When I was pregnant with my first child, I planned on having a vaginal childbirth. I assumed I'd labor for several hours, it would hurt like hell, and at the end of it all, I'd have a baby lying on my chest. So when my obstetrician said I needed to have a C-section after 18 hours of labor, I felt scared and unprepared . . . for everything. Since having a C-section never really crossed my mind up until that point (I had a birth plan and I was sticking to it), I had no idea what my emotional or physical recovery would be like. And boy, did I struggle.
[I felt] immense sadness. I was depressed and angry at my body for not cooperating and doing what I thought it was made to do.
While I was still in the hospital, things were pretty OK. I had plenty of help from nurses and doctors, and I was still on that euphoric high of just having had my first baby. I couldn't take my eyes off my son. Getting up and moving around hurt, but I mostly just stayed in bed, gazing over at my little boy in his bassinet in amazement. My husband would bring him to me and put him in my arms for extra cuddles and nursing sessions. I relished in the skin-to-skin contact and bond we created. But all of that new mom bliss ended once our little family arrived home.
One of the main things that surprised me the most after leaving the hospital was my immense sadness. I assumed it was the baby blues — something many women get — but in hindsight, I now know that I was grieving. I was grieving my hopes and anticipation of having a vaginal delivery. I believed so strongly that I was going to have a natural childbirth that when I didn't, I felt robbed and cheated. I was depressed and angry at my body for not cooperating and doing what I thought it was made to do. But at the same time, I knew I was lucky. I was blessed to have a healthy baby boy. So a wave of guilt washed over me for feeling sad in the first place. I cried . . . a lot. The only thing that eventually helped me was talking about it. I opened up to my husband, friends, and other women who had had C-sections. It took a lot of time, but I eventually began to heal.
Another thing I wish I'd known about having a C-section is that it is major surgery, and overdoing it will stall your recovery and cause you to bleed more. I specifically remember one day when I felt energetic and my body was craving movement, so I pushed myself to do a little more. My mom and I ran several errands, and I carried the heavy car seat in and out of the car. Despite the fact that I felt like a triumphant mother, I paid the price for those arduous tasks. The following day, my body felt depleted. My stomach and incision were sore, and I bled horribly. It wasn't just a small cut — the obstetrician cut through layers of tissue and muscles. Why did I think my recovery would be a breeze? My body deserved the time to recover at a slow pace.
Having a C-section took me by surprise. I wasn't mentally or physically prepared for it. But by talking about it and leaning on my friends and family for support, I was able to slowly move on and realize the most important thing is having my healthy baby boy, no matter how he got here.