My Scar Does Not Define Me, Part 2

February 21, 2011 · 38 comments

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Anastasia’s story, continued from Part 1.

Fifteen months after surgery I found myself pregnant again. Being in this situation was surprising. I had always wanted to have three children, but since the cesarean, I was considering not having any more of my own. I never wanted to go through it again, but there I was.

Although I wanted a VBAC, it meant more to me that this pregnancy be about healing and closure and I set out to do just that.

I made a point to be optimistic, but prepared. I decided to stay with my (current) OB to deliver my baby rather than go in search for someone I knew was aggressively pro-VBAC.

I struggled with whether choosing a doctor predicts the outcome, but came to the conclusion that when I searched for a midwife/establishment that supported my wishes for natural birth previously, it nearly killed Piper – so I stayed with who I felt comfortable with despite his gender, title and hospital affiliation.

I did what I could to stay physically fit and strong to increase my chances of success. I read up on statistics, hospital ratings and averages, techniques, advice, birth stories, and weighed the pros and cons of every situation. On one end I knew in my heart that a VBAC was statistically safe and the healthy option for the majority of mothers and babies, but I felt as though I had Stockholm’s syndrome to my own previous birth.

I feared a repeat “emergency” section and found myself drawn to the idea that planning would be easier. I was terrified of both choices and wished that I had taken care to prevent having more children long ago.

My pregnancy went on blissfully uncomplicated, but instead of making me more confident, I continued to struggle with what I wanted. At many times I expressed to my husband, in frustration, that it would be easier if I didn’t have a choice in the matter at all, if I absolutely needed a cesarean, so, I continued to work on my feelings about my last experience.

I would gain confidence then get deflated and depressed. The weeks leading up to the final day were torturous. I was up and down, back and forth about everything and getting exhausted with myself.

Trial of Labor

When Keeley decided to make her entrance it was not surprisingly strange. I labored at home for 21 hours and finally checked in to the hospital when the contractions were close and long. I was afraid that telling the staff when my labor had begun would invariably lead to the timer being started, so I told them I’d started at midnight of that morning.
They didn’t rush me but the mood in the hospital was unkind and unfeeling. They seemed to doubt everything I said and I felt a lack of confidence in their eyes. As I lay there I was reminded of every detail from my last birth. It was uncomfortable to be in this place again and I knew that it was too soon.

Being back in labor was something I don’t think I could have prepared for well enough. Though I had no fear of death or that anything horrible was going to happen, I still felt like the act of childbirth was unnatural for my body, that the scar on my uterus had changed me too much.  It had.  As much as I had tried to deny it while pregnant, I knew then that nothing could bring back the confidence I had pre-Piper. I needed to make my decisions based on who I was now, scar and all.

When my doctor came in several hours later to check my progress, he informed me that I had yet to dilate at all. Though he wasn’t aware of it, I had been in labor for over a day without progress and it concerned me that these transition-like contractions were not advancing my labor and I was beginning to weary of the process.

I considered the options: take Pitocin (leading me down a path of interventions which would almost certainly result in an emergency C-Section) or tell them I wanted to wait it out (continuing on my current path, in pain, haunted by my previous birth and expecting a slow progress). I felt like my body was telling me something and I needed to listen. If that was the only thing I learned from Piper’s birth it was to listen to my body above all other influences.

I told them to schedule me a cesarean.

The words leaving my mouth went against everything I believed in, they were alien to me, but strangely felt right.
I had a sense of peace. I received an epidural and was able to think clearly while awaiting surgery. I lay there surprised by my confidence in what I was doing. Being able to talk about what was happening, preparing my family, and seeing Piper beforehand helped me feel secure. It was still strange venturing into a surgery that had caused me so much pain, but I was viewing it from a whole new perspective.

In surgery I was scared, apprehensive about whether I was doing the right thing for my baby. I was acutely aware of the people around me: the females in the hospital had an air about them that they were disappointed, they seemed to be disheartened that “another one” had failed at something seemingly so natural.

