My Birth Story
I wrote this birth story out (which talks about much more than the hours surrounding Evan's actual birth) just before his first birthday.
It's a very long story... and it's a completely honest one.
If you had a positive birth experience, you may wonder how I can feel this way. I ask you to read this with an open mind and recognize that I'm not the only woman who feels this way about her birth experience.
If you had a similar birth experience, this story may bring up some emotions for you. Let them come.
It's OK to let them come.
MY ORIGINAL HOPES & DREAMS
I read lots of stories about first time birth that were positive and uplifting, first time birth that bought men and women closer together and made a woman feel like a mother for the first time. I read of first time birth that made a woman feel like she can conquer the world, made her face flushed with excitement and victory, made her want to tell the story over and over again to anyone who will listen.
I was delighted because my husband and I were getting ready for the big day together. He was so supportive of me, talking it through, planning, dreaming and preparing.
We hoped our first birth will be amazing. We were planning to bring our baby into the world at home, where he will be safe, warm, and calm. Where I would feel at ease, and be able to let my body open up in a way that will let my son know it’s OK to come out, to enter the world.
I couldn’t wait to become a mother in this way.
That was the plan, at least.
Silly me, to think I could have a plan.
The plan didn’t end up happening.
What ended up happening was completely opposite what we’d hoped and planned.
I was told that I couldn’t have my homebirth.
I couldn’t have my natural birth.
I couldn’t have an empowering, calm birth.
Instead, I would have to have a C-section.
MY WORLD IS TORN APART
It turns out, my uterus is shaped strangely, like a heart – they call it a “bicornuate uterus” and they think that perhaps there is a wall down the middle – called a “septate.” Maybe because of the shape of the uterus (or maybe not), my baby was breech. This means the baby’s head is up, instead of down. His feet were the first things that would come out. This is the toughest kind of breech… at least if the butt is coming first (a frank breech) some practitioners will attempt a vaginal birth.
There would be lots of other people involved in my birth, people I didn’t know… people I didn’t want to talk to, much less have part of my first birth experience. Instead of the calm, loving environment my husband and I were creating, we would be in a cold, bright, loud surgery room… and instead of my body creating the pain that would help the baby move out and down… the doctor would create the pain for me.
I wasn’t allowed a choice in this matter – the C-section would happen to me, no matter what. This is what the doctors said, at least.
This is what my midwife said. I had hired her because she had delivered breeches in the past… but she dumped me when she found out my son was breech. She turned me into the doctors, the ones who gave me no other option than a C-section. My midwife completely betrayed my trust, she demanded full payment from us, even though she didn’t attend my birth. I live 10 minutes from her house, and I have to drive by it regularly, and each time I see it and think of her, I get a sick feeling in my stomach.
She knew my son was breech for weeks, at least she had a strong indication (as did I) but she didn’t tell me until it was too late, until I’d given her payment for the full birth.
I tried to fight the midwife and the doctors – saying that this is NOT how it’s supposed to be, that I can still have a healthy vaginal birth with a breech baby. But they insisted this wasn’t possible. And my doctor told me that if I tried to give birth at home, then I was a bad mother. That, “After all, you entered into this with a healthy baby as the goal.”
Well, yes, I wanted a healthy baby. I wasn’t trying to compromise his health by having a vaginal birth. But no one could give me specific statistics and reasons why a C-section was safer than a vaginal birth. It just seemed to be what the doctors seemed more comfortable with. It was what my husband was more comfortable with… my mother-in-law, my mom, my friends... pretty much everyone involved. Except me.
Of course they were more comfortable with it. They weren't the ones who would have to go through the C-section. It seemed like the easy way out to them.
I determinedly tried everything I could to help my son turn into the head-down position. I drove an hour west to a chiropractor who had good success turning babies using the Webster technique. I drove another hour west to a hypnosis instructor who used hypnosis to try and turn Evan.
I thought about heading to The Farm in TN to ask Ina May to deliver my son. I thought about flying a midwife in from UT to deliver him. But neither of those options seemed right at the time. Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t pursue them further this time around (but I'm not ruling them out for next time).
I wish I’d taken the time and energy to pursue other midwives in the area (or not in the area) who have experience delivering breeches.
Looking back, I see how exhausted I must have been at that point, to not even research other midwives… to give in to the C-section without doing that last bit of research. I can see how tired I was of trying to fight against the medical mainstream to have a healthy birth. I figured, if I go ahead with a homebirth with a breech baby, and something goes wrong, I will have to answer to the family member, friends, and practitioners who just wanted me to have the C-section instead. I wasn’t strong enough at that point to think about being a lone warrior in that way. I was simply too tired. Too tired of fighting... too tired of trying to convince people that I wasn't trying to harm my baby by doing things naturally.
After a few weeks of trying to get my son to turn, I was tired. I was tired of fighting midwives and doctors, I was tired of being betrayed by family members and care providers, I was tired of spending money and time and hope trying to convince my baby to turn. I was so, so tired.
The doctors told me if I didn’t have the C-section, that my son would be in danger, and may die or be damaged. At least that’s what they told me. I still couldn’t get them to tell me any statistics that make me trust that the C-section is the better way, but I gave in to them, because I felt like had no other choice. (I've since learned that C-section birth is no safer than vaginal birth for breech babies, especially if done in the right manner... problesm arise because care providers don't know how to attend breech births anymore).
