When Zikomo Mulunji was born, I informed family and friends about the bundle of joy we had received. I remember my husband’s phone couldn’t stop ringing and so, too, mine. Questions ranged from enquiring the sex of the baby to the one question that I still grapple with a year later. Many of the family and friends’ first question was: “Normal or Caesar?”—a reference to whether I had a vaginal birth or C-Section.
The questions didn’t stop with my response to their first question, they would then go on to ask: “Did you have complications or you were just lazy to push?” They would go on with their unsolicited comments.
Very few were able instantly say ‘Congratulations!’, and maybe find out how I and the baby (and the dad, too) were doing. Not that I needed their congratulations, but I felt the need to celebrate with those close to me and the least I expected from them was to be happy that I have a baby and that we are all doing fine considering that childbirth is a matter of life and death, especially in Malawi. There were some who openly said: “So, you didn’t want to push, ulesi iwe”. Others, I remember them saying: “Nde mwana watulukira pa window”—meaning that the baby came through the tummy and not the vjay. If this was meant to be a joke, it’s a tasteless joke.
I am just one of the many women out there who have been interrogated after giving birth as though how the baby was born was a crime. I am one of the thousands of women who have been made to feel less a woman and the baby, less a baby because the baby was born through C-Section. They believe you are not woman enough you didn’t experience the ‘pain’ of giving birth.
I have great respect for women who give birth through ‘normal’, but I have also very high respect for those who choose to go under the knife to bring life to the world. Sometimes, that’s the only option they have. Sometimes women go under the knife because they choose to do so, out of their own volition. That’s quite ok and no one should make any woman feel less a woman for giving birth through C-Section.
I have heard fellow women complain that some people even go an extra mile to ridicule them saying they are not Christian enough because if they were spiritually grounded they should have prayed against “the spirit of C-Section” utter nonsense. And then others go town spreading unfounded rumours that mostly women who give birth through C-Section it means they are HIV-positive. That’s ludicrous.
What I know, though, is that a baby born through whatever way is a baby and whoever gave birth through ‘normal’ or C-Section is a mother. Women should stop shaming fellow women for giving birth through what they consider ‘abnormal’. What is more saddening is that it is fellow women who are often obsessed with finding out how the baby was born.
I can say here without fear of contradiction that most of my male friends never asked me how the baby was born. They simply congratulated me. I think that’s how it should be. For starters, the information about how the baby was born is too intimate and private and should only be shared when a woman feels like doing so and not because some nosey people are pressuring her.
I know of women who have died during childbirth because they wanted to please people and were afraid of being the ridicule of their community. People need to grow out of this obsession. You don’t know their story so don’t judge. If a woman chooses not to push, it’s her choice and it’s quite ok.
Congratulations to all mothers out there!