Cesarean Awareness Month

 Photo by Steph Hayes of  Matt + Steph  and  Birth Story

Photo by Steph Hayes of Matt + Steph and Birth Story

Cesarean birth IS birth.

Whether you have chosen to give birth via cesarean or whether your cesarean birth was the result of some unexpected twists and turns during your pregnancy or labour, cesarean birth IS birth, complete with the mixed emotions and difficult choices that we can all have to make along the way.  In honour of Cesarean Awareness Month, we decided to give the people in our community a chance to talk about their experiences with cesarean birth and, as always, were so touched by the open and compassionate discussion that followed.  The variety of ways that the women in our community have experienced cesarean birth only goes to prove that cesarean birth is birth and deserves to be validated and celebrated like any other.

 Photo by Steph Hayes of  Matt + Steph  and  Birth Story

Photo by Steph Hayes of Matt + Steph and Birth Story

What did cesarean birth mean to you?

Loss & Grief

Loss and grief were a common theme for the women in our community.  Whether the loss they experienced was loss of power, loss of control, or loss of their imagined or expected birth experience, with loss comes grief and the expression of that grief took on many different forms among the women of this group.

“I was so grateful my baby and I were ok, and I knew it was the safest way for her to get here. That being said, I felt like my birth was taken from me… I had a difficult time emotionally and physically following her birth but the good definitely outweighed the bad. I was given this beautiful miracle and she was perfect” – Kaitlin

“When the quick decision was made for the Section, I was relieved and happy that they were going to get her out and make sure she was ok. I was begging them to hurry up, lol. My biggest concern was that I was going to miss the opportunity to do skin-to-skin right away, but they allowed in right in the operating room….It wasn’t until a couple of days later that it hit me. I wasn’t prepared for the healing process…. I also had a hard time connecting and bonding with her right away. I felt like they laid me down on a table, put up a curtain, and pulled a baby put of a magical hat and told me it was mine. That was probably the hardest part. But we built our bond and are doing great today. I just wish I was more prepared for that roller coaster.” — Holly

“I had a midwife, with every intention of a natural labour. At 38 weeks my midwife read the ultrasound results... Breech baby, and suspected IUGR. Consulted with my OB on Wednesday and my son was removed Friday. I didn’t have much time to even think about it. I felt like I manufactured a baby.” — Andrea

“Emotionally, the recovery [from my cesarean] challenged me with finding a new normal with my body with scars and the grief of failed expectations I had of myself. With both, I healed and time has passed. At the end, I have healthy girls.” — Andria

“With my second child I really (very badly) wanted to have a VBAC and my OB was supportive of my decision. However; this did not happen and after hours of labour (they called it “failure to progress”) I found myself having another caesarean….I remember taking the prenatal classes at the health unit (with our first pregnancy) and not being interested in the discussion about c sections as in my mind I was never going to have a caesarean, that wouldn’t happen to me. Well it did and twice. I was more emotional after my second c section, probably because I had my heart set on a successful VBAC and that didn’t happen” — Jillian

"Overall my cesarean felt like a fail, I felt like I couldn't do this whole mom thing. As a new mom it hurt to not get the birth I planned for and wanted. Not having all the people I wanted by my side there also hurt. Not being the first to hold my little girl hurt. I had many complications with my delivery. I lost so much blood I was taken to the ICU 2 hours after I saw my baby for the first time. I couldn't hold or see her for 3 days after that moment. So in the end it robbed me. All the special moments I wanted gone....I am now 3 months postpartum and I have so much to get through emotionally. I'm still working on myself." -- Krystal

Gratitude & Relief

 Photo by Steph Hayes of  Matt + Steph  and  Birth Story

Photo by Steph Hayes of Matt + Steph and Birth Story

Despite the fact that none of the women who answered our question wanted to give birth via cesarean, for many of them the experience was a mixed bag of emotions.  Most felt some of the loss and disappointment that naturally comes when our plans don’t come together but there was also a sense of gratitude and relief that both mother and baby came through birth alive, healthy, and together.  For more than a few,  the process of birthing via cesarean left them feeling empowered!

"First time mom and I had a scheduled c-section 6 weeks ago due to baby being breech position. Although not how I had envisioned having my baby, it was a very positive experience- my OB and the hospital team were/are amazing and so supportive of our requests for skin to skin etc., it all went very smoothly! I've healed well and quickly, and though I plan to try VBAC next time, it was kind of nice to not have to go through hours of labour! I'm a go-with-the-flow kind of person, what mattered most to me was that baby was brought into the world safe and healthy, so I have no regrets!" -- Jalana

“Honestly I had a great experience. I was scheduled in at 8 am, was holding my boy at 8:36 and I healed great. I was more scared of things I had heard and worried about the guilt after of “not doing it the natural way” which is silly. I carried him for 9 months, I will love him for my lifetime. I don’t feel in any way shape or form lesser than any other momma. I did my job and still am!” – Sara

“Physically, a cesarean procedure impressed me with what my body did, how medical staff were able to work together for my benefit.” – Andria

“With my first child I had a scheduled c section as she was breech, it was a really great and positive delivery. ” — Jillian

“I wish it hadn’t happened more than anything but on the other hand I’m so grateful that we have [cesareans] for emergency/necessary situations like mine!” — Michelle

"All in all I have no regrets about my sections. It was the best choice for me and my babies. We were all safe and healthy and that's all that matters." -- Nicole

Empowerment & Pride

"I feel empowered knowing a made an informed choice, I feel like a warrior because of my scar and I have three beautiful healthy kiddos....All mommas are bright shining warriors" --  Sarah

"I gave birth to my twin girls via c-section December 15th, 2016. They were both breech 2 weeks before set c-section date. With all of my research I knew that with twins most often women are sent off to emergency c-section and being equipped with that knowledge I knew I did not want either of my babies to suffer any sort of distress so I opted for a c-section early on. I am happy I made this decision, my girls were born healthy with no issues because I educated myself and chose not to listen to others who had no knowledge of pregnancy with multiples. I have given birth both vaginally and cesarean and let me end this discussion of one being harder then the other! No birth is easy, bringing a child into the world is not easy at all! I am proud that I educated myself and let my girls have the best possible life!" - Megan

"I look at my body in confidence knowing what I did and at my scar with pride. My scar is proof of the first major decision my husband and I made as parents for our daughter's health and well-being and I wouldn't have it any other way. Her safe delivery was far more important than my desired water birth, and I immediately said I would do it all over again in a heartbeat." -- Jennifer

Putting cesarean sections back in the tool box

 Photo by Steph Hayes of  Matt + Steph  and  Birth Story

Photo by Steph Hayes of Matt + Steph and Birth Story

It is the hope of organizations like the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) that people and the medical community change the way that cesarean sections are viewed.  With an emphasis on education at both the individual and institutional level the goal is to normalize birth, stress informed consent, and take the cesarean section off the table as a standard birth intervention and to put it back in the tool box, to be brought out when required medically.

Parents who birth their babies via cesarean section often need extra support postpartum.  The healing process is longer and more difficult than after a vaginal birth and even when things go smoothly, there are a lot of emotion to process.    Supports need to be put in place to ensure that healing, bonding, and rest are prioritized and facilitated whenever possible.  Birth, however it happens, is a beautiful process that requires time and space to recover from; healing from a cesarean is no exception.  

Thank you to all of the women in our community who shared so openly with us about their births and recoveries.  Coming together, in person or online, to talk about our experiences and emotions can go a long way towards healing.  Together, we are stronger!