As a mother of two young girls, a wife and a full-time medical specialist, I have tried hard to avoid the trap of ‘guilty parenting’. I am sure many of you know this challenge. There are never enough hours in the day to satisfy all the demands of life and I do not believe there are any true superwomen.
When it comes to parenting, my youngest daughter challenges me most, battling the reality that I am not the stay-at-home mother that she desires.
So what am I left to do?
The answer is simple. When I am working, my priority is the women I am privileged to care for and share with. When I am at home, my priority is my daughters, shared with my husband. Somewhere in the left over hours I find time for the other important parts of life – without all these I could never be the woman, mother, wife or medical specialist I strive to be.
Balancing these many dimensions of life is not easy. Importantly I must be kind to myself and choose to not let guilt be yet another emotion added to the mix.
I sometimes hear my obstetric colleagues talk of the guilt they see some women feeling having needed or chosen a caesarean section as their own birth experience. I find myself saddened that this guilt is a distressing reality for many women. How is it that as women's healthcare providers we have allowed this emotion to persist and perpetuate in our community?
A woman’s birthing journey should primarily be about safety. Safe mother. Safe baby.
The birth itself represents a profound life changing moment in every family’s life. But it is just that, one moment. Don’t get me wrong – I will always remember the first moment I laid eyes on my daughters. Their vaginal births were incredibly special moments in our lives. But being a parent is so much more than the birth moment.
As a parent you make daily decisions that you feel will be best for your family. As a mother or parent to be, it’s no different.
Choosing the way in which your baby is born is a very personal decision.
For most obstetricians and women, a vaginal birth beckons first. But if you need to choose a caesarean section, because it is safest for you physically or psychologically, or because it is the safest way for your baby, then that is the best decision. A decision each woman and her family should feel empowered to make if needed, guided and supported by their obstetrician. Remember: safe mother, safe baby.
With one in three Australian women having a caesarean section today, we can no longer call vaginal birth ‘normal’ – this is language from the past that carries unnecessary judgement.
So I challenge both my colleagues and their women to be kind and not to have any guilt about the way in which they birth. The focus should be on high quality medical care, parental education and support, and safely bringing a new life into the world.
The rest, including the route of exit, is important but still secondary to the experience and safety of each woman, her baby and their needs as unique individuals.