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Extract This

Sara, of Flutterby Butterfly, wrote a post entitled, “Do You Judge or Support the CSection Mommy?” wherein she says, in (large) part, cesarean moms looking for support online will find: (emphasis Sara’s) 

“Instead of congratulations, you're more likely to get note of sympathy, like you lost someone. You'll be told that it was probably not really not needed. You will be told that the cascade of interventions caused it. You will be told that the epidural was responsible. You will be referred to ICAN and the Unnecessarian (sic). You will be told that maybe next time you can try for a VBAC. You will (be) encouraged to try an HBAC.  If you refer to the c section as a birth, you will be corrected and informed that it was just an extraction. You will be told that your bond with the baby isn't as good as the bond that is created by vaginal birth. You will be told that you should have trusted birth more. 

“If you give your reasons for the c-section, you will be told that whatever it was (pre-eclampsia, nuchal cord, breech, transverse, high blood pressure, twins, big baby) was just a variation of normal. 

“In other words:  The amazing and joyful experience of bringing your child into the world will be torn apart and judged as not good enough.  The wonderful moments of meeting your baby for the first time will torn apart and judged as not good enough.  The reasons that you had a c-section in the first place will be torn apart and judged as not good enough.” 

What Sara says is so true it makes my stomach turn. What the heck is with women that they have to terrorize new moms, making them second (and third and fourth) guess what happened during their labors and births? Why is it so important to make women feel like crap about their births? Who does that serve? Certainly not the healing mother. 

Yet, in the original thread in Facebook, other women said: 

“I experienced the opposite of what this blogger describes. After my c/s, I was depressed, angry, and bitter. I so so wish someone had told me that it was ok to feel this way. Instead, I got the ‘at least you have a healthy baby’ and no one seemed to understand why I felt the way I did. This made me feel even more alone, even more guilty for the poor bonding, and pushed me further into depression. I was ECSTATIC when I found out that there were people that felt the way I did after my c/s and that I wasn't alone or crazy-- I sought them out, not the other way around.” 


… finding (virtual) support at long last, I also learned that my hellish-induced-labor-turned-c-section-and-eleven-days-at-NICU was not a birth. Nothing's perfect in this world, I suppose.” 

What the heck is this “extraction” crap? I suppose I’m not supposed to contradict another woman’s perception of birth, but what Sadist started this “extraction” crap? 

Can I tell you how sorry I feel for the child born of a mother who says she didn’t give birth to the kid? That s/he was “an extraction,” like an infected tooth or a cancerous mole? What is that going to do for his or her self-esteem? Has anyone thought that far ahead yet? What a horrible set-up for loving parenting, starting out thinking your baby was “extracted” from your body. 

Birthing occurs in far more places than the vagina. We birth ideas. We give birth to ourselves as understanding occurs through introspection. We’re reborn when we embrace a new religion. Birth is a beautiful metaphor for many aspects of our lives on earth. Can’t birth via cesarean at least be a metaphor for the beginning of a new life despite the baby not coming via the vagina? 

Women in many places around the world would give their lives to have a cesarean birth… and do, by having vaginal births that kill them. Do you think that women in Somalia have a remote belief that a cesarean isn’t a birth? Puh-lease. What an amazingly arrogant luxury it is for a woman in our culture to pick apart the way/location/method of birth, designating a cesarean as a non-birth when so many women are dying in other regions and countries. And for the women that die, there are many others who would have killed to avoid the trauma of an obstructed vaginal birth. Ask the women who are now non-persons because of their obstetric fistulas whether they believe a cesarean is an “extraction” or not. Or the women who delivered dead babies vaginally when a cesarean would have saved their babies’ lives. 

Quit being dramatic, you Extraction Queens. Find a way to get over your selfish belief your birth wasn’t real because of the location the kid entered the world from. That doesn’t mean mourning a vaginal birth isn’t warranted (if that is your inclination; not all women need to), but it does mean to knock it off about the desire to use shock value to get pity from others.

Enough already.

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Reader Comments (32)

There are times in my doula work where I need to talk to other birth workers to help me process a birth that went sideways. But there are also several of my birth acquaintances who I simply cannot discuss a birth with, because no matter what happened, they will tell me that if my client had a "real" midwife there wouldn't have been any problems.

