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Cesarean Images – How Do You Feel About Them?

From my cesarean birth photos

From my cesarean birth photos

At our monthly ICAN of the Twin Cities meeting this past Monday, we watched three breech birth videos: a vaginal breech at home, a vaginal breech in the hospital, and a cesarean for breech. After the videos, we talked about how difficult it is for some of us to watch cesarean videos because it looks so violent, or because it brings back difficult memories.

Then the discussion turned to whether or not any of us have pictures or videos of our own cesarean births and if we ever look at them.

There were several different responses in our group:

  • Some women did not have any pictures or videos of their own cesareans because it was not allowed in the operating room or there was not enough time to arrange for it
  • Some women had pictures or videos but found them too traumatizing to view
  • Other women felt ashamed to show those images to others because of feelings of failure or that the birth was not beautiful
  • For some, including myself, the pictures we have are the only “memories,” aside from our scar, of our cesareans because we were under general anesthesia

How about you? Do you have pictures or videos of your cesarean births? Do you view them? If so, when and with whom? If not, why not?

23 Comments

  1. Stassja says:

    I don’t have any pictures or videos. There are a few pics of me laboring, and then some pics of me with my son in recovery, holding him for the first time.

    **possibly triggering**

    I really can’t watch videos of cesareans, and with pictures, it really depends on what’s happening. Mostly videos get me, because I remember all the pulling and tugging and pushing and being jostled all around, but seeing them yank around on open bellies makes me sick. I don’t know the ins and outs of that surgery, if being that rough is always NECESSARY, but it’s just so very violent and even though I’m three years healed up physically, it feels terribly damaging, like everything was just ripped and torn apart. It wasn’t until I started massaging my scar in during my second pregnancy that some of the extreme sensitivity faded and I am now able to touch and press the area without pain.

    Emotionally…it’s another story. *shrug*

  2. Sherena Schloneger says:

    My midwife insisted on taking photos of my cesarean. When the roll of film was developed, I threw away most of the prints. I kept only the ones of my baby, none of the surgery. It’s been seven years. Two years ago I had a sucessful VBAC. Recently I’ve wondered if I still have the negatives of my c-section. If I do run across them, I may have them reprinted, but this recent thought is the first time in 7 years it has occured to me!

    When I read about a cesarean procedure, watch part of a cesarean surgery, look at pictures of the c-section, I find myself wringing my hands, holding my breath, wanting to hold my belly where my scar is….

  3. Ashley L says:

    I do have pictures of both of my c-sections. They are difficult to look at but now matter how hard I would like to go back and have my the births of my girls to be different, I cannot change what has already happened. These pictures are the only visual images of their births, no matter if it was through my vagina or through an incision in my abdomen. There certainly are parts of the pictures that I wish I couldn’t see but I try to focus on the little faces and bodies that are the central attraction of the image and ignore as much of the hospital junk as possible.

    We are having our third child next April and I’m hoping beyond all hopes that the pictures this time around will be very different, as we are attempting a VBAC (again) but this time with who we think is the right person to get us there. But no matter what, I will choose to look at any pictures of this baby’s birth as a special and important moment, no matter the outcome. It is the only way for me to get through all that has already happened and stay sane about it.

  4. Connie says:

    No I don’t have any photos of either of my c-sections. Honestly I don’t think that I would be able to look at photos or videos of the surgery…. I would get mad that I was even in that operating room and forget about bringing my two lovely girls into this world. Instead I would remember being talked into being induced before I was ready, blacking out from the epidural, throwing up for hours upon hours from the meds, feeling all the pulling and pressure, being scared out of my mind because they were cutting through precious muscle that I knew would end up numb forever…..

    Hopefully my upcoming VBA2C will erase a lot of these memories, even if it ends up in a RCS I know that I fought and advocated this time and did not sit idly by while some OB cut me up just because it was more convenient!

  5. Elayne says:

    I only have pictures of my first c-section. We were lucky that there was a trainee shadowing our L&D nurse that day. She had to be on the OR, but she couldn’t do or touch anything. So we gave her a camera and told her to use it. I’m so grateful, because those are the only pictures I have of my triplets NOT covered in wires and leads until they came home at 3 months old. They also really bring home how tiny they were, with the surgeon’s hands in the picture.

    I don’t have pictures of my second c-section, but I had a mirror. That was enough, it was just another singleton so it wasn’t anything anybody else needed to see, and I have the memories. I’m glad I got to see that little black-haired boy being pulled out of my blonde self, or I wouldn’t have believed he was mine.

    I have pictures of my first VBA2C, but not my second (the midwife’s camera mysteriously stopped saving pictures *during* the birth, and picked back up a couple minutes after).