Most doctors in this country won’t deliver a breech baby… even if they wanted to, they don’t know how. This knowledge has been lost through the years, and no one learns how to deliver breech babies in this way in medical school anymore. So, most women with breech babies are told they must have a C-section. There is no data proving without a doubt that a C-section is safer than a vaginal breech birth (in fact I've since found that there are other studies suggesting otherwise), but the doctors still think C-sections to be true (as they do for pretty much any kind of birth these days). So, it doesn’t really matter what the woman thinks or believes. It doesn’t matter if she has confidence in her body and her baby to know what to do. The doctors don’t, and so she has no choice.
Sure, I could have delivered at home, unassisted, but that just wasn’t an option in my head at the time.
Upon hearing that I would have to have a C-section, and there was nothing I could do to prevent it, I started sobbing inconsolably. I didn’t stop for weeks. I cried all the time for weeks and weeks. I couldn’t sleep. At night, I was terrified. I had nightmares about the impending C-section.
I dreamed that I watched myself die on the operating table. I looked down at my belly, my untouched, unstretchmarked, unblemished belly and felt the impending incision like a rape. I felt like the world had been ripped out from under me.
I didn’t want to go to yoga, which had been a safe haven for me three times a week for 40 weeks… because I felt like a failure. Seeing all the healthy moms who would have vaginal births made me angry and jealous. I didn’t even want to go outside or answer the phone or email because I didn’t want anyone to ask me about my birth. I was so ashamed and angry over what I would have to tell them.
I read, researched, asked around… God, is there anyone who can help me avoid this C-section? I couldn’t find anyone who could give me another option, a way out.
Frantically, I tried to find anyone who could help me. I felt like there must be another way.
But the doctors don’t budge. They told me this is the only way. C-section is the only way, the best way, the safest way. The only way for me.
I felt like my heart was going to break in two. Why is this happening to me? Why me? I never expected this. I’d never even read the information on C-sections, because I never thought it would happen to me. I judged other women for having C-sections, thinking they weren’t strong enough, educated enough, didn’t advocate enough for themselves. I’d watch birth shows on TV and yell at the screen, telling the woman how she could avoid the C-section that was bearing down on her quicker than anything.
Hell, I’d even told other women how to avoid a C-section. I’d tried to share what I’d learned during her planning and preparation, to help friends and former clients avoid this horrendous experience. All the women I talked to had been able to avoid it… partly thanks to the advice and information I shared with them.
Now, ironically, I would have to go through the C-section myself. And somehow, knowing what I knew about birth (and how wonderful it can be for moms and babies) - and C-sections, too - makes it even harder. Once I found out I’d have to have a C-section, I wished I didn’t know anything at all about birth. I wished I’d never even planned a natural experience, because it hurt more to have that ripped away from me and my son. I wished I’d gone into it blindly, knowing nothing, having read nothing, having hoped for nothing.
Other people told me not to plan, not to hope, to dream… but why wouldn’t I do those things? This was such an important experience. The first time a mother gives birth… well, that is life-changing. Why wouldn’t I immerse myself – my heart and soul - in the preparation for such an experience? My first time deserved everything I could muster.
I’d never get my first birth back again.
It would mold my very existence and my mother spirit, forever.
OTHER PEOPLE'S REACTION
When they found out I would have a C-section for my son’s birth, other women didn't help me out at all. Women who haven’t been through the C-section don’t understand how awful it’s going to be. Many of them think I’m getting the easy way out… after all, I won’t have to do anything, I’ll just “get to lie there.” Or “Well, you’ll get to schedule it now, right?” Or “At least you won’t have to go through labor.”
Don’t they know that I WANTED to go through labor, I wanted it to start on its own, completely unscheduled and unpredicted? I wanted to work, to push, to groan, to sway, to cringe, to yell… I wanted to give birth.
They said things that don’t help, like “Many women go through C-sections for breeches, so it must be OK. It’s totally normal. It may hurt for a little bit afterwards, but at least it will be quick.”
These women obviously have never had a C-section, or they’ve read all of those totally bogous “What to Expect” websites or books… which talk about C-sections like it’s an eye brow wax. It does not hurt a “little” – it hurts a lot. And I knew I was trading 3-4 days of labor for 4-6+ weeks of intense discomfort and painful recovery.
The women who had been through the C-section before didn’t help me, either. They said things like, “No, it’s not fair, but the pain will fade with time. It’s really for the best. Mine wasn’t that bad… at least (insert their own opinion). And at least you’ll get your baby.”
Oh, yes, the Baby. That was my reward and justification for being C-sectioned. Sometimes, in the midst of all of my pain and fear and anger and bitterness, I forgot about the baby. When I did remember, sometimes I would hate the baby for putting me through all of this. Then I’d feel guilty for hating the baby, which would then make me feel even sadder.
Would the Baby make the C-section worthwhile? I wasn’t sure, but I desperately hoped the Baby would make everything all better. The Baby was the only good thing that would come out of her birth now.
There were also women who gave me false hope. They told me things like, “Oh yeah, well I was going to have to get C-sectioned too for my first time, but my baby turned at the last minute.” My older relatives told stories of birthing breech babies with no problems. Just a generation ago, a breech baby still meant a vaginal birth. Why was my aunt allowed to deliver her baby, but I'm not allowed to deliver mine?
Neither of these things helped – they just made me madder, and sadder for myself. Because I knew, in my mother’s gut, that my son would not turn. He was going to stay breech. And I knew that my doctors would not let me push him out.
My friends who were C-sectioned before all had opinions about how I could come to terms with the experience. “Maybe you can listen to music while you’re being C-sectioned, because that will help you relax.”