I had a client go to cesarean after everything else had failed and she said "this is the worst possible scenario." And while I wanted to respect her feelings, I had to reassure her that no, in fact, it was not. She had tried her best to have the birth she wanted, had put a good team in place and done the physical and emotional work, but it wasn't in the cards for her, and now being in a good hospital with trained and practiced surgeons was a best case scenario for her. I shudder to think what some of the more militant doulas would have said to her in that situation.

There are some in the birth world who want every birth that is not an undisturbed vaginal birth to be someone's FAULT, because it couldn't possibly be true that sometimes nature isn't perfect.

January 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Thorson, Doula

I was in agreement with you until you started judging and "terrorizing" those mama's who feel like they didn't give birth. This is so mean-spirited. Where's your compassion?

January 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteramanda

As a 3x c-sec mother, thank you. My children were born, not extracted. Birth is just 1 day in a child's life, and 1 day of a mother's life. Birth does not, or rather *should not* define a woman. We are more than how we birth. We are more than the sum of or functioning of our parts.

January 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. P.

Hear hear! I'm so tired of those who didn't need or have a C/S chastise those who did. Having a baby by cesarean is a birth....it can be a beautiful and happy experience. It's a birth! Certainly, women are entitled to mourn the loss of their ideal birth but let's not go overboard. I know sections are sometimes done unnecessarily, but for women who had one, let's not make it worse for them!

January 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTiffany

I love this. Gave me chills. Thank you.

January 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

Bless ICAN and the work they do, but this is why I had to step away from the organization. There are damaged souls who spend a lot of time and energy shoving their wounds in the faces of tender, sad, new mothers and reframing their experiences for them. That is not ALL it was, of course, like I say, ICAN does great work- but within their ranks, not all is well.

When I had my cesarean I felt a lot of those things. I did feel like she was extracted from me, definitely. I felt that I was unnecessary to the process, just the vessel that delivered hte child, in utero, where someone else could remove her from me. But as I was laying on the table in a terrified haze that my baby would die, thinking too, that I was also about to die, I was not sowing seeds to feed myself later. I just wanted my baby to live. It didn't matter to me that I had to go through this for her. I could feel a little sorry for myself later, and I did, as you know. ;) But it wasn't a place I wanted to *hang out* and make a career out of. I didn't want to perpetuate MY wounds on OTHER people.

I think this is the heart of it- I truly think that the birth wound gives some women an identity that they'd never have otherwise - they become confident, knowledgeable, and respected when they might not feel this way in other areas of their lives. I think that is important and not something that should be dismissed- it's POWERFUL. We all deserve to feel these things. It's not wrong that women should reap the positive rewards from their births, I hope we'd all agree.

The problem lies in any situation when human beings are interacting with each other when the foundation of our intercourse are our wounds. In our birth culture, we give audience to the loudest, most hurt, most seemingly knowledgeable. We automatically give a platform (You have a platform too, right?) to anyone who can repeatedly state their point of view with any semblance of intelligence. If they say it enough, they sound like they're right and we start to believe it.

We start to believe that maybe WE were wounded too, where we might not have felt that way before. The sad thing is that we don't realize that it wasn't the birth that wounded us! It was the story we were given about it by the embracing arms of our community.

If we taught each other to ask questions, rather than to tell stories, when someone is telling us their birth story, how might that change things? If we were taught to trust mothers to choose wisely for themselves, that they should get to know their birth story in their own way and in their own timeline - this would change so much.

Why do we feel the urge to tell women that their births were damaging? Because then WE are SEEN.

January 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristina

I have compassion... I feel sorry for the women who don't feel they've given birth. Very, very sorry for them.

January 15, 2012 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Kristina: Brilliant!

January 15, 2012 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I commented on this exact thing in your recent doula post, so I won't repeat myself.
I guess I will never understand why people love to be in other people's business so much. Who cares how someone else delivered? And why do you care so much to base your life on it? The outcome of a living, breathing baby is more important to me than pushing it out my vagina.
People are strange, I guess. Just like I don't care who gets married, who has abortions, who practices what religion, who nurses vs who formula feeds. I don't care how another woman delivers her child. I have better things to worry about. People's private lives are best left to them. Whatever works for you, is my general opinion.