They ceased to look me in the eyes and I felt like the outcast, the statistic, the failure once again.  They were cold and distant and made me feel sectioned off from Womanhood and Motherhood. But ultimately, despite my misgivings, the cesarean showed itself to be the wiser choice as the surgery progressed and revealed that the previous birth had caused adhesions and an abnormally thin uterus.

Recovery was completely different this time

I had more bleeding than normal and needed extra watch initially. The hospital staff worried about blood-clots and the comedown off of the epidural was unbearably long at (three days of constant itching).  But bonding was my biggest struggle.

Whereas with Piper, I had fear to kick my maternal instinct into gear, with Keeley, I had nothing to connect us. I brought forth life but there was no feeling, no rush of emotion, no instant contact, no physical sensation. I knew that the feeling I developed during pregnancy of love and endearment would eventually return but worried that she also suffered this same disconnect from me.

I began to doubt and feel a tinge of guilt hit me, so I asked my husband if I had done the right thing. Had I cheated myself and her, had I betrayed who I was? Not to my surprise he assured me without the slightest doubt in his voice that I did what was right for our situation.

It dawned on me then that I had been fighting for something that was never meant to be. I could speculate whether it was an avoidable outcome but the truth would remain that for us, this was how my girls were to be born.

For two years I had fought to place blame. My first cesarean was not an invalid surgery – there was no doubt that Piper was in need of medical intervention – but it had been easier to point fingers than to except that for some of us, it is not an act of medical persuasion or manipulation, but just how it was meant to be.

I’ve learned that my daughters’ births should not define me; it’s me who was meant to define their births. I will not be having that third child, I may never ride roller coasters again, and I’ll never know the feeling of instant elation after the grand entrance of my child to this world; but,  they are my blessings all the same, and worth every bit of the struggle.

I will never again regret how my daughters’ entered this world. My scar will never again be the symbol of my failure as a woman nor the token of my cheated passage into Motherhood, but rather it will shine as the physical personification of how deep a love I possess to endure all for my little angels.

Photo credit: ~lonorising on Deviant Art

Anastasia, Piper, and Keely

Anastasia, Piper, and Keely

Anastasia is a 24 year old wife and SAHM living in sunny San Diego. She says: motherhood has blessed me with my wonderful family and I strive to be the best Mama I can be for them. I enjoy making memories with my family, participating in my Book club and writing about life’s many lessons in poetry and on my blog.

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Darcie February 22, 2011

Beautiful post.
I think your feelings of loss can be translated to many aspects of motherhood. Your feelings resonate so well, even though I had natural births with both my girls. I think more that you realize, your lingering PPD from your first birth affected your attachment with your second daughter than perhaps having a C-section. I had PPD after my second birth. She was an un-medicated delivery that went smoothly. I never got that instant rush of emotion that I did with the first. We never successfully established BF, struggled and in pain which added to the PPD. Stopping “nursing”, getting on the medication I needed, putting myself “first” so I could have a healthy relationship with my girls was the best thing for us. I too felt cheated out of a certain aspect of motherhood, but it had more to do with MY expectations of what it “should be.” We are such strong people who think that if we do everything “right” than our plans will work out. I have come to realize being a mother has more to do with accepting what we cannot control and doing the best with the situation in which we are faced.
You should take pride in the fact that you did the safest thing for yourself and your daughter. Having a c-section doesn’t make you any less of a woman or mother than me who didn’t BF her daughters.

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2 Anastasia February 23, 2011

Thank you for the encouragement! I have never considered the PPD from Piper contributing to the lack of feeling in Keeley’s birth, you have given me so much to think about. And you are so right about how we put such expectations on ourselves for things to go as planned that it makes it much harder to except what happens in in life. I really appreciate you sharing your story with me. I am so glad you were able to take care of you so that things could get better in your life, Bravo!

