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Cesarean emotions in your own words

Those who attended the ICAN conference last April might remember the stunning black and white photographic image at the silent auction table.  It was a very challenging image and generated a lot of conversation.  Such stark representations of inner emotions can be important points of catharsis in our healing journey.

Jennifer McNichols is a cesarean mother and a talented photographer who is looking for the assistance of you, our ICAN community.  Remember, the first (and possibly the most important) part of education is getting someone to open their eyes, not their brains.  You cannot take in new information if your eyes are closed or you don’t even know where to look.  Powerful images like Jennifer’s help to open those eyes, including the eyes in our hearts.

From Jennifer:

Delivery by C-section is rapidly becoming the norm rather than the exception in U.S. hospitals, with medical policies of escalating interventions serving as a leading contributor to the rise in emergency situations requiring this procedure. The effect of an unwanted Cesarean birth as well as post-operative complications leads many new mothers to feelings of loss, anger, shame, and depression at a time when society demands an uncomplicated celebration of new life, and the suppression of these feelings in turn can lead to a sense of painful isolation and self-doubt. In this series I have used handmade and hand-decorated cakes to document the charged and often despairing emotions such women experience in solitude and silence while those around them celebrate.

I am looking for 1-2 word descriptors of things women felt after their Cesarean, and wanted to draw from the community at ICAN for this, as they were one of my most important sources of support and understanding when I went through the experience of an unplanned Cesarean myself. Dominant emotions, undercurrents, things that were particularly hard to communicate or get others to understand – I’d like to incorporate some of these ideas from other post-Cesarean mothers to reflect how a community of women feels about the issue, beyond my own personal experience.

I’ll pick somewhere between 7-10 of the words or phrases and either use icing to write the words or create them in fondant somehow, and photograph them to show along with the cakes. I’m hoping to have a list of words by next Monday so I can work on these next week.

My background: I planned a natural hospital birth for the birth of my daughter 5 years ago. A series of interventions, a posterior baby and some choice words by the OB, and I had a Cesearan. I turned to ICAN where I found the community so incredibly supportive and the community helped me come to terms with and deal with my emotions.

If you would like to contribute words or phrases to Jennifer’s project, please post them here as comments. Thank you!

36 Comments

  1. Leslie says:

    “defeated” comes to mind… I’m sure I’ll come back with more with some words from my post-Cesarean poetry.

    Cool project. I would like to see the image that was referenced in the first paragraph. Can someone direct me to it?

    Thanks.

  2. blog says:

    Leslie – I think it might have been this one: http://www.newworldalmanac.net/_jlfphotography/cake_zipper.php

  3. Jennifer says:

    “shocked” … as in how I felt as they were rolling me to surgery and I realized that _nothing_ had (to that point) gone the way I wanted it.

    I would also add “determined” for how I felt when I realized what was happening and decided that by golly I would make sure my efforts at breastfeeding would be successful (I say this now with a 23 month old who is still nursing!!!)

  4. Krista says:

    “Broken”

  5. Kristina says:

    Worthless Failure

  6. Gretchen says:

    betrayed

  7. Lily says:

    Emptiness

  8. Bonnie says:

    hijacked

    abandoned

  9. Kailah says:

    Ripped Apart

  10. Lisa H. says:

    Misunderstood

    Confused

  11. Lexi says:

    helpless
    hopeless
    powerless
    … just less

  12. Tracy says:

    Hollow
    Numb
    Freek

  13. Jenny B says:

    I’d say I felt mostly
    numb
    or powerless
    as previous posters said.

    (Hey Jennifer, I’m still nursing my 23 month old, too! We’re twins. =)

  14. Gretchen M says:

    Heartbroken

    Lost

  15. Tiffany Shacleford says:

    Battered
    Manipulated

  16. Rebecca says:

    dehumanized

  17. murdered (I really felt like my OB tried to kill me, and he did kill a huge part of me)
    dead
    isolated
    sick
    betrayed
    damaged
    devastated
    angry
    abused
    incompetent
    lost
    abandoned
    punished

    Thanks for your important work.

  18. melissa says:

    cheated.
    depressed.
    hurt.
    failure.

    but i also felt that i had no choice. the dr. projected my first child to be around 12 pounds and they were worried about trauma that may occur if natural childbirth was tried.

  19. Shanee says:

    Vandalized.

  20. Severine says:

    Bluffed.
    Failure. (seems a common thought)
    Alone.
    Separated.

    But thankfully alive… Both of us! (I say that after 28 months!)

  21. kgirl says:

    My first birth was a homebirth. My second was a c-section. I had it to save the life of my baby, but still…

    Cheated

    Failure

  22. Denise says:

    Scared.
    Uncertain.
    Unprepared.

  23. ebbandflo says:

    “grateful”
    “thankful”

    - that my baby was born alive
    - in hindsight, for being in good physical shape to look after my baby when he spent time in the special care nursery struggling with repeat seizures
    - that i was in the hands of such gentle professionals
    - that the nausea stopped

    and “excited” to be going on at last with the next stage in my life

    it’s not all bad. even though well-meaning(?) mummy friends tried to guilt me into feeling bad about ’succumbing’ to a c-section i still have a very positive memory of our birth experience (not sure if my wee guy does though)

  24. Kate says:

    Scared
    benched
    suffocated
    Focused awareness

  25. Beth says:

    “relieved”
    “blessed”
    “grateful”

    - that both of my children AND I survived their births
    - that I had a husband who really listened to me & to my doctor
    - that my doctor was able to look at all the data and determine, correctly as it turns out, that my fibroids were likely to cause a problem.

    I’m so grateful, as well, that this procedure exists so that I could have children and still be here to enjoy them.

  26. layla says:

    violated

    powerless

    obliterated

    and from other people: made to feel guilty.
    every you should be grateful was like another knife…

  27. bbane says:

    Brainwashed.

    For years I believed my cesarean was life-saving and was grateful for it. It was not.

  28. ren says:

    tattered and torn

  29. blog says:

    Bewildered
    Stupid
    Out of control

  30. sha says:

    relieved

    worried

    I was relieved that after myself and my son crashed…nearly flatlined, that the doctors were skilled and quick thinking enough to get us to the operating room quickly enough to save his life and my own. I worried about my son once I realized what was happening and couldn’t see him due to being in the NICU.

    I am truly thankful for the skill and quick thinking of my dr. and for my cesaerean. I wasn’t aware of anything happening until several hours after the procedure. But my husband sure remembers to this day every minute as well as my mother as they were both there for it all.

  31. Amy says:

    emptiness

    loss

    failure

    envy

    angry

    unfulfilled

  32. Cat says:

    cheated
    distraught
    misunderstood
    abused
    unsupported

  33. Jules says:

    alone

    empty

    ashamed

  34. MT says:

    demoralised

    disconnected

  35. Ceridwen says:

    I felt such complex emotions at the time which seem contradictory. I felt “relieved”, “trusting”, “excited” (to meet my baby at last), “frightened” and “exhausted”. After such a long labour, being fully dilated I was ready to push but when the doctors and my midwife said that I needed an emergency cesarean I trusted them. They were right and my daughter is an amazing, healthy little person. Still, 12 months on I have such a range of emotions about it and often feel like I gave up and just wasn’t strong enough.