This is part 2 of the series "What's it Like? C-Section Recovery"
In the first part of the series here, I describe the birth of my son and the physical and emotional recovery process. In this part, I opened up these questions to a community of local Doulas. They shared some wonderful insights with us.
"One client had a surprise early c-section and the unexpected recovery time definitely had her feeling a little lost when she came home. Plus the additional obstacles with breastfeeding that result post-C. She did great after they found their groove, but it really shows how quickly things can change on you."
"The bonding took me a while. I was sad :-( I had a PP hemorrhage and I felt so bad physically already then the breastfeeding pain on top of it was hard. I didn't feel the immediate "love at first sight" then it compounded with the extreme anemia and then breastfeeding issues, so it was a slow process. I think it was also partially due to the expectation of how I thought I SHOULD feel vs how I actually felt. I got amazing help from my LC and support from my husband (smoothing out all the knots from engorgement while I nursed- total lifesaver!) Not sure if I would have made it w/o all the help. I am happy to report that around 3 months or so we really started to bond. We continued a wonderful nursing relationship for 3 1/2 yrs."
"In my experience the actual c-section and recovery were not difficult. The hardest thing was coming to terms with how very different my reality was from what I had been dreaming of and planning for. I actually recovered more quickly after my c-section than after my VBAC."
Tracey Beasley shared that she was planning a homebirth initially, but realized before labor that she was going to require a c-section to give birth. She worked with her care providers to have a family centered c-section which was an empowering experience for her. Having that experience helped her deal with the loss she felt when her homebirth plans could not be achieved.
Her thoughts on her recovery:
"Recovery was...easy and hard. I worked my butt off to make it easy, if that makes sense. I.e. I was up and moving quickly, got out around town quickly (with help driving), did gentle exercises right away and regularly for weeks, got connected with local moms immediately."
Sometimes a C-section may not be viewed as "giving birth". She reminds mothers to claim their birth, process it and associate as much as possible with a supportive network. Her experience is evidence to this.
"Mom needs to make sure she is choosing places that support her decision to call it, process it, discuss it on her terms. But it also sneaks in insidiously and those can be tough moments. I recall sitting with a group of friends and birth stories came up and everyone told their stories back and forth. One friend turned to me and asked what it was like for me and then stopped herself and said, "Oh... Wait. You had a section." The other friends in the room stopped and kinda went "Aww... Yeah..." and then all started talking about their births again. Mine didn't even count in a close circle of friends. Those moments are tough, especially when they sneak up on you. So, being prepared for just weird feelings about birth is important."
"I definitely bonded with her, but it's hard to say exactly when because that bond has changed so much over time."
"I had come to a place of happy-enough acceptance as I walked to the OR (after months of preparing for it) but was still scared and unsure in some ways. So, when my husband brought her to me at five minutes old and I saw her...I don't know. It wasn't THE moment I thought it would be. I've heard the same from vaginal birth moms, so I think it all varies for everyone and the perfect love at first sight moment doesn't happen for everyone."
"I was thrilled she was out and safe. Feeling amazing over how my birth in the OR had gone so far. But I was still on that table and I knew my life was still at risk. That makes bonding a little tough."
"So, did I bond with her? Sure. Absolutely. There was no set timeline for it. Did I love her as I birthed her, the same way I loved her a month later, or now, nearly four years later? No, of course not. And I know cesarean[s] can have a bad reputation for tough times between mother and child. But over the years I've also heard so many horror stories from vaginal birth moms about their lack of bonding, love, love at first sight, etc. I think it's so much more about respect and empowerment in birth, an odd mix of cocktails we really, really, really don't understand (that aren't just about oxytocin surge with that last push), the state of the pregnancy, mother's history, her current relationship status, and for all I know the phase of the moon, too."
Lesa Williams, a birth doula and mother to 12 children shared her personal experiences:
"I was able to nurse all my babies afterwards, and never heard that there could be a problem with bonding after a c-section, all those years ago, so I really felt that bonding came through my nursing. I loved nursing so much."
"Every birth is Sacred! No matter how our babies get here, it's our experience that matters!There so much emphasis put on "how" our babies are born today, that we didn't [have] back when I started having children. I understand the why, however while in the midst of either/or, we are belittling women that birth their baby's via c-section... We need to honor each woman and her experience, so all can think positively about bringing life forth!"
Thank you to Doulas and moms for contributing to this post: Tracy Williams Lenhardt, Tara White, Tracy Cipperly Beasley, and Lesa Williams.