Or “Maybe you could ask them not to hold you down while the doctors are pulling the baby out… maybe you could have your hands free. That will make you feel empowered, right?”
Or “Maybe you could tell them exactly when you’d like to be C-sectioned – you can simply say that you’d like it to happen next Wednesday – at least it could be convenient that way because you could schedule it in. And then your family could fly in from CA to be there afterwards.”
None of those options made it any better… I was still so unhappy and depressed. I cried myself to sleep every night… and most days, too. I couldn’t think or feel anything else, except the horrific dread of what was to come, and the fact that I was powerless to stop it.
Slowly, my reality set in. I realized I had no choice. I would be C-sectioned. That’s what I had to do, right? Everyone had made me feel guilty about wanting to find an alternative and the guilt was enough to keep me from exploring other options. I felt strong enough to birth my baby at home vaginally, but if anything happened to him, my family would hate me forever.
MY NEW REALITY
So, once I realize I had no choice but to ‘choose’ to be C-sectioned, I took all of the sweet emotion and anticipation and research and hoping and wishing that was meant for my homebirth, and I turned it towards the impending C-section.
I read about C-sections, trying to learn what I would experience. At least I would be educated. I read about C-sections, with tears streaming down my face. It sounded awful. Could I really do this? Note to self, Christi: YOU HAVE NO CHOICE.
There are lots of dangers to C-section. People don’t talk much about the dangers of C-section. C-section is the act of birth, yes, but it’s not the birth I was hoping to have. C-section is birth that comes with a price. It comes with a lot of risks. There would be a lot of dangers to my physical body… there were repercussions that might last for my entire life. I would have swelling, bruising, scars that would hurt for a long time. I might bleed a lot afterwards, I would need to stay in the hospital afterwards for a few days. I hate the hospital… with a vengeance. I feel sick when I step inside the doors of the hospital.
After the C-section, I could have problems if I ever want to give birth or get pregnant again. Unless I can find a doctor or midwife who will let me birth vaginally (it’s tough to find these kind of doctors these days) I may have to be C-sectioned the next time around. . What an awful thought. That this first time might set the precedent for all my other birth experiences.
When I looked down at my pelvis each night, I was so sad about what I was about to lose. I’d never had someone push into me in this way, violate my body in this way. I would never choose this for myself, never in a million, trillion years. I’d rather die.
When I listened to other women talk about their birth experiences, they seem to be so proud of it. They liked talking about it, sharing all the details. Some even had a good time during their first birth.
I was so angry, pissed off, bitter about why I had to be C-sectioned. Most of these other women admit they didn’t even prepare for their first birth, they didn’t read about it, they didn’t put effort and planning and anticipation into it. Most of them were half-drugged during their first birth experience. But it seemed to work OK for them.
Why couldn’t they have a C-section, if they were just going to be drugged anyway? If they didn’t care how it was going to go down anyway?
I tried to come to grips with what is going to happen. I tried to plan as peaceful a C-section as I could. I asked my doctor if she could give me a few concessions that will make the C-section at least a bit more tolerable.
“Doctor, would perhaps be possible to wait to cut the cord until it stops pulsing so the baby can get his full blood supply?”
NO. We don't do it that way.
“Doctor, can you put my baby on my chest afterwards so that we can bond and he can feel safe?”
“OK, well, if you won’t do those things, will you at least let my husband be in the room when you put the needle in my spine because I'm absolutely terrified of needles?”
“Sorry, we don’t do things that way,” the doctor says, and I decided to stop asking for concessions because I didn’t want to piss the doctor off. After all, this was the doctor who would do my C-section, and I didn’t want to make her angry. My life was in this doctor’s hands, and she could do whatever she wants to me once the surgery started. I would be powerless.
In the end, all the doctor agreed to let me do is listen to music on my iPod, and have my husband in the room with me during the C-section (but he can only come in after they’ve already started). None of my other requests are met. My birth is getting about as far away from homebirth as it can possibly get. How come I have absolutely no say in my own birth experience?
I tried to hold off the C-section as long as possible. My doctor kept wanting to schedule it (easier for her, I presume). But each time she tried to schedule it, I told her that I wanted to wait. I wanted my body to go into labor on its own. I wanted my son to pick his own birthday. I wanted to feel what labor felt like, as much as possible.
One day, February 15, my son decided it was time. I had an appointment that day, and for some reason, I asked for a vaginal exam. Why, I have no idea. I’d never wanted an exam before. I guess I must have known something was happening. The doctor said, “You’re at a 3 and 80% effaced. Let’s schedule this thing.”
Well, I didn’t feel like I was in labor, so I told her I wanted to go home. I had yoga that night, after all, and was looking forward to it. Well, she told me that if my water broke, I was putting my baby in danger because the cord could prolapse. Amazing all the scare tactics the doctors use to frighten you. I told her I understood the protocol, but that I was going home.
I called the hospital later and they told me I was scheduled for a C-section on Friday morning. The date was Wednesday, February 15. At that point, I just wanted to get the C-section over with.
I realized a bit later that morning that I was having contractions, but I’d gotten so good at my hypnobirthing breathing that I’d simply been breathing through them. I spoke with my mom and told her what was going on, and she told me she was very nervous that I wasn’t at the hospital. She wanted me to have the C-section. She was afraid for what might happen if my water broke. She told me my voice sounded tight, like I was in labor. She wanted me to schedule the C-section, and not wait it out.
Next time (if there is a next time), I’m not sharing my pregnancy or birth with anyone but me. Too many people have fears and nerves that can be absorbed. A pregnant woman doesn’t need to add anyone else’s fears to her body or soul. She has enough of her own.
