Many women long to share and talk about their birth after having a baby. (I do also know some women who don’t.) Birth is a spiritual, physical, and emotional experience, whether you have an amazing birth or a traumatic one. There is sometimes an added element with C-sections because sometimes they come with guilt or fear or disappointment. I wrote about my second C-section in The Story of My Scars but I wanted to write a more practical post about the diversity in the C-section experience. There are many women having C-sections these days and a HUGE spectrum of how this experience looks for different women.
Not all women have bad experiences with C-sections!
I personally know a lot of women who do not share the same type of experience I had with my C-section. No one loves the recovery, but some women had less difficulty with it than others, and many women loved the experience and would voluntarily do it again, whether it was voluntary or prescribed the first time or not. The telling of my story was not meant to be a comprehensive view of what C-sections are like, or to make those of you with good experiences roll your eyes at my drama. There is a big range in what this was like for women, and I know many of you feel just fine about yours. I am truly glad for that!
For those that DO have a bad experience, it can be hard to find sympathy.
I have read a lot of comments online (NOT on my blog) directed towards women dealing with a bad C-section that are dismissive or rude or very reductionist. Things like: Well, you have a healthy baby, so stop whining! I had one and it was fine, so I don’t understand what the big deal was. Get on with it and move on with your life. Stop being so selfish. Seriously, I have read every one of those things, said from one woman to another. Talk about Mommy wars… There is kind of a secret club where women who have had C-sections can openly share about the experience, mourn how it all went down, and confess to feeling like a failure/losing that birth experience/feeling robbed or otherwise traumatized. I know that for people who haven’t had a difficult experience, this can be hard to understand. But just as you wouldn’t say, Get over it! to someone struggling with depression, even if you don’t understand, don’t dismiss us. There are support groups for C-section recovery, books dealing with this subject. It’s a real thing. I’m glad it’s not true for every woman, but that does not mean it is not real to some.
I am not personally against C-sections.
My experience was bad, mostly because I thought my kid was dying AND because I went under, I had issues that you don’t have when you plan it. Such as: feeling a great deal more pain, not getting to see my son for a longer period, having the cloudiness and confusion that comes from anesthesia. Oh, and apparently, I almost bled out on the table, so there’s that. All around: bad deal. (My original post tells more of what it felt like if you want to know.) C-sections DO save lives. They do. I also believe that they are perhaps given out too freely, considering the risk increase with surgery, but when there is a need, a C-section is a very good thing to have.
I don’t feel like a failure because I had a C-section.
While I talked about this struggle in my post, I know that I am not a failure. I KNOW it. But as with anything that you struggle with your feelings about (especially if someone called you a failure like in my case), you struggle. Sometimes you feel better than other times about it. It’s a process. The fact that I’m sharing so personally means I’m really dealing with it and feel better. So don’t worry about me, I’m A-Ok! Emotions and memories will always be complex when it comes to big, traumatic events, so I feel peaceful, but Lincoln’s birth will always carry a different weight with it.
Trying to have a VBAC doesn’t mean you are against having a C-section.
When I told people I was trying for a VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section), I had pushback from people who think that I was being contrary or hard-headed. (Honestly, you kind of have to be both those things to actually GET a VBAC, but that’s another story!) I tried to have a VBAC with Cooper, my third, but because of complications and concerns, we scheduled a C-section. I was disappointed to have another surgery, but a VBAC meant that I was trying to avoid a major surgery unless I needed it. And the doctors gave me their best opinion that I needed it. I was mentally prepared to have another one if I needed to, which helped ease the disappointment.
I don’t wish all women should try for natural/home birth/vaginal birth. I wish for education.
One of the reasons I’m glad more people are talking about home birth and birth options these days is because I think the best thing you can be before birth is educated. I feel like there is a gaping disconnect sometimes between what we hear from the medical community and what research shows. This is certainly not true across the board, but I have heard stories of doctors not fully explaining risks or options to women. I was almost given an episiotomy without permission, which is totally okay in a hospital setting. (When, EVER, should it be okay for someone to cut you without permission when not in a life-saving moment??) When we go to birth truly knowing some of the things that can happen and the risks involved, we are able to make the right choices for us, whatever they might be. I loved the book Creating Your Birth Plan for this reason–it outlines everything you might encounter, gives pros and cons and tells YOU to decide what you want. Making a birth plan ahead of time may mean your expectations aren’t met (because birth just goes how it goes sometimes) but at least if you go off-course, you can decide with full understanding what you want. Even if a doctor fully explains things, when you’re in labor you hear blah-blah-blah-OWWWWW! I don’t care what you choose, but I would hope you have education informing your choices.
I just wish we could all get along.
Like the variety of ways we have girl-on-girl crime, birth becomes one of those hot topics where people yell that you need to do it this way or that way, or they just make you feel like crap with their great story of how they had a 45-hour totally unmedicated water birth with a 11-pound baby, singing hallelujah the whole time. Good for her! The reality is that we have different experiences and we make different choices and my birth is not your birth. So hands off! Be gracious where we differ. Please? Like I said before, my biggest hope is that you know what you’re signing off on, not that I think you should sign off on some particular thing. Birth is so personal, and I think we could have better conversations if we allowed room for freedom.