Hey friends! Comin’ at ya with a very real, raw post today that’s been on my heart to share for a while. Like many of you, my first c-section wasn’t planned or expected, and I was quickly thrown into a world of recovery and guilt that I knew nothing about. I never could have imagined what it would feel like to not be able to get out of my hospital bed, to feel frustrated and like a failure because my body couldn’t even make it for a short walk down the hallway or even across the room. I never could have imagined the months and months and MONTHS of slow recovery, learning to walk again, and wearing a belly binder forever (or what felt like forever) because it was the most comforting thing and I couldn’t bear to function without it.
And ultimately, I could have never imagined the immense amount of guilt and shame that would follow for not only the months ahead, but YEARS ahead and even through my second (planned) cesarean delivery. To say that I’ve completely worked through the feelings and guilt wouldn’t be true, but thankfully (and with the help of other amazing mamas) I’ve been able to work through a lot of it.
Every mom has a unique delivery story, and every story is special. After all, It’s how your little one came into the world! And while we celebrate and are so grateful for the fact that our bodies did something amazing, it’s important to work through our emotions and know the truth about ourselves.
Overcoming C-Section Guilt
Why do we feel guilty about having a cesarean delivery?
The first step in overcoming our guilt is to acknowledge WHY we feel guilty. And that’s a big question! For starters, there’s the initial shock that comes with a first time cesarean. But even for a planned cesarean (like my second one), there can be so much guilt involved.
Personally, I think there’s a lot of pressure on moms to be perfect and do everything perfectly. Secondly, I know that I felt guilt over not being in control over my delivery (as if we really have control over that?) and feeling like the hospital staff was taking over. I felt like I didn’t try hard enough, and replayed the situation over and over again in my head, thinking about what would have happened if I had “just done things differently”. Lastly, I was worried that others would judge me for “failing”, as if a c-section is some way of giving up. Thankfully, that’s the FURTHEST thing from the truth!
How to overcome the guilt
I recently read that 31% of all deliveries end up being a c-section. That’s crazy! So why isn’t it talked about more? I’d love to open up the conversation and hear your story in the comments below as well.
There’s no way to sum up how to overcome c-section guilt in a few steps. The reality is that overcoming guilt and embracing your birth story is a long, deep process. However, with time and healing, it can be done! The painful and difficult emotions won’t last forever, mama.
1. Know the truth
Here’s the truth: You did everything you could to bring your baby into the world in the healthiest way possible. Bottom line. If you, like me, have struggled with lies repeating in your mind over and over again, then it’s time to start speaking truth to yourself.
- You are a GOOD mom. Don’t let the lies tell you anything different! The fact that you even care about this proves it. You are a good mom!
- You didn’t take the “easy” way out. While some women do have an easier delivery than others, all methods can be incredibly difficult, painful, emotional, and even traumatizing.
- You did what was best for your baby. Yes, we would have loved for things to have gone differently. Yes, maybe there was even an option to try a natural or vaginal birth. But ultimately, there was a risk involved for either you and/or the baby that you weren’t comfortable with. And that’s ok!
- You will heal with time. Even with my second c-section, I kept believing this lie that I would never heal from it. I genuinely thought that I would be “messed up” forever, both physically and emotionally. I’m here to tell you that you are stronger than you think, and you will heal with time!
2. “Mourn” the birth you wanted
I remember feeling robbed of the delivery I thought that I was going to have. Not only did I feel like I had failed my baby and my body, but I felt like someone took away the delivery I had dreamed of for the past 9 months (or more).
It’s ok to mourn the fact that things didn’t go how you expected or wanted. While it’s not anyone’s fault, it’s ok to be disappointed, sad, and even angry about how things fell into place. It’s ok to allow yourself to feel the depths of these emotions, cry, and embrace your new path in your motherhood journey.
3. Talk about it
Talk to other moms who have also had a c-section! Text them questions about their deliveries, recovery, postpartum journey, and even the emotions they felt in the weeks and months after their delivery. Tell them how you’re feeling, and allow them to be there for you emotionally.
Another great option is to journal! This helps you organize your thoughts and emotions as you process what happened. I highly recommend it for the weeks after delivery!
4. Find support
Find communities and support for c-section mamas that you can be a part of! While it’s pretty difficult to meet in person after just having a baby (and a major surgery, on top of everything), you can also find online communities (like following C-Section Strong or finding a C-Section Moms support group on Facebook). It’s so encouraging to process everything with others!
5. Nourish your body
A lot of women focus on losing weight after having a baby, but the focus should really be on nourishing your body and listening to what it needs. Make lactation cookies, add collagen peptides to your breakfast bowl (it does WONDERS for healing scar tissue, by the way!), drink nourishing smoothies and shakes, and eat the carb-loaded dinner your body is craving.
6. Healing trauma
For months after my c-section, I couldn’t look at my scar. And as prepared as I was for my second, planned c-section, I still suffered so much physical and emotional trauma. The times I would look at my scar, I would just cry and cry. I was even afraid to touch it for a REALLY long time!
Something that helped me with my second c-section is that my doctor started encouraging me to touch the scar. I was so afraid. After some time of forcing myself to do it on a daily basis, I started becoming more comfortable with it. Eventually she had me massaging a healing oil over it and that helped me cope with the trauma in so many ways!
All that to say: talk to your doctor about the trauma you are experiencing. They are there to help you!
7. Get your strength back
My #1 tip for overcoming c-section guilt is to find your strength again. When you’re ready, and in your own time. And sloooooowwwwlllyyyy. You have all the time in the world, friend!
Start by taking very very slow walks (preferably outside, as it can do wonders for your mental health during the postpartum season). My first walk was at 6 weeks postpartum and it was literally 1 block. That was it. Down the street and back. Take it as slow as you need to!
In time, when you feel that your body is ready, begin to speed up your pace. It took me months and months of slow walking with the stroller before I was even close to moving on to any type of exercise!
Finally, when you’re ready, start a postpartum plan to ease you back into working out and gaining strength. I literally did my plan TWICE with both kids to make sure I was really ready before moving on to anything harder. I’m 8 months postpartum now and am still easing myself back into regular exercise!
If you’ve read this far, I just want to say that I’m so proud of you for being the best mama you can be. Whether you believe it about yourself or not, you need to know that you TRULY are amazing for what you’ve been through! You will heal, you will feel better, you will gain strength back. And you’re not alone, friend! Keep doing what you’re doing. Hugs 🙂