This is the first of a couple of posts that I’m going to write about healing from a c-section. This one is more focused on the mental/emotional side and the second will be all about what you physically go through after a c-section.
I am three weeks out from my c-section and it’s been quite the experience – everything from the surgery itself to the recovery from it. Even though I was familiar with c-sections (I’m a c-section baby! My mom had one with me and my brother.), had watched a video about them in my childbirth class and have friends who had them, I was in NO way prepared for what it would actually be like and how I would feel.
I did a lot of preparation for childbirth. I read books, listened to hundreds of birth stories (of every type of delivery from med/intervention free to inductions to home births to epidurals to c-sections and more), talked to other moms about birth and hired a doula. I felt pretty comfortable and knowledgeable but of course there was still that element of unknown…I’d never given birth before! I had received so much advice to go into the process with an open mind and I did…to an extent. I completed a birth plan and while I was pretty clear that I didn’t want narcotic pain relievers in my birth process (I didn’t want to feel sick or loopy), I was open to the possibility of an epidural and I’m glad I ended up getting one.
Given all of my preparation, I was so surprised to find myself absolutely terrified at moments throughout the birth process, especially when I was laboring so intensely without an epidural. A friend of mine who has had four babies with epidurals described her epidural births as “really peaceful” and I didn’t understand that until I went through the experience myself. I had never felt so out of my body in my life and the epidural helped me to calm down and stay present through the process.
What I honestly wasn’t prepared for was the possibility for a c-section. For some reason, I just blocked it out of my mind. It seemed like EVERYONE made comments to me, “oh you’re so fit, it will be no problem” or “you’ll have such an easy birth.” Even my doctor told me he thought I’d have an easy vaginal delivery. I remember watching that c-section video in our childbirth class and making a comment to Tanner that I wanted to do everything in my power to avoid one.
This is why when the word c-section started to come up during my 16-hour labor, I was immediately filled with fear and sadness. The first time it came up when Finn was in distress, I remember lying in the bed with the oxygen mask on, holding my mom’s hand and crying. I so desperately had my heart set on a vaginal birth. First, I so wanted the experience of pushing my baby out of me. Second, I knew that c-sections were major abdominal surgery and I didn’t want to go through that.
As I wrote in my birth story, things calmed down quite a bit after that initial scare and I labored for hours and hours and progressed on my own without any more mention of c-section and Finn seemed to have stabilized and was pretty content. I started to believe that the vaginal birth I wanted could happen.
That’s why when Finn started to have decels again and the small bit of pitocin did NOT work to quickly get me to 10 so that I could push, I was so heartbroken. I knew it was a possibility but I was praying it wouldn’t happen. The next thing I knew, my room was filled with medical professionals and we were on our way to a c-section.
It all still seems surreal.
My doula came to visit me in the hospital early the next morning and we talked through everything that happened the day before. I tearfully asked her if there was anything I did that caused the c-section and she reassured me that there was nothing I have done differently and that was just the way Finn was supposed to be born.
My doctor even told me in the OR that he’d done everything he could to make a vaginal birth after a cesarean a possibility for me should I decide to have more children and said there was no reason why my body couldn’t deliver vaginally.
I was surprised by how hard it was for me to come to terms with my c-section. I couldn’t talk about Finn’s birth without crying for the first couple of weeks. While I felt fully held and supported by my medical team and loved by my support people, the experience was still somewhat traumatic.
I feel like new moms are barraged with, “You and baby are healthy, you should be happy/grateful/insert positive word here.” I think it’s okay, not only okay but NORMAL, to have conflicting emotions about your birth experience. No one else can tell you how you should feel about your birth. Of course I am BEYOND grateful that I am healthy, Finn is healthy and that I gave birth in a hospital where everything was available to keep us safe. But I need time to be sad too.
I don’t think that having a cesarean birth makes you any “less” of a woman/mom/etc but I do think it’s okay to feel like you missed out on something. I was brought to tears by how many other moms commented on my birth story called me a “warrior.” I wept when I read those words of love and support.
We are all warriors. Bringing new life into the world is no joke and I have told anyone who will listen that there is absolutely nothing that could have adequately prepared me for the experience of childbirth. Everything from the physicality of it to the emotions of it were like nothing I have ever experienced in my life.
A reader sent these words to me after I shared my birth story. They brought so much comfort to me (and so many tears…childbirth comes with allllll the tears) and it’s my hope that they help someone else too.
This son of yours will change your life, and you wrote a story together over the last 9 months. You loved that boy into existence, and you are holding the fruits of your labor now.
Look what your body did. Look what your heart did. I’m so happy you were supported during your labor, and I’m sorry if there was even a moment that you weren’t. I’m so happy you had doctors and nurses you trusted, and I’m sorry if there was even a moment that you felt out of control. I’m so happy you made it through your labor and delivery, and I’m sorry if there was even a moment that it didn’t go as planned. I’m so happy your son made it through his labor and delivery, and I’m sorry if there was even a moment that you worried he wouldn’t. I’m so happy that he is loved by your friends and family, and I’m sorry if there is even a moment they don’t see you, too. Because we all want to be seen, especially when we are shaken.
Recovery, physically and mentally, is not easy. The physical will come long before the mental for you. Let others help heal you. Let them know that your heart hurts. This is not something to shy away from; it is something to be honored. I see you and your story, and I know that your heart will heal. One day you will run your fingers across your scar and be in awe of yourself, which is as it should be.
I think that it’s super important to talk about our birth stories just like it’s important to talk and process all the hard things we endure in life. I’m only three weeks out and every day I feel stronger and more grounded about my experience but I know that it will take time to fully heal this scar, in every sense of the word.
Thank you for holding the space for me to do that here.