For those of you that don’t know, April is Cesarean Awareness Month. In the US 1 in 3 people will give birth via cesarean section. Leaving the percent of deliveries by cesarean at around 30%. Well above the World Health Organization's ideal rate of 10-15% According to a statement put out by them in 2015 “When medically necessary, a caesarean section can effectively prevent maternal and newborn mortality. Two new HRP studies show that when caesarean section rates rise towards 10% across a population, the number of maternal and newborn deaths decreases. When the rate goes above 10%, there is no evidence that mortality rates improve.”
Recently I posted an image on Instagram celebrating the beauty and rawness of a freshly postpartum cesarean mother in recognition of cesarean awareness month. I think it’s really common (and important) to see these images and posts going around in the birthing community for so many reasons. To acknowledge the normalcy of cesarean births. To celebrate the strength of those who give birth this way. To validate and encourage and support those who have had cesarean births. But in my posting of this image, a friend and follower brought up a wonderful point
This question gave me the inspiration to create this post.
To seek out cesarean birthers and ask them to tell their stories. Share their feelings. Their completely uncensored, unapologetic, thoughts. Because I think that there is this stigma in birth that you can’t be thankful and grateful for a healthy baby and also feel mad/sad/disappointed whatever about your birth. And that’s wrong. You can have both. Be both. Feel both. So these are their truths.
I ask that you respect their stories and keep your comments positive and supportive.
“If I had to choose one word to describe my youngest son’s birth it would be disappointing.
I pushed in every possible position for hours. After 3.5 hours my midwife decided it would be best to transfer to the hospital…..We got to the hospital and they hooked me up to the monitors and the OB on call immediately said that we needed to do a section. I feel like she took one look at my chart and saw that I had had a previous section along with the fact that this was an induction and didn’t even give me my chance.
The staff in the OR was the opposite of my dream. They forget that for them this is just another routine surgery, another day of doing their job. But for me this is the moment my baby will be born. A day I will remember over and over again for the rest of my life. Everything was so impersonal. I can clearly remember them talking about gum flavors and what they watched on TV the night before among other things. They made no effort to be sensitive to the fact that I was in the most vulnerable position a woman will ever be put in, laying on a cold table, literally cut open from hip to hip while they pull my baby out of me. Everything I was promised was not fulfilled and there was nothing I could do about it. There was no clear curtain, there was no skin to skin and there was no delayed cord cutting. I was not even allowed to see my baby, lay eyes on him for even one second, before they took him to the nursery. What was done, was done and I can never get those moments back.
And then to add to the insensitivity I was told, while still laying cut open on the table that it “was not a good idea for me to have more children” and did I “want my tubes tied” since they were already in there. Put on the spot during one of the scariest hours of my life to decide the rest of my fertility forever.”
“The toughest part to process of my birth experience was how quickly things changed from calm to scary. I was induced, and in labor for 12 hours, before it was realized that I needed an emergency c-section. I was okay with this until the drugs set in and made me feel very shaky and nervous. During the procedure, I could feel every tug and pull. It was painful and I was scared. I felt freezing. My warm “bun in the oven” had been removed. The hardest part was waiting to hold him, or even SEE him. It felt like an eternity, but my husband says it was more like a half an hour. I still feel that was too long. In hindsight, I wish I would have hired a doula! So, with sleep deprivation (son born at 5 am after no sleep the night before), not reacting well to the pain meds, and my new baby having difficulty latching, it was a super difficult time.”
“A lot of days, even just yesterday since my daughter was born I feel like I failed as a Mother. I didn’t have a natural birth so I feel less of a woman. Why couldn’t I have been able to have a real natural birthing experience like I had anticipated or like most of the women I know? I don’t have many friends who have had cesareans so when they talk about their birthing experiences I get very down and start thinking negative thoughts about my own body and how it is inadequate to other women. I feel like I missed out on that special connection between Mother and Baby during the whole birthing journey. Emotionally it has just been hard on me.”
“My C-Section was after a day and a half of not progressing past 4 centimeters during an induced labor which included two failed epidurals. By that point I was basically begging for a section which I felt horribly guilty about but had nothing left! I barely remember him being born because as soon as I knew he was out and safe I passed out from exhaustion (first pain free minutes in 36 hours). I had high hopes of direct skin to skin, nursing right away, etc and of course didn't get any of that. I am a firm believer that anything that end in a healthy baby and mom is a "good birth", but 8 years later I still get bummed having had such a hectic and traumatic beginning with him.”
