Now, to be clear, no one was asking me to ‘get over’ it, but it was definitely something I had to work through.
Leading up to the birth of my daughter, I didn’t really prepare in any way at all, except reading one book, where I intentionally skipped the part on c-sections. I honestly thought it was something reserved for extremely special circumstances/complications. And if it was the case, for myself, I would probably be aware of it, prior to.
I wanted to have a ‘natural’ birth, or as close to one as I could get. After being fully occupied with what I couldn’t put in my body when I was pregnant, I found it odd to just dive into some pretty heavy drugs during the labour. I had also read about some of the risks associated with epidurals and the idea of someone injecting something into my spine was horrifying.
I guess I was slightly naive in my expectations and my ‘plan’, but that’s not really the point. I had a hope – fuelled on intention alone – that my expectations would be met and maybe even surpassed. Of course, this did not help in regards to the reality I was going to face.
My water broke and for 13 hours there was no sign of progress and no contractions. I needed to be induced. I endured 12 hours of labour, made it to 8cm, and at that point I could feel my daughter start to move out and then stop. She was posterior and she was stuck. This combo did not bode well for my ‘plan’.
Within the blink of an eye, a team of people came rushing into my room; I was headed for an emergency c-section. As I screamed in agonizing pain, the team stripped me down and changed me into a hospital gown. Two or three different people shouted a series of health related questions at me, as we flew down the corridors and into the emergency room.
This was probably one of the scariest moments of my life and my husbands. Was our daughter going to be ok? Was I going to be ok? As they prepped me for surgery, he had to wait outside. We were both alone with our worries, fears, anxieties and sense of powerlessness.
Thankfully, soon after, we had a beautiful baby girl. She was perfect and immediately flashed us a stellar pout, as if to say, she was not happy with how it all went down either. I had to go in to recovery after, by myself, for an hour; shaking uncontrollably as the anesthetic wore off and just wishing my daughter and husband were there with me.
When I was finally allowed to come upstairs, my daughter was quite upset and needed comforting. We did skin to skin and I tried to remain calm as I attempted to breastfeed her. I felt flustered and anxious from missing out on that initial time together, all the while trying to process the trauma that I had just endured.
Don’t get me wrong, things turned out really well. Everyone was healthy and that’s all that matters, right? Plus there are a lot of people who have endured much worse and don’t always have a happy ending or people that can’t even have kids, right? So I should be thankful, right? And trust me, I was and I am. But I was also extremely upset.
It’s so easy and often commonplace to look at the big picture and compare ourselves to other situations and circumstances that are worse – which definitely holds its own purpose – but after trauma, after a loss, jumping into that mentality can be detrimental and minimizing. Your struggle is your own and it is valid and real in every sense of the word.
I was disappointed, but that was really just a nice way of saying how I actually felt. I was angry and confused and I tried to place blame and make sense of it. “The midwife shouldn’t have suggested I get induced, I could have waited longer.” “The doctor was just trigger happy with the idea of doing another c-section.” I had been told my whole life that I had nice hips, childbearing hips in fact, so what went wrong? I felt a loss, like I had been cheated out of an experience. I felt like I had been beaten up and the part of my body that I had been protecting for the past 9 months, was just cut open.
I could barely move to attend to the needs of my new daughter. I felt powerless. I remember shuffling myself slowly down the hospital hallway, on day 2 or 3 of recovery; I was going to attempt to take a shower. There was a hospital pad between my incision and my underwear and getting undressed meant that I would have to finally look at my incision for the first time. I can recall feeling sick and almost faintish. I cried uncontrollably when I made it back to my room. Where do you see that reality in the movies? I thought.
I had feelings of anger that lasted a long time. I felt jealous and resentful of the baby pictures on Facebook, where mom would be sitting up comfortably in a chair or crosslegged on the bed soon after. I had not nice thoughts, horrible thoughts in fact. Thoughts I haven’t shared with anyone besides my husband and my mom, to this day, but being honest and truthful is something I trust completely, so here it goes. When other people I knew were having babies, I would often hope they would have c-sections as well. Hope is a strong word, I wouldn’t actually wish for it, but I would get this sinking feeling whenever I heard someone had a birth closer to what I originally wanted.
The pain was there. In every aspect of the word. I made some strides during those first couple of years and I managed to put it in the back of my mind but it was easily brought forward with small comments or conversations, and just like that, I would have these flashbacks and become incredibly anxious yet again.
When I was pregnant for the second time, with my son, there was a complication that may have required me to have a c-section, but it worked itself out, which was great, because I was more than game to try again. I thought that maybe it would help me to heal as well. So we attempted a VBAC. Labour started naturally and it was long, much longer than the first time. I remember being at 10cm and the midwife prepping the baby bed area. Then I felt a similar sensation of him moving down and stopping. And soon enough the doctor came in to tell me the same thing. Somehow, even though I had been through it before, the birth of my son was even more traumatic.
Now, this story might sound like a drop in the bucket for you, but it wasn’t for me. It took me a very long time to process everything. It took me time to go through every emotion imaginable and it took me time to heal, both physically and mentally, although the former happened much sooner. I am so very grateful for everything I have, and I was all along, but that doesn’t negate the very emotional and defining experiences I endured.
If anything, I want this to be something that people can relate to. Maybe this piece of writing is a voice for someone feeling the same way, maybe there’s a few words that makes someone feel better or validated, or maybe there’s an emotion that emerges from the depths, unrecognized and unexpressed for someone until they read this. Because I believe, if anything else, sharing and being open and real, is the best thing we can do for ourselves and for others.