In honour of Cesarean Awareness Month... I thought this would be a pretty good time to make this post. Fellow c section mamas, this is for you. <3
Kintsukuroi is my new favourite word. What does it mean? And why? I’ve probably started and restarted this blog post about 10 times. It’s something that is heavy on my heart but I want to share. I’m not going to lie… I’m feeling a bit vulnerable right now. This is my story about my road to healing. I was hoping to be able to write a lovely birth story for my 3rd child like I did for my first two children. The first two were born at home, peacefully and smoothly in the birthing tub. But this "birth" story is more about my road to healing than anything else.
In November, I had a c-section. I’ll try to keep things brief because it was a very complicated and fast ordeal.
I had an infection at 37.5 weeks with no symptoms that caused my placenta to suddenly abrupt (separate prematurely from the uterine wall). I bent over to pick up a sippy cup and started bleeding a lot. I called the ambulance and my midwife. Within 30 minutes, I went from a planned home birth to a very fast, scary c section under general anesthesia. All this happened before I even got to go into labour with my baby. I was very scared because I did not know if I or my baby was going to make it alive. The amount of blood was very scary. This was about 4 months ago, and I have had to process a lot in the last 4 months, both physically and emotionally. I have had two peaceful, easy home birth deliveries before this, so to go from that to an emergency transfer and c-section was very difficult. I didn’t even get a chance to experience labour this time, which I was looking forward to!
I’ll preface what I am about to say with the fact that I am very grateful. I am grateful for my midwife, and the wonderful team of doctors and nurses at the hospital who ensured the safety of myself and my beautiful daughter. Everything happened as smoothly as it could, though everyone was in a state of panic because I was losing blood, and a lot of it. I am very thankful, but it does not negate the fact that what happened was very traumatic and that I have a lot of healing to do.
While I am extremely thankful that we are all healthy and well, and that Juliette didn’t even experience any deceleration in her heartbeat, I have had to grieve. I am still grieving over the fact that I didn’t get to experience labour with her- something that I enjoy and was looking forward to for almost 9 months. I still feel guilty that my placenta abrupted, even though pathology results showed that it was caused by an acute infection, something that I could not have had any control over. I am grieving over the loss of a beautiful, peaceful home birth. I’m sad that I wasn’t the first person to find out her gender (I found out the gender when someone told me as I was waking up in the OR). I’m sad that I wasn’t the first person to hold her or see her, since I was under general anesthesia. I’ve cried because I don’t remember our first nursing session very clearly. I didn't hear her first cry. I spent the first 5 hours awake after my c section shivering, shaking, and trying not to throw up from the pain medication instead of being on my bed at home snuggling with my new baby. I was put to sleep on a cold operating table pregnant, and woke up with a painful incision on my abdomen. I felt like I went to the hospital and ordered a baby- like I would order fries at the drive through. If you know me, you know that I’m very passionate about birth and that I enjoy labouring naturally. I’m still coming to terms with the fact that any birth after her will be considered an “after caesarean birth.” I lost a sense of independence as I was not very mobile for 6 weeks. If I'm being honest, I feel like I still have a lot to grieve and a lot of healing to do.
I feel broken. Cut. Wounded. Scarred. Defective. Weak. I feel this not only on a physical level, but also on an emotional level. I cried for days, and I sometimes still cry and feel sad about how the birth played out (while still very thankful). I’m working on accepting the scar that now sits above my bikini line. There were things that happened right after the c-section that also caused me a lot of hurt and it didn’t help my fresh wounds. But since, with the support of my midwife, care providers, loving friends and my husband, I have done a lot of healing. I have bonded with my daughter. We overcame breastfeeding and latching issues, and I am finally starting to feel like I am on the road to healing and recovery.
It's been difficult, but when I came across the word kintsukuroi, it really helped me reframe the c-section. What does this word mean? It’s the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with a paste made out of pure gold. Instead of throwing the broken pottery away, the artist will mend and put the pottery back together using this precious gold. When the piece is finished, the breakage becomes a feature and focal point of the pottery because of the beautiful gold that fills the breakage. The potter treated the breakage as a feature of the finished piece, and the breakage becomes a story. The break does not make the pottery damaged or defective, but instead- the pottery becomes something beautiful, unique and precious. I am learning to reframe my c-section this way. I have a long ways to go before I fully heal emotionally, but this reframe has been integral to my healing.
In fact, here's another thing for fellow moms who birthed their babies via c section: Fetal cells have been found in c section scars. These fetal cells are believed to have a role in the healing of the c section scar. Here's the link to the article and to the study, here. Those fetal cells are like the gold that the Japanese potters use on the broken pottery.
I know my story may not seem relatable to those who have never had a c-section, or those who have not given birth. Or perhaps, those who had a c-section but were able to cope with it much better than I did, or someone who had a positive experience with a c-section. But I think we are all broken people. We all have things that have happened to us that have made us feel broken and I wanted to encourage you with this word because it has brought me so much peace. Whatever it is that happened that caused you to be broken does not make you any less beautiful, worthy or whole. In fact, just the opposite has happened. Sometimes we don’t know the power of our strength until it is tested. Please don't let your brokenness make you feel inferior, unworthy or defective. It is the opposite that is true. You are beautiful in your brokenness, and it is what makes you, YOU.