring thing to make sure we understand ALL the choices we make in life. We cannot go through life passively, letting others make choices for you.
So, why should it matter what choices we make? Our body is the temple of the living God. We are to care for it, and, in so many different ways, protect it from injury and harm. Whether that's being wise about what we eat, what we drink, what pursuits we engage in, or how we give birth, we need to care for our bodies.
In this day and age, people are told "this is the way you must give birth", and they don't know enough to make an informed choice. They don't know if they are being spun a route of "convenience", or if they actually COULD do things differently. It's an extreme example, but a documentary I watched recently, talked about "freebirth". Now, in parts of the USA, I believe, unassisted childbirth (where you don't invite someone medical in to assist in the birth) is against the law. Subsequently, people think that's the case in the UK. It's not true. Now, personally, I wouldn't want to do that, but having the KNOWLEDGE to decide for yourself, is good, and right. Some people think that if you have had two c-sections, for emergency reasons (ie, something happens in labour that requires a c-section) then you can never attempt a natural delivery. Also not true.
Now, there ARE situations that necessitate a c-section. Placenta previa. Transverse, and sometimes breech, presentation. Pre-eclampsia. A pelvis that doesn't allow the baby to descend. There are others, of course, but these are common ones. In these situations, the baby, and mother, would almost certainly die, if you allowed a natural labour to proceed. It would be UNWISE to even TRY! God has GIVEN us both the wisdom and knowledge to know about these things, and the medical world to allow for it. WHAT a blessing! Had I not had access to medical monitoring, and surgical facilities, Abigail could very well have died. The cord was wrapped three times around her neck, and round her wrist, so that every time I had a contraction, and she would move further down, her heart rate would nearly disappear. I KNEW I needed a c-section, and I was VERY glad for it.
With Joshua, I could easily have ended up with a c-section. At one point, I was in so much pain I think I actually asked them to just cut me open right there in the labour room! I had gained knowledge, though. I knew that a c-section was harder to recover from. I knew, especially with my medical knowledge as a physiotherapist, what it DOES to your body. I knew it can hinder the number of children you can have. So, we did other things first, to try and prevent a surgical outcome. It worked. (Although, like a c-section, don't ever expect me to voluntarily have an epidural EVER again!) I ended up with an epidural, and a venteuse delivery. (The little suction cup thingy) He ended up with ant-biotics. I ended up with anti-biotics. It was a fairly harsh beginning to motherhood.
I learnt something VERY important, though. I didn't understand how labour worked, properly, and I trusted medical staff to unwaveringly. No-one picked up that he was presenting posteriorly. I laboured in the wrong position, which led to the catalogue of events that resulted. The midwife, who was supposedly monitoring me, didn't work it out, and told me to push when I felt pressure. IT was the wrong advice, and I wasn't informed enough to know any different.
So, after that, I decided to learn more. I went off and researched how to turn a posterior baby! I began my labour with Bethany with her lying posteriorly, but I managed to get her to turn! Whoop whoop! The next two births, I learnt more. The briths got a little better. After the c-section, a new determination came into force! I did NOT want to repeat the experience of a c-section. My c-section was a purely circumstantial one, and I didn't want an automatic "repeat". My recovery had been slow, with lots of yucky side effects, which were nowhere near as bad as they CAN be! I researched all the medical concerns of a VBAC. I researched how to have a labour that was not medicalised or rushed. I researched how to be in control of MYSELF - mentally, spiritually, and physically. The result? A MUCH better labour, and a VBAC! By God's grace and help, I did it! There was NO reason why I couldn't, and so it seemed wise to do things as naturally as possible, and the way that God designed us TO give birth!
I had a baby that was late, next. I thought you had to have an induction at 12 days over, and quite frankly, due to a lack of patience and peace, I just wanted to have my baby. Thankfully, my induction was very "simple", but still resulted in a near c-section experience, when the baby's heart rate seemed to disappear at one point. A sensible registrar was all it took to regain composure (an ultra-sound showed us a heart beating very happily, that just was hard to detect with a monitor! - sneaky boy!), and a normal delivery ensued. But only because I insisted, with the knowledge I had gained, that we didn't NEED to rush the process. We waited for my body to do it naturally, after my waters had been broken.
