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Thoughts on an unplanned c-section

by Christa on December 2, 2013

in Baby Gins,Life Story

I feel like this would have been easier to write sooner after Rachel’s birth. I start to feel a little better every day and thinking about everything that happened just sends me back into a darker place. I know our story has a happy ending; I never said it didn’t.  I know there are situations that don’t end as happily, and that I should be grateful. But it’s all relative – it doesn’t make me any less disappointed with the way things turned out. It doesn’t make me feel any better at all. And it doesn’t change the fact that any future pregnancies will be riskier than my first perfect, super low-risk albeit long-lasting pregnancy.

As soon as they told me it would have to be a c-section, I was sort of in denial. In fact, when the doctor and nurse came back in the room, I asked if they were SURE. Couldn’t I just try more pitocin? But when they were outside Shane had said that the main concern was keeping me and Rachel safe. And I certainly didn’t want to tear my cervix, which they said I was at risk of doing. I wasn’t sure what that entailed, but it didn’t sound good.  Someone (my mom, sister?) must have had a confused look on their face when they saw me crying because I heard the nurse say, “She’s ok, she’s just grieving.”  That’s exactly what it felt like – grieving the loss of what I thought it would all be like.

I just feel completely robbed of the birth experience. I feel cheated. Especially because I made it so far and endured so much. It wasn’t like I showed up and early on they determined it was necessary. 30 hours at the hospital – 30. Stalled at 9cm for 6 hours with no pain relief. I cried to Shane that it wasn’t fair, that I wanted this so badly and that other women who don’t even give a shit about their births get the perfect experience. There is definitely a lot of “Why me?” going on in my head.

My friend Cat left a comment on the birth story post that really spoke to me – she asked her doctor what she did wrong, and he said that her only mistake was thinking she was the one in charge. And I guess I wasn’t in charge. But it still makes me wonder if I did something wrong. Should I not have been trying to push so early? Why would they advise me to do that if I shouldn’t though?  Did I accidentally turn the baby into that bad position? How?  What can I do differently next time?

Then there was the experience of the surgery itself – it was so cold and so transactional, and so humiliating. Dehumanizing, even. I felt like I was just another slab of meat on the chopping block. It was unnatural – my daughter wasn’t born, she was sliced out of me. My friend Ki’s birth story helped me a lot – I was remembering it when I was lying there FREAKING OUT, how she said she knew she needed to stay calm for the baby. So I tried to do the same, but it was hard.  I was scared – there was no joy in the moment.  Except when she arrived.  Only then did I let myself breathe out the anxiety and fear that had built up inside of me.

Someone asked the reason for the c-section, to put in my chart, and someone else replied, “failure to progress.” That’s what they call it. It doesn’t help. Because I certainly feel like a failure. My body can’t do a simple thing that it’s supposed to be able to do, a basic animal function. The pediatrician who came to check out Rachel said something to the effect of, “Well, thank goodness for c-sections – in the caveman days, mommy and baby just didn’t make it.” That certainly puts things in perspective, and of course I’m more than thankful that we are both ok.

One of the other depressing parts is not being able to remember anything after the operation.  I remember holding her and Shane taking her to meet the family, and then being really bitchy in recovery because they were holding me there for so long and I was just anxious to settle in our room together.  But after that, nothing.  I know all the family was there, that my in-laws arrived, but I don’t really remember seeing anyone or how long they stayed and I don’t remember getting up that first night with the baby at all – I mean, I know I couldn’t GET up, but even waking up.  I guess Shane did?  Or the nurses who come in every hour?  Hard to say, because I just don’t know.  I missed out on that quality bonding the first night, and that straight sucks.

My doctor came to visit me on the day we were to be discharged, and I immediately started crying. She told me that they don’t know why this happens, and she doesn’t know why it happened to me. She knew that I was worried about post-partum depression, and that the outcome of the birth certainly wasn’t helping. She also knew I wasn’t sleeping, so she prescribed some low-dose Ambien (which I still have yet to take), and told Shane right in front of me that this situation should not get worse, that I would start a downward spiral and begin to not want to be around the baby. I’ve been very careful with that – I snuggle Rachel all the time and try my best to bond with her. I know I have to be positive and happy since she can sense those things already. I hope she knows I am trying my best for her.

