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Almost four years ago, one day changed my life drastically and in an instant…
The events of that day pale in comparison to the challenges of many others, but it rocked my world in multiple ways.
At that time, I was 35 weeks pregnant with our third child and planning a home birth. I’d had all the ultrasounds and everything looked great. I’d been meticulous in my diet and self care and was preparing for a home birth in every way possible, including reading over 40 books on pregnancy and birth.
I’d had a natural birth before, and in my (arrogant) mind, I was good at this whole birth thing. In my head, I pictured a serene water birth with candles lit and essential oils in the air. I barely glanced over the pages about c-sections in any pregnancy books because that part didn’t apply to be. I was a doula, a natural birth mom, I didn’t have c-sections.
That day, I had felt antsy but chalked it up to normal pregnancy nesting. We had a picnic dinner with friends and I noticed I was uncomfortable sitting on the ground, but at 35 weeks pregnant, this was to be expected.
We finally headed home late that evening and I put my little ones to bed. My husband and I talked for a little while and turned in ourselves around midnight.
Around 2 am, I heard a door open and my son was getting up to go to the bathroom. He was still newly potty trained, so he came in to my room and asked if I could help him.
As I went to sit up, I felt a warm gush and immediately though, “oh no! My water broke and it is too early!” Thinking this was what was wrong, I ran to the bathroom and realized that it was blood, not amniotic fluid that was everywhere. Our bathroom looked like a murder scene and I was still gushing.
I yelled for my husband and we called the midwife. No answer.
With no one local to call, we started putting the kids in the car and heading to the nearest hospital. I wasn’t sure what was going on at this point but I knew it wasn’t good. The bleeding had slowed a little but I was feeling light headed from the blood loss. We finally got in touch with a friend who agreed to come to the hospital and get the kids.
When we got to the hospital, my husband dropped me off at the door and parked so he could bring the kids in. They started running tests and called in an ultra sound tech who had been sleeping.
I overheard the doctor talking to the nurses and the words “placenta previa” were mentioned. I knew what this was, but hadn’t read much on it because “Those high risk categories didn’t apply to me.”
The ultrasound tech got there and as soon as he put the wand on my stomach, I could tell what the problem was immediately. There was a big healthy looking placenta… right over my cervix.
My heart sank.
I knew enough to know two things: (a) I was having this baby a lot sooner than I’d planned and (b) it wasn’t coming vaginally.
Ever heard that saying about how to make God laugh? Well, I’d told him my plans, but hadn’t considered that things might not go according to my plans.
I didn’t have anything ready for the baby to come. I didn’t have clothes down from the attic. No one was in town. And I was scared.
The next few hours as they prepped me for the inevitable c-section, my mind was racing. My main concern was that the baby was ok (the bleeding had slowed) but I was also terrified about the c-section (I wasn’t a person who had c-sections).
Being wheeled in to the operating room as my husband had to stay in the hall was one of the hardest moments of my life up to that point.
Long story short, my hubby finally got to come in as they were about to take our baby out. We didn’t know if we were having a boy or girl yet. We also didn’t have a name…. we threw out possible names and had only decided on a boy’s name when…
Two things happened simultaneously. Our baby was delivered, a boy! and the doctor said “Oh, crap” as he realized I was still bleeding internally.
Baby wasn’t breathing optimally, and I was still bleeding. My hubby left with baby as they took him for respiratory help. I got to see him for a split second before they both left. A huge team of doctors and nurses rushed in and I was given a lot of medicines at one time and everything was pretty hazy after that.
The next eight days were a blur of a painful recovery, spending time in the NICU with baby, and taking a lot of iron supplements to try to get my blood levels back up. Turns out, I was allergic to one of the medications I’d gotten and my entire body itched relentlessly, but I didn’t want to take medication to stop the itching as it would make it more difficult for my milk to come in.
I pumped like a mad woman every two hours for days until my milk came in and finally, after five days, got to hold my baby once the umbilical IV was removed. We saw so many tiny babies in the NICU, and some were struggling with much bigger problems than our little guy! We said a lot of prayers for those little ones during our time in the NICU…
Thankfully, our time with baby in the NICU was only 8 days and my recovery, though slow, was not nearly as bad as it could have been. I know that so many have had much bigger struggles with birth and recovery and especially after my experience, I have so much respect for them. Certainly, I am completely grateful that our son is now healthy and that I recovered without a problem. Though I don’t follow the thinking that “all that matters is a healthy baby,” it certainly is the most important outcome!
Until that point, I’d always loved the feeling of being pregnant and I’d loved my pregnancy body (and even post-pregnancy body). Now, I had a scar that was a permanent reminder of a delivery that didn’t go my way.
I was surprised to find that that scar, that 6 inch reminder of my c-section, bothered me a lot more than I expected. It reduced me to tears at many times. Even years later, just seeing that scar in the mirror could put a downer on my whole day.
That scar was a reminder of my delivery (and thankfully of my now-healthy child), but I realized that it bothered me so much for another reason: it was a reminder that I am not in control. A reminder of something that didn’t go my way. A reminder of a big lesson in humility.
I thought about it objectively.
I realized that I am thankful for that c-section that saved my son’s life and my own.
I am thankful for that c-section that made me a better doula by giving me the opportunity to understand the birth experience of women who have c-sections (and later, of women who have VBACs or HBACs).
The reason that c-section and that scar bothered me is that it served as a constant reminder of the many aspects of life that I can’t control, and even more so, it reminded me of my arrogance and how hard that lesson was for me to learn.
Just Being Thankful…
I’ve always considered myself an optimistic person. I’ve been able to be grateful and happy for most things in my life. But, I also hadn’t had too many experiences that had really tested that optimism.