After hanging up with my mom, I realized that the contractions were a bit longer, and I was having a lot of trouble concentrating. I’d been packing my hospital bag for hours and still wasn’t finished. Perhaps I was in labor? It didn’t hurt at all, but there was definitely something happening.
My husband was going into Boston for a meeting that night after work, and I was worried that if my water did break, or if labor really got going quickly, and they did the C-section fast and I was put under general anesthesia, that he would miss it. So I decided to go back to the doctor before the close of the office, to check one more time and see if I was really in labor. I didn’t feel like I was, but she told me I was a 4 and 100% effaced. She looked at me and said, “This time, you’re not leaving.”
I think the doctor thought I would try to make a break for it, because when I told her that I wanted to go get my hospital bag, she followed me outside the hospital and watched me walk to my car. She made me get off the phone with my husband, when I called him to tell him what was going on… oh, excuse ME, doctor, for wanting to call the co-creator of my son to tell him that you’re forcing me into a C-section in the next few hours.
She’d pre-registered me at the hospital herself… and she took my bag (wouldn’t let me carry it, even though I’m strong, and was having no problem with it). She wouldn’t let me take the stairs.
Excuse me, doctor, I’m a pregnant woman in labor, not an invalid.
She took me to the labor room and told me to get in a gown. At this point, I tried to create some semblance of a peaceful environment for me and my son. I put my ipod on with my hypnobirthing and looked out over the river at the sunset. Contractions were still coming, but they didn’t hurt… at least, not until they made me lie on the bed to monitor his heartrate.
They started doing things right away, even though I asked them to wait for my husband. At that point, my doctor came in and told me (like she was sharing high school gossip):
“You know, it will be really better for all involved if we can get this finished before the 7:00 shift change.”
Oh, MY GOD. I’m SO sorry, doctor. Is my labor and delivery, the biggest experience of my life, and my son’s life… INCONVENIENCING you and your staff? Do you want to get home for dinner? Oh, I’m so sorry… let me speed up this awful surgery, speed up this terrible event that I’ve been dreading for weeks… just to make life easier for the hospital staff.
Looking back, I realize that I must have been in labor, because I stopped advocating for myself. Why didn’t I remind the doctor that I wanted to be in labor as long as possible… right up until transition, so that I could feel labor? Why didn’t I remind her of that? Why did I let her coerce me into going along with the hospital’s assembly line C-section schedule? Perhaps because deep down, I knew that they would just keep coming in every few minutes, asking me if they could get started… and that’s no way to be in labor. It’s one of the reasons I’d planned a homebirth.
I gave in. I let them get started. I got the IV in (which I was terrified about, since I hate needles). My hand hurts right now as I type this, feeling the feeling of having a needle in my skin, an invader that’s hurting me.
They want to wheel me into the surgery room and start my spinal, but my husband and doula haven’t arrived yet, so I told them no. Finally, Ben arrives. He looks out of place to me, he doesn’t know what to do. He is sitting on a chair far away from me, and I’m on the bed wearing the damn heartrate monitor, which I hate… and which is now making the contractions hurt. Why won’t they let me stand up? I’m now officially a hospital victim, no longer a laboring mother.
I ask Ben to move his chair closer. Why isn’t he rubbing my hand or stroking my hair? The distance between us has already begun. Looking back, I know he didn’t’ know what to say. Perhaps I was putting up a good front, but how could he not know that I was terrified, saddened to the core, and so mad? That inside I was trying to run away, even though I was strapped down? Couldn’t he see that I needed him to advocate for me to the doctor, to be right there by me, to tell me how wonderful I was, to tell me how beautiful I was, to tell me that I was such a brave mom, to be doing such a hard thing for my baby. That he was so proud of me? Why didn’t he ask me if I wanted or needed anything?
No, he said none of those things. I felt like a failure, and got no indication from him otherwise.
The nurse came in to tell me that they couldn’t wait any longer, they had to start.
That was the moment I disappeared. As soon as they started bringing me into the surgery room (I can’t remember if I walked, or if they wheeled me in… that’s how quickly I disappeared). At this point, I just wanted it to be over, so I could start trying to heal and rebuild myself.
Laying on the table in the surgery room, I notice how it was cold and bright. What I hated most were the sounds, the beeps and the suctions and the hustle and bustle of people doing all sorts of things while I’m laying there.
No one acknowledges me.
No one says to me, “Hi pretty momma, this is the most important day of your life. I know you didn't want to have a C-section, and I'm so sorry. Is there anything I can do to support you? Can we do anything to make this easier for you?”
Four sentences. So easy to say. But they would have made a world of difference to me and changed the atmosphere completely.
I was powerless. I was invisible. I ceased to be a mother-to-be, and I became a body that had ‘insert knife here!’ written on it. There was nothing warm and cozy about this room. I shriveled up inside… there was no excitement or eager anticipation. Only sadness and fear. The only butterflies were in my belly, and they were not from pleasure. They were from intense, insane fear and sadness.
They made me turn over on my side while they put the spinal in. I was terrified of this (did I mention I hate needles) and so they let me lay down, thankfully. That’s good, otherwise I would have passed out and missed my son’s birth completely. My doctor held me down, thinking she was providing comfort. What she didn’t know what that her beeper was sticking into my knee, causing intense pain. I was trying to lay still as the needle went into my back, but I couldn’t because the beeper hurt too much. She told me, “You have to lay still.” I said softly, “Well, if you move your beeper I can do that. It's hurting me.”