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3 Rebekah February 22, 2011

Thank you for sharing… I’m proud of you. There is something very empowering about choosing a c-section… even if it’s not the choice you really want to make and scares you, but it seemed to alleviate the hours of dread for me. Oh! And the itching… it’s morphine… it’s horrible! And they can give you stuff to stop it, but I found that asking them to use an alternate worked much better for me… I had to push to get them to not give me morphine, but the itching can drive you mad and seriously diminishes the joy after birth! And heaven knows you don’t need anything to distract you when you’re already working so hard to focus.

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4 Kerri February 23, 2011

My first pregnancy was with twins. At 39 weeks they were big, healthy, and both head down. We were induced and all went well. I labored for 24 hours, pushed for 5, and then ended up with a c-section when nothing was changing and I was exhausted. Turns out when my first bag of water broke Baby B had come down very far and her head had gotten *stuck* on Baby A’ shoulder so that he could not come down anymore, so the little top of his head was all that was going to be making a peek-a-boo appearance. Basically they were stuck. I was very angry for a very long time. I felt cheated and like maybe if this or that had happened differently I would have been able to deliver naturally. With my next pregnancy I elected to have a c-section so that I could keep my doctor and not have to travel an hour into the city to have a doctor that I had nover even met. I have had the same Gyn since I was 17 and for me having her there as a part of my birth experience was a very important factor. My most recent preganacy was a c-section as well and I had no problems making that choice again.
As I look back I have come to realize that I may well be one of those women whose body does not “go into labor”. 39 weeks with twins and nothing was happening, 39 weeks with a 9 lb 13 oz’er and nothing was happening, 39 weeks with another 9 lb’er and nothing.
I am lucky that I was able to hold my kids very quickly after surgery, matter of fact my last one was only out of my sight for maybe 20 minutes before they brought her to me. I have had easier recoveries each time and have bounced back very quickly.
I am proud of my scar and proud of the fact that it is a symbol of my babies. My kids love to see it and know that that is where they came out of my belly. I no longer feel like I failed as a woman and as a mother.
Would I give birth naturally if possible next time, yes! I would love that experience and will always wonder what it would be like, but I will never again feel like less of a mother because don’t have that experience!

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5 Anastasia February 23, 2011

Kerri, well said! My “ideal” delivery would have been so different then how my girls came into this world, but the surgery and scar are something that I am proud of now! it may not be what we asked for, but everything we’ve gone through will forever illustrate the same deep love that would be present had it gone as planned.

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6 Suchada @ Mama Eve February 23, 2011

Ana, I can’t even tell you how honored I am that you shared your story here. I knew I’d be inspired before I read it, just from the brief talks we’d had, but it brought tears to my eyes. You should be proud of your scars and your decisions, and your family is so fortunate to have a mother like you. Thank you so much.

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7 Anastasia February 24, 2011

Thank you for giving me the chance to share! It was such a great opportunity to be able to share my struggles with you and all the women here. I know I’ve grown so much from letting the feelings out and talking about it.

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8 Becky February 25, 2011

Thanks for writing about your birth stories. I know that it’s not easy when the outcome isn’t what you expected. I also needed a C-section. I only have one daughter, 18 months old, and am terrified about having another baby. I remember having a little mother’s intuition while I was pregnant thinking, “I will need a C-section.” Even though there was nothing in my normal pregnancy that indicted that. My water broke at 37 weeks 5 days, and I was right. Even though I was fully dialated, the baby was still high up and not descending. My OB didn’t want to risk using forceps and decided to do a C-section. At the time, I just wanted it to be over with. I was itchy from the epidural, and I had not prepared myself enough for pushing and felt like I was a failure.