Shane has been great – as always.  He reminded me in the hospital that having a c-section doesn’t make me any less of a mother (and volunteered to kick anyone’s ass who suggested otherwise, so watch out!).  He was so comforting during and after the fact, and made me feel like I really did accomplish something even though it was the surgeons who completed the task.  I couldn’t ask for a better partner in life or father to our daughter.  I am also grateful for my family and friends who made the transition much easier.  I had visitors in the hospital, which was a great distraction from my own sadness, and my mom stayed with us the entire week after Rachel arrived.  I initially thought she would drive me nuts in only that very special way that mothers can (said with love, Mom), but it was honestly the best having her here.  My dad, in-laws, and sister/SiL were also extremely helpful and comforting.  I’ll never be able to repay all of you.

The recovery is fine – the incision never really HURT (thanks to awesome pain meds) and now it’s mostly aches and cramps, totally normal.  I know I need to take it easy, for longer than I would have needed for a natural birth, but it’s not the biggest deal.  However, major abdominal surgery doesn’t come without minor complications, and I’ve daily found myself cursing the c-section. It’s been more emotional pain than anything else; I feel very fragile and not like my normal, confident self.  My doctor recommended a post-partum support group at the hospital, but I can’t bring myself to say I need therapy to recover from an everyday procedure. We’ll see.

Thanks to everyone who has shared their experience as well – it helps to know that I’m not alone in feeling this way.  If I could offer any advice to my pregnant friends right now, it would be to read the chapters on c-section.  I didn’t, because…well…I wasn’t going to need one of those, right?!  You just never know.

As I already mentioned – this story has a happy ending. If nothing else, I have my happy ending with me every day.


{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Tiffany December 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Thank you, Christa, for sharing your story. I love reading the miracle of birth stories, no matter what type. I think that birth can be way more traumatizing than people give credit for. I didn’t realize this until I was about to deliver my second and was having so much anxiety about it bc I feared having a similar experience to my first. I had a sunny-side up baby I labored with naturally for 12 hours, got the epidural and then 7 hrs later (3 hours of pushing), had our son. My water broke first so I feared c-section since we were 5 hrs away from meeting the 24 hr mark. I remember feeling as you described with the not being able to remember much afterward. I will say this, the new moms group I attende at my church after my first birth saved me. Not even bc of anything with the delivery necessarily, but it’s just such an insane transition for your body, mind, family, schedule, person, LIFE, etc. and it was good to be with others who were in that same place. Some of my best friends were made there. I would also say that I was in denial about how depressed I truly was that first time. It wasn’t until I started feeling better that I truly understood how depressed I was. It’s hard to truly evaluate yourself when you’re that sleep-deprived, even if you don’t think you’re sleep-deprived (there’s the denial again). I feel like there’s this pressure from our culture to just bounce back and that our love for our little baby should give us such joy that it would carry us through, but that’s unrealistic. Yes there’s intense joy and love and snuggles and awesomeness, but that doesn’t mean we can’t feel other things too. I say all this not to freak you out to to imply this is what everyone goes through, but just to say that whatever you’re going through is fine. Just tell someone if you ever start to freak yourself out! ;) it’s nice to have someone help get you grounded when emotions run high! I’m always here if you need to talk. My 2nd is 10 mo and still doesn’t sleep regularly through the night so middle of the night talk sessions are ok too!! Keep up the great work!!!!! You’re rocking this thing and Rach is blessed to have you as a momma.
Ps- I had an amazing second birth experience…totally redeemed the first one, so just know that it can be completely opposite next time around!


Christa December 3, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Thank you for sharing, Tiffany! It helps to know I’m not alone. I think I might be a little in denial about sleep deprivation. And I TOTALLY know what you mean about feeling pressure to bounce back and just be overwhelmed with love. Thank you for the real talk. And you’re the second person to say that their next birth experience redeemed the first. Very interesting. I really appreciate the words of support!!