The spinal was in, and I start losing all feeling in my lower body. That wasn’t bad, in fact, the spinal was probably the part of the whole experience that was not as bad as I expected it to be. They started putting the catheter in, and I was glad I didn’t know what was happening.
They put up a sheet in front of me because I am not ‘sterile.’ My body was good enough for the baby to be in for 40 weeks, but now it’s ‘dirty’ and they need to be protected from it. Now I couldn’t see what they were doing.
What was going on?
I just felt awful, I was trying to disappear into my hypnobirthing on my iPod… but I felt like I would pass out, so I had to ask for oxygen. They put the mask on me, which helped, but then I felt like a total patient, and sick. I don’t remember if I asked them to remove it or not, everything gets very hazy from this point. I worked so hard to disappear and not be there that I have very little recollection of the actual surgery.
I do remember the terrible sounds, the suctioning, the clanging of the instruments, the doctors talking, nurses moving around.
I was ignored. My body was there, but I was not there. I was trying to disappear, to go anywhere other than there, in that room.
More doctors and nurses came in, there were so many people in the room. Too many people. I was surrounded by people, yet I felt so alone.
“THIS IS NOT HOW IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE!”
I screamed inside.
But it’s too late. They were going to start to cut into me soon. There was nothing I could do, but try to disappear and hope it would soon be over.
They shaved me, even though I asked them not to, because they said, “We have to make it sterile.”
What was so wrong with my body? It was good enough to carry my son for 10 months... now it wasn't "sterile?" What the f****???
I didn’t want him to see me with a shower cap over my head, with my arms outstretched, with needles in my arm, with doctors gathered around me, ready to cut through more of my body. I was embarrassed for him to see me this way.
I was also mad, because I wanted him to rescue me, but I knew he couldn’t. He, too, was powerless. Still, I wanted him to try. I wanted him to say, “Let’s go home. Let me take you out of here. I’ll protect you. We’ll birth our son together. C’mon, let’s go. You don’t deserve this. I don’t want this to happen to you. I will help you be strong, and fight this. I know you can do this. Your body can do this. Let me help you. We'll do this together, the way we planned.”
But he didn’t say those things to me. And I was mad at him because I really needed to hear those things, even if we couldn't go anywhere.
He sat by my side, close in physical distance… but it felt to me like he was miles away emotionally.
Looking back, I know that he didn’t know what to say. I’m sure his heart was breaking inside for me, but his desire to see his son overrode his fears or concern about me. To him, I imagine this was the easy way out. Mom, baby, together in one room within 30 minutes. No labor to worry about… it was all in the doctors’ hands. A lot simpler for him, right?
I know this wasn’t the way he wanted it to turn out either. He’d wanted our son’s birth to be precious, loving, amazing, and totally peaceful. He wanted to rub my back, breathe with me during contractions, and snuggle with me in our bed.
Instead he sat there next to me, not able to do anything. I knew that he was excited to see our son, and I knew that he would never, ever know what the C-section felt like for me. He could sit there and watch and be in the same room, but he had no idea what I was going through. I tried my best to disappear. I tried not to be mad at him, but I couldn’t help it.
They told me they’d started. One by one, they ripped through the layers of my body. Skin, muscles, abdomen, uterus. One by one by one. I think at one point they told me what they’re doing, but I didn’t want to hear. I was trying to listen to my music, trying to pretend my innocence wasn’t been ripped apart every time they pulled, pushed, shoved inside me.
The medicine is working, but not enough to keep me from feel what they are doing. It hurts. It really hurts. I was being violated. I was being raped. I was being raped. I was being raped.
I was raped.
My son was pulled out of me.
He was born.
It was over, but not as quick as I’d imagined/hoped it would be. It seemed to last a lifetime. The doctor told her that they had a hard time pulling my baby out towards the end, so they had to cut my stomach muscles. But those pieces would heal – it would just take a little bit longer.
Great, thanks, doctor. My stomach muscles… yeah, I don’t need those for anything.
To celebrate my entry into motherhood, they give me my son.
Well, they didn’t really give me my son. They took him over to a table to help him breathe. Gee, what do you think would happen if you wrenched a baby out of my womb? Think he’s going to have breathing problems? I could’ve told you that. They had him on that table for a while, doing things to him.
I wasn’t with it enough to take my son. I was still laying down, strapped down, spread-eagled. I wouldn’t be able to hold the baby I’d carried for 40 weeks in my arms. There's a picture of me in the surgery room, my hand outstretched as far as it can go... but I still can't reach my son, no matter how hard I try.
So they wrapped him up and gave my baby to my husband. He was happy to hold him, looked at him in awe. So, this is what our baby looks like.
Everyone in the room is happy, but I am not. I felt like I should be happy. After all, my husband was holding our son. Everyone was telling me how cute he was. I remember all the moms on the TV shows who were so overjoyed when their babies came out, but I didn’t feel that way.
I didn’t like the fact that my husband was holding my son. I wanted to be glad for him, but I was mad. I should be holding my baby.
“But I should be holding my Baby,” I raged inside. Why, after all of this pain, can’t I at least hold my Baby?”
In some weird way, I felt like I should thank the doctor who C-sectioned me. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I hated her too much. I know she tried to be gentle (perhaps?), but in reality, the doctor doesn’t care about me. This is just business to her. She will just move on and C-section another mother a little bit later.
There are so many women to be C-sectioned these days – it seems to be quite the trend. I’ve heard of doctors scheduling C-sections around vacations. I know my doctor moved me along that night because she wanted to get home to her family. I’ve heard that doctors talk about mundane things like sports and music while they cut mothers open.
