I had dreamed of my “perfect” all-natural birth experience from the moment I found out I was pregnant. I started my prenatal care at my local birth center and was really happy with how everything was going. My pregnancy was normal and my baby was healthy.

However, my birth experience veered in a completely different direction. After a labor that lasted about 32 hours, I had to undergo an emergency C-section in which I was given general anesthesia.

I woke up hours later in a recovery room not even remembering I had just gone through labor. My sister was there and she told me my baby had been born and that she was okay.

The recovery from my daughter’s birth was rough. My body was aching, I felt woozy from all of the pain medications and I was so tired from such a long labor that to this day I barely have any memories of those first days in the hospital. I was so weak physically and mentally that my husband had to take care of our baby those first few days.

This had not been anything like I had imagined it would be. I was feeling so hormonal and I felt so inexperienced and incapable of taking care of my baby.

With the help of my husband, I began to get the hang of things as I learned how to be a mom, but the weight of my birth experience continued to weigh heavy on my heart.

I am now writing this two years later, feeling completely at peace with everything that happened. But I will say— it wasn’t easy, and it took a lot of time for me to get here.

First, I needed to mourn my birth experience. Or the birth experience I expected to have and didn’t feel like I got. Yes, I am so thankful and blessed to have had a healthy baby, but I also wished that her entrance to this world could have been something I wanted to remember with love. So I gave myself permission to cry and feel sad for it not being so.

Then I realized I had to learn to block out well-meaning, but hurtful comments from people who didn’t know my story.

I so clearly remember a relative who asked how my baby’s birth had been and I told him some of the vague details. He proceeded to proudly tell me about his wife’s experience and how she had an all-natural non-complicated birth. Oh, and he threw in how he thought C-section moms had it easy, too.

I wanted to defend myself and correct him for his comment, but I was too emotional to do so—I didn’t feel like it was worth it. Because it’s not worth it to fight every ignorant comment from people who don’t understand.

Instead, I decided to find ways to uplift and celebrate women who have had C-sections. To educate people about the fact that C-sections are not bad—in many cases they are life-saving—and that the women who have to go through them are so incredibly strong. They are warriors.

I needed time to heal from the trauma. I vividly remember the first time I was finally able to talk about my birth experience without crying—I was eight months postpartum. It took me eight long months of crying every time I remembered everything that had happened, every time I replayed the birth in my head over and over.

It can take more or less time for you to feel this way, but when you do you—count it as an amazing milestone.

Now that I’m sitting here two years later with my toddler in my lap as she hugs me and tells me how much she loves me, I realize that her birth was such a small moment in the grand scheme of her life. I have a beautiful gift now: perspective. And with that, for me, I have also found healing and peace.

I thought that not being able to have skin-to-skin after her birth was going to affect our relationship forever, but now I realize that it’s just not true. She loves me so much—as I do her. And I know one day you’re going to sit where I am today and be completely at peace with your own birth stories, too.