Photo credit: The Art of Making a Baby
After the birth of your baby by cesarean surgery, it is common to feel a wide range of emotions that can be difficult to process. It is normal to feel alone in this, because the people around you are so elated at the birth of your new baby that they assume you must feel just as overjoyed. Postpartum hormones and the stress and sometimes trauma of a birth experience are not something we prepare ourselves for while pregnant. Naming your emotions and finding some coping strategies will get you on the road to recovery and bonding with your new baby.
How You Might Feel
Feeling out of control in the moment is uncomfortable and can be scary. It can be shocking to feel this way, even if you thought you had prepared yourself for the unknown. If you went into your surgery unprepared, especially if you were focused on having a natural birth, the shock you feel that things didn't go your way can be very powerful.
Knowing the benefits of a healthy natural birth can create a sense of guilt that you didn't get to experience that and neither did your newborn. Wondering if you didn't do everything you could have done to make your natural birth a success is very normal. Feeling guilty that you even have all of these feelings is also common because people will likely tell you “your baby is here and that’s all that matters.”
Having the highly anticipated birth experience taken away from you can cause feelings of loss. Mourning the loss of your big goal, your long awaited transition into motherhood, a few in a lifetime experience, is so normal. Especially if you live in an area where they will not perform VBAC, because you know that you will not be able to have that natural birth experience with your future babies either. Taking the time to feel and accept that loss is natural and healthy.
Feeling disconnected, distant, or estranged is a normal emotion after birth, especially after a cesarean. It is a very surgical experience - in contrast with childbirth which is so intimate. Getting that direct contact and seeing your baby immediately creates a strong connection and is possible that after your cesarean you did not get to hold your baby for an hour, or maybe more.
Painting a certain picture in your mind of what birth will be like for you and your baby is part of the bonding experience while pregnant. If you were not mentally prepared for your cesarean, your mental picture of your birth experience was wiped away, leaving you with something unfamiliar. Remember that your bond WILL grow with your baby. Give it time.
Certain questions we have can leave us feeling inadequate in reaction to things not going perfectly. If our bodies were made to give birth, then why didn't my body cooperate? What went wrong and why didn't my body do what it’s supposed to do? Birth is a very complicated process and our bodies, although meant to give birth, can respond in so many different ways. Accepting that your body did the best it could in the situation and knowing that you are no less than someone whose body was able to “easily” give birth, is an important part of your recovery.
Photo Credit: Lilac Saloon
What You Can Do
write it out
Get your whole story out on paper. Sit down and give yourself the time (make time for this!) to write out every detail and the emotions that went along with it. Allow yourself to be honest. If you felt angry, scared, relieved, overwhelmed, betrayed...include it in your story.
tell your story
Find people that you feel comfortable sharing with, and tell them your story. Tell it to people who you know will not belittle your feelings and who will support and comfort you. Even writing it out in an online cesarean forum, such as on the International Cesarean Awareness Network site, might help you.
read other cesarean birth stories
Sometimes, hearing a similar experience to yours can make you feel less alone. Or even like maybe you didn't have it so bad after all. Either way, now that you have had your surgery, seek out the cesarean birth stories of other women. Read them and allow yourself to sympathize, relate and reflect. Start with the C-Section Birth Stories forum on Baby Center.
talk to a professional
You might benefit from the help of a doctor. If you are feeling sad and unlike yourself after a couple of weeks, and can’t seem to shake it, mention this to your doctor or another health care professional of your choice. Postpartum depression is very real and common, especially among those who have had a cesarean.
prepare yourself for future births
Mentally preparing yourself for the births of your future children can give you a sense of control and redemption. What would you like to change about your experience for your future births? What is within your control, and what isn't? Make a mental checklist of these things so you will feel more comfortable going forward with future pregnancies and births, even if they will be cesarean also. Read our post on Preparing for a C-Section to make sure you have thought through the details. Sometimes being prepared for it is half the battle.