You spend months mapping out the perfect birth plan only to have it all change in a matter of seconds. An emergency C-section is, by definition, not part of a birth plan, and it certainly wasn’t part of Jessica Biel’s.
“We had two midwives, one doula, one meditation birthing class, a ton of hippie baby books, and a lovely home in the Hollywood Hills that we had turned into a labor training facility,” Biel and husband Justin Timberlake explain in a new book by thier nanny, Connie Simpson.
The pair had carefully planned a home birth to welcome son Silas in April 2015, but things turned out differently than they'd imagined. "When all our plans fell apart and the serene, natural childbirth we had envisioned ended with a transfer to the hospital and an emergency C-section, we arrived home exhausted, disillusioned, and totally in shock,” the couple recalls.
Biel reveals that she “was obsessed with everything organic, toxin-free, natural, and homeopathic for our kid, who came into this world in an operating room through an incision. I was a dictator, making myself and my husband insane!"
Feelings of disillusionment, shock, and a desire to regain one’s power are not uncommon after an emergency C-section, say mental health experts. Some women feel anxiety, or guilt when their birth doesn’t go as plan, and some even feel traumatized. Let’s face it, unexpected surgery can be scary, especially when it involves the precious baby you've been waiting for.
"The emergency nature of C-sections leads [some mothers] to feel out of control, as well as fear that there will be harm to the baby or themselves," Dr. Sarah Allen, a Chicago psychologist and director of the Postpartum Depression Alliance of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune.
Biel and Timberlake credit nanny-turned-author Connie Simpson with helping Biel start to feel better and relax during the weeks and months after her unplanned C-section.
Most moms don’t have a nanny at home to depend on, but we can and should accept help from our partners and support systems after any kind of birth, and if you’re feeling upset about your birth experience, seeing a therapist can be super helpful.
It’s also important for C-Section mamas to remember they are not alone. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, C-sections are very common, representing about 32% of all births in the United States.
There is no wrong way to give birth, and sometimes (even if you’ve turned a Hollywood Hills mansion into midwife central) things do not go as planned. Emergency C-sections are hard, but we love that Biel is being honest about her feelings during and after hers. When we talk about diverse birth experiences we destigmatize them and make it easier for mamas to say, “This is hard, and I need help.” There’s no shame in needing a C-section, and there’s no shame in needing to talk about it.