Editors Note: April is C-Section Awareness Month
As a mom of three preemies born via C-section (the youngest of whom was born at 25 weeks), I want to preface this post by saying I will be forever grateful for the technology and modern capabilities we have that allow babies like mine to survive. I’m also aware that many moms feel happy, relieved, and at peace after an unanticipated C-section.
That doesn’t always make the emotional impact of unexpected C-sections for many mothers any easier, though.
Accepting a C-section was hard
My first C-section was the one truly difficult for me to accept initially. My oldest was born via unexpected C-section, dubbed “failure to progress” during labor. I felt so ashamed of that fact for the first few months of his life.
When someone would benevolently ask how the birth went, I actually lied. I told them it had gone well with no issues, and quickly changed the subject. Admitting that I’d had a C-section made me feel like I was announcing to the world that my body had failed.
C-sections are the most common surgery in the United States. Over a million C-sections are performed annually and account for almost one in three births. Knowing those facts, I felt like I was being ridiculous for feeling crushed by my entire experience and bombarded myself with these thoughts:
“My baby is healthy and that’s what’s important, so why am I so sad right now?”
“Women have C-sections all the time. I’m being selfish thinking like this.”
“Why do I feel guilty for feeling guilty over all this?”
“No other mom would complain about having a happy, healthy baby. These postpartum hormones have me stupid and irrational right now.”
“I didn’t really give birth; the doctor had to take over and finish what I couldn’t before I hurt my baby. I failed.”
Not being able to adequately convey these thoughts to anyone was extremely difficult. If I did mention I felt sad, it was followed up with a “well, at least…” (even if it was well-intentioned) and I felt silly for mentioning it at all.
Don’t beat yourself up
There is nothing anyone can say or do to immediately remedy the emotional pain a mom may feel after losing out on the birth experience she envisioned. It feels like grief. My best advice is to treat yourself the way you’d treat a friend in your situation: would you tell your friend she failed? That she’s being hormonal or irrational? That she didn’t “really” give birth? Of course you wouldn’t—so do not beat yourself down with those thoughts, either.
So, if you have a friend who underwent a C-section unexpectedly, simply be an empathetic ear if she seems brought down by it. And, if you’ve had a C-section and are conflicted over your feelings about it, just know you are not alone. The invalidation you feel over hearing statements that start with “at least…” is warranted. I see you, and millions of other moms do, too.