“As a NICU nurse I know cesarean sections are amazing medical advances. I see the lives that it saves in my job everyday and I am SO GRATEFUL for my three babies that were brought into this world via c-sections. But when I gave birth to my first child after 20 hours of labor and a 'failure to progress' diagnosis that is not how I felt. My body’s inability to birth the normal way left me feeling guilty and depressed. Add the searing pain and long recovery… I was far from the glowing momma I had pictured myself to be just days earlier. My next two babies were also c-section deliveries; one after a failed VBAC (again with the failure label) and a planned c-section. And while I was more prepared for the aftermath, I still felt that tiny whisper of disappointment. But what it comes down to is that it’s ok to feel thankful for a healthy baby while also grieving the perfect birth you didn’t receive. An unconventional birth does not equal a failed birth and I have 3 sweet little souls to prove it.”
“Scared – actually terrified.
“I went into my first birth with rose colored glasses. I had done all my research, watched all the documentaries and read all the books. Water birth it was, but after two days of induction and endless pitocin I was feeling supremely discouraged, and like a huge failure. I was certain that if I was allowed the time that my body would kick into high gear and I could do this. Unfortunately I was told that I wasn’t going to progress on my own and that I needed to get that baby out immediately.
I have felt robbed at every birth of the euphoria of a vaginal birth. My births are all white sheets and strapped down arms
It’s not been magical, I try to be positive, reframe as it’s happening. But in the end it just feels unnatural, and like I’ve had a huge part of what makes me a woman stolen and lopped off.”
“The pain!!! Not being able to stand up straight (or stand at all) while trying to visit, spend time with and “mother” my babies while they were in the NICU. Doing everything was difficult in the first weeks and I didn’t feel like I was able to contribute enough to the girls as they grew and became healthy enough to come home.
Now, I also feel like I “screwed” them out of all those great microbiome vaginal bacteria that help to make kids healthier.
“I specifically went to a certain hospital because they had the lowest C section rate. I worked hard during labor 26 hours of hard work! I didn’t want the epidural until I was at least 6cm. I was on the bouncy ball, on all fours, holding the bar and squatting - you name it I was trying it. There were amazing nurses and doulas in my room cheering me on I was so grateful..... then it got over 24 hours and I spiked a fever and they had to do an emergency C section. I remember at one point the doctor said .... “I see the head, a couple more pushes” and then I was so psyched then all of a sudden they were pushing him back in and rushing me to the OR. What happened? I did everything I was supposed to do... all my hard work. I am very grateful and appreciative of the hospital team and my son is amazing, it just wasn’t the ending I expected.”
“There was a lot I did when I had the boys that I could have done differently but I was so clueless and willing to just do what doctors said.
I wish I would have stood up for myself a little bit more or had more information. I just had no idea what I was doing…We had just moved across the country and I was home alone with no friends/job the majority of my pregnancy. So I was really limited on my resources and how/where to find information and help I needed… I didn't feel empowered enough to ask more questions or really advocate for myself to the doctors. Just let them lead the way.”
“I asked them to stop touching me, to let me calm down and call my mom who lives next to the hospital and could be there at any minute. They said they didn’t have time, I needed to go to the OR now. I started having a panic attack and could barely breathe. I told them I wasn’t going to surgery. For nearly ten months I had imagined this birth where I would breathe and meditate and pray my way through the pain. Where my daughter would lay on me and we would breathe together. I started to fight and argue. Loudly. And with Lots of curses. My husband was worried and didn’t know how to help. The nurses ignored me and moved me to the OR without further discussion.
I was deathly afraid of having surgery, it had always been a phobia of mine. The sweet on call OB continued to try and help me calm down but I cried and sobbed inconsolable throughout my entire procedure.
I didn’t realize until a year later but I had extreme anxiety for nearly a year after my baby was born. I couldn’t take her places without extreme planning and without freaking out. She was a crying baby and had difficulty sleeping. She was jaundiced and then had growth issues. I was in a constant state of stress and anxiety. I was worried and scared. I have blocked out so much of her birth and first year that I’m afraid it will affect our relationship. She has two younger siblings who had amazing midwife supported vaginal births and I’m afraid she’ll notice how I talk about their baby years as opposed to hers. I was scared. My first introduction to this insane life called motherhood began with a panic attack and with no one who cared.”
“Until you’re in the position to have someone tell you you have no other choice then to be strapped down and cut open you’ll never understand what that feels like. I think for some women that feels safe. But for me that wasn’t the case. Especially after watching multiple babies being born. Sometimes I feel like it’s a punishment for judging others who had elective sections.
