Book Review: Cesarean Voices

I have never had a cesarean. I have several friends who have, and they all have very different stories to tell. Some were happy with their experiences, others less so. One even grieves deeply over hers, and wonders if things could have been different.

I have learned that, like normal birth, each woman’s cesarean experience is different.

I have learned that probably half of all cesareans performed in the U.S. are probably unnecessary.

I have learned all kinds of facts and statistics about cesareans, and have studied how I can best support women through their cesareans as a doula.

One piece I have always felt was missing from my knowledge about cesareans, and the reasons they are performed, is the human factor. Most women I know are fairly reluctant to talk about their cesareans with me, because my personal births are at the opposite end of the spectrum. I often wonder if they feel I will condemn or judge them harshly for having a cesarean. Of course, that is not the case, but how are they to know that?

I will not pretend to understand what it’s like to undergo major surgery in order to birth my babies. I have no idea what it’s like, but I sometimes wish I did.

I mentioned this desire to a woman I admire greatly, who has a remarkable tale to tell of her own. Desirre Andrews, of whose birth stories I have heard only snippets, has experienced both cesarean births and natural VBAC’s (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). She recommended this book to me in order to help me see the struggle many cesarean moms go through, no matter how well or how necessary their cesarean was. Of course, not all women feel this way about things, but many do.

This book opened my eyes.

It shares, verbatim, the stories women posted online in response to a first-time mother’s question: “Why shouldn’t I have a cesarean?”

It was a hard book to read, and my heart physically ached for these women who are still hurting years after their cesareans – physically, emotionally, and even spiritually.

As a doula, I was taught that telling a struggling cesarean mom that she should be “grateful for her healthy baby” is like a slap in the face. Though I could understand why intellectually, this book helped me take that to heart. How callous and hurtful that statement is to a mom who is obviously NOT healthy in the face of her cesarean!

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to all childbirth professionals – especially if you have never had a cesarean. I would also recommend it to moms who find themselves hurting after their cesareans, and have had trouble articulating what they need. I think it has the potential to be a reassurance to these women that they are not alone. Plus, since it points women to the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN), it also has the potential to bring women to a wonderful resource where they can find practical support in whatever area they need it most.

I will caution you though, it can be rough reading. It’s very raw, very real, and very emotional. If you are sensitive to these kinds of things, it might be a very difficult read.

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