  6. Terra Jones says:

    I don’t have any from my c/s, just recovery – and it’s super hard for me to even look at those…me laying on the bed, crying, staring at my baby across the room being poked and proded, screaming….ugh. I can’t even imagine I would want to see images from my c/s. It took me about a year to even look at c/s images online and I had a near panic attack seeing them (someone elses photos)…

    We didn’t get ANY pictures of my VBAC until about 15 mins after my lil guy was born…with my 2VBAC, my doula had the camera ready the second he was born (pictures of the actual birth weren’t allowed).

  7. Lisa-Marie says:

    It’s been over 9 years & I still can’t look at pictures/video of a cesarean without feeling sick. I nearly didn’t read this article because of the picture, I had to try to tune it out. For the first few years, I would cry & shake if I accidentally saw cesarean pictures, so just feeling ill is a major improvement. Someone linked me to that Patti Ramos “This Woman’s Work” video and & I nearly had my original reaction. I really wish people would consider those of us who’ve been severely traumatized & put warnings on these things. I was expecting the pictures of the woman’s upper half with the lines & drape, which I can handle these days, but not the graphic images of bloody babies & uteri

  8. Mandy says:

    Pictures weren’t allowed when I had mine. I asked for a mirror or for the screen to be lowered, but my requests were ignored. I read through the pre-registration packet and that hospital doesn’t allow videos or pictures of vaginal births either, not even of labor. They were very adamant that there were to be NO visual records of any kind until AFTER the baby was born and the doctor gave permission. They wanted to be damn sure that absolutely nothing they did was on any kind of record so it can’t come back to bite them in the later. I find it very disconcerting that they are so unsure of what they’re doing that they’re afraid to allow pictures or videos lest it show them doing something stupid or harmful.

  9. Heather says:

    I have a video from my second c-section, which I love to watch. It was one that I chose, fully informed, and my OB did everything according to my wishes. My husband was the one with the video camera. I told her that I wanted I wanted to see it, and she was happy to let him tape it. They also had the drape half-way down so that I could see first hand as my daughter came out.

  10. Emily says:

    I have pictures of my c-section birth..of pretty much the entire procedure. I never view them unless someone wants to see them (usually a close friend or relative) and they always makes me very sad to look at myself. The sadness, exhaustion, and pain are evident on my face, and I tend to relive and regret many decisions made that day.

    the only picture that makes me smile is the picture of my daughter completely peaceful laying on my chest…she was only that peaceful when I was talking to her while shew as on my chest, the rest of the time she was screaming. It still makes me sad because she was only allowed to be there for a few moments before they took her away from me again…

  11. Audrey says:

    I don’t have pictures of either c/s, but I have pictures of me holding my babies in the hospital. I find it easier to view the pics from my first c/s because it had to be done. While I was sad about it, I knew it was the best decision at the time. But I still can’t look at the pictures of my second post-surgical hospital stay. Even with a beautiful baby in my arms, I can see the sadness and heartbreak in my eyes. I remember crying and feeling like I failed. I remember wishing I had stood up for myself more; that I had stayed home. It’s too painful to look at those pictures, so I focus on the ones we took once we came home.

    I would love to have a third baby. Do I think successfully birthing vaginally will erase the pain of my last c/s? No. Once it happens, it’s always a part of you. I think a VBA2C may help me feel confident in my body again though.

  12. Amanda says:

    I have pictures of my c-section, and it honestly doesn’t bother me to look at them. I felt like for an “emergency” situation, it was handled very well, I was very comfortable (besides being nervous)and I was able to watch him come out with a mirror. I still remember feeling the excitement of when he was born, and confirming that he was still a boy. Over time I did develop feelings about my c-section that weren’t exactly happy, but I am proud to say that I’ve healed enough mentally and physically that I enjoy looking at my son’s first moments. I don’t exactly get the “disgusting” part about the blood or incision, but I do have an iron stomach and I also work in health care. I actually have more pictures of my c-section than I do of my VBAC because, like others, pictures of the actual birth weren’t allowed. I’m hoping it will be different next time.

  13. Brie says:

    I have pics and video, but they aren’t very graphic. Despite feeling it was very violent (and a failed homebirth), I was able to view them shortly after the birth with no problem. My sister is a prof photographer so she took all the pictures of my labor, birth, and after and I love looking at them. My favorites are laboring at home though. It’s still very emotional for me though, especially whenever I see pictures of beautiful homebirths, thinking what could have been.