It took a long time, but I can finally say I’m thankful for that scar and for the lessons it represents.
Ironically, once I finally made peace with the scar (and it took years), it started to fade and it is now barely visible at all. It is funny how life works sometimes: things that we focus on and obsess about that seem like such a big deal to overcome are barely visible when we learn to let go.
I also realized that as women, we often seem to focus on one part of our appearance that we really don’t like and let our attitude and self worth be dependent on this one thing when it is barely noticeable to anyone else.
For me, letting go of the pain from that scar and letting go of it being a reminder that I was not in control took learning to actually be THANKFUL not only for the scar but for a reminder that I wasn’t in control. It wasn’t an instant shift, and it took some prayer and time, but now I can honestly say that I’m glad for my reminder to let go…
A Gentler C-Section
If I ever have another cesarean, I will try to work with my doctor to have a gentle cesarean, and I’ll know to do these things to speed recovery.
Do you have scars that are a painful reminder (or a happy one!) of something in your past? Share below!
Discussion (54 Comments)
Thanks so much for sharing this. After an emergency
c-section at 30 weeks due to placental abruption I spent many weeks
making peace with my scar. One fact that bought me comfort is that
Jesus’ resurrected body had scars. So often in our culture we see scars
as wounds from something that went wrong, but scars can be truly
life-giving as well.
Quick question- with your subsequent pregnancies since that experience did the doctors ever recommend 17P shots?
I’m currently pregnant with #2 and due to the incision I will have a
scheduled c-section (not my first choice but even my naturopath agrees
this is best after reading the surgical report) but I have a meeting
with a MFM specialist to discuss the possibility of the 17P injections.
I’m leaning towards not taking them because my body really doesn’t
respond well to synthetic hormones. I know you aren’t a doctor but can
you share what your experience was and if you did anything different
with your recent pregnancies. I currently am following Weston A Price
recommendations for diet during pregnancy, managing sleep and moving
towards all natural beauty and cleaning regimens.
Thanks for your fantastic blog!
Amazing perspective Johanna 🙂
Katie - Wellness Mama
I researched those and opted out. I’ve just been very careful to nourish my body and optimize all the factors I can to help have a healthy pregnancy.
Your story brought me to tears. I had a csection after 32 hours of labor. I wouldnt dilate past 5cm and during the surgery I hemmoraged. My son ended up in NICU for 8 days, as well. He had every machine hooked up to his little body. I’ll never forget that image when they wheeled me in to see him. I remember bypassing the NICU during our hospital tour saying “yea. I won’t be needing that area”. I was actually a week “late”. My milk didn’t come in and I remember trying and trying and crying because it just wouldn’t flow. I eventually was able to breast feed but had to supplement. I breast fed as long as I could for about a year. I recently had a miscarriage and that’s been tough to get over. My son’s 3 now. I took him for his 2/3 month vaccinations and immediately after I knew something wasn’t right. He developed multiple food allergies and eczema. Due to me adjusting his diet, his skin looks amazing but I’m still dealing with fears of his allergies. I stopped vaccinating him and a good friend of mine has been sharing your page, and her own natural organic products with me. She’s been amazing with helping me change my lifestyle and choices. Being a mom is rewarding and so hard! We only want the best for our children and having the responsibility to make choices for them until a certain point surely is stressful, at times. I’m learning not to care what others may think because ultimately, he is my child. No one will care for and love him the way I do. Thanks again for sharing ?
Cathy Aaron Hart
I have had 3 c-sections and am proud of my scar. It is also a good excuse for not getting the flat belly needed to get into a bikini 🙂
Thanks for this, Katie. A beautiful story that is a wonderful reminder of the need for humility, acceptance and patience. As a certified control freak, this was exactly the post I needed today. 🙂
Wow, what a moving story. That sense of being out of control – of thing not going your way and there being *nothing* you can do to change it – is incredibly hard I think. It’s something I experience in dreams relatively often – that sense that it’s too late and whatever it is, I can’t change it now.
Of course, you did do something to change it – you got yourself to hospital, and as you said, that c-section saved both your lives. But it still wasn’t the way you wanted things to go, and that sense of “I wasn’t a person who had c-sections” I totally get. In someways it probably challenged your whole sense of your self. But wonderful to be able to come through it and eventually be able to let go of the pain and be grateful instead.
Thank you so much for this post! I had a c-section with my second, and it was NOT the natural, unmedicated birth I had envisioned. I’m now having trouble conceiving another and wondering if the c-section has something to do with it. Regardless, I’ve been trying to remember that God has a plan, and this post was just the reminder that I needed!
It is very hard sometimes to be at peace with things, especially when things don’t go your way. I’m not optimistic. When things don’t go my way I usually give up, so I guess that’s why God isn’t letting me give up even though I’ve just started my 51st month of TTC. I’ve been mad, angry indifferent, depressed, I even convinced myself for a few months that I didn’t want to be a mom anyway. It’s not until you decide to make peace with where your life has gone and stop looking back with regret that I think you can finally heal physically, mentally and spiritually. It’s that healing that makes us stronger and you have certainly succeeded at that!
WOW! Thank you.
Beautiful reminder, I admire so much about you, Katie, and this makes me admire you all the more. Thank you for being real and vulnerable, you are an encouragement to me!
My first was an emergency c-section after a 30 hour labor and an intended home birth… My second was going to be an HBAC, but after 40 hours of labor and only 3 cm dilation, we ended up transferring to a hospital. After 12 more hours and lots of intervention (breaking my waters, Pitocin, oxygen, an epidural) I got my VBAC. God certainly is teaching me to hold my plans lightly!
very inspirational! Thank you!