Having a C-section may not have originally been part of a mom’s birth plan—but the surgery is often necessary, with nearly a third of all births in the United States classified as Cesarean deliveries.
C-section births are different than what many moms picture when they first learn they are pregnant, but they are also incredibly beautiful. C-sections save lives and should be celebrated. And whether a mom’s C-section is an emergency, planned or elective it is still a valid and important birth experience.
That’s why we at Motherly are committed to sharing C-section photos and stories—so that mothers know what to expect and society learns to support women who are recovering from surgery while caring for a newborn.
These are the C-section stories the #TeamMotherly community loves and we are so grateful to the mamas who shared them.
13 powerful C-section pictures
This video perfectly explains the anatomy of a C-section
This video shows you just what C-section surgery entails: cutting through seven layers of skin, fat, muscle and more to reach the baby. It’s an incredible depiction of one of the most physically challenging moment’s of a mama’s life.
The creator of this viral video is Jesse Franks, a blogger, International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) advocate and mom of three. She previously discussed the video’s popularity with Motherly and says she was inspired by a childbirth education tool she came across years ago.
“People have said that they are thankful it exists, that the actual surgical videos have been too gory for them to watch. One mom said that it was the first time she smiled while imagining her child’s birth,” Franks explained.
This video is incredible.
This video shows babies really do recognize mama right away
If you’ve ever wondered whether newborns really know their mothers when they’re born, this video will erase all doubt. It captures the magical first moments between a mom and her brand new baby girl. That little tiny arm clinging to mom’s face is enough to melt your heart.
That baby knows her mama.
The beauty of postpartum bodies is on full display in this brave post
Whether you’re rocking stretch marks, a C-section scar, a lingering linea negra or anything else, they’re all just proof of one thing: you’re one strong, courageous mama bear.
The caption says it all: “This is my postpartum. Some of you may see this and think, “Why is she sharing this”, and others “Wow, thanks for sharing” and I’m sure lots of other thoughts in between. Want to know mine? “Wow, she has the courage to share a TRUTH so many different women face. Dealing with a scar of victory and loss.” My staples are out now, but as you can imagine the healing and pains are not.”
This post shows the beauty in a mama’s C-section scar
“How can we teach our children to love themselves if we ourselves are constantly putting ourselves down?” It’s not always easy, but being a powerful example of self-love and self-acceptance is one of the greatest gifts you can give your kids.
This mama is making sure her children (and fellow mamas on Instagram) know that a scar is nothing to hide.
“Teach your children that scars and marks are beautiful, and that they aren’t to be ashamed of. Ever since she could point and touch, my daughter has always loved feeling my #csection scar,” she writes.
Motherhood is a miracle, as we see in this photo
Moms who’ve had C-sections often feel guilty and ashamed, but this gorgeous post has an important reminder: “However motherhood comes to you, it’s a miracle.” And perhaps an even more important reminder? Your baby won’t care how they born—just that they’re loved and cared for always.
“My scar may fade or it may not, but honestly, I don’t mind. I hope it doesn’t completely. It’s a special reminder of just how lucky I am,” this mama writes.
She continues her caption: “There are a few things I am incredibly passionate about, and helping other moms-to-be feel empowered about their c-section birth is one of them. I constantly receive messages and emails from moms who are scared, ashamed or overwhelmed about their c-section delivery and have only ever heard horror stories or been met with negativity. I feel so sad that they feel this way when they should be proud, excited and feel like the badass woman they are. I hope one day women everywhere don’t have to feel the need to justify their birth and can proudly say they are a C-section mama without any guilt or shame.”
“When I look at my scar now, I see my body’s ability to heal, to survive.”
A C-section scar serves as a visible reminder of what can be one of the best and worst days in a mother’s life. But this mama wants it to serve as a powerful reminder for something else: the physical ordeal you’ve overcome, and the path to accepting what led you there.
“When I look at my scar now, I see my body’s ability to heal, to survive,” this mama writes.
