Wednesday, November 14, 2012

C-Sections: A Diverse Experience

After posting about my C-section this week (The Story of My Scars) I wanted to say a few words about C-sections, women, and life in general.  My earlier post was a very experience and emotionally driven piece, less informational and more personal.  It did not include the full range of every aspect of C-sections or how I think about them, or what the experience was like for me.  I thought, based on the popularity of the post and some of the comments, I should have a follow-up post that explains a few things in a clear way rather than a sort of creative non-fiction way.

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.

I am not against having a C-section with my third baby.
I think that when I tell people I am trying for a VBAC, I get a lot of people who think that I am 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.)  If during labor, there are complications that necessitate a C-section, I am totally open and willing.  For me, a VBAC means that I am trying to avoid a major surgery unless I need it.  I am mentally prepared and fine with having another one if I need to.  Key word: need.

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.


  1. Thanks for this post!

    I had a VBA2C, but it took a lot of searching for a good OB who would actually not look at me like a two headed monster when I asked for a trial of labour. And sure enough, 48 GLORIOUS hours later (ha ha) I delivered a healthy baby boy.

    The odd thing is, instead of people being happy about it, I got so many comments along the lines of "Why did you try for so long? You should have just had another c-section, it would have been a lot easier." Ummm, hello! It is my body and I would like it to be able to push out a few more kids! AND, I loved being able to walk just a couple of hours later after giving birth.

    Sigh! I guess there will always be someone to rain on your parade. Just make sure you bring an umbrella and keep on walking!

    1. I think choice is important and people need to remember WHOSE choice it is! Advice is helpful, but judgey comments or unsupported statements of "truth" just tick me off.

  2. I'm glad I read this post. I was just thinking about how bad I want another baby and now I remember why I can't remember the first two months of Isaac's life. I end up feeling dizzy after most of your delivery posts...reader fail! ha ha

    1. I couldn't think about birth or birth stories for a REALLLY long time after having both boys. I grabbed Rob's arm in Sawyer's birth and was like, "I am NEVER having a baby again. We can adopt all the children you want. But I am never. doing. this.again." :)


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