January 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulia

also, in response to amanda, what do you mean that Barb is terrorizing anyone? Did I miss something?

January 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulia

Compassion doesn't imply that women who use the term extraction are sadists. Compassion doesn't call these women drama queens. Compassion doesn't call them selfish. Compassion doesn't suggest that these women use shock value to gain pity. I'm suggesting that if these same women read Barb's post, they might feel terrorized by Barb. Horribly judged for sure. Barb - I usually love your posts but this one not so much. "Extraction Queens" - who's going for shock value?

January 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

I think the trouble lies in the idea it is insurmountable to get past the often very real, very big feelings, because you can't do it over, how you regard it needs to remain static as time passes. I was very upset about the birth after my first child was born, now I am at peace with both births, the second more an aww-shucks things didn't go to plan vs the trauma of the first - not because I successfully had a HBAC as planned, but because it was a good experience in and of itself that also shed light on the first one.

I don't miss having what some people get with an uncomplicated birth at home, because *now* it feels like having a tantrum over not getting the right ice-cream on a day out, as opposed to a great loss. And there is truth in the "healthy baby" statement as time passes, stings fade and you see others not bring their babies home, things shift. But it is like if women move on, there is no passion for going after the medical community, no worshipping the dogma of how birth should be. Ideally all women should come out of birth feeling cared for and positive, but it is skewed to think that when they don't, it is always a tragedy, not just a sharp disappointment

January 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Navelgazing Midwife- I think you are confused about what compassion means. "Feeling sorry" for someone is a passive aggressive away of pretending you are being compassionate. It's not kind. You are pitying them, which is about as far away from compassionate as someone can get. It's also extremely arrogant and NO different than women who "feel very, very, sorry" for women who have had c/sections.

When is all of this going to end? Women dismissing women for having c/sections, women dismissing women for feeling trauma from their births. Why do women treat each other this way? I'm disappointed that you would continue the cycle. The women who were used as examples in this post were totally trashed by you. Where does THAT get anyone?

January 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKS Mama

There is a world of difference between women mourning a cesarean and women using the word "extraction" for their child's birth.

I understand and totally support... and work with... women mourning their cesareans. I *do* have compassion for them... loving, gentle patience with the process. I've worked with dozens of women as they process their experiences.

It is, specifically, the women who deny their children's births that I am addressing here. And you are right; it is pity.

January 15, 2012 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

They are denying a word, not denying that their children were born or that they love them. And they deserve compassion too; they are also mourning their births. Do we get to pick and choose who gets compassion for feeling that they had a traumatic birth and who doesn't? And does it not make sense that a person who is claiming their baby was 'extracted', is probably the most distraught by the experience of their birth? I would argue that someone who is using that term, is in need of real healing and may even still be experiencing PPD. Those women deserve the most compassion of all.

January 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKS Mama

It's too bad the point of what Barb is saying gets completely lost in her presentation.

Barb knows she has judgments. She gets told this frequently (including by me) - the common thread is that we all have them, she's just willing to put hers up on the internet. It doesn't make her a better or worse person than anyone else.

Let's not lose the point of what could be a really great discussion! I was really hoping to see more comments on this sucker!

January 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristina

Yeah, I was just coming to write that this is obviously a sore spot for me and that's just the way it is.

Thanks for saying it first, Kristina.

January 16, 2012 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I was planning a home birth but when my complete placenta previa never budged, we suddenly were planning a cesarean. I was devastated and so very worried. There's a lot more I could say on the entire topic, but I just had to chime in with at least one specific point.

I was blessed to find this fantastic OB (that was actually partially trained by my homebirth CNM while he was in residency) and he worked with us to get nearly all of the "family centered cesarean" things we wanted. Overall, we had an amazing birth! We felt respected and honored and the birth empowered me in ways I never thought a cesarean birth could. A wonderful lesson for this pretty crunchy someday-midwife to learn.

I'm an ER nurse and one day, my OB was the one on call and coming to the ER for one of my patients. We had a fantastic reunion and as a coworker watched and asked about my birth and who was my doctor, I pointed (more like waved jazz hands) at my OB. I say "Joel was! He...umm...he was there for her birth." And realized I didn't have good terminology for his role.