“I see journeys of both the physical and mental variety, with success waiting at the end—even if it wasn’t the end I expected. More than anything, though, I see grace. The grace I finally learned to give myself when plans changed and I adjusted accordingly, emerging stronger than ever before.”
This photo post tells a twin mama’s surprise C-section story
C-sections are common with twins, and this mama shows the pure joy that comes with holding two healthy newborns in your arms—even when you’ve just undergone a grueling surgery.
What started out as a regular appointment turned into a trip to the operating room and a healthy delivery, in all about three hours. Joyful posts like this one could go a long way toward easing the fears and disappointments of mom’s who’ve been told they’ll need a C-section.
“Before I knew it, I went from having 3 hearts beating inside me to the 3 of us bundled up enjoying skin-to-skin before we even rolled out of the O.R.,” this mama writes.
C-sections can be serious, but are seriously beautiful
This mama shared the story of developing a life-threatening infection that could have killed both her and her baby had she not been whisked off for an emergency C-section in the nick of time. Your birth plan goes out the window when lives are on the line—but it’s all worth it in the end.
“This photo is the only one taken that day. Definitely not the gorgeous birth photography I had planned for, but beautiful and special to me none the less,” this mama writes.
It wasn’t her plan, but it is still a beautiful birth story and a photo worth sharing and celebrating.
Clear drape C-sections are so powerful
More and more hospitals are stepping up their efforts to make C-sections a better experience for moms. Some are using clear plastic sheets to keep the environmental sterile, while also letting parents get to experience the magical moment of their baby emerging from the womb.
As Motherly previously reported, photos like this one are “showing the world that this new kind of Cesarean delivery can be absolutely beautiful. By posting these pictures, mothers and birth photographers aren’t just proving that C-section births are just as Insta-worthy as every other way women deliver, but they are also spreading awareness about clear drape C-sections, which are also known as “gentle Cesareans.”
“Birth can bring a lot of big emotions.”
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but it might as well be a million when you’re looking at a gorgeous birth photo.
This is a moment in time we need to see and celebrate, because “just because a baby needs to be born via cesarean doesn’t mean mama can’t be a participant in her birth experience,” says Motherly’s Digital Education Editor, Diana Spalding, a midwife, pediatric nurse and founder of Gathered Birth.
According to Spalding, author of Motherly’s upcoming book, The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama (April 2020), making C-sections personal is important: “We need to bring birth back to women. Women need options and choices, autonomy and respect. Becoming a mother is one of the most momentous events in a woman’s lifetime—she deserves to have it be her best birth.”
“This is 9 days into being a mother of two and it wasn’t by any means easy.”
There are lots of different reasons a mama-to-be might want or need a C-section. But they all share one thing in common: those reasons are no one’s business, and they’re certainly not up for judgment or discussion. This new mom-of-two had a condition that made a vaginal delivery impossible, and a C-section was far from “the easy way out.”
A C-section is a birth, just like any other.
“You are unique and your story makes you who you are today. Your fertility, pregnancy, birth story and parenting styles are your decisions and experiences and no one else’s,” this mama writes.
Looking back on a C-section birth story
What does this mama see when she looks at this photo? Not her scar, but the love and beauty between a mother and child. A scar may or may not fade over time, but that love only grows more visible.
“Instead of a smiling portrait of us, it’s just a photo of me cradling you gently next to the stitched up #Csection dressing you came from. And here we are now. The C-section scar may still be there, but now I can barely hold you in my arms. You are so busy these days and even more beautiful as I’ve gotten to know you this past year. That smile of yours will change the world,” this mama writes.
You are a warrior, mama
This video captures the joy, the fear and the love and the incredible strength woven into all these C-section stories,
Having a C-section is an incredibly emotional experience on a lot of different levels, but we hope that love, pride, and happiness outweigh anything else. Whether it was in your plans or not, you are absolutely a warrior.
A version of this story was first published February 19, 2020. It has been updated.