A colleague’s wife had just given birth, in the middle of all the excitement and well wishes, a lady looked up sadly and said, “Mrs. Xyz, you are lucky o. How l wish l was able to give birth naturally like you. The cesarean section l had makes me feel totally ashamed and incomplete. I feel like l am not a woman.”
My friend’s sister in law had her first delivery via cesarean section. Time to have her second baby and she was filled with a lot` of trepidation and prayers. She wanted a vaginal birth. Her husband had not stopped mocking her for giving birth through C.S. He kept reminding her of how she was not a woman yet.
I was miffed when l heard these stories. On further investigation, l learnt the culprit, the good ol’ Hebrew Woman.
Now, who is the Hebrew Woman? Let’s do some bible recap, shall we? The Israelites were slaves in the land of Egypt, faithfully doing the slave masters bidding until one period when their number began to increase astronomically. Pharaoh got scared and commanded that all the new born males be killed at birth. He didn’t want the Israelites to become a threat to his throne. When the midwives who feared God, refused to carry out his order, they were summoned to the palace. In a bid to save their necks, they told the pharaoh that the Hebrew women were so strong that they gave birth to their babies even before their arrival (the midwives).
Of course that was a lie, one told in order to escape the wrath of the king. It is a wonder how that lie has been told several times over that it now seems like the truth. Little wonder, the average Nigerian woman would rather risk death than face the possibility of not giving birth like the Hebrew Woman.
How is it that they don’t even notice the irony in their prayers to birth like the Hebrew Woman? According to the story the midwives told, the Hebrew Woman gave birth even before they appeared. This means that their delivery process was so fast and smooth that they had no need for a midwife. But one would find a Nigerian woman in the throes of pain and prolonged labors, still wishing to give birth like the Hebrew Woman. I guess the ‘Hebrew woman’ no longer represents a fast and smooth delivery. She connotes any woman who can give birth vaginally, no matter how dangerous the process is.
A 2015 World Bank statistics showed that Nigeria ranked number 4 on the Index of countries with the highest maternal mortality rate in Africa. A Nigerian woman has a 1 in 22 lifetime risk of dying during childbirth unlike other developed countries where the lifetime risk is 1 in 4900. According to UNICEF, a woman’s chance of dying from pregnancy and childbirth related causes, in the country, is 1 to 13. In a country with such a high maternal mortality rate, why is any option other than a non vaginal birth frowned upon?
Where a C section happens, the society in form of mothers, ignorant husbands, neighbors and friends sneer at such a woman. They make her feel like she was caught committing an abomination. They make remarks that portray such a woman as weak. Only a strong woman can withstand the labor and pains that come with vaginal births and if she doesn’t belong to that category, then she is not a real woman. I wonder who told society that C sections don’t come with labor and pains.
Of course, after being sneered at, the woman breaks down psychologically and wants to ensure at all cost, that her next birth is through the natural birthing process. If she hasn’t given birth before, she prays to God to grant her a vaginal delivery so she can hold her head high among her fellows.
The average Nigerian woman has been made to believe that any birth that isn’t the so called ‘Hebrew woman’ style is the woman not exhibiting enough faith to birth her baby naturally. I have lost count of the number of times l have heard someone share a testimony of thanksgiving for giving birth like the Hebrew Woman. I am sure such testimonies are not alien to you as well.
Recently, l heard the story of a man who instead of giving his consent for a C section to be carried out on his wife, decided to call his pastor. She was prayed for and commanded to give birth like the Hebrew Woman. This woman had been in labor for over 24 hours. Needless to say, she die, the baby died as well. A cesarean section would probably have saved her life. Of course, l have heard and read about such stories several times. I think it is very ridiculous to insist on a vaginal birth when a C section would have saved the day. Don’t even get me started on the dangers of prolonged labor on the baby.
Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with desiring a vaginal birth. But there is a problem when such births become highly spiritual to the point of demonizing cesarean births.
We need to do better. The maternal mortality rate in the country is alarmingly high. Let’s stop compounding it with this Hebrew Woman thing we hear all the time. If a woman needs a cesarean section to save her life and that of her baby, please let her have it. Besides, there is no such thing like ‘delivering like the ‘Hebrew Woman.’ That was a lie told by some midwives just to keep their heads standing on their shoulders.
If you must know, the Hebrew Woman gave birth like every other woman around her. She did not have her babies quickly neither did she have the smoothest delivery process. If it happens for you quickly and smoothly, fine. But please, don’t call it birthing like the Hebrew Woman. That’s a lie. It never happened.
Another thing you should not do is to try to make a woman who has had a C section, feel less loved by God, less spiritual and even less complete as a woman. That is a wicked thing to do.
Let me reiterate that maternal mortality rate in Nigeria is high. Fourth behind Sierra Leone, CAR and Chad. We need to do our own part to change the negative trend. One way to do that is to squash the myth about the Hebrew Woman. The truth is, when you take your head out of your religious quicksand long enough, you will agree with me that that biblical Hebrew woman doesn’t exist. She has never existed.