Rebirth: Healing from a C-Section

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

I wrote about Aviva's birth story here, and in it, I talk about how I had an emergency c-section. What I didn't write about was how much having a c-section affected me. For many women, having a c-section is their preferred choice, or sometimes it's just the way things end up, and they're okay with it. For whatever reason, my c-section brought up all kinds of feelings, none of them good. Before I go on, I want to say that I am not judging women who have c-sections, either by choice or by necessity. This is about me and my feelings about what happened surrounding my birth. Okay? Okay.

After a diagnosis of endometriosis and PCOS, 2 miscarriages, and infertility, I had already spent a lot of time being mad at my body. Pregnancy, once it finally happened, was one of the only things my body has ever done right. It grew a whole human! That's why, when my body stopped cooperating at 6 cm, it was like an even bigger slap in the face. I felt like my body had abandoned me. Failed me. It was just one more failure in a string of already depressing failures.

I carried that failure with me for months after the birth. For a long time, I had trouble even accepting that I had given birth. I felt like one minute, I was 40 weeks and 2 days pregnant, with a very present, kicking, little person inside of me, and the next, someone had just... handed me a baby. There was nothing in between. There was no space during which I felt us become separate people. Instead, I had been unceremoniously sliced open like a fish and now instead of skin-to-skin and immediate breast feeding, I was lying on a table with my uterus outside of my body, being stitched back together. (I've assisted in c-sections. They're kind of barbaric. Useful. Effective. But... aggressive.) I didn't get to have my doula with me, I didn't get any of the things I wanted.

Except an alive baby, which is supposed to make all of this okay. And it does. But it doesn't take away the disconnected feelings and the grief I had about how it all went down.

When I found out that I would be having a c-section, a mere 20 minutes prior to when I was on the table, I was out of it. I had been in labor for 25 hours, I had a fever, I was in pain despite my epidural. I was exhausted. Most of all, I was terrified for my baby. I made the only decision I could make at that point, and that was to consent to the surgery. I know that I made the right decision, because at the end of the day, Aviva and I were alive and healthy, and that, they say, is all that matters. And it does! It matters the most. But what also matters is how it made me feel, and women's feelings are dismissed constantly. Since c-sections are so routine now, and everyone was fine, no one seemed to understand or even care that I was hurting. I felt like a failure.

I don't mean to sound ungrateful to modern medicine, because I definitely am, but there will always be a part of me that is sad about how I brought Aviva into this world. I will never get the birth of my first child back, and instead of an empowering and moving experience, it was cold and clinical. Just another procedure in a long line of procedures my doctor had done that day. I'm also afraid. Afraid that, if I'm fortunate enough to get pregnant and have a second baby (and an opportunity to attempt a VBAC), that it will happen again. I'll labor and labor and labor and end up with a section all over again. No one can tell me whether that will be the case, so we'll have to wait and see when we get there. No one can even tell me why what happened happened, which is frustrating because without a reason, there's no prevention that can happen. I know better than most that medicine sometimes doesn't have all the answers (Lord, I wish it did!), but when your own body is the mystery, it's hard to stay objective.

There's part of me that is so angry with myself for even having any of these feelings, because women are fed so much crap about how birth and mothering should be, and I would like to say I'm better than that, but it got to me and now here we are. I'm also angry with myself because I would never be this harsh to any other mother who had a c-section. Nothing gets under my skin more than when I read a birth announcement to the tune of, "After x hours of NATURAL labor..." Unmedicated birth is birth, medicated birth is birth, having a c-section is birth. Birth is natural.

I'm not sure if I'll ever "get over" having a c-section or whether I'll stop mourning the birth I didn't get to have. And you know what? That's okay. I can hold both the joy of having a healthy, alive, wonderful child and the sorrow of not bringing her into the world the way I wanted. I contain multitudes, as they say. We all do.


  1. Once again you have plucked the words and feelings from my head and heart and put then on your blog. I still have moments of regret, sadness and guilt when I think about Liam's unceremonious entrance into this world. I hardly remember the OR or anything after it because it became my own personal near-death experience. But people seem to think that shouldn't matter to me at all because healthy baby, but it does. It really does. I hurt for so long and it definitely affected my perception of self and my relationship with Liam those first few months. I felt like the lone failure of my family as the only woman ever on either side of my family or John's to have to have a c-section. And, after learning all about VBACs in my OB rotation, I learned that I am very likely not going to be a good candidate for TOL and VBAC if we deliver a second baby. So I am already mourning the birth of our hypothetical second child. Crazy how soon the guilt of motherhood really does set ini


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