I just found out I am a bad mother.
Not because I let the kids apply their own sun block, or because hot dogs are the major source of protein in our home in the summer. And not because I took them to the town fair and let them ride “the barf rides” 16 times.
No, apparently, according to a “leading childbirth expert,” I have failed since the very beginning to properly bond with any of my children because they were delivered by Caesarean section.
French obstetrician Michel Odent presented his findings in Cambridge, England last month, detailing how a woman who schedules a C-section does not experience a “release of hormones” that will allow her to “fall in love” with her child.
A hormone called oxytocin is released during childbirth, so those who take the easy method of having a human being removed from their bodies miss out on “this complex cocktail of love chemicals” that plays a part in first contact of mother and child.
Now I’m no French obstetrician, but I was born in France (that’s another story) and I have known a few obstetricians in my time. I would imagine that carrying a baby inside you for more than nine months might qualify as first contact. Call me sappy, but I was in love with my kids before I held them in my arms.
I don’t understand the specifics of how the level of hormones is at its highest during a natural birth — but having my kids travel down my birth canal, specifically my 10-and-a-half pound daughter or her 12-pound-one-ounce brother wouldn’t have made me fall in love with them, no offense intended. I love them more because they were surgically removed.
Now I get a little break on the “no love” issue with my daughter because this doc says women who go into labor and then have a C-section, already have the love flow set in motion. So these moms are all right and are forgiven for having emergency surgery after a mere 14 hours of labor.
It’s the terrible women who elect to have a C-section without even giving natural birth a go. That would be me the next three times.
The stats in Great Britain’s national health system show that 7 percent of C-sections annually are recorded as scheduled for no medical reason.
That doesn’t seem excessive to me. But this Tom Cruise of France and his ilk are calling these “designer births” for women who are “too posh to push.”
Apparently the worst offenders are top celebrities. The expression is named for former Spice Girl Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham who opted for a C-section.
I’m not too posh, I’m too thin.
Looking at me it’s hard to tell. But under all this girth and bones is a uterus that is “paper thin” according to the surgical notes that I read in horror about me exploding if I pushed. So if fear of exploding makes me too posh to push then I suppose I am.
He says that oxytocin is also the hormone “that enables a woman to…forget the pain of birth.”
Having had four kids, there must be something else to help completely obliterate the agony of birth since I have been dull minded to go through it four times. Perhaps he doesn’t consider surgical births as having the pain of natural birth. But having been in labor for 14 hours and recovering from four abdominal surgeries, I would say there’s some stuff to be forgotten there.
Not to mention months of morning sickness, bloating, astronomical weight gain and the agony of maternity pants.
He added: “What we can say for sure is that when a woman gives birth with a pre-labour Caesarean section she does not release this flow of love hormones, so she is a different woman than if she had given birth naturally and the first contact between mother and baby is different.”
Britney Spears, who had her first tot last year, Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham, Elizabeth Hurley and Madonna are singled out for “choosing early C-sections over old-fashioned childbirth in order to avoid abdominal stretching.”
As an expert in stretching abdominal muscles, I can safely say that delivering a week early is not going to save those abs.
Just for fun, this doctor adds that “taking painkillers such as general an[a]esthetic or an epidural can negatively affect bonding in the first crucial hours.”
I know quite a few women who have avoided anesthesia successfully and had a completely natural birthing experience — one with a son who was 11 pounds 2 ounces; God bless her. Funny, but after she had him she said something about (and I’ll put it politely) “passing a watermelon” and failed to mention the love flow.
The one time my oxytocin flowed — when I labored before having an emergency C-section with my first child — I was overcome, not with love but with fatigue when a nurse brought her in for her first feeding. I sent her back, saying, “You feed her. I’m too tired.” I only had that lovely round-the-clock hospital nursery for a couple of days, after all.
Must have been all the anesthesia I’d been wimpy enough to accept when they sawed me in half and removed my 10-pound baby.
In a Daily Mail article about Dr. Odent’s study, Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust, was quoted as saying, “We know that oxytocin levels are lower in women who have had Caesareans but we do not know what effect it has.
“Women should not be worried about this as there are lots of factors which affect how they bond with their baby.”
Thank you, Belinda.
— Susan Konig is author of Why Animals Sleep So Close to the Road (And Other Lies I Tell My Children), available in paperback next week.