Stacey December 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm

I haven’t been there, so I can’t offer many words of wisdom, but I can offer my good thoughts and well wishes. I can also remind you of something. Yes, maybe the doctors pulled her from you, but you know what they didn’t do? They didn’t carry her for 41+ weeks. They didn’t grow her, from nothing, into what she is today. They didn’t eat well and exercise and rest and nurture that baby every day since she was conceived. YOU DID. And it is no less of a miracle than the actual birth. Never forget that, lady. Big, big hugs to you and all my good wishes for a quick emotional recovery. XO


Christa December 3, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Such good points, Stacey. Those never occur to me when I’m thinking about it. I’ll make a point to remember them. Genius! :)


Marisa December 2, 2013 at 2:03 pm


I can’t and won’t say I understand, because I definitely haven’t been there. I am so surprised, but probably should not be, that mother’s deal with these complicated emotions surrounding birth, c-sections, etc. As I read your posting, a few thoughts came to mind that I thought I share. If they’re not helpful, then throw them out the window, cause really, what do I know?! :)

1. My mom had a c-section with me. I was two weeks late and breached. I know I this day that c-section is a bit of a sorepoint, however, both my younger brothers arrived in incomplicated fashion after, despite the “higher risk” factor.
2. There is simply nothing “failure” about this. You did amazing! You lived such an active and healthy lifestyle before and through your maternity. I am in awe. It’s still hard for me to run a 5K all the way through and there you were pushing through miles of training each week. Inspiring!
3. I thought about my great grandma who had 8 babies, and died in childbirth on the 8th. My teenage grandma was the oldest and ended up raising all the children left behind. My grandma also told stories of other women and friends in her neighborhood who had the same experience growing up. While giving birth may be natural, it historically has not always had amazing results for women.
4. Ain’t no shame in therapy, support groups, talking all those feelings out, etc. I know you know this, but thought I might reinforce it by saying it for you. Getting help if you need it, if you even start to feel those blues creeping in is such a strong decision and the best thing for not only you, baby Rachel, that loving and patient husband of yours, but also for your family and loved ones.

Love you bunches!


Christa December 3, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Thank you Risa – all insightful and the point about your grandmother – wow. It does put it into perspective to think about the alternate result. Thanks for the vote of confidence! Love you bunches too.


Cate Hamilton December 2, 2013 at 2:15 pm

You are such an inspiration and a strong, amazing momma! There’s no doubt Rachel knows that you love her and that you’re doing your best. Hell, your worst would blow some mothers out of the water! Christa doesn’t “phone in” on anything!

Sounds like you have a wonderful, strong family unit already! Thank goodness for good men, huh?

Thinking of you all in these special, early days!


Christa December 3, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Thank you for the kind words Cate – you are so sweet. Yes…thank goodness for good men! Amen to that.


Coach Liz December 2, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Rule #1 of Parenting: Expect the Unexpected.

Hang in there, girl. I waltzed in (ok, stumbled in doubled over in pain) to the hospital with my hard contractions two minutes apart only to have Edward Scissorhand’s sister reach up my hoo-ha and tell me I wasn’t ready and she sent me home. I go back the next day, not having had any sleep, and the doctor’s office called the hospital to admit me and they reached up to touch my tonsils and said they were going to send me home until I got a little crazy and told them I would clean out a room and make the bed, but I was not going home. 29 hours of labor and 3+ hours of pushing later I was told I would have to have a C-section. It was NOT in my plan and I scared the crap out of me. I didn’t want to be cut open. But at that point I was so tired and in so much pain that I had no fight left in me and I wanted it to all be over. I also knew that having a heart condition was not helping the process along and that every push was cutting off blood supply to the kid.

The C-section was not that bad. I enjoyed the warm towels around my head and feeling the iodine swab going over my stomach. I felt like I was in a spa. I could take a nap and I didn’t have to work anymore. How’s that for someone who has finished three Ironmans? I only freaked out when I saw my husband with a video camera in his hand recording the entire thing. I think I threw that out. That first walk to the toilet? WTF!?! I was able to walk the day before and now I had to be dragged across the floor by two nurses. And it really hurt to pee. It hurt a lot.

I was not in control and I had to turn that control over and that was hard, but it brought me a lot of relief both physically and mentally. It was much like what they tell you to do in Sunday School Class when the problems or the obstacle becomes too much to bear. Sometimes you have to surrender it over to God and let Him take care of it.

Now I’m not saying that I was happy with the outcome. You are most certainly aware that I only have one kid. That birth experience was so traumatic that I never, NEVER, ever wanted to go through that again. NEVER. I know that my husband is not happy with my decision and the grandparents expected more out of me. In the end, it was my body. Did I do anything wrong? No. Could I have done anything differently or better? Probably not. I was in the best shape that I could have been in and I had a healthy baby inside of me who just couldn’t get out.

