My Cesarean

I did not want a C-section.

I wanted to give birth the “normal” way, which is to say via a nickel-sized slit that had previously only been used for sexy purposes.

I also didn’t want an induction, but I got one of those, too. I was 43 weeks pregnant when “I don’t want an induction” turned into “induce me right now or I’ll slay you.”

I labored for 50 hours before they wheeled me into surgery. I was 5 cm dilated and decided I couldn’t labor for another 2 days before starting to push, if that’s what it came down to. My husband sat by my side and held my shaking arms down as they sliced me open and pulled out my daughter. That was birth.

Physical recovery was difficult. How does one recover from major surgery while also not sleeping and worrying constantly and feeling emotions that had not previously existed? Very slowly.

Emotional recovery takes even longer. While I’m grateful my daughter was born safely, I didn’t want this. I didn’t execute my plan. I failed to give birth the way I should have been able to. These are the thoughts that creep in and strangle whatever ownership I’ve managed to take of my experience. This is the shit that gets to me.

One night, I was laying in bed with my husband and just happened to brush my hand across my scar. I broke down in tears.

Shouldn’t I be over this already?

Does any woman, ever, anywhere, get over the experience of giving birth? No. You’re not supposed to.

This 6 inch slice that cuts across my abdomen exists to remind me that I cooked up Lucy right inside of there. Thanks for the sperm, but I did this myself. I made dozens of small decisions every day for 10 months about what to put in my body, how much to move it, and how to take care of myself in order to grow her exactly how she is. During labor, I made the best decisions I could through excruciating pain, tremendous fear, and piercing self doubt. When they carted me into surgery, I was unbelievably fucking brave. I meditated, I counted, I breathed deeply as they slit me open from one hip bone to the other. “You’ll feel some pulling,” they said, as they lifted my 9 pound baby up into the air. I did that.

Birth is birth, and it made me stronger, softer, braver, and better. And I got this kid to prove it.

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You can read my full birth story here.

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15 thoughts on “My Cesarean

  1. Whoa, our c-section stories are pretty similar except I labored for only (ha) 30 hours before going under the knife. My scar looks a lot like yours. Three years later, I’m still processing some residual guilt (mostly around the fact that I wish I’d waited longer to induce) but I count myself lucky that my immediate reaction to the c-section was to feel like a badass, not a failure. I mean, how fucking cool to be able to keep a brand new human alive after undergoing major abdominal surgery! It makes me feel strong. -Sandy

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      • For all of you who shared the Caesarean journey and the subsequent feelings of society-induced guilt, inadequacy, etc. I just came across this publication of a new book. I haven’t read it, so I’m not reviewing or even recommending it, but it sounds as if it speaks to the constant malaise–no, worse, depression and guilt–that can follow any birth that isn’t “natural” or the feelings of any mother who feels she isn’t “perfect”–is there ANYONE? I’m calling your attention to it with the hope that it may be as helpful as it sounds: PUSH BACK by Dr. Amy Tuteur

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        “A welcome breath of reassurance for women” — PUSH BACK by Dr. Amy Tuteur —
        New from Dey Street Books

        “Don’t buy someone else’s story of who you are or what you should do to be a ‘Good Mother.’ Tuteur speaks truth with love to help you and your baby stay strong and healthy through childbirth and those precious early months in your new family’s life.” –Susan Lemagie, MD, FACOG, Assistant Clinical Professor at University of Washington

        “This book offers an alternative to parents desperately seeking a different sort of birth or parenting script; one that relies more on intellect than emotion; on love rather than biology.”
        –Suzanne Barston CLC, creator of The Fearless Formula Feeder blog and author of Bottled Up
        “As a former CPM, I highly recommend that every mother and mother-to-be read Push Back. As I look back over the years I think of all the women that could have been helped by the information and explanations provided in this book. The amount of pain, suffering, and guilt that I could have avoided and alleviated had only I understood the flaws of the natural parenting paradigm as explained so thoroughly by Dr. Tuteur is immeasurable.” –Leigh Fransen, CPM, who blogs as “Honest Midwife”

        A Harvard-trained obstetrician-gynecologist, prominent blogger, and author of the classic
        How Your Baby Is Born delivers a timely, important, and sure to be headline-making expose that shines a light on the natural parenting movement and the multimillion-dollar industry behind it.

        The natural parenting movement praises the virtues of birth without medical interference, staunchly advocates breastfeeding for all mothers, and hails attachment parenting. Once the exclusive province of the alternative lifestyle, natural parenting has gone mainstream, becoming a lucrative big business today.

        But those who do not subscribe to this method are often made to feel as if they are doing their children harm. Dr. Amy Tuteur understands their apprehensions. “Parenting quickly feels synonymous with guilt. And of late, there is no bigger arena for this pervasive guilt than childbirth.” As a medical professional with a long career in obstetrics and gynecology and as the mother of four children, Tuteur is no stranger to the insurmountable pressures and subsequent feelings of blame and self-condemnation that mothers experience during their children’s early years. The natural parenting movement, she contends, is not helping them raise their children better. Instead, it capitalizes on their uncertainty, manipulating parents when they are most vulnerable.