I remember when we first found out that my husband was sterile I cried not because I wouldn’t get to be a mother but because I always wanted to be pregnant. I saw a woman who had a stillborn baby and I remember feeling a little jealous like at least she got to be pregnant. I’m sure others hear me complain about having a csection and think well at least she has a baby.
“I do feel that my doctor did kind of strong arm me into a C-section because I was young and it was my first baby. I remember her giving me a phone call when I was about 37 weeks and asking me if I has decided to go into labor on my own or if I would like to schedule a c section. I told her I was leaning towards trying to go into labor on my own and she replied with "well your baby is measuring at over 10 lbs so you will rip very badly and will need a ton of stitches."
She also told me "I'm going to rip from end to end if I try to deliver such a big baby"”
“I never got to see my son immediately after he was born because I was unconscious and woke up in the recovery area of the hospital without my baby. I was there for a few hours. I feel like I missed out on the immediate bonding. It still hurts 16 years later.”
“I said yes to a csection because I was scared. I was told my baby was too big for me, told my blood pressure was high, told I needed to rest, told it’s okay 2nd babies can be born vaginally, told I could get an infection if we waited longer. What I was not told was the amount of “what if” questions that would haunt my mind for months, how I would feel disconnected from the greatest moment of my life, the endless conversations with my husband about how sad I am over his birth, the confusion from almost everyone I talked to, and how I would obsess over the scar tissue that would be left behind and how that could affect future babies. The list of things I was not told is never ending.
The parts of his birth that are not so beautiful and magical are in the back of my mind every single day. I bottle up the fact that I didn’t cry until 12+ hours after he was earth-side. I barely remember looking at him for the first time because of the drugs. I was too afraid to hold him on the operating table because of how shaky I was. I look at pictures to be reminded of my husband’s instantaneous ability to fall in love when he saw our son, because all I remember is how loopy I felt.
My son is healthy and I am healthy but that doesn’t cover up the pain and trauma I have experienced from my cesarean birth. It’s isolating and frustrating to deal with such guilt that surrounds your child’s first breath outside of you.”
“My son was born via C-section 5 years ago. I was very sad and unhappy with that birth. I struggled with postpartum depression. I put that birth in a box, put it on a shelf and left it there. I was so focused on my second birth being completely different, I forgot about that box on the shelf. It’s still there.”
“I was (and am) very grateful for my c section because it was what my twins needed to survive. But it is a terrible experience. The healing was awful in ways I wasn't expecting.
I think because I knew from so early on that it would be a c section and there were so many other fears and obstacles in the pregnancy, that I never honestly thought much about the cs aspect. Just accepted it and moved on. I do remember the day of them asking when I wanted my IV placed and I simply replied "I'll leave that up to you. So many awful things are going to happen to me today, I can't plan them all." And the actual operating room was a chaotic mess that was not comforting or welcoming. I remember feeling sad for anyone who only had that as an experience.”
“I'm still a little angry. I guess it's hard to be too angry when you have a healthy baby but I feel like they should have known he was sunny side up or maybe could of offered assistance with some other tools. I think the thing that makes me so upset is the feeling that I was "high" after the surgery and felt like I was going to drop my baby/felt out of it. Other than that and the recovery being tough aka shitting softballs from the pain meds (real sparkly haha) I also feel like having a csection may have limited the amount of children I can have because of the increased risk which is why a vbac is so important to me this time. It makes me feel like I'll be in control more.”
“I wouldn’t consider myself angry about how my son’s birth went, but I feel detached and somewhat indifferent about it and the fact that I have these feelings about it makes me angry, if that makes sense.
Having watched The Business of Being Born and done some research I had reservations about being induced but figured I'm healthy, everything is fine, I won’t be a statistic. What happened in actuality was everything I didn’t want happen and was anxious about. One intervention led to another and 36 hours into labor I was rushed to the OR for an emergency c section because baby’s heart rate kept dropping and my body was fighting the induction. My son was born at 430 on a Friday afternoon which seems ironically convenient for hospital personnel.
I hate that things went exactly how I didn’t want them to go. I think to summarize I feel like I was sidelined at an event where I should have been the MVP.”
“My body failed me. It made me feel absolutely horrible. It was the worst pain in my entire life. Seeing all the blood was horrific. I never thought I’d feel so disappointed in myself for something I had no control over.”
“I think my biggest thing was being ashamed of it. My first birth was perfection. Seven hours, unmediated, out within 3 pushes. My daughter was not that simple. She was transverse and needed to be taken at 37 weeks to avoid harm. Although my birth wasn’t traumatic, I felt more embarrassed that i was unable to have 2 natural births.”