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Dear Andrea,

You don’t know me, but you know my parents.  All I know about you is that my parents are fond of you.  You work at a coffee shop that my parents frequent.  Your baby girl was born yesterday…Congratulations!

My mom was anxiously awaiting the news of your girl’s birth just like she was waiting for news of my baby boy’s birth just 12 weeks ago.  Last evening, mom shared with me that you went into labor at 2 AM and that you started pushing at 6:30 PM.  After 2 hours of pushing, mom was waiting for imminent news!  After 3 hours of pushing, she shared that you needed a c-section.

I want to write you because your story struck a very familiar chord with me.  I want to put this on my blog because I know I’m actually writing to a lot more women than just you!

My baby will be 3 months old in one week…which means I’m almost 3 months removed from all the very raw emotions surrounding my baby’s birth.  I’m nearly 3 months into my physical healing.  I can tell you that three months out is a really good place to be!

I don’t know you, Andrea.  I don’t know anything of your hopes and dreams for your baby’s birth.  I don’t pretend to know what you are feeling right now.  I only know how I felt at the time of my baby’s birth.

Then, I was disappointed that I couldn’t push my baby out on my own– after ~19 hours of labor with ~4 1/2 hours of pushing.  I needed help via an episiotomy, which made me feel like a failure.  I didn’t have a c-section like you did, but it’s only because I’d labored so long at a birth center first.  My midwife literally gave it all she had before she transferred me to the hospital.  Had I been in the hospital to start with, I would have had a c-section for certain.

At the time, I thought to myself, “Thank God it’s over and he’s out and I didn’t have a c-section!”  At the time, I thought that a c-section was the worst case scenario.  But why?  A scar?  Painful healing?  Healing that takes longer than a vaginal birth?

Hmm…

My healing from childbirth has made me re-think all of that.  Is a c-section really “so” bad?  I don’t know.  But I can tell you that healing from my vaginal birth has included 1) a scar, 2) painful healing and 3) a long time frame for healing– exactly those things that I feared with a c-section.

Sure, I don’t have an abdominal scar.  But I still have a belly that shows that I’ve carried a baby.  As I lose the fat underneath my skin, the skin is still looser than it was before.  It may tighten up over time, but I suspect that it won’t ever be like it was before I had my baby.  And I’ve decided that’s okay!  I wouldn’t trade my baby for my pre-pregnancy belly.

Second, my healing process has been very painful!  It’s taken a LONG time to simply feel normal again.  Seriously, it’s just been in the past week that I’ve felt significantly better.  The pressure in my perineum when I walk and shop and carry my baby and move his carseat with him in it is so much less.

My point is:  no matter what kind of birth you have, it may take a long time to feel good again.  My intention is not to scare you but to reassure you.  I caused myself undue stress by assuming that I would heal a lot quicker than I did.  I thought 6 weeks would be the very longest it would take me to feel good again.  Oh, NO!  Not even close.  I sincerely hope you heal faster than I have, but if you don’t, please don’t worry!  Give yourself time.  The waiting really really sucks, but it will happen!  Make patience your best friend.

When I was in the midst of physically feeling really, really bad, week after week after week, I had a lot of time to think about all the “what ifs”:

  • What if I’d had a c-section?  Would I have had less pain?  Would I have healed faster?  Is that possible?
  • What if I’d started out in the hospital to begin with?  Would my baby have needed the NICU if I hadn’t pushed for those extra hours? (**See note.)
  • What if my baby didn’t go to the NICU?  Would I have been successful with breastfeeding?
  • What if I’d had an epidural instead of doing it unmedicated?  Would I have been less physically spent when he was finally born?  Would I have been able to feel elation when he came out instead of feeling dazed and traumatized?
  • What if I’d been able to birth my baby vaginally without an episiotomy cut?  How much different  would I feel?
  • What if I hadn’t taken castor oil to induce me at 41 weeks + 2 days?  Would I have gone into labor on my own before 42 weeks anyway?  Would I have had an easier labor?  Would it have changed the outcome?

What if, what if, what if?  Why do we do that to ourselves?  Yep– if I’d had a c-section, you can bet that I’d be playing the same “what if” game from that perspective.  It’s insane!!

What points am I trying to make?  What advice do I want to give?

When we’re pregnant, it’s only natural that we want the perfect birth experience.  When that happens it’s great!  I’m sooo happy for those lucky ladies!  But if it didn’t happen for you, then try to be gentle with yourself.   It’s not your fault.  You did the best you could.  Give yourself the time to grieve for the birth experience that you wanted but didn’t get.  Give yourself a lot of time.  Time does heal.  Know that the post-partum hormonal crash makes every sad feeling feel so much worse.

Nope– I’ll never know if changing one or more variables in my labor and delivery experience would have turned my traumatic experience into a satisfying one.  With every passing month, I’m letting go of the what ifs.  I’m getting closer and closer to…acceptance.

Yep– now that I’ve had my own “less-than-ideal childbirth and failed breastfeeding” experiences, I realize that my thinking on this topic is no longer “black and white” like it used to be.

Before, it was a little too easy to assume that a hospital birth would be bad and a birth center birth would be good…an epidural would be bad, and an unmedicated birth would be good…a c-section would be bad, and a vaginal birth would be good…formula feeding would be bad and breastfeeding would be good…etc, etc.

Now I know that there’s plenty of good and bad in all of it.  A lot of things are out of our control, anyway.

Andrea– congratulations again!  Enjoy your new baby girl.  Rest when you can (easier said than done, I know!)  Recover.  Accept help whenever you can.  Do what’s best for you and your baby.  These next few weeks will probably be difficult, but you’ll get through it.  The learning curve can be rough, but pretty soon you and your baby will have a “flow.”  Enjoy each phase of your newborn’s development.  It’s true that they grow so fast!  I’m starting to have a lot of fun with my almost 3 month old.

Sincerely,

Elisa

(P.S.: I’m still a brand new mom!)

————————————–

(**Note that my baby was never in any distress while I was pushing.  I do not fault my midwife in any way whatsoever.  I support her and all of her decision making surrounding my labor.  And, during my 6 week post-partum check-up we actually had this same “what if” conversation.)

Click here to read my baby’s birth story.

Click here to read my attempts at breastfeeding.

 

"There are those who are appalled because I am so vocal about injustice, yet I am equally appalled by their silence." Lujene Clark

“Every time you purchase animal products you pay assassins to murder sentient beings for you.”

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