Sometimes you’ve got to cut through the noise and work out what’s truly right for you, your body, and your baby.

Yet other times the pressure does get to you, makes you yearn for those experiences you envisaged for so long yet never actually lived through.

Introducing: C sections.

Even though many mothers today have an elective C section for a variety of highly personal reasons, the surgery still isn’t what many people picture when thinking about childbirth. On the contrary, for a lot of women the C section remains a last resort. They may even have the misguided view that it represents the ‘lesser option’. The surgery is still stigmatised to this day.

But why? And why do some women who, like me, have undergone a C section feel the need to add some qualifying statement, sound sheepish, act almost apologetic for their birth story? Just how differently might we view Caesarean births if people didn’t cluck sympathetically at the news that you had the surgery, but rather congratulated you as they would a friend who’d had a vaginal birth?

This cuts close to home. Soon before my due date, a well-meaning—and male—friend made the passing comment that “a Caesarean doesn’t count as giving birth—you’ve done all this hard work, so why would you cheat at the end?”

Cheating means you gain some unfair advantage. Let me tell you: there’s no ‘unfair advantage’ when it comes to a C section. The surgery comes with its own unique downsides and risks. First, they cut through seven layers of muscle and tissue. Then the baby doesn’t ingest your vaginal microbiome through the process known as vaginal seeding. Studies suggest that missing out on this slightly exacerbates the baby’s risk of allergies and asthma.

There are upsides to having a C section, or an increasing number of women wouldn’t be having the surgery out of choice—but only someone with a chip on their shoulder would describe these benefits as ‘unfair’. For one, the recovery period can be relatively quick. Sure, the first 48 hours after my C section were tough, but on day three I climbed four flights of stairs no problem, and on day five I enjoyed a two-hour walk. Two weeks after my surgery I was an hour into a bike ride before I felt a slight twinge in my tummy—and only then did I remember I’d even had a C section and was meant to be taking things easy—no exercise for three months. Oops!

Perhaps people should spend less time denigrating others’ births for being somehow lower down the maternal totem pole, and more time lifting each other up regardless of how they bore their children. Perhaps we should all reformulate our idea of what a C section even truly is: a relatively safe alternative to vaginal birth—and equal to it in every meaningful sense. Lest we forget, pretty much every woman in history who went through childbirth never had anywhere near the obstetric expertise around them to make sure things went smoothly as we do—many women around the world today still don’t. In large areas of the world, pregnant mothers have the option of safer childbirth, an option that sometimes is literally lifesaving. And yet a C section is something to sympathise with? No—when I think of the majority of women who have ever lived and had to endure the roll of the dice that’s childbirth, we are living their ideal—and that means something.

We didn’t get the adrenaline rush from pushing. We weren’t allowed a bunch of friends and family there to hold our hand during delivery. And we give ourselves the grace to grieve just a moment for what we once thought was meant to be. We ask you to afford us the same empathy.

…And then we ask you to remember that we had the loud, harsh brightness of the operating room—then tears of joy as time stood still during the first moments of our babies’ lives. For every mum, including those of us who underwent a C section, there will never be another moment like the first time we laid eyes upon our newborn. And for women who have emergency C sections, well—the stress is off the charts. It is literally life-and-death.

Every one of us showed strength when we didn’t know we had it in us. I think that’s beautiful. I think that’s empowering. I think that’s no more or less beautiful and empowering than the experience of a woman who had a vaginal birth.

I can see my scar. It’s a reminder of the life I brought into the world. I think it’s beautiful. I think it’s empowering.

I think it’s perfect.