I’ve heard about the “assembly line” of moms that are cut open without any thought given to what they’re losing with that kind of birth. Doctors seem to forget that there is a precious human being there, under their knives… with a precious baby inside her… and they’re violating what is supposed to be a precious moment of transformation and growth for both of them.
I imagine, based on what I’ve heard other doctors say, that her doctor may even talk about her C-section over dinner. “Oh, yeah? Well, I sectioned this mother today who thought her first time was going to be sweet and loving. A homebirth, can you believe that? Yeah, she probably read Ina May's book and thought she'd have a nice homebirth. That way of birth is going out the window. C-section will soon be the only way.”
I lost an important piece of myself that day. One I will never, ever, ever get back again. Even if I have a normal, vaginal birth the next time. If there even is a next time.
I was wheeled out of the surgery room, into another bright, colorless, friendless room. Finally, there, I was given my son to hold. But I was too weak to hold him. I tried to stroke him and touch him, but he was too heavy, and my body was too weak.
I has to give him away. I tried to nurse him, but I couldn’t sit up because I couldn’t feel my body… so he didn’t nurse at all. He flopped around, and my doula tried to hold him sideways on my breasts while the nurses ‘cleaned’ me up. That didn’t go well.
I hated my body.
It betrayed me.
I was confused. I thought that holding my son would make it all better. That it would make the pain of the C-section go away. But all Evan does is make me sad. I looked at him, and he reminded me of the awful C-section.
“Maybe this will change, as time goes by,” I thought, “It’s not Evan’s fault I had a horrible first birth.”
Every time I looked at him, I was sad for what had to happen to me in order to get my son. I paid the ultimate price… for me, it was the ultimate price. I let someone cut into me – rape me – in order to get my son.
That night, I felt nauseous. I couldn’t imagine throwing up with the huge scar on my belly, it felt like I would split in two if I threw up… so I tried to hyperventilate, breathing strongly in and out over and over again so that I wouldn’t throw up. They called the doctor to get me some anti-nausea medication, but it took a while. My son was laying in his bassinet and I couldn’t hold him because I was trying so hard not to throw up.
I was left trying to figure out how to get from the bed to the bassinet when Evan woke up. I threw some socks at my husband but he didn't wake up. So I crept, crawled, half hunched over, trying to get to my son while he wailed.
In the end, I sat up with him on my bed, holding him all night long. He was awake for part of it, asleep for part of it. I think we may have tried to breastfeed, but actually, maybe we didn’t. It’s hazy, I don’t really remember. I was so out of it. I do remember that I ended up with a huge muscle pull in my back because I sat in that same position the entire night, trying to create some semblance of empowerment and tenderness out of the first night with my son.
The next day, friends and family came to see me. They didn’t really look me in the eye. They’re too interested in Evan. They ooh and aww over him, ask to hold him. They can’t get enough of him. They congratulate me on how cute he is.
They know what has happened – at least, they know it in theory. But none of the people who came to see me right after it happened has had a C-section. So they don’t really know what it is like. I have a feeling they can’t imagine how horrible it is – of course, not, because the media portrays it as an ‘easy’ event. Just a little cut and your baby is out. Little cut, my ass.
They’re just glad that Evan is healthy and safe, and that I’m healthy and safe. Well, that’s all in the eye of the beholder. They have no idea how awful I feel, physically or emotionally. I can’t move. I can’t sit up, I can’t roll over, I can’t walk. I feel like an invalid. I’ve never felt this sick in my entire life.
They don’t understand why Evan can’t possibly begin to make up yet for the awfulness that just happened to me. In fact, many of the people who visited me those days were probably glad that I “wisened up” and agreed to the C-section… the “safe way” to have birth.
Most of my visitors didn’t know what to say to me. So they talked about the weather, local sports teams. And they fawned all over Evan. My mom and mother-in-law asked my husband if they could watch the video my doula took of Evan’s birth.
They turned the video on. I heard the suction sounds, the clanging of the instruments, the doctor’s voice… and it's too much for me. I start sobbing inconsolably. It hurt so badly to relive that moment, the worst moment of my life. They turned it off and left the room.
My husband held me, but he didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to tell him to say. My life had been changed completely by that one night. I felt like he and I were miles apart.
None of my visitors acknowledged the C-section. I assumed it’s because they don’t want to hear about it, that they think I don’t want to talk about it, or that it’s too painful for them to hear about my pain.
Looking back, I wonder what would have made me feel better. Would I have wanted them to ask about it? Well, only if they were prepared to listen to me sob and cry about it. I tried not to talk about it much – I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. If only someone had said to me,
“Wow, this must have been so hard for you. You did something that you never wanted to do, and it must have been so hard. I’m so sorry you’re having to go through all of this. Do you want to talk about it?”
Some people mentioned the C-section indirectly… but they said things like, “Well, at least the baby is healthy” or “At least you didn’t have to go through the pain of childbirth” or “Well, at least you don’t have any complications.”
And then, of course, the most popular line,
“WELL, AT LEAST YOU HAVE THIS GORGEOUS BABY NOW!”
I never know what to say in response to this comment. It’s like a double-edged sword. And there’s no way to answer it.
I will not deny that, yes, having a healthy baby is a good thing. And yes, my son is a beautiful baby. But why did he make me so sad and bitter, if he’s so beautiful? Right after the birth, I couldn't verbalize this… it made me feel like an awful mother.
So I smiled weakly and said, “Yes, that’s right... isn’t he beautiful?”