        In Push Back, she chronicles the movement’s history from its roots to its modern practices, incorporating her own experiences as a mother and successful OB-GYN with original research on the latest in childbirth science. She also reveals the dangerous and overtly misogynistic motives of some of its proponents-conservative men who sought to limit women’s control and autonomy. As she debunks, one by one, the guilt-inducing myths of natural birth and parenting, Dr. Tuteur empowers women to embrace the method of childbirth that is right for them, while reassuring all parents that the most important thing they can do is love and care for their children.

        Read more:

        In New York magazine’s “The Cut”

        On Slate

        On Time.com

        On Cosmopolitan.com

        On WBUR’s Cognoscenti

        On Glamour.com

        Amy Tuteur, MD, is an obstetrician-gynecologist. She practiced obstetrics at both the Beth Israel Hospital and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and held an appointment as a Clinical Instructor in Obstetrics at Harvard Medical School. Tuteur is well known in the mainstream press for questioning the received wisdom on natural childbirth and breastfeeding and has been interviewed widely on topics ranging from homebirth to breastfeeding to feminist theory. She has written for Time.com, The New York Times, The London Times, The Boston Globe, Salon, and the website Science Based Medicine. She has been quoted in The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Beast, and the medical publications Medscape, American Medical News, and Contemporary OB-GYN among other publications.

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    • I am two weeks post partum and had a similar experience and my guilt lies mostly with feeling like I should have waited longer to induce. It’s such a hard thing to come to terms with. The whole process. But it’s so good to read other similar stories and of similar feelings.

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  2. After your water breaks, they only give you 24 hours to give birth before it’s C-section time–infection can set in after that and hurt the baby. OR, if you already have an infection [like herpes], they have to whisk the baby out before she slides into the birth canal. Either way, my characteristically flat [pre-pregnancy] tummy was going to be sliced–and not the relatively-nice low bikini-cut you got–the belly-button to mid-belly cut that took years to go from red to pink to white…and now is nearly invisible. I, too, wanted everything natural-easy-quick-etc. But sometimes babies teach us that what we want doesn’t matter any more. Especially when they weigh what was it, 9 pounds-plus? That baby looked almost bigger than you are.

    I think pregnancy and childbirth teach us that our lives don’t completely belong to us anymore: that we are now allied with the child growing inside us, and that just as we change the way we eat-sleep-walk-live even before each child arrives, their arrival itself is not a solo act. My first child was upside down and backward [or is it sunny side up?] which made it almost impossible for him to find his way down that nickel-size aperture you speak of; he had to be turned by a doctor with forceps!!! before he could continue his trip. It was 24 hours until he could peer out and, first thing, turn to hear his father’s voice.

    I didn’t want drugs–but I had them, pitocin and some kind of pain killer, I was too numb to remember; but what I wanted wasn’t the whole question: he and i were in it together. And with my daughter? She couldn’t have a vaginal birth or she might have been seriously compromised by infection–so, goodbye flat tummy—but there she was. It didn’t feel like my failure, beautiful lady–it felt like protection for this lovely new life. And thirty years later, I wish I could put my arms around you and try to convince you that the concepts of “doing it right,” “perfection,” “failure,” really don’t parse with childbearing: it is too complicated, too varied, and too much a function of the two people involved. The mother has to accommodate to what the child needs–and it seems that your child was just too big to be birthed in the “usual” [forget that word “normal”] way. She needed another exit. Thank heavens, you and your team were able to
    give that to her. Imagine how she felt for all those hours, waiting until the right door opened.

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  3. You’re a badass. Thanks for sharing this.

    I will stop responding. It’s probably annoying to you.

    Sending love.

    I’m getting ready for the whole ordeal myself for the first time.

    ________________________________

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  4. I went into labor thinking that I was having a C-section. No woman on my mother’s side of the family had given vaginal birth in generations. I was OK with that for some reason. I didn’t have any warm up to labor. All of the sudden I went from watching TV to contractions every 2 minutes (so, one minute of rest) and had to crawl down the stairs on my hands and knees to the car which was frightening for my husband, poor thing. I only had to labor this way for a few hours before I got an epidural that worked so well I didn’t know what to do with myself. Yes, things were happening fast. Most importantly, my anesthesiologist looked like JFK Jr. Before I knew it I was pushing, to the disbelief of my nurse. My doctor said “this is going to be a big baby, it could take hours.” (Who the fuck says that to a person about to start pushing???) 20 minutes later she told me she needed to do an episiotomy. I was only concerned if it would hurt, but I felt nothing…. until the epidural started wearing off a few hours later. My episiotomy site wound up healing so badly that my internal organs now want to exit my body through my formerly nickel sized slit. I, indeed, had a cesarian on my vagina. The whole situation will now need to be fixed through multiple surgeries. I only tell this story in hopes that it makes you feel better about the vaginal birth that you once longed for and never had!! Oh and my HUGE baby weighed a little over 6 lbs.

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  5. Thanks for sharing your story. After having a first c-section which made me feel like I missed out on the real childbirth experience, I did everything my obgyn suggested, even accupunture to turn my second born into the right position so I could have a normal delivery the second time around. I wanted to be part of that group of moms who could wear the – I was in labor for 24 plus hours – badge. For the longest time I felt like a failure. It was only after a bit of reflexion that I was able to say, what defines childbirth?

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