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October 2012 - Two Cesarean Births, postpartum


I am accounting these 2 c-section birth stories because of the postpartum feelings experienced by the moms, rather than the births themselves (though there is much to be learned from them). I highly recommend Lynn Madsen’s book “REBOUNDING FROM CHILDBRTH: Toward Emotional Recovery” as an extremely well-done testament to the powerful impact of our birth experiences, and the emotional trauma or even just the emotions that may need processing. Telling women that “all that matters is a healthy baby” is an invalidation of the worst kind to the absolutely valid feelings of grief, loss, upset, anger, or guilt that may occur after a disappointing birth experience. I remind these women that acknowledging these feelings does not mean that they don’t love their babies or are not grateful that everyone is okay.

Not all cesareans are accompanied by grief or trauma, but feelings of loss and sadness are common, even when the mom feels that things went quite well. These moms need to know it is OKAY & NORMAL to feel sad, even though they are of course happy to have their new baby. One emotion need not cancel out the other.



This woman’s first baby was born vaginally, unmedicated, 2 years prior, a joyful accomplishment for someone who had been doubtful and anxious. Her second baby was breech, and the only option she could find in the small city they had moved to, was a hospital midwifery group that insisted on a cesarean. Her cesarean had been scheduled, and she had been mentally preparing for it.  


“For my own memory, I am going to tell my birth story....before I hopefully forget it.


I began having contractions on the 11th and went into the hospital to get monitored around 11 am. After being there a couple hours they sent me home saying that I should come back when I was further along (contractions were about 6 min apart). Still not sure why exactly they (a doctor from my OB/GYN group I had never met) wanted to wait since there was no way I was able to have a natural delivery anyway (baby was breech and was not turntable). (I thought the one bonus of having a c-section was that at least I wouldn’t have to deal with contractions!)


Labor began progressing after midnight and we went back into the hospital about 4 am. By 5:30 they had me prepped and walked me to the OR. They gave me a spinal (not an epidural) and it made me numb to just under my arm pits. That was the craziest feeling and I think added to my stress because it forced me to feel unattached to my body. The drugs, along with being in labor, caused my chin and arms to shake uncontrollably - not cool. My husband came in about that time and held my hand while he chanted - I need to focus on something so it was really helpful to have him repeat something over and over again.


My daughter was born at 5:59 am. She was taken straight to the warmer to be cleaned off, checked and weighed (8 lbs 15oz). My husband then brought her to me and we were able to take a couple of pictures. Once the last picture was taken she was taken to the nursery while he stayed with me a little longer. I was not expecting to feel so much tugging and pulling. I really hated it and was shocked that my shoulders began to hurt because of it. When they were finally done, I was taken into recovery where husband and baby were waiting for me. She was immediately placed skin to skin on my chest and latched on.


After about 45 min in recovery, I was wheeled into my hospital room. It was a nice private room where we stationed ourselves for the next 3 days. I was blessed to have amazing nurses for each shift. They were all really and truly terrific. My 2 year old daughter came on Thursday for a few min to visit me. She was not a huge fan of being in the hospital, but i think it did help her to know where I was and that I was coming home soon.


I do not know what i was expecting, but it was not the reality of recovery. It hurts! and is uncomfortable. I can not believe I am not allowed to even go for a walk around the neighborhood for two weeks! I just was not expecting to be so debilitated for this long.


Postpartum hit pretty hard the last few days. I have been put on zoloft and hope that that will help for the next few months. I keep being told that it is more likely after a c-section and when the milk comes in. I am sure it doesn't hurt that the last few months have been so difficult and hard. I am still processing so many emotions and never really had a chance to mentally prepare for this pregnancy. I feel like all of a sudden I have this kid....Where did the pregnancy go?


Anyway, this is my story.” 



The same week, another women, this one a first time mom, wrote the following description of her birth experience. It is a good example of what happens today with the many posterior labors that end in c-sections. The baby’s position is not diagnosed until very late in the labor, in this case after the water has been artifically ruptured (the worst thing to do with a high posterior baby), causing the baby to move into a position it would not otherwise have chosen. The mom has an epidural for exhaustion, further prohibiting the baby from navigating & rotating. Finally, the baby is “not descending” and the doctor is given credit for announcing it is “sunny side up,” as if that is a condition requiring the life-saving skills of a c-section. And then we have: a new mom, sad and guilty, having trouble breastfeeding, and being told to ignore her feelings of sorrow because all that matters is a healthy baby.


“I have to say that my labor did not go as planned. Although I prepared myself as much as I could to bare with the pain of labor, I honestly thought I would be able to have a natural birth and failed to do further preparing in case I had a C-Section; which I did! ouch!


I started having contractions early thursday morning at 3 a.m. and when I got to the hospital at about 10 a.m. I was about 3 cm dilated. I wanted to come home and do my laboring here; but, because I was already 4 days past my due date my doctor wanted me to stay for safety. I continued laboring drug free until 9 p.m. that evening. I was 5 cm dilated, 100% effaced, contractions coming every 3-5 minutes and I was EXHAUSTED. My contractions had been coming at that interval since 3 a.m. that morning. I finally allowed the doctor to break my water, and for a while the contractions seemed to come harder and faster but remained at the same speed and the doctor had discovered that the baby was sunny side up and she was still high up. I did decide to have the epidural, because at this point I did not know if I would have enough energy to push the baby out. When I finally dilated enough to push, the nurses found that my fluid had meconium and the baby was not descending. 


I had the c-section and I'm now a mom. She is/was 7lbs, 12 oz. 21.5 inches long. 


I'm actually really sad that things didn't go as planned. I breastfed her the first 2 days friday and saturday, but I had a difficult time getting her to latch and frankly it was too painful for me to hold her in a position that would be comfortable for both she and I. I'm starting to feel better. My emotions were crazy once I came home. I'm still trying to breastfeed her, but because she did get a bottle and a pacifier I'm having a hard time. She is suckling each time I put her on the boob for about 5-10 minutes and I'm pumping. I'm not giving up hope, though I know I've got an uphill battle. I've contacted la leche league and hope to gain some insight from them. 


Wow. That was one crazy ride.  It's just so crazy the way things turn out. I had a beautiful pregnancy and did as much as I could to birth her naturally. I do feel a little guilty, like, maybe I shouldn't have let them break my water, or I shouldn't have taken that epidural. Though I remind myself that my baby is gorgeous and healthy and thats what matters most! I don't want to keep negative thoughts in my head.” 



(Of course we told this mom that she is absolutely allowed to feel her feelings, that it was not her fault, that she made the best choices she could in the moment, and that just because the baby is gorgeous and healthy does not mean she has no right to feel disappointed in her birth experience and overwhelmed by new mothering on top of the sense of loss and guilt. The only way for her to process through the postpartum is to be acknowledged in her feelings of both happiness AND grief. It is OKAY.)

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