But inside I was screaming – “DON’T YOU KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENED TO ME?” It would almost have been better to have something go wrong with the C-section… then perhaps people would have pity for me, or felt bad for me. If I'd died, maybe then people would have gotten the sacrifice I'd made for my son.
The next few days, I felt horrible. Worse than I’ve ever felt in my entire life. My whole body hurt, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t sit up, I couldn’t stand without it feeling like her whole body is going to split in two.
I was on painkillers, which made it hard for me to talk. I remember slurring my words. I hated sounding drunk, and I hated taking the painkillers, because I don’t even like to take aspirin normally. My scar ripped and pulled every time I moved.
I hobbled down the hospital hall with my mom’s help, trying to get a semblance of my fit, athletic self back. I see other moms, who didn’t have C-sections, walking and moving like it’s no big deal. I felt like an invalid, though in my former life I was a woman who'd run three marathons and done two triathlons.
I wondered how in the world I’m ever going to take care of my Baby? When I can’t even move?
It’s really bad. Physically, it’s really bad.
Emotionally, it’s even worse.
I am incredibly sad. I hurt inside with a pain that I can’t describe. My innocence was lost, and in its place surfaced sadness, bitterness, and an intense anger.
The doctor came in once each day to ‘check on me.’ I wanted to spit on her, to cut HER belly, but I had to be polite. After all, the doctor is the only one who can order drugs to help me deal with the pain.
I finally get fed up with people coming in and out of my room, unfriendly nurses who don’t even say hello before they do something to me… unfriendly nurses who tell me a 30-minute spiel on how to take care of my baby, which I will never remember because I’m so out of it.
I decided I would stay in the hospital the full four days. I didn’t want to go home. I felt awful, and I didn’t really like my son, and I couldn’t move, so I couldn’t take care of him, so I was terrified about going home. I remember dreading going home.
The doctor was surprised to hear that I was thinking about staying the full time. She said that she thought I’d be out of there as soon as possible, since I'd wanted to give birth at home originally.
I just felt like a scarred, battered, reject of a woman. Not a mom. Everyone else was being Evan’s mom… my husband, my mom, my mother-in-law. They were all better with him than I was.
I was afraid to be with him. I was still mad at him for what I’d gone through. At least while I was in the hospital I could avoid my regular life.
But I hated the hospital even more than regular life, so I decided to leave a day early. I was hoping home would make it all better. But it didn’t make it better. In fact, it all just got worse, but in a different way.
At home, as the days went by, people seemed to completely forget what happened to me in the hospital. They were too engrossed in Evan. I was still in a lot of pain – I could barely get in and out of bed by myself, I could barely bend over. I dreaded laughing or coughing, because my scar felt like it would rip in two.
I couldn’t have a bowel movement for 5 days, and so when I finally did have one, it was so substantial and painful that it did indeed feel like I had just given birth vaginally… but it felt like my scar would split in two.
I could barely move, but there were things I had to do. I was in so much pain… so much pain. I couldn’t stop crying.
I didn’t want other people around, it felt like another invasion of my privacy. They made me feel like I had to be ‘normal’ again, but I couldn’t.
I couldn’t fed Evan well – the breastfeeding was pretty horrific at first. He wouldn’t wake up, and when he did, he wouldn’t latch on well. It hurt so badly when he nursed that my toes curled and tears streamed down my face. I felt like a failure, a loser, a total mother reject. I was determined to breastfeed, to at least get one thing right in this whole crazy mess.
The drugs from the surgery make me feel ‘off.’ I wasn’t myself. Everything seemed so damn hard.
My husband didn’t know what to say to me. He couldn’t make it better, so I think he retreated, out of uncertainty about what to do. I knew he really loved our son, but he was afraid to tell me, because he knew I didn’t love him the way he did yet. That made me feel even worse. What kind of mom doesn’t love her baby?
I know he just wanted me to be happy and celebrate Evan, so he could feel good about our son, too. But doesn’t he get what I had to go through to get Evan here? He had to watch, but he didn’t have to feel it, and his body is scar-free and strong. My body feels like it betrayed me. I wish he would touch me gently, help let me talk about what happened. But he doesn’t seem to want to hear about it at all. I wonder if we’ll will ever be close again.
The first few weeks, I tried to go on a few walks. I made it a few blocks, then had to turn around and go home. I was disgusted with myself. I used to run marathons and work out for over an hour a day. Now I couldn’t even walk a few blocks. Will I ever feel like my old self again?
I hated that other people had to pick Evan’s carseat up, drive me around, push the stroller. I was the mom – I should have been doing these things. Everyone else I knew was doing those things for their babies… why was I being punished in this way?
On the outside, I guess I looked the same as I used to pre-pregnancy… so people assumed I was fine. They expected me to walk, talk, and come visit like I used to. I tried my best to meet all of my social obligations. But I was exhausted and sick of having people come over to admire Evan. Even when people came over to watch him, I felt like I had to entertain them, or socialize and all I really wanted to do was sleep or get out of the darn house.
I went to a movie with my husband a week after Evan was born, and after the movie got out, I wanted to go see another one immediately. I didn’t want to go back home. I didn’t want to have to take care of my son. I didn’t feel old enough to have a bay. I didn’t want to have to breastfeed him again, again, and again… and feel the pain in my nipples.
I noticed that these other women LOVED their babies. They were proud to show them off. They’d been taking their babies for walks, driving them around, and going on play dates with other women and their babies. They are confused as to why I was still sitting at home, looking so sad.
