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Written on April 30, 2015
23 Weeks, 1 day
Last week I realized that I didn’t remember what the pain felt like. I know it was bad and there was screaming, but it’s a blur, and I have no physiological memory of it.
All that changed last night.
I had a nightmare.
I was at the hospital, in a spacious room that looked more like an apartment. I was wearing a hospital gown (the ugly kind) and the room was filled with people. I was 37 weeks pregnant, and I needed a c-section. I don’t know why. I just know that’s why I was there.
They had just put an IV in my arm and my throat started to burn with a chemical taste – which is what happened when I had to have a CT scan with contrast during my postpartum recovery.
I was angry and felt powerless. In an act of much-needed bravado, I ordered everyone out of the room. As they shuffled out, I closed all of the shades and turned off all of the lights (which were many). I remember trying to sort through my thoughts, look for an out, try to find a way to convince them to let me try.
I remember standing there in the empty room, considering asking for Pitocin. That’s when it happened. I felt the pain at the top of my uterus. A band of pain enveloping my womb. A Pitocin-induced contraction. And that’s when I remembered what it felt like.
I woke shortly thereafter, still feeling that memory.
I’ve never been fond of my c-section scar. Mostly, because it’s crooked. On one side it tilts up, almost as in a half smile. I always wondered why they couldn’t take the time to at least cut me straight.
Stretch marks, extra weight – that I can deal with. I feel like I earned that.
But the scar, that wasn’t a choice. That reminds me of being stretched out and tied down, the smell of the oxygen mask over my face unpleasant, my body being wracked by shakes and tremors.
The feeling of being so incredibly powerless in that moment. The running, racing thoughts in my head, “No, this isn’t how it was supposed to be. This is not the way my baby is supposed to come into the world. This is not how I’m supposed to become a mother.”
I say that it took me six months to come to acceptance of my cesarean section. In reality, it’s been almost five years and there’s still a part of me that will never accept it.
But acceptance is part of moving on. Part of healing.
It’s hard to view what I went through as an act of courage rather than an act of failure.
But can we please stop, for one moment and recognize, that no matter how educated or uneducated, coerced or informed the choice that woman on the operating table made or didn’t make, whether that cesarean was elective or emergency, necessary or unnecessary – it takes a lot of courage to get there. Our birth culture may be saturated in fear-based decisions, but behind every cesarean and ‘unnecesarean’ is a woman of courage. In that moment, it doesn’t matter how that woman got to the operating table. It doesn’t matter if the surgery is necessary or unnecessary, what matters is that it takes extraordinary courage to say:
‘Cut me open.
I love my baby so much, that I will do anything to get my baby out of my body alive.
Lay me out, cut me open
because I love my baby so much.’
That is courage. That is bravery and sacrifice and mothering in its purest form. That is the willingness to lay down your body and risk your life that your child might be born, that your child might live.
Cesarean mothers are BRAVE.
So now, this morning in the car, I popped in the CD of my “VBAC playlist” that I had burned a few days ago.
These scars aren’t pretty
But they’re a part of me
And will not ever fade away
These marks tell a story
Of me down in the valley
And how You reached in with Your grace
And healed me
Wish I could every time
The hurt, the pain cuts so deep
But when I’m weak You’re strong
And in Your power I can carry on
And my scars say that You won’t ever leave
They remind me of Your faithfulness
And all You brought me through
They teach me that my brokenness
Is something You can use
They show me where I’ve been and
That I’m not there any more
That’s what scars, that’s what scars are for
While not a song that most people might think of using for a pregnancy or birth playlist, this song has brought me a lot of comfort.
It’s helped me look at my scar – and my entire cesarean experience – with different eyes.
Eyes that see that my cesarean taught me a lot of lessons. It showed me how I needed to hold my life and my plans with a looser grasp instead of trying to control everything about my life. It made me realize that there is beauty in brokenness. It showed me that even the best-laid plans don’t ensure a perfect ending. It exposed my perfectionism.
It showed me that even in the terror, God was there with me. I have to believe that. And he continues to use the experience in my life, and in the lives of others.
And the result – my beautiful son Ezra – was worth it all.
Ezra – 5 weeks old
I don’t really have a nice tidy list of how to come to acceptance of your c-section. I think that’s a very personal journey that each mom is going to have to take.
But you have to try. You have to look back and feel it. Seek counseling for it. Journal about it. Write out your birth story, even if it’s just for you. Touch your scar.
But above all, remember that the act of lying on that table was an act of bravery, no matter how you got there.