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.