After the surgery was finished, I had a perfect, healthy baby. No complaints. Except that the recovery was a complete nightmare. My husband needed to help me to the bathroom, every time. The nurses pressured me to work on my breathing (from the surgery) and to walk around the halls. There was not enough time to do everything. It would be 10 at night, and I felt that I should walk around the halls instead of sleep. I was going on four hours of sleep a night (stayed there four nights.) Let alone the frustrations with breastfeeding: even with my lack of pre-milk (sorry don’t remember how to spell the correct term), I wouldn’t allow them to feed her with a bottle, so they pressured me to feed her on the breast, but with a syringe of formula attached. I also needed a blood transfusion. And I had two blood clots on the day that I was released from the hospital. I’m sorry that this doesn’t have anything to do with your story; I just wanted to put it out there in hopes that you’ll assure me that the second time is better. And maybe just maybe a VBAC can be possible? I don’t know. I’m glad that you’re at peace with all the trauma associated with your births and that you think so positively about what happened. Best wishes!

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9 Anastasia February 25, 2011

Becky, I’m so sorry you had to go through so much with your daughters birth and with your recovery! And I’m so glad that you are sharing your experience with me because talking does help.
It may be hard to believe right now that the second time around can be a better experience, but I strongly believe it can be! I know many women who have had successful VBACs and although I didn’t get my ideal birth, I do feel that the second my cesarean brought closure and peace. It was a scary journey, and to be honest I still can feel the impression of that fear/anger/sadness in my heart, but I know I am safe and that I made it through.
I have never been an optimistic person before this, but I have a new outlook on life because of that second birth. I know first hand how even when you’ve seemingly lost hope, life can throw you a tiny little token that changes the way you look at things. I will keep you in my thoughts and heart, and pray for healing. Don’t lose hope, a better experience is totally possible! if you ever need to talk, feel free to email me yellowbunny86@yahoo.com

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10 reb February 26, 2011

i have to say, first off, thank you for writing this and sharing your story. i went the same route as you….i was determined to have a natural birth, had all my prenatal care with midwives and even made it to the birthing center after two days of labor at home. i got through early first stage and transition without drugs went on to the pushing stage but after doing that for two-and-a-half hours, my son’s heart rate dropped a third time and wasn’t coming back up so i was transferred to the hospital via ambulance for an emergency c-section. like you i find it difficult to relate to women who schedule c-sections and definitely find myself feeling inferior to women who have had vaginal births. i was completely and utterly devastated that i wasn’t able to get him out in the “normal,” “natural” way and am now dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

i think stories like yours are good for people to read and understand that c-sections aren’t just a flippant thing but can also be extremely traumatic experiences for the women involved. your statement about feeling as if other women assumed it was your fault was dead on as i’ve felt this so many times….as if i had a baby (i still can’t say that i gave birth as i don’t feel that that’s what it was) but with an asterisk that i caused. and no amount of pep talking can shake that doubt.

anyway, again, thank you so much for sharing your experience here. stories like this need to be heard.

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11 Anastasia March 1, 2011

Reb,
I think it is so interesting that you said “I still can’t say that i gave birth as i don’t feel that that’s what it was”, because even though I have made great strides in my outlook and acceptance of my two cesareans, I have never been able to say those words! It’s so weird how a cesarean takes the birth out of it and leaves only the outcome of the experience. It surprised me also that when I voiced these feelings to my younger sister and Husband they thought it was very odd that I didn’t consider myself to have ever given birth, because to them I had. I think that we are our toughest critics when it comes to motherhood and that when we look from the perspective of friends and family it can show us our true value.

You have really taught me something about myself that I hadn’t really looked at before and I really appreciate hearing your story! I’m sorry that you have had to deal with such pain and I wish you the best as you deal with the post-traumatic stress disorder. I will keep you in my thoughts!

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12 Laura February 27, 2011

Your story is beautiful and empowering! I had almost the exact same situation with my two boys’ births. Our physical deliveries differed slightly (both babies failed to drop and I failed to fully dilate after hours of natural childbirth…first c-section was emergency and second one I called after a trial of labor and knowing where I was headed), but our emotional journeys are identical. It was only after my second son’s birth in November that I realized how disempowered I had felt the past two years. What changed this time around was that during the pregnancy and delivery I honored my power and intuition (from switching from an OB to midwives at 28 weeks to calling the c-section myself). Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your experience and strength!