My knowledge was stretched further, and prayers for wisdom sought, when I had number 8. We felt led to attempt a home-birth, first and foremost because child care starts to get tricky! However, as we researched, and prayed, we saw there was no reason NOT to attempt it! Yes, we agreed that any hint of a problem we would HAPPILY go to hospital. Yes, we accepted that ANY hint of a problem before delivery, we would go to the hospital instead. We used our wisdom, and it worked out amazingly. BEST LABOUR EVER!
OK, so I just got a bit distracted. Can you tell I find child birth fascinating?
All that to say - we carefully made sure we had the right information, and then we were wise about what we DID with that information.
Now comes the key part.
Is there a "right" and "wrong" in all of this? Is one choice "sinful" and one more "holy"?
Anyone who tries to tell you it's a SIN to choose one way or another, is wrong. To make someone feel they have done the "wrong" thing, when they couldn't have done anything ELSE than what they did, is plain wrong. Fellow womankind - we should be doing everything we can to help and encourage each other, not make others feel bad! Now, that's not to say we shouldn't help others make WISE choices. I love to be able to help other Mums to know what their choices are, and how to labour "better". Knowing how much of a difference it can make, to have a quicker, and less complicated delivery, I passionately love to help other Mums!
(I still maintain, if at all possible - ie, there's not a serious medical reason to have a c-section - that you should TRY and have a "natural" delivery. It's a medical FACT that you recover better from a natural delivery, and you are less likely to have post-partum complications. It's easier to care for your baby, and get back to life as normal (NORMAL life?... whatever that is!...) Having done both, I certainly know how much better you feel after a natural delivery! It's also a FACT that a c-section is "major abdominal surgery". Anything that involves cutting through several layers of your body, is not something, in my opinion, you would, in your right mind, CHOOSE! (well, some do, but that's their CHOICE!))
I do not think, however, it is good or right to judge others, when they have already had to make a decision that breaks their heart. The scriptures exhort us to encourage each other and build them up. Making a woman, who already feels sad that she didn't get to have a natural birth, feel even WORSE, is just not kind or supportive. People seem to care far more about jumping on hobby horses, and sitting in judgement, than getting alongside other woman and helping them. Is it of any eternal significance HOW you give birth?? OF COURSE NOT! Do you think that God sits, looking at womankind, and somehow marks women down for needing a c-section? NO! He sees the hearts, sad and disheartened, and desires that they feel joy and comfort. We are the instruments of God - we should be supporting each other, in every way we can.
I don't think, either, that you always have to AGREE with others about their choices! You don't even need to like them. That's between you and the Lord, just as their choice is between them and the Lord, too. WE can NOT know the thoughts and intents of the heart. Only God can. It doesn't mean you don't help someone when they need it. And trust me, after a c-section, you NEED it! Lovingly, and tenderly, coming alongside someone, when you see a need, is what God wants us to do. Making someone feel guilty, when it's not our place to do so, is NOT.
We are in a warfare - a spiritual warfare. Fighting the devil, and all his cohorts, is hard enough, without fighting about things as secondary as childbirth. We should be able to make choices, without having conflict over it. It doesn't really matter WHAT you are making a choice about - childbirth, education, family, employment - we need to be more supportive of each other, less defensive, and more encouraging.
Dear, precious, sweet sisters in the Lord, who have ended up having c-sections, when they dearly wanted a natural delivery, I feel your pain. I know the disappointment. I know the sadness. Take encouragement in the knowledge that God has been SO kind and good, and allowed you to have those babies. Ask God for deaf ears, to ignore the negativity of those who would judge.
