When I was pregnant with my daughter, I could probably count on one hand the women I knew of who had Cesareans. But I didn’t talk to them about their experiences so I could get an idea what it’s like, in case I wound up having one myself, because “I’m having an all-natural, peaceful, whenever-the-baby’s-ready home birth, and there is no need to learn about the surgery or post-op recovery.”
Whether you’re pregnant now or will be sometime in the future, take this bit of advice from me, please: read up on Cesareans so you won’t have that fist-to-the-gut feeling I did when the doctor told me he suggested I have one. Get informed about the how, the why, and especially the recovery. You may never even need to have a C-section, but just in case you do, be prepared and at least know a little bit about it, unlike me.
Anyway. Back to what I’m trying to get at.
If two years ago you’d have told my pregnant self that I’d eventually go twenty-two days over my due date, have a failed induction, and then finally have no choice but to get a C-section, I wouldn’t have believed you. Because none of that was in my plan. Going overdue somewhat, maybe, but not the other stuff. Psh—no way.
I had hoped and planned for a home birth in Tennessee with my midwives, but as I kept going days and days over my due date, our time for my wonderful, ideal, dreamed-about-ever-since-I-can-remember birth was running out. Three weeks past due was the cut-off date, and so on the day I reached 43 weeks with no signs of labor starting anytime soon, we planned an induction at a hospital with a doctor for the next morning—already three things I never, ever imagined myself doing.
Long story short (you can read the full version HERE), the induction didn’t work because apparently my body and my baby STILL weren’t ready yet, and then my blood pressure was high enough to be concerned about, and the baby was assumed to be facing the wrong way (turns out she was), which could cause a problem later on if I delivered vaginally, SO we chose that last resort we’d never dreamed of: a Cesarean section. A full-on MAJOR SURGERY. (Okay, so I admit that part didn’t hit me till later on, but y’all—this surgery is NO JOKE and my heart and so much respect go out to each and every woman who has had this operation.)
Once I started coming off my newborn baby high (AHHH—the best thing in this world!) and I realized there was still a whole world out there with (gasp!) other people, and I was finally over the infection in my incision (O-U-C-H), I realized how very disappointed I actually was that I did not have the birth I’d always dreamed of, the one I’d been planning for nearly ten months, even rented the birthing house for. And I started hating myself for not being able to give birth like a “normal person.” I told myself I must have done something wrong, or not enough things right, to cause everything opposite of my plan to come about. What if I’d exercised more? I wondered. Or, What if I hadn’t eaten some of the things I did? How come So-and-So was able to do it but not me? A friend of mine from church had told me right after Eden was born to never let myself think these things, because I didn’t fail, and I did still carry and give birth to my child, and I was still just as woman as the one who delivered naturally. It was weeks later when I started actually thinking those awful things that I would have to remind myself what she told me. What she said was exactly true, but while I certainly felt that other women who gave birth by Cesarean were amazing mothers and women who had done only what was best for their children, in my heart I couldn’t believe it about myself.
I didn’t ever get depressed about the whole thing, but I did put myself down a lot whenever I thought about how my body couldn’t go into labor on its own, my body couldn’t get into real, good labor even with the help of Pitocin, my body “couldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t.” It was also hard reading or hearing other people’s labor and birth stories, knowing I didn’t get to experience the real thing, wondering if I ever would.
A few months ago I spoke with a new friend of mine who had also within the past year given birth via unplanned Cesarean. We swapped our stories and they were almost identical! We chatted about the disappointment we felt when our bodies just wouldn’t do what we wanted them to, the physical and emotional sides of recovering, and our fears of ever having another baby and the same thing happening all over again. Beyond all, though, we are both thankful that we had the option of Cesarean for the sake of our babies, and for their well-being we would not have had it any way but the best way for them—which just so happened to be C-sections. By the time she and I met I can say I was very close to having accepted my daughter’s birth as a whole, but I think being able to talk about it (for the first time!) with someone who totally, absolutely understood exactly what I felt, was a huge weight off my shoulders and I think a big part of fully accepting.
To someone who hasn’t had a Cesarean, I probably sound like a big sissy for having worried so much for so long about how my baby got here, as long as she’s here, safe and perfectly sound—and maybe it is silly—but it’s something a lot of women have to work through emotionally, and I think there are a few big things that can help them get past the disappointment and embrace the truth that this did happen, that their plans can change in a minute, and that they are still every bit of a woman as the one who delivers naturally, or vaginally with an epidural. I may never have that “normal” birth, but that is something I’ll come to grips with if and when the time comes, and since I’ve done this before, I think it will be much easier if I go through it again.
Four things that I believe can help a lot are:
- Just be grateful, first and foremost, that your baby is safe and in this world, and that there are doctors out there who know what they’re doing when it does come down to major surgery in favor of the baby’s (and your) health.
- Write out your birth story, or record yourself telling it. Just simply getting it all out and off your chest (and reliving the glorious moments!) can sometimes be the best medicine.
- Talk to someone who understands, who’s been there. After having my daughter I was surprised at how many friends have had Cesareans, and I didn’t even know it before, but talking to them about it can be so helpful. Talk to someone who will let you spill out your frustrations, but who will also tell you it’s okay, you did amazing, and now you need to suck it up, buttercup. (Because friends don’t let friends throw pity parties.)
- Encourage other people. When you talk to a mom who is down about her C-section experience, you can thank God you also went through it, because now you can let her cry on your shoulder, you can tell her it’s gonna be all right (because you know it is), and you can show her what it looks like to pick yourself back up and smile, because you’ve been there, you’re strong, and she is too. I think this was the biggest thing for me to being able to actually be thankful for my C-section (besides the obvious fact that my baby is safely here). I can be thankful I went through something hard like this because when someone else has gone through it and needs encouragement, I can now be a help to that person.
There may still be days here and there when I’ll look down and see my constant reminder, that 6-inch battle scar on my abdomen that may fade but will never completely go away, and I start to think, What if—? but I’m going to stop myself right there, because it’s just a scar, that was just a C-section, it was just a thing I had to do, and I’m okay with it now. I am grateful.
And you can be, too.