  14. Kaarla says:

    The doctor lent his camera to my husband, but I told him to not take pictures of the procedure, just of the baby when he came out. I still haven’t gotten the pictures my husband did take that day, though… I have to ask the doctor if he still has them. :-\

  15. Ami says:

    I don’t have any photos from my c/s – I was under general anesthesia so my hubby wasn’t allowed in the room. I have absolutely zip in the memories department. I have a pic of me before my induction, and one of me in the recovery room – practically asleep holding baby.

    I am not sure if I would want to look at them. I think if my c/s would have gone differently I might not be so gun-ho about VBAC’s. I guess it is true your experiences really make you who you are.

  16. Andrea says:

    I don’t have any pictures from my c/s. My first birth was vaginal so a c/s the second time around was a surprise, but after severe complications (pre-e, cholestasis, IUGR *and* a breech) she was born at 34 weeks by c/s. The only picture I have from the day my second daughter was born is of me in my room looking absolutely horrible holding a picture of my daughter who was whisked away to NICU. Not holding my baby…a PICTURE. I didn’t get to see her until the next day because I was too weak to get out of bed. So, my picture? It’s just too sad. I don’t look at it much. :(

  17. Melanie says:

    I have a few photos of both my c sections, but nothing too graphic.

  18. Melanie says:

    I think if we have one more baby like we are hoping, then I will ask my husband to go behind the curtain a lot more and video the whole thing cos I enjoy watching c section videos so I would love to be able to watch one of mine and see my own baby as it is pulled out.

  19. Laura says:

    I didn’t pack my camera for the first c-sec, it all happened so fast, I only have a pic of me holding my son for the first time five hours after the surgical birth, and it is still hard for me to look at.
    I had my camera for my planned VBAC turned c-sec, there are no pics taken other than what the anesthesiologist took in the OR, and I can not look at them with out bringing up a lot of emotions and anger and I see the sadness in my eyes. I had post tramic stress after my CS and it still affects me two years later.

  20. Ally says:

    Either way the birth of a child is something to celebrate be it vaginal or c/s, and a photo is just a memory of this event.

  21. Amanda Ang says:

    We were not allowed to videotape my cesarian. My husband got a few pictures after the baby was born, but I have none of the actual birth. That is something that I really miss. I only have my memories and those are from behind a blue cloth. I didn’t even meet my daughter until she was AT LEAST 15 minutes old.

    The pictures that I do have, I have viewed will share them with anyone that wants to see. My cesarian holds some sad memories in that I desperately wanted to deliver vaginally but had no alternative because of my baby’s heart rate dropping drastically whenever I contracted.

    However, despite the sadness surrounding the events of my delivery, my strongest memory was not the pain of labor or the distress of knowing that I had to have a cesarian or even the pain of recovery, it was the sound of my daughter’s first cry, the first time I held her, fed her, was able to smell her. While I’d love to try a VBAC next time, the method in which my daughter was born does not change how I view motherhood or the process in which my daughter was born.

  22. Amanda L says:

    I do not have any pictures or videos of my surgery. I think that if I had asked, they would have said “no” anyway. Even though it’s been almost 5 years since that surgery (with a successful VBAC under my belt, no pun intended, in 2009), I still get a bit emotional when thinking about cesareans. I get flashbacks of the individual moments of terror, pain and terrible tugging and pulling feelings that my brain decided to retain from the procedure. Now, however difficult it might be to view, I wish I did have pictures to reminisce. This is probably because of all the birth trauma work I did before my VBAC attempt – before then I never realized just how much negativity I was still holding on to, even years afterward.

  23. DD says:

    I’ll make a comment in regards to this as a healthcare professional.

    It’s really unfortunate that many women on this board have had what seems to be very unpleasant experiences with cesareans. This should not be so.

    One cannot, however, say that they are unnecessary because in many cases they have saved your lives and you do not perhaps realize that in another scenario many mothers would be dead without our ability to perform the surgery. No question.
    So residual feelings of failure or guilt are misplaced.

    Do I think that physicians may be overanxious to do a cesarean? Perhaps. This is the nature of the medical profession now that doctors are forced to protect themselves from litigation that may very well end their ability to practice.

    In any case, since one can never be sure how the birth process will go, women should not feel shy about discussing every “What if” scenario with her physician. If one must be obnoxious and pushy the birth of one’s child is the tight moment!

    You need to know your physician’s general response and attitude in a number of scenarios beforehand.

    This includes the option of general anesthesia or additional pain relief particularly in cases where regional was insufficient and caused severe trauma and discomfort. The scenario of doctors unwilling to provide sufficient anesthesia to a patient and even arguing about it in a major surgery is inexcusable. Very bad practice.