When I had my C-section in June of 2018 I was really surprised to discover how utterly unprepared I was. My husband and I had taken the standard hospital birthing class which covers all kinds of scenarios and we had also paid a private midwife to come to our house and give us a more in depth class to prepare us for the specifics of our planned home birth. I had done so much reading and researching as I prepared for my home birth. I read stories about water births, hypno-births, vacuum assisted births and Cesarean sections. I read about acupuncture and herbs, epidural's and Pitocin. I read stories of births that went easily, births that were complicated, natural births and surgical births and even stories about vaginal births after cesareans. I read midwifery training manuals and I re-read Ina May's collection of intimate, hippy birthing stories. I even went back through my training manual from the six week Doula certification course I had taken in college. I put together a plan with our home midwife for what we would do in the event of needing to transfer to the hospital during the birth. I carefully placed her oxygen tank under the bed for our worst case scenario. I felt pretty prepared and well informed.
But of course since birth is unpredictable I was not prepared at all for the birth I ended up having and I hadn’t researched any of the practical information that I actually ended up needing. Like many expectant mothers I did not really want to read about the specifics of cesarean surgery. My mind was focused entirely on envisioning the vaginal home-birth that I wanted to have. I felt almost superstitious, as though I might jinx my desired outcome by looking too closely at the unwanted alternatives. I think I was subconsciously worried that if I read too much about all the possible variations of emergency birthing scenarios that I might end up creating my own emergency. I don't blame myself for feeling that way, birth is such an unknowable event and no amount of research can really prepare a mother for the unique experience that awaits her. In the end my laboring was short and the emergency came after only a few hours when the placenta suddenly separated prematurely.
In the first few days after my baby was born I got lots of support from my home birth team and the hospital nurses but what I really wanted was the specific wisdom and first-hand knowledge that only another C-section mother could have offered. I wanted to talk with someone who could validate the physical pain and emotional upheaval I was experiencing. The hospital gave out a generic printed sheet of information about post-surgery rest, diet and incision care but I wanted something more comprehensive. I wanted a collection of practical advice and compassionate guidance telling me what to expect and what to do to make things easier. There are plenty of excellent books covering all aspects of the Cesarean experience but I didn't have access to them when I needed them and nobody gave me a reading list. Of course the internet can provide all kinds of answers and there are endless support forums on every topic but researching these things on google is often confusing and overwhelming especially during the first weeks postpartum when every waking moment is spent trying to learn how to breastfeed, change diapers and overcome so many physical challenges and discomforts.
That's why I decided to put this collection together. I wish someone had handed me a guide book like this one in the days following my surgery. My hope is that the information and stories included here can be that practical and compassionate guide for other women who are struggling to get up to speed in the aftermath of what is often an unexpected and unwanted major abdominal surgery. Here is that experience-validating circle of C-section mothers that I was looking for. I am so grateful that these generous women took the time to share their unique birth stories and hard won advice with me and everyone else who reads these pages.