Processing the Emotions of an Unplanned C-section
Most mother’s to be have developed a birth plan with their partner, obstetrician, or midwife about how they would like their labor and delivery to go.
However, things don’t always go as planned and some mothers end up having to have an emergency c-section.
While having an emergency c-section protects the health of both the mother and the baby, that doesn’t mean that it won’t have a serious emotional impact on you.
Let’s talk about some of the emotions that you might be feeling after an unplanned c-section.
Shock is probably the most common first feeling that you will have about an unplanned c-section.
The decision to perform an emergency c-section usually happens fairly quickly when either the mom or the baby starts to show signs of distress, and you can find yourself in the operating room with a surgical team very quickly after that.
For the mom who has been laboring only to be told that her baby is going to need to be delivered surgically shock is a perfectly natural emotion.
Guilt is another very common emotion that mothers feel after giving birth via a c-section. They may feel guilty because they weren’t “strong enough” or “healthy enough” to deliver their baby vaginally.
They may feel like there is something wrong with them or their bodies and they may even resent or feel guilty about the circumstances around their child’s birth.
Feeling guilt about your birth experience after an unplanned c-section is completely normal, and is often made deeper by caregivers and partners saying that at least they and the baby are healthy and alive.
Of course, you are grateful that you and your baby are healthy and alive that doesn’t mean that you can’t mourn not having the experience that you expected.
Feelings of loss are perfectly natural after an unplanned c-section. Loss for the birth experience you wanted, and loss for those first few precious moments after birth, especially if you were unable to hold your baby immediately following the birth.
Many expectant mothers have a very clear image of what they want their birth experience to be, and when that is not the reality it is quite normal for them to be sad or upset about it.
Women are told all of their lives that their bodies are made for carrying and delivering children, so when it turns out that they weren’t able to deliver the “normal way” as they expected too they may have a sense of failure.
Your body did not fail you, and even though this wasn’t your ideal birth, you still successfully brought your baby into the world.
Unfortunately for some mothers, their c-section is a very traumatic experience. When a c-section becomes medically necessary to save the life of the mother or baby it can happen very quickly.
There isn’t a lot of time to comfort or reassure the mother, even though the staff does their best.
As a result, having a c-section can be very traumatic, and may even cause post-traumatic stress disorder in some women.
For women who never considered that they might have to have a c-section, they are often clueless about what is going on and what to expect during and after the surgery.
Talking to a counselor, your doctor, and others who have been through an unplanned c-section may help to resolve some of these feelings of trauma, and fear.
Giving birth is a highly personal experience that is supposed to be a very empowering and individual bonding experience between a mother and the baby that she has been carrying for the past nine months.
Having an unplanned c-section can have an unfortunate impact on the immediate bonding that a mother and child are supposed to have after birth.
Mom is not always allowed to hold the baby after the birth, and in some cases, the baby is whisked to the nursery so fast she may not even be able to see the baby.
Certainly not the birth experience she was dreaming of where the baby is born and immediately placed in her arms and laid on her chest.
Those first few minutes and hours after birth are very important for mother and child bonding, but the slight delay of them can be overcome by skin-to-skin contact with your baby and initiating breastfeeding as soon after the birth as possible.
Anger and Resentment
Many mothers have feelings of anger and resentment after experiencing an unplanned c-section birth.
They may feel that it’s not fair that they didn’t get to have the experience that they wanted or be angry at the doctor for not doing more, some are even angry at their baby.
After all, so many other babies know how to come into the world without their mother having to have surgery to do it.
These feelings are completely normal, and they will pass, it is part of the grieving process for not having the birth they dreamed of, enhanced in no small measure by the pain and exhaustion of healing from surgery and having a newborn to care for.
It is important to note that these are just some of the feelings that you may experience after having an unplanned c-section. These feelings, and whatever other feelings you might be having are normal.
There is nothing wrong with you, your baby, or your birth experience but it is okay for you to be upset about it.
One of the best things that you can do to help process your feelings about an unplanned c-section is to talk about your feelings.
Don’t bottle them up inside and tell yourself that you are being silly, your feelings are completely valid and not silly at all.
You may find it very helpful to talk to other mothers who have also experienced unplanned c-section births.
There are support groups online and on social media platforms like Facebook. Meet others, tell your story, and let them help to support you through these tough emotions.