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13 Anastasia March 1, 2011

Laura, I really feel thats what helped me most too. Recognizing yourself as being able to make the right choices for your body and doing what feels right instead of your ideal is very important for a good experience. I may never like surgery as a birthing choice, but when I did let go of my ideals and thought about what my body was telling me (long, hard, back to back contractions for 12 hours but no progress at all) it was the best thing I could for a new healthy outlook. I am so glad that you were able to find that peace as well!

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14 Laura March 6, 2011

Thank you for posting this. I too have had 2 cesareans due to similar reasons and used to feel guilt and shame for not being able to birth my children naturally. But I reminded myself that my children are healthy and beautiful – and they way they were delivered doesn’t define them either. Thank you.

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15 Anastasia March 11, 2011

Laura, I’m so glad you were able to move beyond the guilt and shame you felt after your cesareans, too! Hearing other women are being able to find their happiness after undesirable birth experiences fills me with hope all over again. I love to hear that mothers aren’t letting their birth experiences define them- it’s so encouraging! Thank you!

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16 Elizabeth March 7, 2011

Hi Anastasia,
Absolutely love your story! And it’s inspiring on so many levels.

Whatever feelings of disconnect you may have had or regrets that you had from having a c-section, I think you’ve dealt with them in a most amazing way.

By not letting your c-sections define you or your precious babies is a powerful approach because you’re right, the symbol of a good mom is indeed the love you possess for your children.

Thanks for your great story :-)

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17 Anastasia March 11, 2011

Thank you Elizabeth! I’ve been so encouraged by everyone on here and I am so glad that my story is being able to speak to others. Everything happens for a reason and I am thankful that my story has been inspiring to you and others!

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18 stacy April 15, 2011

i also have had 2 c-sections and now have my tubes tied. but a major difference that i am having the hardest time with is i never even felt a single contraction with either of my kids. when i was pregnant the 2nd time i didnt care if it came down to another c-sect, i was fine with that. all i wanted was to feel just one contraction. and i didnt get that. i wish now that i had stood up to my dr and not went to the hosp when she said. i sat there for 3 days miserable. the dr never even came to see me til the night of the surgery. the kids were healthy and had no complications. with the first my bp was a little high. and with the 2nd they said thats what the problem was again but whenever i told a friend or family member what my bp readings were they were surprised and said it wasnt that high. it feels good that i have finally found people to talk to about this, no one i know has ever been thru this. even if they had a c-sect they had labored 1st. when i say i feel bad that i never even felt a contraction they laugh at me and say that i am lucky. i just dont see it that way.

thank you for your story

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19 Anastasia March 18, 2012

Stacy, I am so sorry that I missed your comment last April!

I completely understand what you mean and am sorry you didn’t get the support you needed. It makes me so sad when I read theses stories because it seems that friends and family are usually the ones saying the most hurtful comments without ever realizing it. I hope that you have been able to find support, understanding and a shoulder to lean on since then. Much love your way!

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20 Jennifer March 23, 2012

Stacy, I know exactly what you mean. I had two scheduled c-sections and never felt a single contraction. Not from labor, not from Braxton Hicks and I wish I had at least once.

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21 Amy April 25, 2011

Thank you for sharing your story and the progression of inner growth.

This particularly touched me…
“The words leaving my mouth went against everything I believed in, they were alien to me, but strangely felt right.”

Sometimes we are led to do something that conflicts with what we think, or think we know. Acceptance heals all wounds. Love to you and yours.

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22 Summer February 6, 2012

Thank you. I’m sitting here crying as I am still healing in this area. 2 cesareans exactly 1 year apart. its been a year since my last one. everything has happened so fast and my thoughts are still jumbled.

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23 Anastasia March 18, 2012

Summer, big hugs to you! I hope you are being able to talk about everything and finding the support you need. You are in my thoughts!

