Journey to Healing – A Post-Cesarean Story

My first daughter was born at 10PM on a Monday. We had planned for a peaceful, natural birth – no drugs, no interference. I had been in labor only about seven hours when my doctor checked my dilation and realized that my daughter was breech and would have to be delivered via Cesaerean section. I cried my heart out when they told me. I was terrified and emotionally unprepared. I felt cheated, like something had been stolen from me, and I allowed thoughts of my birth to consume the next few precious weeks with my newborn.

In the first weeks after my C-section, I emailed a friend of mine who had also had a surprise cesarean, just to vent and to get some support. She commiserated with me, then directed me to ICAN of North Florida.

ICAN of North FloridaICAN stands for International Cesarean Awareness Network. It’s a support group for woman who have had a C-section. Women come to ICAN for many reasons. Some, like me at first, come just after a surgical birth, looking for support and the ears of someone who isn’t going to say “At least you have a healthy baby!” (by the way, don’t say that to a woman immediately after an unwanted C-section. It’s true, but it’s also not helpful). Others come in the midst of a subsequent pregnancy, full of questions about VBAC (Vaginal birth after cesarean) versus repeat C-section. The organization seeks to educate and empower women to make their own choices regarding labor and delivery.

In ICAN, I found women who were at different stages in the same journey I was on. Some had already found their peace with their cesarean, some had not. Some had never mourned it at all, which, by the way, is perfectly alright. The women in the group helped me, directly and indirectly, to find my way on the journey to healing.

For me, I had to come to a point where I stopped villanizing the doctors who had “done this to me.” I had to realize that, while the C-section rate is astonishingly high in this country, and while it is not the ideal way for a baby to be born, cesarean section is not evil, and the doctors who perform them are not terrible people.

I had to get past my own pre-conceived notions that a C-section meant failure. It doesn’t. Birth is complicated. Sometimes babies are just in the wrong position (like mine), and that’s ok. Sometimes labor has been going on so long that mom is too exhausted to continue, and that’s ok. Sometimes inductions fail, and that’s ok. Sometimes mamas just want a cesarean, and that’s ok.

I am two and half years post cesarean now. I have had a successful VBAC that surprised me by doing nothing to change my feelings or “redeem” my C-section. “It’s ok” was something I had to come to, independent of the outcome of my second birth.

ICAN of North FloridaI remember that just before my VBAC, the ICAN North Florida board on Facebook had a slew of women give birth via repeat cesarean. Some were planned, some were attempted VBAC’s. But all I could think was “My birth could go that way,” and I had to prepare. I had to make that acceptable in my head, and to do that, I had to make my first C-section acceptable in my head. I had to finally accept that my daughter was breech, with broken waters. Nothing would have turned her at that point. I had to look at her and see how smart and funny and beautiful she is, decide that I had done my grieving over her birth and that I wasn’t going to let it matter anymore.

And I did.

If you are post cesarean and are in need of support from women who get it, head here, or contact Kimberly Hellmuth.

If you know someone post cesarean, the most important thing you can do is listen. Accept that her feelings of failure and loss, if they are present, are valid and ok. She is not being ridiculous or spoiled or the hundreds of other things I have heard women called for grieving over a less-than-ideal birth experience. She feels how she feels, and she needs nothing more than to be told that it’s alright.

If you would like to support ICAN in their mission of education and empowerment for women, they will be hosting a silent auction on April 28th to raise funds. You can check it out here.

About the Author

Rhyannon YatesRhyannon Yates is a transplant to Jacksonville from the sunny shores of California. She’s lived and taught in Jacksonville since 2003. These days she’s a stay at home wife and mom, trying to balance marriage and motherhood with a writing career and home-preschool. When she’s not busy wife-ing and mom-ing, you can find her at her blog, Grilled Cheese and Applesauce.


  1. This article is ridiculous. Anyone who is upset over a medically necessary c-section obviously has never had to deal with infertility or the loss of a stillborn infant. I guarantee you any woman in my infant loss support group would gladly accept a c-section if it meant saving their baby’s life.

    • We actually did deal with infertility before the birth of my daughter. My sadness over feeling that my body had failed me during birth did nothing to lessen my thankfulness and wonder at her presence in our life. I was and am in awe of her every day. I’ve found that feelings are not right or wrong, they simply are what they are. I am so very sorry for the pain you are feeling, and I truly hope you are never made to feel that those feelings are invalid.

    • Barbara, grief & pain are both subjective & almost impossible to compare. Ridiculing someone because of theirs should never be an option.

    • I’m so sorry for your loss. Hopefully the women in your group would understand that being upset or sad about how a birth went is not the same as being ungrateful for the live baby, and be kind to anyone that was sharing their experience and feelings. I’m sure there are people with larger tragedies than any of mine, but it doesn’t make my pain invalid or talking about my experiences worthless or ridiculous. I was unhappy about my c-section, though I wouldn’t quite use the words “grief”, “pain”, or “mourn” – but those feelings were separate from and not really changed by losing 2 IVF pregnancies. I harbored a lot of bitterness in my heart during that time, but that was my issue.

  2. Very well said! I could’ve written much of this myself! Childbirth (and motherhood, for that matter) is such a complex mix of emotions, expectations, and surprise! Thee is no way we could know how we’ll respond, and even what is “right” or “wrong.” I also found very little of a release in my VBAC experience. But I learned that a lot of the healing had to take place in my heart and mind. My body was already there!

  3. Why do I constantly hear about women who feel bad because they had to have a Csection? Would you rather try for natural birth and your kid ended up dead or handicapped in some way instead. i had my first Csection with my son which was planned but I had to have him a week early because he stopped breathing, I knew something was wrong when I saw the look on my doctor’s face , her eyes opened wide and I just knew something was off. I did not get to hold him for two days and he spent another 3 in the in hospital before I could take him home. My daughter was an unplanned Csection and again she stopped breathing a few weeks early. i don’t see myself as a failure in any way, I made the best choice for my kids, not for me, not for some IMO stupid idea that you are less of a woman because you did not get to push out a baby without any pain medication. IMO i think anyone who does this willingly is a moron, just saying it is painful get the medication, .


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