Monday, February 18, 2013

A C-section: The Pain & The Peace

Less than a month ago I sat across my dining table from a prospective doula and shared my birth goal with her: to be proactive and knowledgeable so that my involvement with the birth process, rather than the specific outcome, would be my sense of success and joy.

That goal, even with the news at 19 weeks that I’m actually carrying twins, is still very fitting. 

The birth of my firstborn left me numb.  An unexpected C-section, by way of a last minute full breech baby boy, was something of a nightmare with a domino effect difficult to halt.  I carried a loathsome weight home with me from the hospital: guilt for not rising to motherhood as evidenced by moms who are able to do a vaginal birth, fogginess about what was going on and how to move forward, and the inability to nurse Thomas.  My family intervened just as depression starting taking a visible toll on me, my son, and my husband, placing my feet on firm ground with a visit to a lactation consultant, books to reinforce my roll, and their loving presence to lift my spirits.  My journey to motherhood, once my son and I could nurse, was jolted to life and woke me from my slumber.

When pregnant, it was as if my whole body and mind moved, breathed, coordinated in preparation for laboring my baby into life, for being the strong, courageous woman to introduce the world to my son.  What was I to do with that preparation shattered, those dreams felt but not realized?  The powerlessness of the stiff, sterile operating table took up residence in my voice as a mom and I had little way of telling, knowing, or controlling the speed or nature of my recovery.

I'm completely out of it. I'm sure you didn't need a caption to confirm this.

For at least a year after my C-section, I would lose my breath when listening to a mother proudly tell the story of her daughter giving birth.  My heart would turn bitter at blog posts and Facebook statuses that told of mothers’ birthing successes.  My sadness found its way into how I perceived others, thinking a few changes here or there in our journey to meeting Thomas would have made all the difference between a late start mommy and a mommy on fire.

There is no quick fix to brokenness.  Day by day I grew into motherhood and swelled with happiness as my voice strengthened.  The sense that my soul was quieted with the C-section, dissolved as I nursed my son into a chunker, tailored my actions toward his extroverted personality needs, and developed mommy intuitiveness for oncoming sickness, disciplinary action, and an impromptu morning of extra snuggles in early morning light.

Three years since my son’s arrival and I think of what’s to come in just a few short months with more variables than that of my 1st pregnancy, a situation which may likely call for C-section #2.   

Gratefully, a good deal of sense has found its way to my brain in understanding my particular birthing story.  I know myself deeply.  I know that life will throw me punches and if I’m not prepared financially, emotionally, physically, or mentally, those punches may knock me out.  I know that I tend to hide away from asking for help when I most need it.  I know that the stories of how all mothers come to be are unique and beautiful and should be owned and understood. Mine tells of my desire to be independent, courageous and perfect.  It tells of a woman both desperate to be the best and desperate to love.

I have a greater peace about the C-section now, not because it wasn't terribly painful and humbling, but because I know I would have encountered those difficulties, personal character flaw discoveries, and new found strengths on motherhood’s path, C-section or not.  I would have dug them up or they would have rained mercifully down on me, but all that this process has meant—It was there and waiting for me regardless of its form.

Baptism by fire taught me that being a mommy isn't about how wonderfully I pull it off, but instead my children’s unending need for my unencumbered and unpretentious love.  I have no guarantees with the twins.  In fact, I've got a great deal of surety the next few months will be a knockdown, drag out journey of surprises, difficulties, and discoveries.  Thank goodness I've learned to like rolling with the punches.


  1. This is really beautiful Ash. I'm glad you shared :)

    1. Thanks, Katie. It took me a long time to find the words I wanted to say. I wish there was a more tangible way for me to reach out to women who need some assurance they are/weren't alone in their similar experience.

  2. I'm sorry that you had to experience that level of depression. I think that as a society we have unrealistic expectations of mothers, and that includes mothers beating themselves up for being human. I think that you are a fantastic mother, and that your boys are very blessed to have you for their mom. I hope that you will be kinder to yourself this time around. You deserved to be well treated.

    1. I plan on being as gentle with myself as possible. Acknowledging our limits frees us all to be better people! I appreciate your words of encouragement. :)

  3. Just hopped over here from Conversion Diary - congrats on the twins! I just had di-di girls in November (babies 3 &4) and there are definitely a lot of worries associated with a more complicated pregnancy. If you have one nearby, definitely join a Mothers of Multiples group - having all those experienced moms really helped ease my fears and remind me that this was all doable! There are also a couple of twin facebook groups that I've found useful "Naturally Parenting Twins" and "La Leche League for moms of twins/multiples" if you're on the crunchier end of the spectrum. Lots of C-section moms, lots who didn't need sirgery, definitely at least a few VBACs.

    Anyway, I hope you're doing okay! I was teaching up until the day I gave birth and it was exhausting but kept my mind occupied by non-baby things, which was nice!

    1. Hi, Rosie! Thank you so much for stopping by and saying hello. It makes me happy to hear from other mothers of twins!

      I've joined the Mothers of Multiples group in my area and am going to their consignment sale in two days. I'm really excited to connect with those moms soon. I haven't yet checked out the other two groups you mentioned, so I'll seek them out too. Thanks so much for your thoughtfulness!