Mourning My Scheduled C-section

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c-section birth

My third baby will be delivered by C-section.

I know that birth is birth. Healthy baby, healthy mom are truly the most important outcomes. Nothing can overshadow that.

Nevertheless, sometimes I feel a little like I’ve failed. Like this birth isn’t worthy. Like I’m less of a woman because I’m having a C-section. I put all my mental effort into getting these lies out of my head, but they show up regularly.

I always dreamed of giving birth. I imagined it more often than I did my wedding day. Having my first baby lived up to my expectations: I pushed my daughter into the world. The second time around, however, too much amniotic fluid forced an induction at thirty-nine weeks. The induction went smoothly until a head-down baby suddenly flipped to the breech position after my water broke. Soon afterward in the OR, I heard my doctor bark for “MORE HANDS!!!” My husband ignored all instructions to stay sitting at that point. He watched as my doctor and a resident reached into me elbow-deep to turn and exhume the now transverse baby from my womb. I held my breath until the wailing cry came out and he looked at me and said, “You were right. It’s a girl.”

My husband got the first skin-to-skin moments with our second daughter. I watched him sing to her and envelop her in his scrubs. The appreciation, awe, and love I felt for them both held equal room in my heart with sadness and envy for not being a part of that moment. Then my doctor spoke up. “I had to add a vertical cut to the initial horizontal one. If you have another baby, a VBAC will not be a option for you, OK?” The spinal block pinned down my arms; I couldn’t even wipe away my tears.

The emotions after an unplanned C-section roll in and out like tidal waves.

Gratitude for rest and help and drugs (both pain killers and stool softeners, in my case).

Frustration at a sensitive incision site.

Relief that both baby and mom are safe and healthy and alive.

Disappointment that the experience did not unfold the way one had planned.

That’s the one that pushes its way in again and again. I remember my body shaking with the intensity of each contraction as I got close to the end. I remember my mind slipping out of itself as a way to cope with the pain. I remember my body taking over and doing what it needed to do to bring my first child into the world.

I won’t feel any of those powerful, overwhelming, visceral physical responses this third time around. One minute the baby will be in me, and then in a quick flick of a scalpel, he or she will be snuggled against his/her Daddy’s chest (not mine). But the undeniable, joyful fact is that the baby will be with us, in our arms. I, too, will be safe, with uterus intact. And despite the physical feelings not being the same as my first two births, my emotional attachment and love will be. No surgery can ever take that away from us.

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Meg hung up her wanderlust over ten years ago to return home to Milwaukee, but before that she bounced from Vermont to New Orleans to Paris. A teacher for twelve years, she taught everything from French to Home Ec, only pausing her love of educating children long enough to earn her Grand Diplome in Cuisine and Pastry from the Cordon Bleu. She and her husband are always cooking up something fun at their home in Shorewood with their three daughters and two cats.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve had 3 c-sections. About to have my 4th one tomorrow. 2 of them being unplanned. Each time I mourn the loss of a vagina birth. It hurts. Every single time. Especially when you weren’t planning for one. And I, too, feel like a failure. Like my body failed me. But I am also thankful for this method of delivery. Because all that matters is that I and my children are safe and alive.

  2. I’m very tired of c-section shaming. I had two scheduled c-sections – both of my sons were over 9 pounds and my doctor wasn’t sure they’d be born without damage to their shoulders because of their size, let alone the damage that potentially be done to me. (My own head was so big when I was born, I tore my mother to the point where she lost so much blood, she had to have a transfusion.) I made the decision to have my boys via c-section after learning their size…I have never felt a single contraction. But I do NOT feel inadequate and I did NOT miss out on anything in their births or lives. I heard their first cries, held them skin-to-skin while on the OR table as best I could, started nursing them before I was in recovery…yes, my husband held them first, but am I going to beat myself up over it? NO! Do I love them the same and do they love me? YES! There is a stigma against c-sections that needs to STOP! In the grand scheme of parenthood, the one, single day of birth should not be such a be-all end-all. It should not matter if the daddy holds the baby for 20 minutes extra. The mommy can hold the baby non-stop as soon as she’s in recovery if she wants. It’s a momentous occasion for a baby to be born – who cares how that happens?? C-section shamers have us thinking we aren’t good mothers because our baby didn’t pass through our vaginas…motherhood should be looked at as more than those few hours on the day of our child’s birth. That day is only the very beginning of a much bigger challenge.

    • Thank you for your comment, Katie. We can confidently say that the author was in no way trying to convey a message of “shaming” in any way, but rather sharing her authentic experience and emotions regarding an unexpected birth experience. Obviously birth is a very personal experience and each person is allowed to have their own feelings and at the end of the day, a healthy birth is a healthy birth!

      • Would the author have felt the emotions of “missing out” on vaginal birth if our culture didn’t have a stigma against c-section births? I think she is a product of other people’s ideas influencing her perception of what birth should be. That isn’t her fault. It’s society’s.

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