Updated: Jun 7, 2019
I want to preface this blog post by saying this: Here at The VBAC Link we realize that sometimes, C-sections are very necessary for the health and life of mom and baby. We are SO grateful to have the life saving skills and medical technology available to us. However, C-sections are often over used, leaving women feeling taken advantage of and causing, in some cases, severe trauma and PTSD. We created this post to shed light on some of that trauma to create a stronger awareness of what some women are left with feeling after such a difficult experience.
Some time ago, I asked a large group of women who felt like their cesarean births were not birth to complete this sentence "My c-section was..." I am completely humbled by their responses, they are eye opening. I've got 30 pages (THIRTY!) worth of responses, just like the ones listed below. We as C-section moms want to be heard, and not just told to be grateful. This is the reality that we are living in, and here is a glimpse of theirs, used with permission and the promise of anonymity...
My c-section made me feel numb, powerless, violated, and broken.
My c-section made me feel like a failure.
My c section made me feel like my body betrayed me.
My c-section made me feel like I was lied to and taken advantage of for no reason. My c section caused additional healing time, going on 8 yrs for emotional pain.
My c-section was dehumanizing and left me with Postpartum depression and PTSD.
My cesarean made me feel inconvenient, ignorant, cheated. (Though not so much the cesarean itself, but the treatment/"professional" motivation leading up to it).
My c-section made me feel like I was deceived. It has created a distrustful attitude toward the medical profession.
My c-section made me feel powerless, broken - I failed my son, I failed my self.
My c section made me feel like just another dollar bill in my doctors pocket - I wasn't human, I wasn't a patient.
My CS made me feel like I wasn't really a mother.
My c-section made me feel like a failure. And my c-section was traumatizing and rushed. Not a single nurse listened or answered any of my questions. I still cry and get extreme anxiety thinking of my sons birth 7 months after.
My c section was very traumatizing and I felt unheard as I screamed in pain and was told to be quiet, because I felt the whole surgery.
My c-section was traumatic and made me feel cheated out of my daughter's birth. It was suddenly and coldly pushed on me, and I trembled and cried the entire time while everyone worked on and around me without acknowledging or offering any comfort.
My c section made me feel uneducated. I had no idea the risks of induction and no idea that there was no real medical reason for my failed induction.
My c-section was unnecessary and it made feel like a failure. (I was so depressed for months about it, and still have my days 18 months later and I am so tired of people saying get over it at least you had a healthy baby).
My c-section made me feel like I didn't try hard enough, like my ability to birth future babies is now defined by a lack of effort with my first.
I had incredible anxiety as I sat in front of the operating room for my third section which was scheduled. I wanted to run. I wasn't in labor and wasn't ready. But I didn't know I had a choice.
My c section made me feel as though i had been robbed! I couldn't believe that it was possible to feel like someone stole your birth from u.... At the time it was like i got preyed upon since i just wanted my baby to be healthy but after he was out i realized he was just fine they just forced it on me because it was easier for them! Smh
My c-section was traumatizing. I was the last person to hold my daughter. Between the doctor and nurses telling me were both going to die if I didn't do it to reading my report and it saying it was elective. I now have extreme anxiety. It made me feel defeated, helpless, weak, broken, mutilated, violated, untrusting, and less of a woman/mother.
My heart hurts for these women and SO many others who felt robbed of their birth.
I am seeing a trend in our society. Even a movement in the name if inclusion and acceptance, calling for and pushing recognition for women who deliver their babies by cesarean to be as satisfied with their form of delivery as women who birth vaginally. Terms such as "belly birth" and "abdominal birth" are being used to try and normalize cesarean delivery. I recognize the good intention of this trend but, for many women it is NOT the same. It simply is not. Webster defines birth as "the emergence of a baby or other young from the body of its mother; the start of life as a physically separate being." The very literal definition does not specify the way in which baby emerges. So, what do I mean? As long as the baby is removed, the woman MUST have given birth, right? Not always...
Let me explain. Yes, a baby was physically removed from the body of a woman which technically gives her a check mark in the birth box. However, what this completely disregards is the emotional and physiologic component of birth. Many cesarean women are completely deprived of this experience. While they dream of a baby being immediately pulled up to their chest after birth instead it is pulled out of their stomach and whisked away to a cold bin to be kept warm by blankets rather than on mothers chest. They envision turning red while pushing under the bright lights of a hospital or calmly breathing the baby out in a birth pool at home. Instead they are wheeled into a cold O.R., crying, exhausted, fearful, and even sometimes protesting the whole way.
They face weeks or months of difficult recovery instead of days. Add to that the postpartum period where they begin to question what happened to them or their baby. Maybe breastfeeding failed because of the physical pain that came with nursing, or delayed bonding. Maybe they are so overwhelmed with narcotic pain relief that they cannot properly bond with their baby. Maybe they have become aware of things they could have done to avoid their cesarean. Maybe their minds begin to fill with doubt... "What if I waited to get the epidural?", "What if I labored in a different position?", "What if I had decided against induction?", "What if I had asked for a second opinion?", "What if I...". The emotional toll of cesarean birth is REAL.
Here's some data for you... In 2013, 32.7% of first time mothers in the United States gave birth by C-section. Nearly one third of the women in this country were told that their body was not capable of birthing a baby through their vagina. Since 99% of c-sections for first time mothers are not planned, one third of women were in various stages of emotional duress as they were being wheeled into the operating room to have their baby surgically removed from them. One third of women did not EMOTIONALLY birth their baby. Of this third, only 10% of them will attempt a future vaginal birth due to the inability to find a supportive provider or due to the outdated belief of "once a c-section, always a c-section".
We need to do better! Providers, doulas, mothers, fathers, everyone! How can we impress upon first time mothers the need to educate themselves on Cesarean prevention? How can we encourage women to become truly informed of their options and of the risks associated with certain procedures? How can we implement TRUE informed consent? By speaking out! By sharing our stories!
So next time you see a woman who has had a Cesarean birth, ask her how she is handling it. Validate her experience. Listen to her as she shares with you and if she opens up to you, please PLEASE do not tell her to be grateful that her and her baby are alive. That is definitely a very important thing but, NOT the only important thing.
THIS is why I am a doula.
THIS is why I am so passionate about VBAC.
THIS is why I am insistent about first time mothers becoming educated, truly educated about birth and cesarean prevention.
THIS is why I will tell you when I think your provider is setting the stage to give you a C-section.
Pregnancy after C-section is hard. Understanding vaginal birth after C-section can be even harder. This is why we are here. This is why we offer online VBAC preparation classes and Advanced VBAC Doula Certification courses.
THIS IS WHY WE MUST DO BETTER!
Hear my story on episode 3 of our podcast.
The mind is a powerful birth tool and can affect so many things in the body. Download our free fear release activity to use to clear your mind and release your fears for birth.