There can be a lot of emotions with an unexpected birth experience. This is how I’ve worked toward making peace with my c-section.
My daughter Sadie turns 1 in a little over a month. It’s hard to believe that it’s already been nearly a year since she was born! For most moms, our children’s birthdays represent not only the day they arrived but the day we experienced one of the biggest events one possibly can in a lifetime: giving birth.
As many of you know, Sadie arrived via caesarean. It wasn’t the birth experience I wanted, or planned for, or expected to have at all. I had every intention of having a natural vaginal delivery.
But, my frank breech baby (that was successfully flipped head-down with an ECV at 37 weeks pregnant) was still not coming out easily. Something that I thought would have been so straightforward for me seemed so difficult and full of so many roadblocks. It felt like my body failed me and that I failed my body.
Today I want to share my journey through navigating the emotions of an unexpected birth experience and how I’ve worked toward making peace with my c-section. It’s important for me to highlight that this is simply my experience and I don’t speak for all c-section moms out there.
The Ups And Downs of Emotional Healing
In the initial days and weeks following Sadie’s birth I felt very accepting of the way things went, despite it being the opposite of what I hoped and planned for. The combination of sleep deprivation and adjusting to life with a newborn while recovering from surgery meant I had little time or energy to think much about what had just happened. It felt like it simply was what it was, and even, that it was meant to be (which I still believe to be true). But as anyone who’s familiar with the stages of grief would know, the stages aren’t linear. In fact, they’re scattered all over the place. Sometimes we feel unexpected ways at unexpected times.
It wasn’t until months later after the overwhelm and exhaustion settled that I found myself replaying Sadie’s birth over and over in my mind. I know I made the best decisions for her and I at the time (and I was proud of myself for giving my every effort to attempt the kind of birth I wanted), but I found myself grappling with an eruption of emotion.
I started to feel angry. I was angry that I didn’t have a smooth and uncomplicated birth experience like so many others. I was angry that she was breech in the first place which is not only uncommon (they account for about 3% of full-term babies) but which I theorized played a part in her inability to engage in my pelvis properly after she was turned head-down. I was angry that all the stress of my ECV, while successful, felt pointless. I was angry that I went so far overdue and that my body struggled to kick into labour. I was angry that I had to face decisions around induction and I was angry that I felt so stuck about it all.
I was angry that I was angry.
And I was sad, too. I was sad for my body for having a big surgery. Sad because my daughter’s arrival was stressful and in an atmosphere that I didn’t like. Sad because the memories that I have of meeting her for the first time are clouded with being indescribably exhausted, being unable to hold her right away because of how weak I was on the operating table, and being unable to feel her latch for the first time because I was numb up to my neck. Sad because I felt robbed of the normal uneventful vaginal birth I wanted to have.
Amidst the storm of anger and sadness, acceptance has bloomed upward. It’s a friendly feeling that celebrates the strength I know I had to bring my daughter into this world. It makes space for the hard feelings. And it lets them go.
Birth, regardless of how it goes, is a big event physically and emotionally. Many people with good intentions are quick to remark that we should focus on the positive; that the only thing that matters is baby is healthy. Of course that matters. That’s a given. Our birthing experiences as women matter too, though, in a different way, and the feelings we have surrounding it—good or bad or messy or wonderful—are completely valid and deserve to be acknowledged.
The way I feel about my c-section ebbs and flows. I still have questions to things I’ll probably never get the answers to. I’ll never know if the outcome would’ve been different—better or worse—in the many hypothetical alternate scenarios that my mind likes to conjure up. But, I find it most helpful to remind myself that every decision that I made leading up to my daughter’s birth was made for a specific reason. It’s easy to look back and question things in hindsight, but when I remember what it was actually like at the time, I know that I did what felt right.
It has taken me time to begin accepting my scar. I haven’t fully embraced it yet in the way that many moms do, but I have come to welcome it more over time and I think with a little more time it will become something that doesn’t bring up so much emotion.
C-sections are major abdominal surgery and one thing that I didn’t expect was that half of my abdomen above my incision would be numb for many months, though thankfully I’ve regained all feeling. The surrounding tissue is still a little sensitive if I brush up against it (particularly the right side which got infected a week after the surgery), but it’s improved significantly. I did scar tissue massage early on, but it wasn’t until recently that I started doing more scar tissue mobilization to help with an adhesion that formed in the area that was previously infected.
At almost a year out, my scar is still a pink colour. It’s faded a great deal, but still has a long way to go to become less noticeable. I use many anti-inflammatory, soothing and healing oils and and herbal balms on it regularly. I like doing this at bedtime while laying down; it’s been a way for me to connect with my scar in a more positive way.
What Really Brings Me Peace
Even though making peace with the many aspects of my c-section has had its ups and downs, what I do know to be true for us c-section moms is that:
- It does not mean you failed
- It’s not the “easy way out” (oh my god, so far from it!)
- It takes incredible strength and bravery to undergo and recover from major surgery while caring for a newborn baby.
- You’re allowed to feel however you feel about your birth experience. It’s OK to grieve or celebrate the way things did or didn’t go.
As I shared in my birth story blog post: I didn’t get to have the dreamy natural birth I always envisioned. But I can be grateful that I’ve had so many other good things: conceiving quickly and easily, a healthy pregnancy, a seamless breastfeeding experience, and a perfectly healthy daughter.
As much as I tried to control the outcome, she still arrived her own way. I firmly believe that she was meant to come into this world through caesarean. It’s this knowing that brings me peace.