One day during my Ob/Gyn rotation, I found myself sitting in the recovery room on the Labor and Delivery ward. A patient had just had a c-section. The nurses walked into the room, baby in hand. The baby’s dad followed. The nurses checked the baby out, and then handed him to dad. They brought him a chair. And there he sat, holding his newborn son.
I peeked a few times, as it was a very precious sight to see. I tried not to stare because really it felt like I should not be there at that moment. Dad snapped some pictures of the baby and started sending them to family and friends. He held his son’s tiny fingers in his hands. And he talked to his new baby. It was really very touching.
Meanwhile, back in the OR, I’m guessing mom was still getting stitched up. I couldn’t help but feel bad that I was sitting in the recovery room, watching such a beautiful sight – the first moments of her baby’s life, and she wasn’t there. She was missing.
I did not see that patient’s c-section, but on my last day of Ob/Gyn – we had three c-sections – one planned and two emergency. I knew that witnessing a c-section would be difficult for me, after having to have one when I had Anika. It actually went pretty well. Although, I did tear up both times we had to tell the moms they needed a c-section. I still remember how awful it was to hear that news, and my heart broke for them.
C-sections are not fun. In fact, they’re a nightmare. You think you are going to the hospital for this nice easy delivery, and before you know if you’re having a major abdominal surgery. It’s scary. Things happen fast. You are worried about your baby, and at the same time you’re scared to have surgery. You’re awake the whole time – you can hear and feel everything – maybe not the pain, but the pulling and tugging – and it seems like it lasts an eternity. You feel like you got hit by a truck afterwards. And instead of taking a few weeks off work to rest and recover, they send you home with a newborn baby. Long story short – it sucks.
I read a quote that said, “A woman meets herself in childbirth.” I actually read this about a month after I had Anika. And after I read it I started bawling. So many emotions came over me. I remember telling everyone before Anika was born that I really didn’t want a c-section. I said it over and over the day of her delivery. I didn’t want a c-section. Anything but a c-section. But that’s exactly what I got. And I felt like I had failed. I read that quote and thought about that day, and I couldn’t help but feel like if I met my true self that day, I was a complete and total failure.
I tried to tell myself that quote wasn’t true, but after this rotation, I believe it more than ever. Because I’ve seen women in labor, and it’s a real test of character. It’s a painful and scary experience. And I’m always amazed by the strength of women. The quote wasn’t wrong – I was wrong. I was wrong for thinking that because I had a c-section, I was a failure.
Women are often made to feel this way. I don’t think anybody really intends to make them feel that, but the words people use and the way they talk about it makes them feel that way.
For me, giving my final consent to have a c-section was giving up all my hopes and dreams of some “perfect” delivery. I had wanted to go all natural. I had wanted a vaginal delivery. I had to give up those things because of circumstances outside of my control. And that didn’t make me a failure. In many ways, I think that was the moment I really became a mom. I had to give up what I wanted to do what was best for my baby. That’s really what motherhood is all about. After that moment, nothing has really been what I’ve planned. I don’t sleep when I want. I don’t eat when I want. I’m constantly running around, here and there, doing laundry, picking up toys, soothing a fussy baby. My life is no longer my own.
Every woman becomes a “mom” at a different time. Agreeing to have a c-section was my moment. It wasn’t what I wanted. It wasn’t how I planned. But it’s what I got. And I can’t change that. I’ve already made up my mind to have a TOLAC (Trial of Labor After Cesarean) next time. But I know that even if it doesn’t work out, having another c-section (and another and another…) doesn’t make me a failure. As long as I get healthy babies, I’ll be a happy mama.
I hope that our patients can come to peace with their c-sections, as I have. It takes time. The scar fades, but it never goes away. My scar is still painful. It itches like crazy. And every day I have to look at it in the mirror. I’ve heard people say to be proud of your scar because it’s a “battle wound.” I don’t know. Maybe. Whatever. It’s a scar, and it’s ugly. It was a bad experience, and it’s an experience that I wish I could forget.
But I have a beautiful baby. And it was worth it. I would do it again and again and again if I got the same result. And maybe I will – who knows what life will bring. So even though I hated my Ob/Gyn rotation, and I absolutely will not be choosing it for a speciality, at least this rotation brought me some much needed peace.