In my past life, before marriage and kids, I worked as a Maternal/Child Social Worker at a hospital. This hospital delivered many babies and the staff were experienced, kind and just plain awesome. It was a privilege to work among them. The hospital was certified as “Baby Friendly.” This initiative was launched by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother/baby bonding. As a Social Worker there, I had the opportunity to attend some of the same training as the labor and delivery nurses, lactation consultants and post-partum nurses. It was an amazing opportunity to have all this education before I even thought of having kids. I learned the importance of skin-to-skin contact within minutes of birth, the benefits of breastfeeding, among many other things.
When I did think about having kids, I never once thought of having a C-section. C-sections only happened when a baby was breech or some other complication that wouldn’t happen to me. There certainly was no information provided regarding possible emotional trauma during delivery in any of the classes that I attended. Perhaps this is why I went far too long discrediting my own experience after delivering my first child. This is exactly why I want to share my story about my unplanned C-section and my unknown trauma so that other moms out there might feel validated with their own experiences.
If you have read our first book, It’s Really 10 Months: Delivering the Truth About the Glow of Pregnancy and Other Blatant Lies, then you know the details of my delivery story. For those of you who have not, (go grab your copy now) it is important to understand the reason why we felt compelled to write the book in the first place. All of us were extremely grateful to experience pregnancy but we were also surprised at how much we did not relish every moment of our pregnancy. We each felt alone and frankly, odd, for not feeling like a lovely, glowing expectant mom as we had been led to believe we would. So we began emailing one another our humorous stories and thoughts which now comprise our book. For the sake of this blog post, I will delve into an aspect of my delivery that I did not recognize until well after my second child was born and therefore, was not in our first book.
As you are likely well aware now, I had an unplanned C-section. I went overdue by nearly two weeks and apparently, my child had no desire to enter this world in a timely fashion. One thing led to another and I found myself being rapidly prepped for the C-section. Having worked in the hospital for nearly a decade I knew that C-sections were common and a way to bring a child in this world that, for one reason or another, could not be delivered vaginally. Not having been a nurse or doctor, I had never actually witnessed a C-section other than the mandatory video I had to watch during my pregnancy. It did little to prepare me for my own personal experience.
In this lead up to my story, I’m guessing by now that you may be thinking I have some horrific delivery tale to tell. Thankfully, I do not as both my daughter and I are perfectly fine. What I am going to talk about is my difficulty in processing through the whole experience that I had never expected to have in the first place. I had planned to go into labor naturally. I had envisioned waking my husband in the night to let him know it was time to go to the hospital. I had planned to see how intense labor was before I decided to have medical intervention like an epidural. I was going to have skin to skin contact within minutes of giving birth to my daughter and start breastfeeding. Sadly, because labor never began on its own I had interventions like my bag of water being ruptured and the dreaded Pitocin. Since there was Pitocin, I experienced exhausting and intense contractions so the idea of not having an epidural was a dream of the past. These experiences on their own were manageable. Until the C-section.
Having a C-section, for me, was about as unnatural as one can get during the delivery process. My arms were splayed out to my sides, I had a big, blue drape in front of my face so I was completely disconnected from seeing my child come into this world. I reacted to the anesthesia so my body shook so strongly that my muscles began to ache hideously minutes into the procedure. So much so, that all I could focus on was the pain from the shaking. There was meconium in the amniotic fluid and since my daughter had swallowed some during the procedure she was not brought over to me right away. I felt so awful that I was in recovery for two hours. My daughter did not maintain her temperature so she stayed in the nursery. Goodbye skin-to-skin. Goodbye to immediate latch on and breastfeeding. Goodbye to my calm and peaceful delivery experience for the both of us.
While I had not written a four page delivery plan and have ideas of sticking to every single detail, I did have the hope of having as natural a delivery as I felt comfortable with during each stage of the process. I didn’t recognize, until much later, that I felt I had been robbed of the whole birthing experience I had envisioned. What compounded my difficulty in recognizing I needed to grieve this loss, were the comments others would make to me when I tried to express myself. The most common comment was, “But at least she is healthy and fine!” Well of course. Of course I would want a healthy, happy and thriving baby as opposed to anything else. This comment only served to make me feel guilty for having difficulty processing my thoughts in the first place. It seems like such a filler comment when one doesn’t know what to say. I simply wanted someone to be compassionate and acknowledge that things didn’t unfold as I had hoped and that it was normal to grieve the loss of my delivery dream.
The turning point for me was when I learned there are support groups for people who have C-sections. From traumatic birth support groups to emotional recovery after a C-section groups. Being aware there were support groups made me realize that I was not alone. Reading others stories and seeing women validate one another’s experiences allowed me to process through my own experience. I was able to go on and deliver my next two children by VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section) thanks to an amazing OB/GYN, which also helped me come to terms with my first delivery experience.
In the end, what we all need to realize is that each delivery story is unique and special in its own way and to those involved. No two experiences can be compared – only valued. We need to focus on each journey and validate the other person’s experience regardless of our own opinions. In doing this, we empower each woman and her own journey. There are many great support groups available if you are feeling alone in your experience. Time and keeping up with vibrant, busy kids also helps! 😉
If you want to join our sisterhood and share in our laughs (mostly at ourselves) and read our most private thoughts then click here to purchase the book! It even won a Mom’s Choice Award!
If you want to read other amazing pregnancy, labor and delivery stories that will make you laugh so hard you cry down your leg then click here to purchase the book!
And if you are super, super smart – you’ll just buy both!