Don’t Pity My C-Section

I love hearing birth stories.

When did you know you were in labor? How did it progress? Did you have a c-section? What was it like when you first laid eyes on your baby? Our stories aren’t always rosy. “I barely felt contractions, pushed once, then my perfectly healthy baby slipped out and immediately breastfed” is a rare if enviable scenario. It’s the messy, difficult stuff  – the decisions we make when our birth plans are out the window – that show how incredible we mothers are. That’s what I love most about birth stories: the grit.

My second baby was born (*whispers*) via C-section. I’ve seen the looks that pass over people’s faces when they hear that. It makes me hesitate to say I “gave birth;” it makes me feel like birth was something that was done to me. Something less than, something to be pitied.

But it isn’t!

I found out during a non-stress test at 40 weeks + 4 days that my previously-head-down baby was breech. Surprise! My OBGYN informed me about my options. I did my research and followed my gut. That evening I scheduled a C-section. The next day, my parents packed their bags and assumed child care duty for my older son. The day after that, my husband and I blasted Kendrick Lamar with the windows down as we drove to the hospital to meet our baby.

My doctor and nursing staff were warm and supportive. The procedure itself went smoothly. My husband stood beside me in the operating room playing my birth playlist on his phone and holding a washcloth dabbed with lavender oil near my face. Through a clear drape, I saw the moment my baby was born. He was big and beautiful . . . and a boy! I was so happy, I sobbed. Exactly as I had imagined.

I share these details so you can see how positive my birth experience was. I certainly can’t speak for everyone, because C-sections can be urgent and really scary. But it wasn’t so for me and my scheduled C.

I feel pretty darn gritty for being flexible when our plans changed and for confidently choosing what was best for my baby and for me. Yes, there were some tears as I realized my original plan would need to be scrapped. Sure, the physical recovery was tough. It wasn’t the “easy way out,” but there is literally no easy way out. My first childbirth experience was longer, more painful, and more frightening. (And afterward, funnily enough, I was often told, “At least it wasn’t a C-section!”) If you pity me for anything, pity me for that.

But really, please don’t pity me at all. Pity isn’t productive. Empathy, compassion, check-in texts, offer to bring food, all of these are more helpful than the sad head tilt and grimace when you hear “C-section.” It’s not a four-letter word. 

I want you to know: it is possible to have a calm and gentle C-section. In fact, when the procedure was over, my nurse anesthetist gushed, “That was so beautiful!” (Maybe it was the moment my husband and brand new son snuggled up to me while our wedding song played. Maybe it was the lavender oil.) Then as she left the room, she said something about needing to convince her husband to have a baby of their own.

Let’s keep sharing our birth stories. Be open about the difficult choices we make. We can be proud of our grit . . . and give me an opportunity to tell you why my C-section ended up being just fine.

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