Today you get to hear from my dear friend Mandy. We met our freshman year of college at the sweet age of 18 and we became good friends right away. We’ve been Maid/Matron of Honor in each other’s weddings, I’ve probably seen more concerts with her than anyone else, we’ve shed tears of joy and tears of immense sadness together, she was by my side when we met and simultaneously said goodbye to our firstborn and she’s a trusted confidant through thick and thin. I had the honor of being with her during both of her labors and was one of the first friends to meet each of her girls. Thanks for participating in this project, Mandy - I love ya!

How many children do you have and how many were born via cesarean? I have had two children and they were both born via cesarean section.

If you’ve had more than one cesarean, were the others planned? If so, what was the reason? If not, what happened in the birth that ended up resulting with a repeat cesarean? Neither cesarean was planned. The first one was for ‘failure to progress’. After that delivery I aimed to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and planned to have a homebirth. All was well and progressing as expected, but during labor I got the feeling that something was not going right and asked to transfer to the hospital. It turns out that a childhood injury led to my tailbone having a malformation and I am unable to deliver vaginally. The doctor estimated that if I have small babies (less than 6 pounds) that I might have been able to deliver vaginally, but both of my babies were near 8 pounds.

Were you happy with your experience? If you’ve had more than one cesarean, were you happy with one and not with another? Explain? I was extremely unhappy with the first experience and extremely happy with the second. The first time I felt as if I had failed, that my body had failed. I thought that maybe if I had been healthier or stronger I would’ve been able to do it. The second time I felt like had done everything to bring a healthy baby into the world with as few interventions as possible. For me, the least interventions turned out to be a cesarean. It was an incredibly healing experience, much to my surprise. Having a repeat cesarean was my worst fear, but it ended up seeming as if I needed to be cut again to be healed.

Have you ever experienced any shaming or questioning that made you feel uncomfortable after your cesarean? I had some experience with shaming and questions. Most were what I assumed/hoped were well intentioned by other women who were in a similar life stage. It went both ways. I had some women who had planned/unplanned cesareans and were puzzled why I was struggling with my birth experience after my first child was born. Other women wanted to know what had happened and what led to me needing a cesarean. It seemed as if they wanted to know how they could prevent it for themselves. Perhaps that was not their intention, but that is how I felt.

I was unsuccessful at breastfeeding with my oldest child and that is where I experienced the most shame. Each time I gave a bottle I felt a little judged. No one really said anything to me about it, but the shame was palpable from me. It was even worse when I had to begin supplementing with formula. I cried big fat tears when I mixed that first bottle. In a way it did get easier, but I still felt like I had failed and like others thought the same thing.

Were you able to do skin-to-skin with your baby immediately after the birth, even before leaving the operating room? Not with my first, but with my second I was! By the time we were being wheeled out of the OR my second daughter was nursing. It was the best feeling ever!

Was there a clear, see through drape between you and Baby at the time of the operation? No, it was a regular white sheet.

If you chose to breastfeed your baby, were you able to try nursing your baby within the first hour after birth? Yes, both times.

What was your recovery like: Better or worse than expected? More emotionally or physically draining than you were prepared for? The recovery with my first delivery was awful. I developed a hematoma and an infection at the incision site and was very sick while also dealing with postpartum hormones and what I now know was depression. I think I tried to do too much too soon and caused the healing to go slower. It was so much worse and longer than I expected. For a full 5 months my incision seeped and wouldn’t close. I had to actually have it re-cut and stitched in order for it to finally close. The second time was a breeze in comparison. I had little to no pain. I was up and walking the next day (for short trips around the hospital floor)and took it easy. I credit a lot of the ease of recovery to my husband who had more time at home with us the second time around. I was able to rest and recover while he cared for our oldest child and the home.

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

  1. That women who deliver by cesarean section GIVE BIRTH too. It is not the shortcut or easy way.

  2. Go slow with recovery. I pushed myself to be up and moving and completing tasks on my own before I was ready. It caused me both physical and emotional harm. Hire a postpartum doula, receive the offers of support being offered and allow yourself time to just feed the baby and rest.

  3. If something about your body or your mind seems off, seek help. It could be the incision, breastfeeding, your postpartum hormones/depression/anxiety. There are people and resources that can help!