I planned on catching, or having someone else catch, my baby if she had been born vaginally. But now I was describing this other situation and realized I didn't have a good term. Picked up? Got? Certainly not the evil "delivered"! ;)

He was such a gentle OB and made sure the entire OR was as well and my daughter's birth was so very sacred. I didn't watch her being born, but as I now tried to imagine her birth and Joel "getting her", I pictured him very gently cradling her as he handed her off to other staff who then got her to my husband who immediately brought her to me (skin to skin in the OR at 1 minute; crawling to the breast and latching on soon after; never leaving our sight for our 2 day stay. Win, win, win!). And I realized I had my term: Joel may not have "caught" my daughter, but he "cradled" her out. That is exactly how she was *born*. No extractions. But a loving set of hands then arms cradling her out and into the arms of her parents. That's the kind of terminology we use (and the sort of cesarean birth I wish for anyone who needs one).

January 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTracy CB

Tracy: As I was reading, I, too, thought of the word "cradling" and it is perfect! I love that you described your birth so awesomely. Oh, to have ALL cesareans so wonderfully.

Cradling. Really beautiful.

January 17, 2012 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

After two natural, vaginal births I had a c-section. I know what the physical act of giving birth feels like. It's something I will never forget. My c-section was nothing like that. I've let myself think, several times since her birth, that I did not give birth to her. I don't like to dwell on it and haven't mentioned it to anyone. This post hurts.

January 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Of course it doesn't FEEL like a vaginal birth! It's out your uterus and belly, not out the vagina, but that doesn't mean the baby didn't come out of you. (I get that my justifications aren't going to change how you feel one iota.)

The post might hurt, but it won't hurt nearly as much as your child will hurt hearing you say you didn't birth her. I hope you are able to come to terms with this before she's old enough to understand. And that you delete anything you ever said about it. I see a slew of very pained children in our future.

January 18, 2012 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Once again, I'm the bad guy. Unbelievable. You are seriously lacking in compassion these days. Maybe you should focus on writing about yourself instead of the way women birth and how they're allowed to feel about it. Just for a while.

January 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

No, Sarah... you see it the way you want to. And just because I don't agree with you, I should stop writing about birth things? Not going to happen. What I say needs to be said... and heard. There are plenty of women who agree with me that I know I'm on the right track.

I don't see you as "the bad guy." I see you as hurt, but hope you're able to reach out beyond the pain to find a way to heal. You and your child can only benefit from your healing.

January 18, 2012 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Is not using the term "birth" so horrible? I had an emergent cesarean for my fifth birth, after previously having four natural, medication free vaginal births. I believe a c/s was the appropriate call, I was completely on board with it, and based on what was going on I may have asked for one if the doctor hadn't recommended it. Still, afterwards I felt that I had prepared for something, labor and birth, that didn't happen. I wasn't disappointed, or upset, but it did seem as though I had skipped something, and it felt weird to say that I'd "given birth." At the same time, these feelings weren't upsetting, because by the fifth I didn't view giving birth as the point, I viewed getting the baby out whole and healthy as the point. My husband and I joke that the baby was born by "babyectomy." I supposed that "extraction" is an appropriate technical term, although the common medical term is "delivered by cesarean." I still don't talk about when I "gave birth" to my fifth but instead when "he was delivered," because "giving birth" to me means the labor and vaginal delivery process. That doesn't mean I'm whiny or a drama queen, because I also don't care about giving birth like I did when I'd first gone through Bradley classes and had my first few kids. If I ever have another, I'm about equally divided between trying a VBAC or choosing an ERCS. I still understand the thinking that a c/s delivery is something different to, although not necessarily worse than, giving birth.

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBecky

Thankfully I haven't experienced any of this. I had homebirth --> c-section due to severe malpresentation (OP asynclitic face/brow presentation) after 40 hours of labor and I've always felt pretty good about how my birth went. Yes, it sucked, but my surgery was ostensibly quite necessary, I did everything I could, and while I won't be signing up for another c-section it was a good experience. Most of my friends, many of whom are homebirthers, have been very supportive of my feelings towards my experience and I've NEVER had anyone suggest my section was unnecessary or someone's fault. I've had a few people who don't follow natural birth stuff pull the "all that matters is a healthy baby" card or call my birth their idea of hell, but it really wasn't traumatic for me.

