Today’s story is from Julie Leonard of Strong Body Strong Mama. If you need a prenatal or postpartum trainer, she’s your girl! Unfortunately, Julie’s first-time birth story is an all too common one laced with trauma, fear, regret and to say the very least, a less than ideal experience. In the years since her child’s birth, she’s worked through her emotions related to how things went and has had two other birth stories that have been redemptive in some way. Thanks so much for sharing this part of your heart, Julie. I really appreciate you.

 How many children do you have and how many were born via cesarean? I have 3 children and 1 was born via cesarean, which was my first birth.

Were you happy with your experience? If you’ve had more than one cesarean, were you happy with one and not with another? Explain? My cesarean experience was very traumatic. I had an emergency C-section with anesthesia. My husband wasn’t allowed in the room. When they wheeled me down to the OR, they started putting belts around my body so I couldn’t move. I was fully dilated, in transition, and my son’s foot was out. I was having intense contractions and was completely restrained. I literally felt like I was on my death bed. I was terrified, alone, and completely out of control. I didn’t get to see my son for hours after the surgery and felt so drugged up when I woke up that when I saw him for the first time, I pushed him away. My whole experience felt very surreal. So, no, I was not happy with my experience at all. I am also not happy with how the staff dealt with my situation. Everybody was freaking out and no one was paying attention to me. I just wish someone would have held my hand or whispered “You will be ok”.

Have you ever experienced any shaming or questioning that made you feel uncomfortable after your cesarean? No, I didn’t feel any shaming from others. However, I personally felt shame in the fact that I ended up with a cesarean. I felt guilt that I wasn’t able to hold my baby for hours after the birth. What kind of mom is not completely in love with her newborn baby? I felt resentment toward my baby like he was somehow responsible for what happened to me.

Were you able to do skin-to-skin with your baby immediately after the birth, even before leaving the operating room? No, I did not since I was unconscious.

Was there a clear, see through drape between you and Baby at the time of the operation? No, I was unconscious.

If you chose to breastfeed your baby, were you able to try nursing your baby within the first hour after birth? I didn’t get to see my son until 3-4 hours after the surgery. I tried nursing him at that time but I was still very drowsy. My son was also very drowsy.

What was your recovery like: Better or worse than expected? More emotionally or physically draining than you were prepared for? My recovery was way harder than I expected. Part of the problem was that I was completely unprepared for a cesarean birth yet alone the recovery aspect of it. I had spent very little time thinking about a cesarean or what it would entail. I knew a c-section would be painful and recovery would be difficult but what I didn’t really think about was the emotional trauma that could arise and the identity shift that would happen for me as a first time mom. Physically, I was in a lot pain for weeks. I felt numb around my incision for months. Emotionally, I would say it took a year for me to start feeling better. I felt a lot of resentment and sadness associated with how my birth went.

What are three things you’d like the world to know about cesarean birth?  

1.    Cesarean birth is major surgery: you will need lots of rest and time to heal afterwards. Please ask for help.

2.    There is no standard protocol for rehabilitation after a cesarean. Seek help and advice from a qualified pelvic floor therapist or postnatal trainer to help you get started with healing your body.

3.    Cesarean birth IS birth. Make sure you talk about your experience with a partner or a friend to help process your birth experience.