Why wasn’t Christi up and about, like they were? Why didn’t she fawn all over Evan, the way they do their babies?
“Yes,” I said, “It was really that bad,” and I hoped and prayed that the mother won’t say, “Well at least you have Evan” because then I’d have to punch her in the face.
I tried to explain to my friend… what it was like to be C-sectioned… but she is so busy interacting with her baby that she doesn’t hear what I’m trying to say… and it’s hard to describe something so awful to someone who has no clue. So, I gave up and went back to feeding Evan.
Days, weeks, months go by. On the outside, my body has healed, for the most part. My scar still itches and is swollen, a constant reminder of the way my body was brutalized. I ignore my scar, whenever possible. I never look at it in the mirror, or if I do, I focus on my upper body. When I looks into my eyes, I doesn’t see my old self there. A piece of me is still missing. I don’t like the way I look. I look dead. I look like a ghost.
I have terrible flashbacks of the C-section and the last month of my pregnancy, when I found out Evan was breech. These flashbacks come all the time… when I’m with Evan, when we’re on a walk together, when I’m on a run by myself, when we’re in the car, when I’m in the shower, when I see myself in the mirror… especially when I see other pregnant women, women with babies, pediatricians’ offices, doctors’ offices.
Most of the time, though, it’s not a specific memory of the C-section. It’s just this feeling of dread and sadness that passes over me like a wave.
It’s especially difficult at night, since that’s when the C-section happened. When the sun goes down, I start to feel very sad.
I wish my husband would hurry up and come home, because I’m by myself, and it’s really hard for me. I can’t tell him this, because it makes me feel like a wimp.
C’mon, I’m a grown woman, can’t I deal with the memory of a surgery? I wish I could… if I could use will power to deal with it, I would. But the sadness is so much bigger than me. It overcomes me like a tidal wave, something I can’t fight. My days seem to run into each other, and there’s no distinction. It’s simply survival mode right now, and just when I get a bit of joy in the week, the sadness comes back.
When I go to bed at night, I have a hard time falling asleep. I keep remembering what it was like, the horrible sounds and feelings of the C-section. I have a new horrible memory to go with it, the memory that I was not there and fully present for my son at the beginning. I was wishing I was somewhere else.
When Evan cries at night, and I go into him, I feel like an imposter, like I’m not his mother. Because I still hate what happened. After I go in to comfort him, I can’t fall asleep for hours. My husband is asleep, and he doesn’t hear my cries. If he does, he doesn’t let on. I feel so ignored. Does he even love me anymore? I wouldn't love me, the way I am. How can he?
I often find myself awake at night, until 3 or 4 a.m., at the computer, trying to research and reach out to anyone else who might feel this way. Most women don’t seem to be having this much trouble after birth… there are those who’ve had C-sections who understand what I’m talking about, but I haven’t found a lot of women to commiserate with.
Is it just that no one is talking about it?
And if I ask a mother about her first birth experience, usually she won’t give me lots of details… or she gives me a superficial answer (usually having to do with her baby)… so I can’t find a lot of support easily if I need it.
I wonder, “Am I that abnormal?”
My husband thinks I should be over the C-section by now. He wants it over for me... and for him. And for Evan.
Most people that I talk to about it think I’m crazy (and not the norm) for reacting so sensitively. No matter what I say, I can’t seem to convince my friends and family that C-sections are not the ‘easy way out’ (as so many people think).
The ironic thing is that most people don’t even know anything is wrong with me. Or they don’t know the severity of my depression. I was severely depressed for months and months after my son was born.
Looking back, I wonder how I managed to take care of him and myself without totally shutting down… somehow I did manage to take care of us... and not in a totally detached way. So perhaps he didn’t catch on all the time that Momma was unhappy. But I lost a lot of ‘love time’ with him, because I was too traumatized by what happened.
I found some websites that talk about the fact that some women feel a bit ‘out of sorts’ after their birth experience, especially if they had a C-section. The websites recommend sleeping a lot, getting support from other women, taking drugs, and seeing a psychologist.
I tried talking with a counselor… and that helped a lot. I found a few other women who know what I’m going through, and that helps even more. Part of what I’m really aching for is support from my husband.
He is enjoying Evan a lot these days, but he never asks me about the C-section. I try talking with him about it, I try telling him how difficult it was (and still is) for me… but he tells me I’ve told him all these things before. He is tired of talking about it, I can tell. He says that he doesn’t know what to do, he’d really just like it if it were behind us so we can move on.
He talks about wanting another baby sometime soon… but I know that to do that, I’d have to get pregnant and give birth again. The experience has been wrecked for me for now.
I feel very alone, and on top of all the physical and emotional scars, I have a new emotion to add to the mix: guilt. Guilt over not being able to ‘get over it’ so my husband and I can return to our “normal” lives.
I feel like I missed out on an incredible birth experience, one that I deserved to have. One that every mother should have. I feel like I lost control, and was gypped. I feel betrayed by the people I needed the most, and my entire life has been turned upside down. I don’t know if I can fathom the thought of giving birth again… because of the chance that it will end up in a C-section.
I want to give birth. I love Evan tremendously. Part of me knows that I want to have another baby only if it's an empowering birth that will help me heal from the first experience. Only if I don’t have postpartum depression. Only if I feel like a real mom this time. Only if my husband knows what to say, and helps me in the way I need him to help me. And there’s no way to guarantee that.
I just don’t know if I could survive another C-section. Physically, yes, I’d survive. But emotionally? I’m not sure. I’m still fighting and clawing and pleading my way back from the first one.