Friday, June 3, 2011

Coping after a Cesarean

I've been a little hesitant to post about my feelings following the birth of my now 5-month-old son. But again, maybe this will be helpful for someone else.

I think the worst part about having a cesarean is the guilt I felt in the following weeks and months. I was not satisfied with my birth experience (with the obvious exception of having a beautiful baby!). My postpartum experience with my doctor and even a nurse practitioner at the same clinic left me feeling hopeless. I had little to no confidence in my body's ability to bear children. I questioned if I had done what I could to ensure a safe and satisfying delivery for me and for my family. In short, I felt like a failure.

The worst part is that I felt guilty about feeling guilty. "I should just accept it and move on," I thought. "I should be grateful for what I DO have--a healthy baby and a body that is recovering well." "I shouldn't look back and wonder, 'what if...'" But I did! In the weeks following my delivery, I continually questioned my own judgment and mourned what I felt to be the loss of a beautiful experience.

The only way I could console myself was to say, "next time. Next time it will be different. I'll make different choices next time." When my doctor told me to just err on the side of a repeat cesarean, I felt that I had maybe even lost the one consolation I had left. I truly cried for nearly two days straight. My heart hurt in a way it had hurt very few times before in my life.

Thankfully, a few months have passed and the hurt has mostly subsided. I was blessed to have made friends with a wonderful nurse at the same clinic. I explained my desire for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) with subsequent births. She readily accepted my desire. I also explained my feelings of hopelessness. I thought these feelings were nothing that wouldn't pass with a little bit of time. She had the understanding to see that it was something more. I was suffering from postpartum depression. She helped me to seek some treatment that greatly benefited me, my family, my ability to complete my schooling, and positively affected my entire life. Sometimes I wonder what could/would have happened without her loving intervention. I'm grateful I don't have to know.

But here I stand today, still upset by my experience. In the months before I gave birth to my sweet Hyrum I had two nagging thoughts--thoughts that I attribute to Provincial inspiration. One was, "you need to be prepared to have a birth without pain relief." The other was, "you'll likely end up in a cesarean." I pushed the second thought out of my mind over and over again and attributed the first to me being silly. Sadly, I think if I had heeded the first thought, the second would not have become a fulfilled prophesy.

Now, before I scare every woman out there from having an epidural, the epidural is not what caused me to need a cesarean. But, my baby was posterior and that is likely what was causing the monitors to register fetal distress. If I had not been medicated, I could have walked or squatted during labor and thereby, may have avoided a cesarean.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda...obviously not much I can do about it now. But, one thing I can do is come to terms with my disappointment. Most of the time I just shove it out of my mind and think, "too late to do anything now." In reality, it is too late to do anything about my prior birth experience. However, I have learned a lot about myself and a lot about emotional healing. Most importantly, I've learned that it truly is okay for me to feel remorse about my experience. It doesn't lessen my love for my baby and it doesn't lessen my personal worth. It does make me look forward to the possibility of a different experience in the future.

Another baby isn't in the plans for a little while but in the meantime, I plan on educating myself as much as possible on how to increase the likelihood of a successful VBAC. Part of that includes being willing and ready to have a birth without unnecessary medical interventions. This entails emotional and physical strength and readiness.

If you have had a cesarean or are otherwise feeling regrets about your birth experience, realize that it is perfectly alright. No one would tell you to "move on" after the ending of a serious relationship or the loss of a loved one. Likewise, know that it is healthy and normal to grieve an experience (whether it be birth or otherwise) that didn't go as planned. There is hope and there are options. If you're interested in VBACs, please check out the website for the International Cesarean Awareness Network.


  1. Amy, As soon as I started reading your post in my head I thought to myself "I think she has been suffering from some postpartum depression". Even before I got to that part. I too suffered from it after our little guy was born and it is tough. In fact mine lasted quite a while. I wish I would have gotten some help through it but it wasn't until almost a year latter that I sought out some help through a counselor. That has been so beneficial and such a blessing. I hope things continue to get better for you. That little guy is adorable.

  2. I remember with my first my mom warned me of Postpartum depression, and as depression of different kinds run in on my biological fathers side and having had anxiety issues in high school, i wasn't surprised when i did have it. My second, I thought it had gone away quicker but really it was just "in waiting" then it came in full and it hasn't gone away. I'm back on Zolof, which I was on the last part og high school and it's helped me a ton! I love the family doctor we have and my husband is wonderful. He helps me watch for signs and we're constantly talking to make sure I don't pent things up.

  3. I totally agree with your sentiments! I don't necessarily think I suffered from postpartum depression, but I did experience a great deal of regret after my c-section, and then I felt guilty for feeling regret! I, like you, felt like I should be happy because I had a healthy, happy child, but I just wasn't. I have since visited the ICAN site many times, read a lot of articles and also a few books, including Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born, which I found very enlightening. I have come to the conclusion that there are very many reasons why we do so many c-sections in the US (and elsewhere) today. I, like you, want to try for a VBAC next time, but I have realized that there's only so much I can do to achieve this goal. For example, I can't control medical malpractice insurance, and I can't have a home birth, so I'll have to be hooked up to all those "necessary" monitors in the hospital. I can, however: lose weight, eat better during pregnancy (in the hopes that the baby might be just a bit smaller), take classes to better cope with the pain, and choose a doctor who is willing to do VBACs and even encourages them (very hard to find, but they ARE out there). I really hope that I will be able to have a VBAC next time. But at least if I don't, I will be much better prepared and hopefully I will feel like I have done everything I can do. I know that I can't go back and change the way my first delivery went and I truly am so grateful to have my beautiful daughter. But I totally understand those feelings of regret and how easy it is to let them eat you up. I'm so grateful for the power of the Atonement because that is truly the only way I have found peace on this issue. Love ya, Amy! Good luck to you!

  4. I can totally understand your feelings. While I didn't have PPD, I did have issues with having a c-section (my second child). You story sounds very familiar to mine, I felt like I needed to prepare for a natural birth and had the feeling that I'd need a c-section. I tried to get an epidural, but it didn't work, so I HAD to go natural. And I ended up with a c-section that I had to be put under for. It was very hard to deal with basically missing the birth and first few hours of my sons life. But, I put those feelings into actions and went on to have 2 VBACs. My first VBAC was a posterior baby, like my first child (not the c-section birth), and my second VBAC was all natural. It is possible. 80% of women who try for a VBAC are successful. It's not for everyone, but if you prayerfully decide that it's the right thing for you, go for it and the Lord will help take care of the rest.

  5. Amy. You are a dream. I like you so much and I think you should know that.

    Also, I wanted to pass on what helped me the most when I was in labor (didn't have epidurals) was to understand my body and how it worked. If you want to know some of the specific things that were the most helpful for me I can email you (facebook me or something and let me know) since it would make for kind of a long comment.

    Also also, I know having a c-section wasn't what you wanted, and I know it's hard. I have a loved one who also has gone through that, but regardless of whether you have a c-section, have an epidural, or go natural you are bringing a beautiful, perfect, lovely little spirit into this world and regardless of how it gets here, that will always be miraculous. You are a miracle worker and don't you forget it.

  6. Amy, don't get discouraged, you need to trust that your body is created to have vaginal deliveries. Give your self a break, your doing great and are very well informed and are learning about what you want and how to get what you want next time. Love Ya!

  7. I also find myself worrying about the future children I want to have. With me, I know that there was nothing I really could have done to change mine, and I think that helps. Thank you for that website. I hope it has information on my situation (rare heart shaped uterus causing baby to never get comfortable, therefore high chances of breach). :)