Ashton is bright and lively, with almond-shaped brown eyes, chubby cheeks adorned with dimples, and an always-cheerful demeanor (even through teething). Soon, he’ll turn one.

But the trauma of his birth is still fresh in my mind. When I turn just so, or arch back in my yoga class, my abdominal muscles, which were severed just between the hipbones to deliver my son, hitch and tighten. It feels like an old, worn rubber band about to snap at any moment.

An emergency C-section was necessary to deliver Ashton, and the healing process—both physically and emotionally—has been much harder than I anticipated. My first son, Gabriel, was delivered vaginally, and I expected the same with Ashton.

After seven hours of contractions and pushing, it was clear that something was wrong. Before I knew what was happening, my doctor, three nurses, an aid, and the anesthesiologist were wheeling me into a sterile operating room.

Ashton’s first cries were heard not long after the incision was made.

It’s taken a long time to come to terms with my emergency C-section. I now have a permanent scar and a small patch of soft, fleshy skin above my hips that will likely not return to normal. My mobility was (and still is) challenged in some ways.

At first, I felt like my body betrayed me.

As a woman who had gone through vaginal childbirth before—and largely unscathed—I couldn’t understand what happened, and felt as though I’d failed in some way.

Today, I’m learning that I didn’t fail at all. A C-section was necessary to preserve my safety and the safety of my son.

Today, I’m learning to love my body again, even with its new scar, patch of skin, and continuous healing. A few things are helping with this process.

This is my body after a c-section, and I’m learning to love it.

Here’s what I’ve learned about taking care of your body after c section

1. Proper diet and exercise make me feel better.

I loved yoga, walking and spin class before my C-section. While in the initial healing phase, I couldn’t exercise, but I have been able to slowly and steadily weave them back into my routine.

When I’m active, I feel so much better. And when I eat right, that feeling is magnified. My body might not ever look like it used to, but it can still be strong and healthy.

2. I have a new appreciation for the medical advancements that made sure my baby was safe.

A C-section wasn’t my plan, but it saved my baby’s life and prevented birth related complications that could have had a long-term impact on his life. This gives me a sense of gratitude that I had not considered before.

Knowing that this procedure was necessary to preserve my son’s life helped me make peace with it, and with my body. My body has the ability to heal from a C-section, and I’m grateful such a procedure was available.

3. I’ve found community among other mothers who have had C-sections.

Like being a part of a club, spiritual community, or sorority, becoming open enough to allow other women who have been through a C-section to support me is an important part of getting back to loving my body.

These women understand what I’ve been through, and I can relate to them in a way I can’t with other people. Healing happens when women who have been through similar situations join in camaraderie with one another. These women remind me that my body is still as strong as it once was, and it is capable of amazing things.

4. Self-care and patience have a new meaning.

As a mother, neglecting my needs is easy to do in the day-to-day hustle, but having a C-section taught me that my needs have to come first if I want to take care of my family. The healing process forced me to slow down, rest, read, and find patience.

Even though I’m not in the middle of the healing process anymore, I still take self-care seriously. I attend my weekly yoga classes, forego the laundry to take a nap if I’m too tired, and make sure to have some alone time. This space allows me to give my body a break, and since I don’t get burned out as easily as a result, it’s easier to appreciate my body.

This body of mine—scarred, stretched and healed—has given birth to two children. This body continues to get stronger and healthier, and shows up everyday for motherhood. I might not have realized it at the time but the healing process made me more aware of my body’s resilience and capability.

[This story was originally published on October 5, 2017. It has been updated.]