Dear, precious, sweet sisters in the Lord, who choose to do something different than I would. I don't always understand your choices, but I have enough to worry about in my own life, which is complicated and confusing at points, without worrying about YOUR choices! I am there to help you in any way I can, if you need it. I will give you advice and support, if you want it. Other than that, your life is between God and YOU. Not me.
Dear precious, sweet sisters in the Lord, who have "natural" deliveries that are traumatic and not how you wanted them to be. I feel your pain, too. I have had four deliveries like that. If you are blessed with more children, I can point you in the direction of articles, books, and other resources, that may help you the next time round. Get knowledge. pray for wisdom, and step forward in faith, knowing that God is able and willing to answer your prayers. I know He can, because He did it for me.
Childbirth does NOT need to be traumatic, if you know how things should work, and your medical rights.
That means we choose, and the path will be different for each of us, because we ARE all different.
It doesn't mean it always WILL work out that way. Knowing you have done all you can, for YOUR body, is the best you can do.
Supporting those who make different choices, is the best ALL of us can do. Curb your passion, whether it be pro-natural, or defensive about the way things worked out for you, and show grace in everything.
Above all else we are to show LOVE.
"Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;"
Just because you are passionate about something, doesn't mean you have free reign to throw out love, and all that entails. Do you see? Patience with others, even if they don't "get" what you choose. Not being envious of others who get something you DON'T get to do. Not being proud about what you do, as if someone else, that didn't do it, is lesser to you. Not having unattractive behaviour, that is unkind and hurts others. Not being selfish, and making choices that are only based on what YOU want, without thinking about the effect it has on others. Not easily getting riled up and angry about what others do. Not thinking badly of others who haven't been through what you have, or don't choose what you choose. What we SHOULDN'T be, are bullies. All over the Christian world, never mind outside of it, there is too much bullying of others, who make different choices. Bullies mock others, and try to force them to do things that they don't think it's right to do. It's a nasty way to behave, and the polar opposite of the love that we should extend to others. Get past your own prideful arrogance, and show others gentleness, support and love. Don't condemn others for their choices. If it's someone isn't sinning in their decisions, you mustn't be condemning. It doesn't mean compromising on truth. It doesn't mean you don't advise and encourage others. It means to have the right spirit and kindness, in all we say and do - showing compassion. Always.
All our hearts are sinful, and incline towards thinking we are right. I know much *I* struggle to understanding the choices of others. When you feel strongly about something, it requires much grace and patience to see the point of view of others. It's only pride that stops us from behaving the right way. We need grace, love, compassion and kindness, no matter what others choose to do.
To those who are sad about the births they have experienced, I pray that God grants you a healed mind, and a healed body. My heart aches for you. Try not to dwell on the past, but focus on today.
For those who have had births that were not ideal, but hope to have more babies, get out there and get knowledge, and ask God for wisdom. God has designed you to give birth, and with the right support, knowledge and information, it CAN be done! So long as there is no medical reason to avoid it, natural birth IS natural! It's not always EASY (and hey, we weren't EVER promised an EASY life!), but it's "natural".
How can I sum it all up? Natural childbirth was the way God made us to give birth. Sin has resulted in imperfection, which leads to pregnancy and birth having potential complications. It doesn't always go the way God intended, or the way we hoped. We all need to seek out knowledge and wisdom, then ask God to lead us accordingly, and make the choice that is right for US. Don't judge. Don't be unkind. Don't condemn. Be supportive. Be loving. Be compassionate.
I sincerely hope I have never made someone feel sad about their birth. I will, every chance I can get, advise people to be informed before making choices. I will, until my dying breath, encourage women to do all they can to understand child birth, so they can have the wonderful experience of giving birth without fear and complications. It's an amazing thing, if you are able do it. If you can't, how your child enters this world is NOT important. No-one ever asks you at a job interview "how did your mother give birth to you?"! The important part is how you raise them AFTER that point.
And that, my friends, is a whole other blog post!....
I'd love to hear what you think, and always want to learn from others. Please share with us about your experiences - you don't know how it might help!