I Don't Have C-Section Guilt

by Jessica Goodwin
Several medical tools prepared on a blue fabric surface for a C-section surgery with doctors in the ...

When I was about 33 weeks pregnant, I had a premature-labor scare. Everything turned out OK, but I was told that if my baby boy decided to try to come early again, as long as it was after 35 weeks, I would be OK to deliver since he was so big and healthy. My OB also cautioned me to be “open-minded going into labor” because of his big head and my small pelvis. She said a C-section could be a possibility.

Wait. What? I’d just spent the past eight months preparing for (and worrying about!) a vaginal delivery. I’d already written my birth plan, and I hadn’t even considered that I might need a C-section.

To ease my mind, I decided to ask my girlfriend who’d had both kids via C-section (two really big babies) what it was like. She reassured me that it was “super fast” and that her husband was by her side the whole time. She said that the drape went up, she “didn’t feel any pain, only pressure,” and about 20 minutes later, her baby was handed to her. I gotta admit, that kind of didn’t sound so bad. I mean, I know you’re being sliced open and your insides are getting rearranged, but you get your baby handed to you in less time than it takes to get a pizza delivered!

Then my friend looked at me very seriously. “But, honey, I hope you don’t have to have one.” When I asked why, she looked sad. She told me that she felt like she missed out on giving birth because she didn’t push the babies out on her own, like her body was supposed to. She said she felt robbed.

I reminded her that she had two very beautiful and healthy babies (now in fourth and sixth grade) and that was all that mattered. But she said she still felt like she hadn’t actually given birth, because she didn’t do the work.

I didn’t realize that C-section guilt was a thing, but as I searched for C-section information online, I came across a lot of C-section bashing online and on social media. There are lots of people who consider having a C-section “the easy way out.” There really are some people, who, for religious reasons, think that because you have a C-section, you didn’t really give birth. And there really are lots of people, like my friend, who feel guilty for not having a vaginal delivery. Google “having a C-section is not giving birth,” and you’ll see that it’s a topic of discussion on countless forums and websites.

Well, let me tell you, after my 36 hours of labor (12 hours of premature labor at 33 weeks, plus 24 hours of labor for the real deal), I don’t feel any guilt at all about having a C-section. I pushed for a few hours, and then I was told that every time I pushed, my baby’s heart rate dropped. I was given the option to keep pushing, but the doctor wasn’t sure that my son’s head would make it into my pelvis, in which case, I’d end up being rushed into surgery. Or I could go ahead and have a C-section right then.

Hearing that my baby was in distress, all thoughts of a “normal” vaginal delivery went out the window. Who cares how he gets here? Get him out, make sure he’s OK, and give him to me!

After being strapped down to a table and feeling like I was about to be crucified, I don’t feel guilty about having a C-section. After about half an hour of feeling my insides being pulled and tugged apart and wondering what the hell was taking so long, I don’t feel guilty about having a C-section. After hearing the doctor say that she was having trouble getting through my abdominal muscles and had to “be careful not to nick [my] bladder,” I don’t feel guilty. After listening to metal instruments clanging together and hearing nurses commenting on my loss of blood, I don’t feel guilty. After watching my husband constantly checking the clock and standing up twice to peer over the drape and seeing my insides splayed all over the place, I don’t feel guilty.

I felt a massive amount of suction and realized that it was my son being pulled out of me at last. I heard him cry, and I watched him get cleaned up, weighed and measured from a distance. I cried, but I couldn’t wipe my tears. I couldn’t hold my baby right away because my arms were still strapped down, and it took another half hour for them to put me back together and stitch me back up. My husband held my baby down for me to greet him cheek to cheek.

Then, all of a sudden, the drape was pulled down in a flurry. I was unstrapped and scooted from the operating table to the bed and propped up. A nurse told me that I could finally hold my baby, and they would take me back to the room—just like that. Like nothing had happened. One minute, everyone’s hands were in my abdominal cavity, no big deal, and then we were wheeled through the hospital in front of everybody, back to our room.

It took a while to be able to process what had happened: what seemed like an endless labor, finally pushing, being whisked into an operating room within minutes of deciding to have a C-section, and then finally being able to hold my baby in my arms.

Not one second of it was easy. Not one second of it was painless. But my son had arrived, and he was safe and healthy and strong, and that was all that mattered to me. And I don’t feel guilty about that at all.