February 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Here, here! Thank you for putting this so well. I am sick of women bashing c-sections as the devil's work when in a lot of cases, it's the only thing that ensured that these women went home a MOTHER with a living, breathing BABY. Enough with the wallowing already.

February 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

Tracy CB, thank you so much for 'cradling'. My Gyn/OB/Midwives group lets you choose if you are low risk, and I decided to stay with my Gyn/OBs becasue I was comfortable with them from being a gyn patient there so long. My OB was so great to me when it became obvious that my son's head was turned too far to the side to come out in the right direction (despite much trying on all our parts to get his head to move)- she knew how much I had hoped for a vaginal birth and was super supportive in making the experience as much the same as possible before during and after. My OB definitely 'cradled' him out and into the arms of my husband and I, and he stayed with us the rest of the stay.

February 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRegan

We all have a right to feel whatever we feel. No one and nothing can condemn a person for their feelings. What matters is the actions one chooses as a result of those feelings - and that's where we, as humans, look away from our base, primitive, animal natures and towards higher reasoning and compassion. I, for example, feel robbed by my birth experience - by the medical staff who blindsided me and urged me into an unneeded c-section for my posterior boy. By the way I met my son for the first time (thirsty, exhausted, afraid, aching, 45 minutes after his birth in a cold, bright 'recovery' room, paralyzed from the ribs down, clutching him close to me with the only body parts I could feel - my arms). By the excruciating recovery. By all those people on their high horses who insisted that all that mattered was a healthy baby. By the way I, while nursing my son every 1-2 hours and maintaining skin-to-skin nearly all day, every day, still failed to feel a connection with him besides fear and stress for the first few months of his life.

I feel like the birth of my son was not my birth experience and his, intertwined, as it should have been. My experience - cold, shivering, strapped down, numb and breathless on my back. Waiting to find out if anything went wrong, not knowing whether I or my son would make it out unscathed. His experience - being wrenched abruptly from his warm, safe home by a man whose face and voice and smell he doesn't know, suctioned harshly & thoroughly, weighed and labeled with a wrist and ankle band, scrubbed dry by a rough old hospital receiving blanket, thrust into the arms of his father who he knows only by voice. I feel like in meeting him for the first time, I failed him. At the same time, I feel like I'm doing a good thing for myself and women and children everywhere by reminding people that more than half of all c-sections are unnecessary and actually put more lives at risk than they save, and that it is GOOD to feel whatever you're feeling about the birth experience. After all, it's YOUR experience. YOU own it. Feeling whatever you feel and labeling it as you see if it is part of coping with it, and that's your right and responsibility. I say the woman who owns her birth experience, whatever it may be, is better off than the woman who detaches from the trauma of it completely, denies that it ever existed, puts on a face for the rest of the world that confirms the attitude of 'all that matters is a healthy baby'.

February 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaddy

I was with you, Maddy, until you said this:

I say the woman who owns her birth experience, whatever it may be, is better off than the woman who detaches from the trauma of it completely, denies that it ever existed, puts on a face for the rest of the world that confirms the attitude of 'all that matters is a healthy baby'.

Isn't that a little (LOT) bit of judgement, too? I do think so.

February 20, 2012 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Thank you for saying this. I am sick and tired of the demonization of the C-section. Women who had bad experiences with their C-sections can and should be helped and supported.

The problem arises, imo, when women are taught that a C is the Worst! Thing! Evar! and that they should feel like they have failed if they end up having one. That's like being taught to feel bad if your car's air bags deploy after someone runs a red light and t-bones you at an intersection.

Our culture is saturated with stupid messages that try to convince women, and especially mothers, to feel bad about all sorts of things they can or can't control. Why add to the pile?

March 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSkepchick

I love this. Gave me chills. Thanks for taking the time to post this.

April 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercribs for twins

I'm so glad to see someone saying this. My mom has a really small pelvis; my over 6 pound baby brother was waaaaay too big for her (despite his twin already having come vaginally). I am SO tired of people saying she didn't have a "real birth" with him. WTH.

June 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterchatte noire

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