The C-section can leave as much of an impact on your mind as your body.
Each day I look at my son Oliver, I am in wonder of his perfection. Even when his actions are a little unruly (hello terrible two’s), there isn’t a time I ever think he could be better. And somehow as he gets older, the idea that I grew him inside of my body becomes even more amazing. What you mamas are doing, growing that baby inside of you at this moment, is a tiny miracle. And one day you will have a birth story to call your own. Some of you will wait for any given opportunity to relive the moment in your birth story. For others it will be a blur, and a few -- for one reason or another -- will try and avoid the question altogether.
I fall into the latter group. Like many of you, I set out to have a “natural, unmedicated” birth. I had gone my entire pregnancy without touching a glass of wine, switched to all organic food and beauty products and exercised because I didn’t want to harm my baby. While exhaustion was the number one issue in my first trimester, I never experienced morning sickness and was lucky enough to have what some might call a perfect pregnancy throughout.
Yet, I found myself as a c-section statistic on November 5, 2011. Yes, of course, that was the day that I became the mother to the most perfect boy in my world, but what I think a lot of people fail to realize is that one is not exclusive to the other. Time and time again I hear people say, “Well, you have a healthy baby and that’s all that matters.” But does it? From a mom who went through a c-section and cried herself to sleep for weeks -- yes, the hormones were running through my veins -- I’m not sure I agree. While c-sections are common, that does not mean it is a minor surgery. It is in fact a major surgery. And not only is the physical healing rough on a mama, but the emotional trauma can be just as difficult. Especially when you aren’t prepared.
For me, I just couldn’t understand how I actually got there. Sure, I watched “The Business of Being Born” and sort of knew that the moment induction started, I could be on my way to having a c-section. But when you’re 41 weeks pregnant and have already told the doctor that you want to give the baby a few more days, what is one to do? Like my family, I was scared to go against my doctor’s recommendations too much. What if -- after that perfect pregnancy of mine -- I compromised my baby? I tried some last-minute acupuncture to no avail.
My medical induction started with the cervix softener cervidil, which prepped me for a foley bulb that then led to the doctor breaking my water, which brought on the pitocin. Over 26 hours -- and many tears -- later, my doctor suggested they had done all they could do. Oliver just didn’t want to come out. I kept asking myself why I had done this to us. He just wasn’t ready to come out in my eyes. Yet I was there. And yes, in a way, everyone is right: once Oliver was out, it didn’t matter. Once I heard his cry, I knew the previous worries of not being able to bond with baby without immediate skin to skin was wrong because I felt the bond from the first note of his loud, strong cry (he’s still a loud strong crier). Even with my delayed milk because of the c-section, my babe was an avid nurser, which after a few hurdles was a gift.
But it was when we got home and the baby was sleeping that I had time to really think of what my body had gone through. My body, which felt like it had been hit by a truck, was a nice reminder for weeks and months later. Every wrong movement made me think “what if I made my doctor wait just one more day?” But that is behind us. There are no take-backs.
I remember talking to one of the founders of Birthday Presence for the first time and she described post-c-section as a mourning period. I realized that even with a beautiful baby to call my own, it was okay to mourn the birth I didn’t experience. For me, there was also a feeling of violation that came a long with it. It was my body, my baby, yet I had no final say in what was about to happen.
I’ll spare you the details of what actually happens during a c-section but it’s not something a mama should feel forced into -- which in retrospect, I did. It’s a major surgery and one that most mamas wouldn’t want to happen unless absolutely necessary. And while I’m leaving it behind me, the best I can do going forward is to encourage mamas-to-be to become informed about c-sections just in case you end up in the situation. Not because your baby won’t be perfect if you have one, but because you deserve to have the birth you choose if possible.
Here are a few things I would have done differently.
1. Get a doula. They are not a luxury. Of course, I’m sure your partner, like mine, is amazing but they are not trained in labor support. And while yes, I’m sure your doctor is wonderful, chances are they will not be with you throughout your labor. This is the most important day in your life. You deserve the support.
2. Do your research. I kept thinking, “Women all over the world give birth everyday, I can do this anywhere.” Except for the fact that there are hospitals that have higher c-section rates. I wish I wasn’t so cavalier about my choice.
3. Push your medical providers a little harder. I know women who did and had kickass natural births. If your baby is not in any danger, don’t get peer-pressured because of hypothetical situations.
4. Keep your environment monitored. My hospital was way too lax and let more people than I was comfortable with into my room during my labor. Don’t be afraid to tell people to get out if your hospital doesn’t. You don’t want any extra stress that might scare that baby from coming out.
5. Don’t tune it out. Be informed about your birth options. But also be informed about c-section. If you end up having one unexpectedly, the situation can feel less jarring when you're prepared.
Image via Pinterest.