One commenter on our IG says, “I don’t know if you take blog requests, but I would love a post for people who experience a sudden, unplanned emergency c-section. I recently had my son this way, and it was very traumatic. I didn’t get to see my son for the first time until 8hrs after he was born.”
First of all, I want to say that I’m incredibly sorry about your experience. All of that sucks so much. Missing out on your baby’s first few hours of life, having an emergency, unplanned cesarean is incredibly difficult. You have been through so much. I’m so sorry it was traumatic. I’m not sure what your expectations for your birth were, but I can guess with almost 100% certainty that your experience was not your plan.
I also want to say it’s super normal to go to grieve the birth you thought you’d have. And, like with any type of grief, the healing is not linear.
Before I go any further, I want to say- I think any mode of delivery/birth can be beautiful and any mode of delivery/birth can be traumatic. My unplanned cesarean birth was traumatic for me, not because of the mode of delivery in and of itself, but the entirety of the circumstances.
I don’t talk a lot in-depth about my first birth experience on the blog or on our Rocket City Doulas socials as much as I used to years ago. A lot of that is intentional- I don’t want to unintentionally scare someone with my own personal story. Honestly, sometimes it’s still hard for me to share, and it’s been 18 years. I also don’t ever want my daughter to come across what I’ve written and think I’m sad about her birth, either. She’s amazing, and I’m so glad she was born, unplanned cesarean or not- however that birth happened.
But, I do recognize there are some parts of my experience that may resonate with some of our dear clients.
My cesarean, while not emergent, was not planned. In some ways, it was an extreme shock, too, as I was in preterm labor and on bed rest for weeks leading up to the day of my induction. Even with LOTS of birth experience, looking back at my history and where my body was, I should have had an easy, vaginal delivery.
I am not going to really go into specifics of her labor and what lead to her cesarean, but I was the very last person to see her after she was born. They swaddled her tight, complete with a little baby burrito hood, and whisked her away to the NICU to help her with some deep suction and some breathing issues. We didn’t know it at the time, but this would be one of the first times I would experience problems with anesthesia (that would continue to repeat for me in future births and future surgeries in years to come.)
I don’t have a clear memory of how many hours we were separated anymore, but the vivid memories I do have were of being in the recovery room, alone, and no one telling me any information about my baby, other than the fact that she was in the NICU, all while I was vomiting, shaking, and in extreme pain.
The trauma of separation was a rough start for bonding for me and my baby- particularly as we also experienced feeding difficulties.
I struggled with guilt, shame, and remorse, for years, surrounding the events of my daughter’s birth. I had guilt that I chose the wrong birth team, that I had decided on an induction, that I had done XYZ, and hadn’t asked for _____. You can get the picture. (The reality, though, is that we don’t really know what would’ve happened if we would’ve done things differently. It could’ve gone exactly the same.)
In the first few years of my doula career, several things were suggested to me to “reclaim” my first birth. While I do believe the suggestions were coming from a sweet and good place, (and may be helpful for some families) what helped me heal more after my cesarean was being authentic and compassionate with myself. I was compassionate with myself when-
- I acknowledged that what happened was traumatic. (Even if it took me a while.)
- I gave myself permission to grieve the birth I didn’t have.
- I forgave my past self for not knowing everything I know now.
- Found support groups and went to therapy (if you need suggestions for these a few of our suggestions for supports group are here and here, and our suggestions for counseling are here and here.)
These are not things that I am saying “Do these things like me and you will feel better”. Or that you won’t feel better if you don’t do those things. It isn’t a checklist, even though I wish we could just complete things on a list and be “better”.
I also don’t think healing and recovering from any trauma is that easy, unfortunately. This work takes a while, and it takes working with experts.
You aren’t alone in it, though. We’re here with you. We are alongside you. We’re sitting with you in the pain and the suck. Sitting with you in the joy of your new babe and the grieving of your birth experience.
Much love to you, dear one. May your recovery (from your unplanned cesarean birth experience) be as gentle as possible. You are not alone. (And, please reach out to us if you need to talk.)