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How Moms Really Feel About Their C-Section Scars

Photograph by Getty Images

I cut my finger on a broken glass 11 years ago, doing the washing up. The cut went deep, bled so much I had to hold it over the toilet, and left a scar and numbness that has never completely gone away. I’ve also got a small scar from even longer ago on my butt, from accidentally sitting on a pair of curved nail scissors. So I was expecting my C-section scar to be a big deal, perhaps to lose sensation in that area, maybe for it to be unsightly.

I’d fought for the right to have a C-section as the best choice for me and my baby, though, so I accepted the inevitable scar. I didn’t expect it to fade so quickly. I also never thought the faint pink line—darker on one side than the other—would evoke such fond memories when I catch sight of it in the mirror.

Scars tell our body's stories and I realized that just as other women's birth stories are all unique, so are their feelings about their C-section scars. The stories mothers shared with me ran the gamut from indifference to celebration to a reminder of trauma.

Here are some of the stories I collected:

"My scar is an affirmation of my right to decide what happens to my body—a right that was denied during the pregnancy and birth of my daughter. My scar is where my son entered the world, and where I started to heal from the trauma of my daughter's birth. It reminds me not to take for granted my rights, and to help others in their journeys to have their rights respected. Gratitude and resilience in a fine line."

- Janice W., 4.5 years post birth

"I get a lot of compliments on my scar from medical professionals. Apparently, it’s exquisite, nearly invisible and thin and shiny, but I can feel it. I’m sad that it’s all that remains of my son’s emergency exit door into the world. It also reminds me of two things that my doctor said to me. While I was pushing, she looked up at me, sighed and said, 'You’re not gonna be happy when I tell you this.' And when it was over, after some trauma, she came up to me in OR and said, 'He did you a favor. He really did you a favor.' As if to say that my squishy 10-pound baby made himself posterior on purpose just so I didn’t have to push him out. I used to feel really mad and powerless when I saw the scar. Now, I just laugh at how my C-section was just another Saturday afternoon for her, and how she really did do excellent work stitching me up."

- Apryl L.,6 years post-birth

"As a person who has gone through major surgery before, I know the importance of scars—they’re vivid evidence of significant turning points in life, and in my case, always for good. And funnily enough, they actually end up having their own personality. I know that in time, it will take a discreet role and be nearly invisible. But now, when I look at my C-section scar, I feel grateful. My lovely baby boy was born five weeks ago with no distress, pain or struggling—and that's something I won't forget. Thank you, scar!"

- Laura F., 5 weeks post birth

"I endured 14 hours of labor before talking my doctor into a cesarean. My first daughter was 11 days overdue and estimated at 9 pounds. I asked for a cesarean but my insurance wouldn’t cover the cost unless I either labored for 36 hours without birthing the baby, or I or the baby was under duress. I yelled at him through a contraction, 'You said she’s 9 pounds! I AM under duress!' I was taken to the OR within an hour. I scarred horribly, though. It was as jagged as if I’d been bitten by a shark. My second cesarean birthed my rainbow baby twins following two miscarriages. I told my doctor how I didn't like my scar from my first, so he stitched me up himself. My scar looked great! It was straight and healed quickly. My third birth was a scheduled repeat cesarean with the same doctor. I’m proud of it and my toddlers love knowing they came out of the hole in my tummy."

- Barbie T., 2.5 years post-birth

"I've had two caesareans—an emergency and a scheduled one. My second scar hasn’t healed as well as the first and draws in a bit, leaving me a little self-conscious. However, I pushed for a C-section second time round and I’m proud of it. That's where my daughter came from and it reminds me of the amazing and calm birth that I had and my beautiful two children. I’m so lucky to have had the operations to save my life first time, and my sanity the second."

- Vix H., 3.5 months post-birth

"I don't mind my scar now. With my first, an emergency C-section, it keloided and I was pretty self-conscious. I think the fact that I felt like a failure for not being able to give birth vaginally factored into it. With my second, a scheduled surgery, the OB did a fantastic job and I barely knew it was there. I felt better about the birth and a little less like a failure. And I didn't die. The third was this year. The scar is still healing but looks great. I’m proud of it. I've carried three of my babies to term and it's a battle scar."

- Melissa E., 7 months post-birth

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