When my water broke and I went into labor, I didn't know that in about 18 hours I'd be having surgery to deliver my son. Like most moms, I was planning for a vaginal delivery. My son, however, had other plans. Fortunately, I'd discussed the possibility of an unplanned C-section with my OB and I had mentally prepared myself. And now, because I'm a sharing kind of soul, I present necessary mantras for women who have emergency C-sections — they helped me, so maybe they can help you.
Preparing for the birth you want is important, both practically and as a way to explore your feelings and the things that are valuable to you. But often overlooked, I think, it preparing for the kind of birth you don't necessarily want but may wind up having. Many people avoid this exercise because they think that making alternative plans is a capitulation. Like, they're not really committed to their birth plan. But admitting that life doesn't always go as we imagined isn't a lack of dedication — it's smart.
When I'm at a baby shower and people have a little "write advice for the mom to be" game, I always include something about researching all different births, even if you don't think you want to or even if there is a certain type of birthing experience you absolutely want to avoid. In the end you never know where you'll wind up, and mentally preparing for the possibility can be the difference between an empowered and traumatic experience.
So even if you're planning a waterbirth at home, take a look at what happens during a C-section... and bear some of the following mantras in mind:
"This Is A Safe & Common Procedure"
Human beings have millions of years of evolution telling our brains, "Yo, don't let anyone cut you open, OK? Cuz you'll die." Really, it's only in the past 150 years or so that surgery wasn't routinely deadly and extremely painful, and in the grand scheme of human existence that's hardly a blip. So it stands to reason that we'd naturally be nervous about going under the knife.
On top of that, there are still risks and side effects to the procedure. I mea, it's not a walk in the park. Still, it's important to remind yourself that this a common surgery, which means that doctors are experienced in the procedure and you will have a lot of women to talk to about it afterwards for support and advice.
"This Is A Valid Way To Give Birth"
Despite being a common occurrence (about a third of American women will deliver via C-section), there are still those who would attach a stigma to Cesarean birth. Some particularly obnoxious people, a small but vocal minority, would even have you believe that it's not really giving birth at all.
Those people can you-know-what.
Even the people who aren't quite as extreme but see C-sections as an unfortunate failure or a necessary shame are off the mark. A C-section, either emergency or elective, is no less a birth than a vaginal delivery.
"This Is One Good Thing I Am Doing For My Child & It Won't Be The Last"
Because of the toxic ideas about C-sections, not having a vaginal delivery is seen as something one fails to provide their baby. I see it as one of the many gifts a mother can give her child. After all, what better way to start out life than not traumatically via an inadvisable vaginal delivery? There are lots of good reasons to have an emergency C-section, including your health and the health of the baby. Looking out for your health and wellbeing as a mom is incidentally helping your child.
And it's not as though birth is the first and last good thing you can do for your baby. Hell, you're going to have lots of opportunities to do what's best for them. (You've likely even done a lot while they were gestating!) So if this didn't go exactly according to plan, don't worry! You've got a lifetime of more successes ahead of you!
"This Does Not Have To Change Subsequent Plans"
There are a whole lot of myths swirling around in the ether about C-sections interfering with breastfeeding, bonding, or post-birth plans such as skin-to-skin contact. Granted, the emergent nature of a C-section might throw a wrench in some of your plans, but that's hardly a foregone conclusion. Your best bet is to talk to your care provider ahead of time what your options are in the case of an emergency C-section. Situation permitting, you still may be able to have everything you'd planned with a vaginal delivery (minus the baby coming out of your vagina, of course).
"This Does Not Keep Me From Bonding With My Baby"
I really, really want to stress this because this was a huge, deep down, secret concern of mine. But I've delivered a baby via C-section and vaginally and I've gotta tell you: it's not like a C-section rendered me incapable of emotional connection and it's not like my vaginal delivery imbued me with cosmic enlightenment.
"I Am Worthy Of A Mindful & Dedicated Recovery"
Say it over and over and over until you really relax into it and embrace the idea that, sometimes, sitting and "doing nothing" is the work you need to be doing. You deserve to rest and heal.
"Feeling & Admitting Pain Is Not Weakness"
A doctor has precisely cut through layers of muscle and fat, people. It hurts and it's OK to admit that and lean into the ways that you can cope with the pain. Take the medications (it's not weakness), and talk to your doctors if the medication isn't enough (there are combinations you can take to get you through). Again, embrace the idea of rest and recovery to minimize your hurt and help you manage. Admitting pain means people can help you with it. Plus, it just feels good to vent sometimes, right?
"Disappointment Isn't The Same As Being Ungrateful"
So often, when a mom start to express disappointment with her C-section, someone will tell her "the important thing is that everyone is alive and healthy." Except... that's skipping over a whole lot of very valid emotions, right? You can be grateful you're alive and still feel disappointed you didn't get the birth experience you wanted. Or feel traumatized by what was, perhaps, a risky and harrowing birth. Any emotion or jumble of emotions has a place in the discussion of your birth.
"There Is No Prescribed Way I Have To Feel About This"
Do you know how I felt after my emergency C-section? Elated. That rush of hormones people say you can only feel after a medication free vaginal birth? I felt it as soon as they pulled my son out of my abdomen. I was atwitter as my doctor closed the incision. "If all our babies are born this way that's totally fine," I told my husband. "This was amazing." Just as it's OK to have hated your C-section, it's OK if you enjoyed it, too. There's no script you have to follow, and in my experience most people expect you to be thankful but someone chagrined. Your feelings are your own.
"I Am Worthy Of Assistance"
Women are trained to be self-conscious about "being a bother." (It's all part and parcel to the idea that women shouldn't take up space or resources.) But all new parents will need help, and C-section moms (between having a new baby, needing to recover, and limited mobility), will need specific help that's unique to their situation.
And. That's. OK.
Fight the part of society lodged in your brain that's telling you that it's better to be in pain than "inconvenience" someone. You deserve nurturing.
"My C-Section Does Not Make Me Less Of A Mom"
The idea that how you bring a child into your life is a measure of your worth as a mother (or a woman) is... awful. It reduces a woman to her anatomy, and if you think it's cruel to C-section moms just think about how it makes adoptive and non-gestational moms feel.
Birth can be an important aspect of how a woman sees herself as a mom, and that's fine. But it's not the alpha-and-omega of motherhood and, frankly, it's not even a requirement.
"I Just Gave Birth!"
You're amazing! Congratulations.