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Mourning My C-Sections

Photograph by Getty Images

I will never get tired of a good birth story. Never. I love every detail—the harrowing, joyous, and absurd journeys that we take to become mothers leave me feeling connected, weepy and nostalgic. However, I prefer to listen to birth stories than tell my own.

Because every time I tell mine, I end up crying and reliving both the pain and the ecstasy of those two incredible days of my life. It's embarrassing to have children who are 2 and 3-and-a-half and still feel sad that they were born via C-section.

I am grateful for modern science, which made it possible for my children to be born healthy without sacrificing my life. I certainly don’t fault medicine for how my babies were born. Rather, I credit advances in medicine for enabling my family of four to exist.

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And still I am mourning that the way they came into the world was so different—so much more traumatizing—than I had planned. It's a secret mourning that I don't usually share because after hearing friends struggle with infertility or deal with seriously ill children, what right do I have to be hung up all these years later about the C-sections? It's a waste of time to think about something I can't change that ultimately had a very happy ending.

But every time I hear a birth story that includes "pushing" and "crowning" I feel a great sadness spring up from my core. The sadness comes before I can push it away with the rational thoughts like, "You have to get over this! You have two healthy children."

I'm supposed to be focused only on the good parts—those beautiful healthy children.

So when the subject of birth stories comes up, I always feel like I have a secret. I'm supposed to be focused only on the good parts—those beautiful healthy children. But every time I think about those incredible life-changing moments when I first gazed at my babies, I also remember reeling from the shock of being strapped down, cut open and operated on in order to give birth.

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Maybe this wound—of not having the birth experience I expected and deeply wished for—is yet unhealed because I've never allowed myself to grieve it. I rushed straight into mothering and healing. Well-meaning friends and family members urged me to focus on the healthy babies and forget about the C-sections, and I tried. But I never saved any space to grieve how traumatizing it was to have my body cut into—muscle, fat and fibers—and to have an anxiety attack on the operating table because I was scared I was going to die.

I want to give myself that space even though it's been almost four years. Grieving for an aspect of my birth experiences isn't meant to take away from the joy I felt about having my beloved children. My hope is that the grieving will make room for more joy and keep me from being tethered to a trauma that can and will heal, as soon as I let it.

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