You are an awesome Mommy and no one can take that away from you. You have to remember to stand up for yourself and hand off Rachel to someone when you need a nap, a shower, a trip out to the grocery (once you can drive again), or when you get a little overwhelmed. Figuring this whole parenting thing is overwhelming. So don’t be afraid to hate your C-section. Don’t be afraid to call someone up and ask them to make you a pot of soup. Don’t be afraid to admit that you are sometimes cranky or sad. Don’t be afraid to let your house look like a tornado hit it. Don’t be afraid to be living outside of your comfort zone. Get out in the sun for the next few days, enlist a friend to paint your toenails, and get someone to give you a neck and shoulder massage. Smile even when it is a chore. Try to laugh each day (not too hard because of your incision). Love that little girl with all of your heart.

CHRISTA GINSBURG, YOU ARE A PARENT!!! Trust me, this is a much bigger deal than being an Ironman. :) Big hugs! Cannot wait to meet little Rachel!


Christa December 3, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Hahah A PARENT!! Thank you Liz, this is all great advice and insight. I really appreciate it and will try to remember it all :)


Cat December 2, 2013 at 3:06 pm

this is going to sound all hippy dippy, but hang on…

your center of gravity, the place where you draw those deep, grounded breaths was pierced. it has a psychological impact, aside from the circumstances. you’re going to feel weak and wounded for a few weeks. because you are. be as gentle as you can with yourself. you have a right to grieve. you experienced a trauma. Rachel knows that you adore her- you’ve both been through a huge event. you will grieve, you will heal (i couldn’t sing right for weeks!), and you will leave this pain behind, for the most part.

Jay’s first birthday is Thursday, and i’ve had some memories seeping in. mostly, though, i’m amazed at how much we’ve both grown, and i’m damn proud that even if he was tired, or my hips didn’t spread, whatever happened, my arms are strong enough to be the mama he needs today. you are too, and you will be too.

i’m almost certain that i’m one and done, but i was cleared for a vbac at my last post-partum checkup, and i bet you will be too. it doesn’t always change everything.

being disappointed in the birth experience is completely right and normal. if you ever want to talk, i have some ears and shoulders you can borrow.



Christa December 3, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Cat, I would never even think of that – it does make sense to me too though. Very interesting. I am sure that soon it will just be a blip on the radar but I want to allow myself to feel all the feelings in this moment, just like you said. Thanks so much.


Jill December 2, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Hi Christa,

I am so sorry for how you are feeling. There is probably nothing I can say that will make you feel better about yourself and the experience you had, but I highly recommend that you take your doctor’s advice and go to the postpartum support group. Maybe they even have a support group just for women that had to have c-sections. You are grieving and I honestly think that talking about that grief with others in the same situation will really help. Do not hold that grief in. Express it with others who understand what you have experienced and start the inner healing process. A c-section is only an “everyday procedure” for the people who perform them.


Christa December 3, 2013 at 2:58 pm

That did strike a chord with me – you’re right, it’s not an everyday procedure for me. Thanks for the reminder, Jill.


Brittany December 3, 2013 at 8:24 am

Thank you Christa for sharing all these genuine posts – I’m in awe of what you went through. Not having had the experience, I know I can’t relate, but gosh, you went through a lot! As someone that plans to start a family in the next few years, I’ve really appreciated following your story and honesty.

My mom had a c-section with me; I’m the oldest and she went on to have my two younger sisters and said their births were way easier; I always tend to do things the hard way though! But it still concerns me a little as it is likely I have higher likelihood of having a c section myself. Anyway, hoping all the best for you, hang in there!


Christa December 3, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Thank you, Brittany! That is good to know about your mom. I am hoping that for future births it will go a little more smoothly but time will tell…


Jess December 3, 2013 at 9:08 am

Oh, I know exactly how you feel. My birth wasn’t anything like I planned and I still think I’m mourning it a little (even a year later – I process things very slowly). I know you already have an amazing support system, but if you ever want to talk, I’m here.


Christa December 3, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Yes, I am sure you understand. I appreciate it and will probably take you up on that soon!! :)


terra December 6, 2013 at 5:24 pm

I think what Stacey said is spot on. Your body supported that baby for 41+ weeks. You made choices in the best interest of your beautiful daughter and you’re already an excellent mother. <3


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