Monday, September 28, 2015

Healing From the Trauma of a C-Section

One year ago this past Saturday, I pushed my 8 lb. 10 oz. baby out of my vagina and into the world. Sorry if that sentence was impolite, but the vagina part is important, because that birth was a successful VBAC, a vaginal birth after a C-section (you can read the full story here).

Newborn Baby

It's taken me a year to fully process the physical and emotional healing I experienced because of that VBAC. My C-Section was traumatic for me. It was an experience that left me feeling like a failure. As I prepared for the VBAC during my second pregnancy, all of my memories of the C-section were negative. I remembered the pain, the fear, the disappointment, the anger at my doctor, the feeling of failure, and the horrible recovery process. That's all I could remember, and it was why I wanted so badly to avoid having a C-section ever again.

But once I had a successful VBAC, my memories of my first C-section began to change. Once I learned my body truly was capable of pushing and delivering a healthy baby, I came to know the first C-section had not been my fault, or even my doctor's fault. I recognized that it had been necessary. My second baby's head was much smaller than my first baby's, and I no longer believe I would've been able to push my first baby out under any circumstances.

Have you guys read Half the Sky? I just finished it (lots of thoughts, more to come), and in the chapter on maternal health they talk about fistulas, a condition that affects women who have unassisted obstructed labors, where basically the baby gets stuck and the woman labors for days and days until she passes out and the baby and surrounding tissue die and deteriorate. I had NO IDEA this condition existed (oh, the privilege of living in the developed world). Thanks to all that hypno-birthing and natural labor stuff I read, I was absolutely convinced that all women were designed to give birth, and that with enough time and patience and fewer medical interventions there was rarely any true need for a C-section. Turns out, not every woman is designed to deliver every baby. Sometimes, (in my case because of very narrow hips and a baby with a 99% head size) obstructed labor happens. Without a C-section and the miracle of a medical birth, I would've been a prime candidate to develop fistula. I still very much love the hypno-birthing philosophy, but learning about fistulas has completely changed my view of my fist C-section experience.

Newborn Baby with Blanket

But even before learning about fistulas, I knew that I was healing from the trauma of that experience. A few months after my VBAC, I began reflecting on some powerfully positive memories from my C-section that I had forgotten, or repressed. One night I asked my husband if I'd ever told him about the spiritual visions and sacred experiences I'd had while in the surgery room, and he said I'd mentioned some vague things early on, but never shared details. I shared with him what I remembered feeling and seeing (details I'll refrain from sharing here, due to their personal nature), realizing that I had allowed these sacred and special feelings to be forgotten because of how overwhelmed I was by the trauma. Now, when I think back on my C-section, I remember primarily those sacred feelings and emotions, and I'm SO incredibly grateful I was allowed the chance to have those experiences. In many ways, my C-section was more special and memorable (in a positive way) than my VBAC because of those experiences I had repressed. Now that I have healed, they are the dominant memories I have.

I'm incredibly grateful I was able to have a beautiful and successful VBAC. It was key to helping me heal. But I am also incredibly grateful I was able to have a beautiful and sacred C-section. I treasure both my birth experiences now. I am so grateful for the healthy, beautiful boys I was able to bring into this world.

Obviously, with any future babies I would prefer to continue having successful VBACs (the recovery is a whole lot easier), but I will no longer be disappointed if I have to have another C-section.

C-section to VBAC

Birth can be beautiful no matter how it happens. And babies are precious no matter how they come.


  1. You are awesome! I'm so sorry your first birth experience was so awful; there really wasn't anyway he was coming out the natural way! And I was so happy for your positive vbac! I'm glad you've found healing and a positive reconciliation to your c-section. Every birth can be beautiful and spiritual no matter what.

    Half the Sky was mentioned at our book club today in the context of prostitution. I felt "in the know" for having heard of the book from you.

    1. Ha! Love that I helped you feel "in the know"! Why was your book club talking about prostitution? It would make an interesting book club read, if you choose to read Half the Sky. It is a good one.

  2. They chose to read "Paid For--my journey through prostitution". It wasn't available at the library, and I didn't care to read it, but I did show up for the discussion. The consensus was that it is a hard and disturbing book to read, but those who did read it were glad they are more informed on the subject.