I Had an Unplanned Cesarean and I’m Okay with That. (And Why You Should Be Okay with Yours Too!)

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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.”

WRONG.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.

How I Cured My Infected C-Section Incision Naturally

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I had a Cesarean section when my daughter was born 9+ months ago. As I mentioned briefly in Eden Lily’s Birth Story, the incision later got infected and I had extreme pain for about a month and lots of trouble simply walking and moving around.

At the hospital, where I stayed two days after the birth, I was on two different pain medicines, so I stayed pretty numb to any pain for that short period of time. They prescribed me some medicine to pick up at a pharmacy once I got home, but it was late before we finally got to leave the hospital so we didn’t stop to pick any up.

The incision stayed numb for a while, but I remember it being slightly painful to get dressed that next morning, and by Friday it was very hard to get into the car to go for Eden’s pediatrician appointment. There was a very sharp pain at the top of my right leg, like someone was stabbing me with a knife, and I just assumed it was a normal part of the healing process since the nurses and doctor had told me pain was perfectly normal for the first several weeks after a Cesarean section. I started taking ibuprofen regularly on Friday to help control the pain.

I kept hoping and praying it wasn’t an internal incision and that it wouldn’t get any worse or that I would wind up having to get an antibiotic. I’m not completely against antibiotics, because I do believe they can be necessary at times, but I prefer to only put good things in my body, and killing not only the bad bacteria but also the good is not really my cup of tea. I hadn’t had an antibiotic in over 15 years, and had to have one for the C-section, so I was going to do everything I could possibly do in order to avoid having two in one month, especially since I was now breastfeeding my baby.

I got a late start on fighting my infection because it took me so long to figure out what it actually was that was causing my pain. I had been told that pain even up to two months after a Cesarean was perfectly normal, and so for about three weeks or so I was just taking ibuprofen and resting a lot (which were not bad things to do). I removed the tape from my incision after ten days, and it was a good while after that that I realized it was looking infected, but I wasn’t 100% sure. But by about the third week I was fed up with the pain and knew it was definitely infected, and I asked my midwife and herbalist and mom what I should do about it, and that’s when I started taking lots and lots of herbs.

I should NOT have waited as long as I did to do something about it, but I’d never had surgery before and wasn’t exactly sure what was all right and what wasn’t when it came to a major incision. The outside looked fine for so long, and then eventually began to ooze a little bit, and that’s when we figured it was an internal infection. (Not. Good.) Looking back, I should have seen the signs much earlier on and done something about it quicker, and it probably wouldn’t have gotten so bad.

I started taking LOTS of garlic powder (two capsules, never on an empty stomach, every couple hours during the day), bentonite clay plastered directly to the sore (rinsed off and reapplied every few hours), and several drops of tea tree essential oil applied directly to the infected area. I also avoided breads and sugars (for the most part) because those only feed infections, and I took a probiotic, vitamin C, echinacea, BP-X, Plexus Bio-Cleanse, Young Living Thieves essential oil applied externally, and my mom’s homemade good-for-everything salve. When I would start feeling more pain than I could handle and had already taken my dose of ibuprofen for the time being, especially if I was about to go to bed, I would also rub Young Living Valor essential oil directly to the painful spot, and that helped a lot.

(All these things may have helped in many ways, but I do believe that the garlic— which is good for absolutely everything!– bentonite clay— which draws out poison, and evidently pain as well, for a time!– and the tea tree oil— which kills infection– are what really did the trick.)

Nearly another week passed after I began taking my herbs and watching what I ate more closely, and I did begin having better days, but the pain was still nearly unbearable most of the time. I had been completely adamant up to this point about not getting an antibiotic, but the pain had gotten to be so bad that I started to be afraid the infection was too much by now for the herbs to be able to do anything to help, and so I reluctantly told my husband I wasn’t sure anymore that the herbs were even working and that maybe I needed to get an antibiotic to get rid of the pain once and for all. And frankly, I felt I’d done enough crying that month to last me a lifetime. I was ready to walk again like I used to, without any pain, and take care of my family like I wanted.

So, I called my doctor’s office and spoke to the receptionist. I told her I had an infection and she said I should just go to the ER. But the ER was NOT a place I wanted to take my three week-old daughter in the middle of flu season. My sweet husband took off work early one day and we went to see a doctor at an urgent care clinic instead, and some sweet friends of ours came over to watch Eden while we were gone. The pain seemed to have suddenly gotten much less intense by that afternoon when we got in to see the doctor, which was obviously a relief, but I worried that she may not see my problem. I told her what I had been feeling, what it looked like, and that I knew it was an infection and hoped she would give me an antibiotic. She took a very quick look at my incision and said, “Oh, that looks much better than you made it sound. It’s just fine.” And then she proceeded to be so surprised at my stretch marks and even asked to see them a second time, because apparently I have “a lot more than most people” and she went on and on about how she could barely believe her eyes. (Really?! Why would anyone say that to a new mom?)

Anyway, so since I was “just fine” and only very stretch-marked, I was not given an antibiotic and was sent home to heal myself because up to two months of pain is completely normal. I understood that reasoning, but the pain I’d been feeling for three weeks was not at all normal.

Let me just say that I went home a bit discouraged but more determined than ever to get rid of this stinkin’ infection once and for all– without an antibiotic, since I was apparently “just fine.”

So I continued the same remedies I’d been doing before, and after about five days of taking loooooots of garlic and doing lots more bentonite clay applications and lots of drops of tea tree oil, I was back on my feet, walking upright, and feeling human again!

Only once since then have I felt a bit of a twinge in the spot the pain had been, but only a little twinge, and after taking more garlic it completely went away and I’ve been fine ever since. Let me tell you– I am a very firm believer in GARLIC (and of course bentonite clay, tea tree oil, plus looooots of patience and prayer for strength. I could not have gotten through those tough days if it weren’t for praying for God to give me strength.)!

If you ever have an infection like this, please talk to your doctor or midwife as soon as possible. The sooner you treat the problem, the sooner you’ll get rid of it. Yes, maybe an antibiotic would have worked better and faster for me, and maybe I should have taken one as soon as I noticed there was an infection, but I am very grateful I was able to cure the infection completely naturally, without having to worry about any side effects from the antibiotic. And now I know it CAN be done and I have even more faith in natural remedies than before.

I know many people have been through much harder things or experience worse pain on a daily basis, but that month I spent gritting my teeth every time I got up from the couch, or gasped in pain when I moved the wrong muscle when turning over in bed, or having to have help from my husband to get dressed or even walk me to the bathroom– that taught me to never ever take for granted the things that used to seem so simple and be easy for me before. I’m now very grateful that I’m able to take a full step without help, bend over to pick something up, and hold my baby without wincing in pain. The things that seemed so little before don’t seem that way anymore.

“Morning by morning, new mercies I see;
All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”

Have a blessed day!
~Courtney Faith