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24 Summer March 19, 2012

I have come a long way now! I am almost certain I had untreated PPD. I’m fianlly enjoyin life again and appreciating my special deliveries!!! Lots of healing taking place!

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25 Vanessa Vancour March 11, 2012

I’m 12 weeks away from my second c-section feeling scared and disappointed in myself. Thank you for posting this. It will help me find the peace I so desperately need.

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26 Anastasia March 18, 2012

Vanessa,
I remember how hard it was leading up to the birth of my second daughter. just remember that you are AMAZING and strong enough to endure what is ahead for the love of your little one. I will being keeping you in my prayers as you near the birth of your little one. Big Hugs your way!

and congratulations on your little one!

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27 Vanessa Vancour\ March 19, 2012

Thank you, Anastasia!

With lots of thought, prayer and your post I’ve scheduled the date for May 28.

Thank you for reminding all of us women to support one another, despite which birthing process we may choose.

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28 Jo March 12, 2012

I am in tears reading this. It reminds me of my story so much, only in my 2nd labour I was too scared/confused to ask for a c-section when I started to sense it was needed & ended up with another emergancy c-section. This lead to a rather traumatic birth & hours seperated from my little girl. I’m slowly accepting that these are my birth stories & dont define me as a mother. Wonderful women like yourself, sharing your stories, make it much easier, to know I’m not alone feeling like this.
Thank you so much for sharing this.

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29 Anastasia March 18, 2012

Jo, I want to give you a big hug! You are in my thoughts and prayers as you go through your own healing process. You are definitely not alone and I hope you are able to discover a great circle of support to help you work through things!

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30 Amy March 24, 2012

This story touched me deeply as I read it quite a while ago, probably when it was first posted. Since then I have read many of the comments. I am back to share a piece I wrote titled ‘rewriting birth’. It’s not about planning for a next birth, or at least not necessarily, it’s about healing our birth stories for ourselves and our children. I hope it may be helpful for some… please feel free to share. Not for me, but for the masses of mothers who deserve a different experience with their births…

http://presenceparenting.com/birth-story/

Much love.

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31 Liz September 5, 2012

Thank you for this post! I had Ronin (my first) 9 months ago. I went into labor not wanting a c-section. Ronin was doing fine, I was not. I went into an emergency c-section and after Ronin was born I was completely knocked out. My recovery in the hospital was longer then most (5 days). I want more kids and even though we are nowhere near having another one, I have started having the same feelings just thinking about the labor of the next one! Thank you for your story! I feel that you have spoken to a lot of us c-section moms!

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32 Anastasia Irvine September 6, 2012

Hi Liz, congrats on your little one! I love the name Ronin.

You will be in my thoughts as you begin this healing process. I wish you the best! It’s amazing how much a great support group, talking and time can help to bring you to closure. Big hug!

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33 Adele October 6, 2012

I had an emergancy c section with my son and it took almost a year of therapy to get over it and now im pregnant again and i just dont know what to do! im so torn, i have no confidence in the medical profession, sometimes i think why did i get pregnant again am i stupid??? ive got myself so sick with worry i just keep think ill get an abortion (even though i really really REALLY want this baby) just so i dont have to go through everything again i just dont know what to do, i think if i plan for another section i can prepare but then am i cheating myself out of a right of passage?? ahhhhhhh so depressed!

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34 Anastasia Irvine October 8, 2012

Adele, I will pray for you to have the clarity and peace you need during this time. One thing that could really help is to get in contact with your local ICAN support group. I never did it because I let my social anxiety get in the way, but I realize now how important a support group is to help with these difficult feelings. And remember to do what is right for you and your family and don’t let guilt or pressure from our society sway you. You’re amazing as a mother whether a vaginal birth or a cesarean!

I have told my oldest her birth story (kid-friendly version of course) and at 4 years old she thinks I am a brave and wonderful rockstar for bringing her into the world. It helps me when I have an insecure moment to think about my birth experiences through my kids eyes because it’s the love they see not the method. Much love and prayers your way and Congratulations!

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