Wednesday, February 9, 2011

There Are No Ordinary Moments: CESAREAN COURAGE

I ran across this blog entry this morning, courtesy of a friend of mine. It is an intensely powerful piece that moved me greatly. The trauma I have dealt with over the past 9 years because of my first very, very traumatic birth experience has been immense. People may be quick to say, "Get over it. You have a healthy child. That's all that matters." Unless you have experienced this first hand, I would respectfully say, "You don't have a clue." When it is YOUR body that is mutilated and YOUR baby that is damaged, then you get to chime in. Otherwise, you just don't know. I'm going to include the text of the post, in case it ever disappears for some reason. But I am also linking the blog entry here and I encourage you to go there and read it. Following that entry, you can read the comments that I left (I've included them at the bottom here). Writing those comments opened up the wound fresh again as I was forced to relive that moment when that doctor damaged my sweet boy.

There Are No Ordinary Moments: CESAREAN COURAGE

JANUARY 18, 2011


As a doula, I keep up with "birth stuff". I read blogs, research and discussions on birth. There is a lot of talk about the medicalization of childbirth, about VBAC and VBAC bans, and women's choices and lack of choices and OBs fear-mongering and the negative effect of interventions and early inductions. We talk about the benefits of home birth and midwifery care, doulas, Hypnobabies, water birth, unassisted birth, hands off birth, free birth, active birth, gentle birth, natural birth....but what we really talk a lot about is fear and the cesarean "epidemic".

We, in the birth community talk a lot about fear because childbirth in our culture is saturated in fear. And there is no doubt in my mind that it is because of this culture of fear that we have such a high cesarean rate. And in all our talk of unnecessary cesareans, and of fear, I don't hear a lot of talk about courage. Because no matter what the culture is, it takes courage to give birth. A lot of courage. The courage to give birth is in every woman, whether she knows it before hand or not, and even if she thinks it isn't there, she finds it inside of herself.

And all those mothers having cesareans? They have courage. Courage that needs to be recognized.

In our analysis of cesarean births and their increasing numbers, we get caught up in the focus of why the cesarean was or was not necessary, if this or that intervention caused it, if only that had been done or not done then perhaps the birth could have been vaginal. We get angry, we get sad, we work to change things. This is all good and very important, because too many women are subjected to unnecessary cesareans.

But can we please stop, for one moment and recognize, that no matter how educated or uneducated, coerced or informed the choice that woman on the operating table made or didn't make, whether that cesarean was elective or emergency, necessary or unnecessary - it takes a lot of courage to get there. Our birth culture may be saturated in fear-based decisions, but behind every cesarean and "unnecesarean" is a woman of courage. In that moment, it doesn't matter how that woman got to the operating table. It doesn't matter if the surgery is necessary or unnecessary, what matters is that it takes extraordinary courage to say:

"Cut me open.
I love my baby so much, that I will do anything to get my baby out of my body alive.
Lay me out, cut me open
because I love my baby so much."

That is courage. That is bravery and sacrifice and mothering in its purest form. That is the willingness to lay down your body and risk your life that your child might be born, that your child might live.

Cesarean mothers are BRAVE.

In the midst of our efforts as doulas and mothers and midwives and counselors and friends, in the work we do to educate and empower and change things...we need to take a moment to recognize the courage it takes to lay down and allow yourself to be cut open to have your baby.

And so, I recognize a few of the women that I know who have had the courage to give birth to their babies by cesarean:

Were you a Cesarean Brave Mama? Do you want to recognize the courage of a Cesarean Brave Mama? Leave a comment.

Here are my comments, left at the end of the blog post:
Thank you for this beautiful piece. I have spent so much of the past 9 years grieving and working through the trauma surrounding my cesarean experience in 2002. This piece actually closed part of the gap in my still, ever-gaping wound. This piece really did wonders for my healing.

Thank you for recognizing my courage. I said the words, "Cut me open". After seeing that doctor with her leg hiked up on the bed while she pulled on my sweet baby's head with forceps, I pulled myself from the very depths of hell and shouted, "STOP. JUST CUT ME OPEN. JUST CUT ME OPEN ALREADY." I would have allowed her to cut me open without anesthesia before I allowed her to yank on my baby's head like that again. Courage is putting yourself in that situation. Courage is laying there while a doctor holds up your baby over a curtain and says, "Hi mom" and then takes him away. Courage is laying there while someone else is holding your baby. Courage is wanting nothing more than to run to your baby and hold him and tell him how sorry you, while strapped to a table in a paralyzed state. Courage is looking across the room and seeing people doing things to your sweet child, knowing that it should be YOU in their place, protecting him. Courage is laying there paralyzed and looking over and seeing your baby rooting and looking for you. It has been 9 years of HELL and I am nowhere NEAR dealing with that trauma. But this piece today helped me, ever so much, to continue towards healing.

As a neonatal nurse, I treat babies so differently than mine was treated. Each time I am able to connect a cut-open mother with her baby, it helps me to heal. When I am the nurse, that baby goes directly to his mother. When I am the nurse, he is skin to skin with her, even if it is only with their faces together. When I am the nurse, the scenario is no different if a mother needs general anesthesia. I have been looked at and ridiculed by anesthesiologists for doing so, but it does not matter to me. Because I know that that baby needs his mother, even if she is asleep. And I know that deep down, that mother knows her baby is there and is well.

Yes, it takes oceans of courage to have a c-section.


  1. Thank you! Your comment on my blog brought me to tears. I'm humbled that my words could play a part in your healing. I too was very traumatized by my c-section, and re-framing my experience to recognize my bravery and courage was a huge part in my healing as well. I am sure you are an amazing gift in the OR, ensuring those babes get straight to their mamas.

    1. I was hoping to fwd your amazing blog post about csections to a friend who recently had a csection for her second child after a med free home birth with her first. I have shared your post so many many times and its brought healing to myself and so many friends. However, I noticed it's now private. Would you consider making it public again or emailing it to me? Thank you so much!

  2. This is so very close to what I felt the day my son was born. So strange. So disconnected to the one thing in the world your entire existence is crying out to hold. It is so good to hear there are women out there who "get it".

    I am just blown away by all this. So wonderful.

  3. I too read your comments on Avital's blog and I wondered are you able to tell the G.A. moms that their baby was held against them? I can only imagine how important that would feel to them. I was not under general and was given my baby while still in the O.R. which was one of the things I hold dear about his birth.
    How blessed women in your care are.